Most New Year’s resolutions go by the wayside by the middle of January. However, resolutions centered on gardening practices have lots of time to be implemented and every effort, even a minor one, will count in the long run.
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For starters, resolve to grow vegetables this year. They will give you great satisfaction and their nutritional level will exceed anything you can find in the grocery store.
No space to garden? See about joining a community garden and getting a plot of your own. Check out the hopecommunitygarden.com Website for information.
Learn what the average last and first frost dates of the year are for your area. You can call the Master Gardener office for assistance in determining these dates. Knowing this information will help you avoid planting your summer garden too early or your fall garden, too late.
Many times we get lulled into thinking that the weather is just perfect for setting out those tender young tomatoes and peppers. Then a late spring storm blows through and kills off the new plants. It’s really best to wait until that average last frost date is past before starting to plant.
Likewise, the average first frost date is the indicator for knowing when to start a fall garden. Many fall vegetables need to be started six to eight weeks before that first frost to get a good start.
Keeping tabs on the daily weather report will also go a long way in letting you know when to protect the plants in your garden and when you may or not have to water.
Thin and pinch the plants in your vegetable garden. If you are starting plants from seed, follow the seed packet guidelines for plant spacing by thinning the seedlings after they sprout. I know it hurts to pull out those tiny plants, but if you thin, you’ll be rewarded with healthy and good-sized carrots, beets, lettuce and chard.
Allowing the plants to crowd each other out reduces air circulation and stresses the plants. Many plants, especially basil and tomatoes benefit by having their foliage pinched back. By trimming the plants you encourage bushier growth and greater production.
Weed early and often. Weeds are easiest to manage if they don’t get out of hand, so weed your garden when the soil is still soft and before the weeds have a chance to set seed.
Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Nothing preserves moisture for your plants and helps control weeds like mulch. Apply a good layer from 3 to 6 inches, but don’t let the mulch pile up next to the stem of the plant or trunk of the tree.
Plant a row for the hungry. While you are putting in your vegetable garden, plan to plant extra to share with those less fortunate. Go to par-edc.org/ for a list of places to drop off your extra produce.
Take care of the Earth. Whenever possible follow sustainable practices. That means avoid pesticides, conserve water and plant native plants in your landscape to benefit native bees and other wildlife.
Think fire safety. Cultivate a landscape that reduces your chances of disaster from wildfire. Keep brush and plant debris in check. Trim up the limbs of your trees to avoid creating fire ladders. Watch for an article on just this very subject in a future column.
Adopting these gardening resolutions will get your year off to a great start and keep it great all year long.
Happy Gardening in 2012.
The next Master Gardener class will be on Saturday, Jan. 7, and will cover “Fruit Tree Pruning.” This popular and informative class will focus on good pruning practices to keep trees healthy and under control.
The free three-hour class is held in the Veterans Memorial Building at 130 Placerville Drive in Placerville and starts at 9 a.m.
Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling 530-621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.
For more information about the public education classes and activities, go to the Master Gardener Website at ucanr.org/sites/EDC_Master_Gardeners/. Sign up to receive the online notices and e-newsletter at ucanr.org/mgenews/. You can also find Master Gardener on Facebook.