By Debbie Hager
UCCE / El Dorado County Master Gardener
New Year’s gardening resolutions do not have to be difficult to accomplish in 2011. Longer days and warmer temperatures are only months away. So with a bit of resolve, determination and planning we can all have wonderful results in our gardens in the year ahead.
The first resolution should be to clean up the winter garden. Rake up leaves and other storm debris to discourage breeding grounds for over wintering insects and to prevent the spread of disease. Compost all of those autumn leaves and allow nature to recycle them for you. A compost pile will reward you with richer garden soil, which is the real secret of successful gardeners. Our foothill soils can truly benefit from the addition of this organic material.
The second resolution is to take advantage of the great selection of bare root fruit trees, vegetable starts and berries available in local nurseries in January and February. A bare root tree costs much less than the same plant purchased in a container later in the year. The roots of the plant should be fresh and plump, not dry and withered. Keep the root system moist at all times by covering it with damp sawdust or compost. Rinse the roots off in water just before planting.
The third resolution for 2011 is to grow more food and donate any extra to a local food closet. The UCCE El Dorado County Master Gardeners have an excellent “Foothill Vegetable Planting Guide” available for sale to assist you in determining when to seed or plant and harvest. In addition, our Spring Plant Sale in April will offer a large number of healthy vegetables and herbs to plant in your 2011 garden. Keep a garden journal to track the plant varieties you grow, the planting dates, harvest dates, successes and failures. This information will be invaluable in your resolve to grow more of your own food each year.
The final and perhaps most important New Year’s resolution is to improve your gardening methods so they will be more environmentally friendly. Try to choose plants that grow well in our foothill locations and attract beneficial insects. Learn to recognize the many beneficial insects in your garden and manage pests safely. Reach for a control measure only when insect damage exceeds your tolerances and choose the very least toxic alternative first. Water wisely and fertilize sparingly. Resolve to mulch early in the season to significantly reduce the time you spend watering and weeding. Mulching has many benefits. It prevents soil from drying out by helping conserve moisture. Mulching also stabilizes soil temperature and helps prevent runoff.
The first 2011 UCCE Master Gardener class will be on “Pruning Fruit Trees and will be held on Saturday, Jan. 8. The class is free and starts at 9 a.m. Class location is the Veterans Memorial Building, 130 Placerville Dr. in Placerville. The schedule of classes for January through June is now available and can be downloaded from our Website.
Starting in January, Master Gardeners will be busy propagating vegetables and other annuals from seed for our Annual Spring Plant Sale to be held on Saturday, April 16, in the parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Building, 130 Placerville Dr. in Placerville. The sale benefits Master Gardener community outreach programs. Come check out the great selection of plants and garden art. Plan to stay for a demonstration on a popular gardening topic or bring your hand tools to be sharpened by one of our Master Gardeners.
The Master Gardeners can be an important resource to assist you with keeping your gardening resolutions into and through the New Year. We are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling 530-621-5512. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information about our public education classes and activities, go to our Master Gardener Website at ceeldorado.ucdavis.edu/Master_Gardener/.