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New Year's Resolutions for Gardeners in 2020

Photo: Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension 
As ever in Minnesota, New Year's brings a cold, crisp dawn to the next year. And in this case, it's a new decade--the twenty-twenties (...which sounded so far out into the future when I was little)!

We've gathered together some New Year's resolutions that will help take us all into the next 10 years as gardeners, plant lovers, eco-fans, and as those who honor and respect the natural world around us. 

In some of these resolutions, you'll discover the nugget of a new trend that will help shape our evolving landscapes as we strive to become better, smarter gardeners.  We are resolved to look at plants as something much more than just a pretty flower or tree: use our lawns to benefit pollinators, grow a popular ornamental shrub that's now being studied as a biofuel alternative, and of course, garden more sustainably than we ever have before. 

It's a lot to take in--but we have the whole decade! Happy New Year everyone!

--Gail Hudson, Y&G News Editor

Resolution #1: Embrace small space and more efficient gardening practices

My resolution for 2020 is to be a more strategic small space gardener. Now that I live in a city, I have less space to garden than I’ve had in the past. I have a tendency to want to plant every type of vegetable and to try as many varieties as possible, which can lead me to plant things too close together, or to use space unwisely. 

This year I’m going to more carefully choose things that do well in a small space. I’ll forgo things like pumpkins and squash, and opt to buy those at the farmers market instead. I’m also going to be more intentional about succession planting and companion planting so that I can harvest from my garden all summer long. 

Finally, I’m going to add pots so that i can squeeze in a few extra herbs along sidewalks.

Happy New Year!
--Natalie Hoidal, Extension Educator, Horticulture - Food System Agriculture 
Anne Sawyer's home vegetable garden.
Photo: Anne Sawyer, UMN Extension

Anne's 2020 garden resolution is the same as Anne's 2019 garden resolution: Right-sizing the garden! 

It's not that I failed at my 2019 resolution - we actually did downsize - but not enough. It's incredibly hard to grow less, even though growing less actually makes for happier, healthier plants.They have more space, more resources, and they get more attention. 

With a two-year-old and another little one on the way, downsizing the garden even more will also make for happier, healthier parents! 

We'll be putting most of our big veggie garden "to sleep" for a couple of years and attempting to stick to our newly built 36-inch raised beds in front of the house for a kitchen garden. 

We'll always grow lots of our own veggies, but we're also excited to spend more time at our local farmers' market to support others who grow them better than we can - and farmers' markets are a great family outing!

Have a wonderful 2020 - happy gardening!

--Anne Sawyer, Extension Educator - On-Farm Food Safety

Resolution #2: Blend small spaces into larger landscape designs

Blend terrace plantings into larger
designs. Photo: Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension
I like what my colleagues, Ms. Hoidal and Ms. Sawyer, wrote about using space more wisely - amen! I am going to add to that and resolve to blend my smaller planting spaces into larger designs, namely, the terrace walls in my backyard. 

I'll do this by repeating masses of plants. (Smart Gardening Hint #1: Repetition of plant masses creates unity throughout a landscape). 

Some great massing plants are ornamental grasses and sedges, low-growing succulents, hardy perennials, evergreens. 

And remember to plant for all 4 seasons! 

-- Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator, Horticulture

Resolution #3: Plant pussy willows, a pollinator-friendly, eco-friendly and energy-producing shrub

Pussy willow shrub.
Pussy willows (Salix discolor), a large 15-20 foot shrub native to Minnesota and much of northern U.S. is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. Pussy willows provide some of the earliest flowers and pollen for honey and other native bees. The foliage also supports  native butterfly caterpillars.

Because they can produce a dense cluster of stems on each plant, pussy willow shrubs have a number of uses:
plant to form a living snow fence, a privacy hedge, riparian buffer or use to restore stream banks. 

Researchers at Cornell University are even working extensively with willows as a source of biofuel to create bioenergy!  Wood chips made from willows can be dried and pelletized to produce heat and/or electricity and biofuels such as ethanol. 

Read more about growing pussy willows and all of their advantages in the Yard & Garden News.

--Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor

Rabbit feeding on rose stems

Resolution #4: Install fencing to keep the critters out of the veggie garden! 

This spring, I will install rabbit fencing around the bottom of the deer fence that surrounds my garden so that I can finally grow peas without the rabbits eating them. 

We started building a deer fence around our garden last summer, and we all but finished it except for adding narrow-gauge rabbit fencing at the bottom. 

--Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production

Resolution #5: Renovate at least 1/3 of my back lawn into a bee lawn

My backyard "lawn" is a current mixture of creeping charlie and violets with a bit of fine fescue....I have applied for a Bee Lawn grant through the Lawns to Legumes program and plan to add creeping thyme and self-heal this spring by seeding and planting these two pollinator plants. 
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) and thyme flowers
(Thymus vulgaris) in a bee lawn.
Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension
Did you know....? Minnesota residents can apply to be reimbursed for up to $350 in costs associated with establishing pollinator habitat in their yards in the new Lawns to Legumes program. It offers a combination of workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns.

Applications for the first round of funding will be accepted through February 28, 2020. 

Cheers to a great 2020 of gardening ahead!

--Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor

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