New Year Gardening

New Year Gardening

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves” – Gandhi

The New Year is the perfect time to develop new plans, make changes or look for ways to improve your garden. January is one of the most optimistic times of the year. If you don’t consider yourself a gardener, then become one. You don’t even have to have yard to start a garden. You can begin with something as simple as a pot plant on the windowsill, growing some basil or parsley. All you need is a container and some soil. You may be surprised to find out how much can be grown in windowsill pots -flowers, succulents and herbs. Gardening is also a calming activity that has been shown to improve conditions such as dementia and stress. Gardening will help you stay fit and active, and is easy to do because it is fun.

To increase your success rate keep your new year gardening resolutions simple and specific, rather than general statements such as ‘I vow to never neglect my garden again’. By making resolutions that are easily attainable you will achieve more in the garden – success breeds success! If you have plans for a full garden make over then make sure to write down your plans, sketch a design and plan a budget, it won’t take long and it will make things much easier in the long run. Gardening can help you achieve some of the other resolutions that are often at the top of such lists at this time of year, such as slowing down, stressing less, exercising, eating healthier foods, and losing weight.

Here are some changes you could consider that will help improve your garden, help the environment, and give you a healthier home all at the same time.

Go Organic
Instead of using chemical fertiliser opt for environmentally friendly options such as home-made compost or seaweed fertiliser. The first step to having a healthy garden is by building a healthy soil. Seaweed fertiliser can be made by collecting seaweed washed up on the beach and soaking it in a bucket of water with a lid for a few weeks. By composting your garden and kitchen waste you will be helping your garden and keeping your rubbish bin empty, saving this from going to landfill. Don’t use poison (weed killer) in the garden this year. If you have weeds growing in cracks on pathways or edges of pavement, spray them with vinegar or pour boiling water from the kettle on them. If you have sporadic weeds growing in your garden beds pull them out by hand. Ideally your garden should not get to the point that it necessitates the use of weed killer, but if your garden has become overrun by weeds simply bury them under cardboard, thick newspaper or large plastic sheets. After a few weeks remove the covering and the weeds should all be dead and easily pulled up. Remember that all chemicals used in the garden, whether fertiliser, fungicide, or herbicide become part of the environment eventually finding their way into groundwater, streams, rivers and oceans, affecting our drinking water and food resources such as fish.

Conserve water
A large amount of water and time can be saved by simply changing habits. Water your garden early in the morning or late afternoon/ evening when evaporation rates are at their lowest. Watering at midday is the most inefficient practice. Conserve water by grouping plants with similar moisture needs together. Mulch your garden to increase water conservation. Organic mulch is a layer spread over the topsoil which could consist of dried leaves, bark, compost or any other organic material. Mulch will help the soil retain water by reducing moisture loss from evaporation much like a lid on a pot stops it from boiling dry immediately. Mulching is like having a lid on the soil that retains the moisture and restricts the ability of weeds to germinate at the same time. It will give you healthier plants and you will be saving water/ spending less time watering, less time weeding, and as the mulch breaks down it will also serve as a slow release organic fertiliser. If you are really motivated to conserve water you could consider installing a rainwater tank. Rainwater is much better for your garden than well or mains water. Perhaps the simplest water saving tip is to keep an eye on the weather, if there is rain in the forecast for the coming days then hold off on watering if you can, and let nature do all the work!

Grow your own
Nothing tastes better than home grown food and the health benefits (vitamins, minerals) of freshly picked vegetables and fruits far exceeds that of store bought produce. Growing your own food gives you complete control over the production process allowing you chemical free produce. Involve your children in the edible garden, it will be a valuable education experience and they are more likely to eat vegetables that they have grown. Home grown produce is always an excellent gift, friends and neighbours will always appreciate when you give them some home grown fruit, herbs or vegetables.

Organic methods for gardening are not just about avoiding chemicals they are also concerned with working smarter in the garden, not necessarily harder. You can reduce those weeds from popping up in the garden by mulching well and the mulch has the added benefit of retaining moisture in the soil. You will spend less time weeding and watering and have more time relax and enjoy your surrounds. Organic doesn’t have to imply harder work, just smarter work! Another tip, instead of watering everything by hand, set up drip lines and soaker hoses that save money and time and deliver water directly to the roots, reducing water loss through evaporation and reducing the incidence of fungus in plants susceptible to overhead watering.

Whatever you decide to grow in your garden don’t be too concerned if you don’t achieve horticultural perfection, just make a promise to yourself to have fun. Even if you only remember this one resolution, you’ll be off to the right start.
Best of luck in the garden this year!

Dr. Kris
Garden Doctor
Copyright © 2015 Dr. Kris
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