Making realistic (garden) resolutions for the new year

If you want to build the best garden, grow the best food and raise the best petunias this summer, now is the time to set growing goals in motion.

But whatever you do – don’t compare yourself to the neighbours.

“You should see Marinette’s garden,” my helpful husband points out one day last fall. “It is just beautiful.”

Yes, it is – no contest. I’ve seen pretty pots on her doorstep and I am familiar with her weed-free gardens, but my efforts are not in the same league.

“I’m not retired,” I reminded my helpful spouse.

My neighbour, Linda, said my garden is a three-ring circus and she is being kind. But this year, I will start focusing – really focusing – on controlling the circus and growing a better garden in 2015:

1. I will only order enough seeds or plants of vegetables to feed my family. Any more than two plants of zucchini or two packages of lettuce are just too much. Buying one six-pack of already-growing leeks instead of seeds means I won’t have 994 extra seedlings to grow and give away.

2. Catalogues offer thousands of selections and dozens of new varieties, but I am not running a freak show. If I try to grow every new thing, the juggler will collapse and the fire-breathing performer will run out of steam. I have to stick to trying only one or two new things every year.

3. Deer are a problem for me, so I won’t buy apple trees or other tasty plants they love unless something comes out of the deer-fenced area first. In other words, I can’t announce on Mother’s Day that I want to extend the deer fencing to plant a rose. A fence might be promised in the moment, but if it isn’t built before plants are purchased there is no room for new plants.

4. Long vacations in August with back-to-back weddings kept me away from the garden for weeks this year. Summer is only eight weekends long and the harvest starts seriously during this period. So I need to resist temptation even if my son gets married. OK, I might make an exception there.

5. Free cuttings or plants that have outgrown their spots in a neighbours or friends’ garden are not welcome in mine. Plants that are vigorous enough to outgrow their spots are probably vicious weeds. And if I can’t have all the new plants being offered (see point 2), I definitely don’t have room for weeds.

6. I won’t rely entirely on my automatic irrigation because it never takes extreme rain, heat or the overhanging roof into consideration. Potted plants need to be checked every morning during the growing season by sticking my finger into the soil as I take the time to stroll my yard. I will also fertilize weekly this year so that these trapped and potted prisoners grow to become the best they are meant to be.

I accept my garden will never be as good as Marinette or Linda’s, but it still brings me plenty of pleasure and produce. And that keeps it fun.

Donna Balzer is a garden writer and speaker. Check out her blog at or follow on
twitter @NoGuffGardener.