The new year brings a time for personal resolutions, such as those for eating less and exercising more. There are also important gardening resolutions for the new year that will prevent a lot of problems in the garden throughout 2014, and thankfully most of these garden resolutions are easier to keep than the personal resolutions.
1. Plan a landscape and work from the plan.
Many landscapes develop over time based upon plants that are given or purchased on impulse. The result can be a hodgepodge of plants with no unity of design. Some landscapes can look like a delivery truck loaded with nursery stock crashed in the yard and random plants fell out. Take the time to develop a landscape plan that includes ideas for expansion, and add plants as time and the budget allow. This helps when shopping at the nurseries; it creates a shopping list with plants needed instead of buying whatever plant is in bloom.
2. Water your plants early in the morning.
Afternoon watering wets foliage, which does not have an opportunity to dry before nightfall. This extended period of wetness allows the development of all sorts of fungal diseases in the garden. The best time to water a lawn is from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. During this time, the water pressure is highest, disruption of the water pattern from wind is low, and water lost to the atmosphere by evaporation is nonexistent. Morning irrigation supplies water when the landscape is able to use the water it needs and the rest will be able to evaporate throughout the day.
3. Don’t use fertilizer as a cure-all for garden problems.
A natural response to a plant problem is to reach for the fertilizer bag. Soil sample results give the best fertilization recommendation and should be done to ensure proper health and vigor of the landscape as a whole. A common misconception is that if a plant looks bad then it must need more fertilizer. Take the time to look carefully at poorly performing plants to determine the cause of their problems. Insects, diseases and environmental conditions are often the cause of plant problems.
Contact the extension office if the cause of the problem is unknown. Many plant problems can be diagnosed over the telephone or by bringing a sample of the plant to the office.
4. Read and follow the instructions on all chemical labels.
The labels on landscape chemicals contain a wealth of information. The pesticide label is the best guide for using pesticides safely and effectively. The directions on the label are there primarily to help achieve maximum benefits with minimum risk. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “if a little bit is good, then a lot is better.” Increasing the dosage of garden chemicals beyond the labeled rate can result in pesticide residues remaining on harvested vegetables and damage to the plants being treated.
Also, follow the label each time you mix and use the pesticide and when storing or disposing of the pesticide. Use of any pesticide in any way that does not comply with label directions and precautions is illegal. It might also be ineffective on the pests and, even worse, pose risks to users or the environment.
Of course, there are many other resolutions that could be included in this list. Make a few and stick to them this year, and gardening will be much more enjoyable.