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Resolutions for Gardeners

Dianne and Gary Westlake

Gardening is all about picking yourself up after last yearís mistakes, dusting off the dirt and trying again. We gardeners are an optimistic bunch who believe that this year we will have the best garden yet. Now is the time, before the season starts, to resolve to do a few things differently.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view we canít really count on global warming. The moment we decide to go ahead and plant a banana in our back yard, -30° C is going to come along and dash our dreams. This year, we are going to make a concerted effort to employ plants that survive in the Peterborough area. Maybe we will even use more native plants. We need to keep in mind that, while garden centre people are generous and helpful, it might be in their interest for the plant that we purchase to die so that we will go out and buy a replacement. So to some extent, itís buyer beware.

Like many of you, we have been searching for that Holy Grail of gardening Ė "easy care". Visions of hauling 14 yards of compost around in a wheel barrow while in our twilight years is a nightmare that wakes us up at night. They say if you plant perennials, the garden will almost look after itself. Well that maybe true as long as you do not try to cultivate a large portion of Peterborough. With an acre of gardens, easy care is a relative term but we are going to have to do better.

Our strategy so far has been to include every plant known to man in our garden and let them fight it out. We are going to be more selective. Instead of planting in drifts of one we are going to plant larger groups. This way, instead of looking after many plants each with their own different needs, we can deal with a gang of the same type all together. Further, we resolve to purchase plants only when we know where they are going to be put. Every year we end up with a carport filled with plants waiting for us to find a spot for them in the garden. Now that we have experienced growing everything, we are going to try to reduce the collection to the ones most suited to our garden.

You working folks out there that think retirement is all fun and games, need to be careful what you wish for. While you are working at a regular job, your boss usually has restraints, but when you are retired, you get the worst possible boss (yourself). This boss is relentless, unforgiving, and from whom you cannot hide. We are going to try to volunteer for fewer things this year. This way we might be able to travel more in the winter and enjoy our garden more in summer.

We are going to feel less ashamed of our compost that only breaks down very slowly because we donít turn it. Our method is just another valid method of composting.

By the time we got all the leaves picked up off our lawn in the fall we were too tired to distribute them on the gardens where it would do more good. This year we are going to the gym, so we should have enough gas left to do the leaf spreading. And we are going to try to collect and use more rainwater. At the end of this year Peterborough Green-Up will be very proud of us.

Every year when the motherload of tomatoes shows up in our garden, tomato prices hit rock bottom. It hardly seems worth it. Donít get us wrong, the first one or two brought straight into the kitchen from the garden are almost orgasmic, but after processing a few bushels, we wonder why we have so many plants. This year we resolve not to plant too many tomatoes.

We will sharpen and clean our tools. We resolve to be more accepting of a few weeds Ė not whole fields of them, but a few. We are not going to plant as many large tulips so we donít have to keep replacing them. We are going to incorporate more easy to care for shrubs and better trees than Norway Maples. We are going to plant our annuals closer together and our perennials farther apart.

We will be just fine this year if we keep repeating "Its not just about the flowers - its all about foliage. Its all about foliage not about flowers."

Dianne and Gary Westlake are Master Gardeners. To get answers to your garden questions or your questions about house plants contact our web site