By Susanne von Rosenberg, UC Master Gardener of Napa County
Many of us set goals at the start of a new year, and most of us give up on them fairly quickly. How about focusing on your garden this year instead? That will probably be a lot more fun than any resolution you were going to make.
Your garden intention can be an enjoyable way to improve your health and well-being and help the planet, too. Win-win-win! Set an intention rather than a goal. An intention creates a path you follow and avoids the stress of having to meet a specific expectation. After all, gardening should be enjoyable.
So what will your win-win-win garden intention be this year? Here are some ideas:
Consider making your garden more environmentally friendly:
Reduce your water use. Install drip irrigation (it's really not that hard) or focus on rainwater harvesting. Alternatively, replace some particular thirsty plants with drought-tolerant choices.
Improve your soil. Keep mulching and use organic fertilizers. Your plants and the planet will thank you.
Plant more native plants. They're beautiful and,once established, need little care.
Choose plants that support native pollinators. We need to support diversity in the pollinator population.
How about planting some plants that will help reduce your energy consumption by shading your home or its south- and west-facing windows?
Learn more about climate-friendly gardening. For example, did you know that you can help trap carbon in the soil through the right kinds of gardening practices? And these practices improve your soil, too.
Create habitat for wildlife. In addition to planting native plants and other plants to provide food for wildlife, provide water and shelter. Leave your garden a little messy; it's better for wildlife.
Replace your lawn with drought-tolerant plantings. All of the cities in Napa County have cash-for-grass programs that pay you to remove your lawn and replace it with a drought-tolerant garden.
Learn to make compost. It's the best way to recycle your yard waste and some food scraps. And if you can't make enough compos to mulch your garden, buy it from the municipal waste company.It's inexpensive and certified as a soil amendment for organic agriculture.
Learn more about your garden:
Spend more time observing it. How does the light and shade change throughout the year? Where does the rainwater flow? How does the wind affect your garden? Which critters call it home?
Track the daily high and low temperature and the rainfall in your location. You can find inexpensive gauges in most garden centers and nurseries and online. Keep a notebook or other journal to record what you observe.
Experiment with something new: new plants, new tools or new ways of taking care of your garden. Did you know that no-till gardens are the wave of the future?
Make your garden work better for you:
What are the big challenges in your garden, and what one action could you take to make the biggest dent in dealing with that challenge?
What can you do to make your garden more enjoyable? Do you need more seating? Or perhaps more shade or sun? Do you want to create a peaceful nook for meditation?
Simply spend a bit more time gardening. Fifteen minutes a day can have a big effect and will make for a relaxing break, no matter what time of day you go out.
Consider contributing fresh produce to the local Food Bank (check first to find out what is needed). This is a wonderful activity to share with kids.
Do you have grandkids or nieces and nephews? How about introducing them to the joys of gardening?
Knowledge makes you a better and more confident gardener. Check out the Master Gardener website (http://napamg.ucanr.edu/) for useful information as well as upcoming workshops and events.
Or you could simply decide to spend more time in the garden. Fresh air and being in nature are wonderful for your heart and soul. Being more at peace is a wonderful intention for the new year.
Workshop: The U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will present a workshop on “Growing Spring and Summer Vegetables” on Saturday, March 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. Do you want nutritious, easy-to grow and utterly fresh food from your garden this spring and summer? Learn what the garden needs to successfully produce spring and summer vegetables from seeds and plant starts. In addition to growing basics and hands-on activities, this program includes watering, fertilizing and harvesting tips, with a dash of Integrated Pest Management for pest and disease control. The delight of growing your own groceries is matched only by savoring them at harvest. Online registration (credit card only); Mail-in/Walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).
Workshop: The U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will present a workshop on “Summer Vegetables” on Sunday, March 10, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington Street, Yountville. Get tips for growing your own summer vegetables. Learn some basics, get keys to success, and do hands-on activities to learn about new varieties and review old favorites. Enjoy healthy vegetables taken straight from your garden to your table. The delight of growing your own vegetables is matched by savoring them at harvest. Online registration or telephone the Parks & Recreation Department at 707-944-8712.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County (http:/napamg.ucanr.edu) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.