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Stretch Yourself as a Gardener This Year

Stretch Yourself as a Gardener This Year

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

Along with all the other New Year’s resolutions you may be making this January, how about resolving to challenge yourself as a gardener? All it takes is trying something new. Start seeds, plant something you’ve never grown before, or choose new varieties rather than the same old, same old.

Gardening can be so much more than simply growing food, or pretty flowers, or keeping the yard neat and tidy so the neighbors don’t complain. It can be a journey of discovery, and a path to happiness and fulfillment. And we all should resolve to have more of those in our lives.

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Start some seeds. Starting your own seeds means you decide what you plant, and when you plant it, and you determine what’s right for your particular garden. When you buy vegetable and flower transplants, the store owner decides what you grow. Garden centers, supermarkets, and big box stores want common, easy to sell varieties, and they’re not necessarily the most flavorful or beautiful. And when you start your own seeds you control the inputs, including pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.

Starting seeds personalizes your gardening experience from start to finish. You reap the rewards and own the failures. It’s bragging rights. Seed starting is an expedition into a world that’s mysterious, yet explainable, where things will go right and things will go wrong, and you won’t always know why. And that’s what will keep you coming back. That, and tasting the fantastic Brandywine tomatoes you grew yourself.

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Try a new plant. What have you always wanted to grow but never tried? Make this the year you do it. I’d always wanted to grow Japanese maples in containers; they look so graceful and elegant. But hearing that they could be finicky, plus the concern that they wouldn’t successfully overwinter in my zone kept me hesitant. And they can be pricey. But a few years ago I used a gift certificate and bought a golden full moon maple. It’s doing fine so far, and when I see its flowing branches and ever-changing leaves, I’m glad I took the chance.

So whether it’s planting a tree, creating a water garden with aquatic plants, growing cacti or attempting a challenging vegetable like celery or cauliflower, do your research, evaluate your site, and take the plunge.

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Choose new varieties. Sure, tried and true plants are tried and true for a reason (see Brandywine tomato, above). They are tough and/or flavorful plants that have stood the test of time. So when I say new, I don’t necessarily mean new to the gardening world (though there are plenty of new introductions worth checking out on online nurseries and the All-America Selections website). I mean they’re just new to you. You may find that a different variety of vegetable or fruit might give fresh inspiration to your cooking, or that a perennial or shrub is better suited to your growing conditions than what’s there now.

Gardens are always evolving. They never finish growing, and their gardeners shouldn’t, either!


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