Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Garden Resolutions: Then and Now

Back in 1991, I started what became an annual event: writing a "Garden Resolutions" article each January for my weekly newspaper column. In the 20 years since, it's eye-opening to see what has changed...and what is still the same for backyard gardeners.

First a look back at that first "Garden Resolutions" column, 20 years ago:

• Use less water.  Turn off your lawn's automatic sprinklers during the winter. Install drip irrigation or micro spayers around outdoor trees and shrubs. Don't let sprinkler water puddle up and run off the grass. Keep a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water in the morning before the hot water reaches you; then, use that bucket of water for your indoor and outdoor potted plants.

•  Consider alternatives before spraying potentially dangerous chemicals. To get rid of aphids, a blast of water to the backs of leaves may work as well as applying malathion or diazinon.  Insecticidal soap can control a host of bad bugs (such as aphids, whiteflies and spider mites) without harming the good ones (ladybugs, praying mantids and honey bees). A pie plate of stale beer can do in snails. 

But, if you decide to use chemical sprays:
• Use a separate sprayer, either hose-end or tank sprayer, for different tasks. Use one sprayer for herbicides (such as Roundup or any weedkillers); use another sprayer for insecticides and fungicides. It's not uncommon for gardeners to lose prized plants because they didn't rinse out a herbicide thoroughly from a sprayer before using the same unit for insect or leaf disease control. Rince out the sprayer and nozzle three times after each use.

• Read all chemical label instructions carefully. Don't apply more of a chemical than what is called for on the label. Not only is it wasteful, but it's more dangerous for the person applying it as well as the environment. 

• Enjoy gardening in 1991. Don't let the work involved sour the experience. Remember what awaits you this year for your efforts: the beauty of the first tulip or marigold, the taste of that first homegrown tomato and the bounty of a seemingly endless supply of summertime zucchini.

• And don't plant so much zucchini this year.

In 2011, the emphasis is still on water conservation. 
But the disappearance of many dangerous, non-selective garden chemicals (especially diazinon) has opened the door for other chemicals that may or may not be just as harmful. Clouding that issue even further: the marketing for those products as "natural" or "safe" can mislead backyard gardeners into using something that is neither safe or natural (organic). Add to that all the misinformation that is now available on the Internet, and it's no wonder gardeners are confused. 

(note to kids: yes, there was an Internet in 1991, but it was limited to services that were primarily text services that were e-mail and bulletin-board based, such as Prodigy, CompuServe and Delphi. Ask your parents about CompuServe. It was the cat's meow!)

Here's the 2011 list of "Garden Resolutions":

• The key to plant success? The right plant in the right place. Get a soil test done. Read up on plant requirements before purchasing them.

• Reduce the size of your lawn.

• Plant more edible ornamentals.


• Put in plants that attract pollinators (insects and hummingbirds) and beneficial insects (and birds).



 • Check soil moisture before watering.

• Use drip irrigation, microsprayers or soaker hoses instead of overhead sprinklers, where it is applicable.

• Searching for reliable garden information online? Don't forget  to add ".edu" into the search box at Google, Yahoo or Bing to bring up university research first.

• Be wary of advice on the gardening forums on the Internet. All gardening is local. What worked for a gardener back East may not work for you. 

• Just because it is on the Internet doesn't make it The Truth. Check their information sources.

• Trying to control garden pests? Start with the least toxic alternative. Consider mechanical, physical and cultural controls before choosing chemicals.

• When choosing garden chemicals, don't believe the advertising. Believe and follow the fine print on the chemical label.

• After you have used it, use it again. Make your own compost from kitchen scraps and leaves. Make your mulch from shredded and chipped tree limbs from your own property.


• Mulch, mulch, mulch. 

• And don't plant so much zucchini this year.
(some things never change.) 

Add your 2011 Garden Resolutions!

1 comment:

  1. Hah! Funny Fred! :)

    I am hoping for a bounty of fruit this year. We shall see.