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New Year, New Garden

Nurture Your Living, Breathing Plants


Here we are, back to our normal routine after the Solstice/Christmas/Hanukkah hiatus. Perhaps it is sweet relief to pull out the rake and dispatch the latest round of oak leaves, tidy up that last patch of irises, or trim back the fuchsias in readiness for spring. But what does this newly begun year hold? Are there resolutions that need to be made (and kept) to make our gardens more enjoyable, beautiful, or productive? Shall the vow be made to keep the weeds under control better; plan a vegetable garden that actually has some delicious fresh produce all year ’round; repot those patio plants before they wilt so accusingly; trim that hedge before it grows taller than the tallest ladder?

Well, as everyone knows, the list is endless. And the resolve doesn’t always last. How about pairing a bit of fortitude and determination to tackle the chores with a dose of fulfillment to keep the momentum going?

• Turn the compost pile, put a little on the table, and look at it through a magnifying glass. Add a child for even more fun.

• Keep an eye out for weeds and pests such as slugs and snails, cabbage loopers, and aphids while you admire the astonishing architecture of a cabbage leaf or that tender new cactus pad.

• Renew mulches to smother germinating weed seeds; inhale the earthy, yet resinous odor of the recycled woody clippings.

• Patrol your yard for possible mosquito breeding spots. Anywhere that rainwater can collect and stand for several days may be sufficient to support a generation of these pesky insects. In the process, you may discover a suitable vessel for a miniature water garden. Add mosquito-eating fish instead.

• Plant cool-season flowers such as Iceland poppies, snapdragons, nasturtiums, and pansies, and vegetables like lettuces and other greens, peas, and cabbages from pony packs. Buy plants that are just coming into bloom to enjoy the longest possible display.

• Dream of warmer days and shop for seeds of warm-season annuals now and start them indoors in the next month. Zinnias, marigolds, and sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, and squashes top this list.

• Prune deciduous trees and shrubs (fruit trees, roses, flowering cherries, and plums, etc.) when their leaves have all fallen. Don’t discard those woody shoots. Plunge their stems in a bucket of warm water for a day or so, and see if you can coax them into blooming early to grace the house for a few magical days.

• Stay out of the garden right after rains to avoid compacting the soil too much. Look through those nursery catalogs instead. The pretty pictures will boost your mood, and your feet will be dry and warm.

Whatever you do in the new month of the New Year, find joy, relaxation, and renewal as you nurture your garden and its living, breathing plants (don’t forget the fungi and helpful insects, too).

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Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to vahayes@lotusland.org.

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