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Gardening resolutions for the New Year

Hi there, it’s me, Uschi, my mom’s best garden helper. She’s busy reading seed catalogs and making lists of plants that she doesn’t need and that I hope she doesn’t buy. I mean, really. She’s got to leave some space for me to practice my digging skills. My mom desperately needs to make some gardening resolutions this year. I thought I would share my list with all of you and maybe one of you will pass them on to her.

Resolution No. 1. Get rid of plants that aren’t performing well or are just plain ugly. Gardeners seem to be a tenderhearted bunch who just can’t bear to rip out plants that are a disappointment or that have never performed well in their gardens. Some even find it hard to get rid of invasives. There’s always an excuse. My mom needs to get rid of some ancient, scraggly nandinas, the dead Thujas that she’s replaced twice and that clearly aren’t going to grow in our yard, no matter what she does. My mom also needs to eradicate the autumn olive that our 103 year old neighbor planted on our common property line. My mom doesn’t want to confront her or explain that the birds are dropping seeds all over the neighborhood and that nasty seedlings are popping up everywhere.

Resolution No. 2. Get rid of plants that are too abundant in the garden. Yes, I mean the irises and day lilies. Someone needs to ruthlessly cull the duplicates and triplicates and give them away or just put them out with the trash. Our garden doesn’t need 30 pale yellow irises just because they have sentimental value.

Resolution No. 3. Get rid of ground covers and mulch, or at least some of both. The latest thought on good gardening practices is that it’s better to place plants closer together and let them form a natural barrier to weeds. My mom should start with a small area so that she can see for herself how this new practice might be applied here. She doesn’t have to go cold turkey on the pine needle mulch just yet.

Resolution No. 4. Practice impulse control when considering new plants. Even though we still have lots of space, my mom only has a finite amount of energy, and some areas of the garden are crowded. I know that what I’m saying is gardening heresy, but we don’t need anymore new plants; we need to take better care of the ones that we have.

Resolution No. 5. Plant more vegetables. Last year, my mom got lazy and didn’t plant many vegetables. For example, she only grew a few plants of several kinds of peppers. The result was that I got into serious trouble for picking and devouring most of the red bell peppers. I just love them and can’t help myself. The shishitos? My mom can have all of them. I wish she would plant tomatoes and watermelons again too. I just love both when they’ve been warmed by the late afternoon sun, and stolen fruit is the best.

Most of all, I wish my mom would let me dig more. I’m an excellent excavator, but I hardly ever get to practice. Apparently digging and turning the soil are no longer considered best practices. They harm the structure of the soil, not to mention the mycorrhiza.

Oh, well, happy new year, fellow gardeners. If you need any help digging, well, you know where I am.

DR. CYNTHIA WOOD is a master gardener who writes two columns for The Herald. She can be reached at cynthia.crewe23930@gmail.com.