COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Garden can be improved, even if it’s sleeping

By Marianne Binetti

The New Year comes during a dormant season in the garden, but the garden that is sleeping can still be improved upon. This is your chance to get out that shiny new calendar and jot down your garden and landscaping goals. Even if all you’ve got to garden in is a sunny windowsill or mini balcony, the garden of your dreams begins in the winter of your discontent.

Here’s how to organize your garden goals for 2010:

1. Dream Big, Dig Deep

If you’ve always wanted a rose-covered arbor or your own pumpkin patch or if your childhood memories are scented by the fragrant sweet peas that grew in your grandmother’s garden, then now is the time to write down these dreams so they can grow into reality as part of your garden file.Tear pages from magazines, make notes from garden books or save plant tags from favorite flowers. This is just the planning stage so you don’t even have to be practical. Winter is for dreamers – don’t waste the idle indoor time with worries or house cleaning. Use your imagination to paint beautiful garden pictures – just a few notes on paper could be all that is needed to make your dreams take root.

2. Divide and conquer, get a plan.

Let’s say you want to grow vegetables this summer. Break the project down into steps to turn that dream into a reality. Note the spot in the yard that gets the most sun. Admit that your soil needs help. Consider protection from deer or dogs. Then list ways to solve all these problems. You may come up with a list that includes: ordering topsoil, installing fence posts for a deer fence and extending the water line for a faucet. Just want to landscape the front? Your list might include attending home and garden shows this winter for ideas, checking out some landscaping books from the library and joining the email list at your local nursery. Ready to really get growing? Join a garden club or sign up to take Master Gardener classes.

3. Mark the calendar, set a deadline.

January is the best month to order fruit trees and berry bushes, call around to get quotes on topsoil and outdoor construction, and to read all those garden books for inspiration. Now write these “to-do” bullets or the steps you must take to create a vegetable garden onto your appointment calendar. Once you have something in writing you are much more likely to follow through with your plan.

Transferring your “To-do list” onto a calendar holds you more accountable. You’ll have a hard time planting that vegetable garden in June if you don’t do some prep work and order topsoil in April. Your new orchard will cost a lot more to plant in May than if you remember to order and plant bare root fruit trees in January. One of the best tips for constant color in the garden is to visit a nursery every month and adopt something that looks great during your visit. Too many gardens strut all their stuff in the spring - because that’s the most common time to visit a nursery.

Make a February date in your appointment book now to visit a nursery. You’ll have a fun day to look forward to and be able to bring home some February color from a forsythia, heather, hellebore or some obscure winter- flowering perennial plant.

4. Keep Learning,

Keep Growing

Toast the New Year with a new plan for a fresh take in the garden, and you’ll also be toasting to better health, improved memory and better tasting food. Gardening is the only activity that employs all five senses and bending, stretching and tending plants can give you the same benefits of yoga. Gardeners don’t just live longer, they live better - as all gardeners learn to be patient and with more patience comes less stress.

I’ll keep you posted on what to do each week as you read this column, and new this year will be a section about growing edibles. From Alpine strawberries to golden hops we live in a climate that allows us to grow a bounty of edibles. The winter of our discontent can be the beginning of a contented stomach, and beautiful landscape.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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