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Resolutions for gardeners: Have more fun

Tips to help make 2023 your best gardening year

Resolve to bring more pollinators into your garden with plants such as lavender.

Resolve to bring more pollinators into your garden with plants such as lavender.

Kathy Morrison

Happy new year! Now what?

These past 12 months have been challenging for our gardens – something we can say about all drought years. How can we make 2023 better? Be prepared. Plan ahead. Have more fun.

We can’t control the weather (if we could, we would). But as we get drenched by an atmospheric river to close out 2022, our prospects for a “normal” water year at least look promising.

We thought the same thing last December when heavy rain brought declarations that our drought days were over. Then, we experienced the driest spring in Sacramento history.

Tradition dictates that it’s time to look ahead with resolve. But to do what? For us gardeners, these simple resolutions will make our lives easier and help our gardens thrive – no matter the weather.

1. Take notes. Be observant and write down what you see. Your landscape is changing. (Trees and shrubs grow; sunny spaces turn to shade.) You may need to make adjustments. Also, note what varieties did well, which didn’t. (This is key to veggie success.)

2. Use a calendar. Paper or digital, calendars are handy for jotting down those notes and keeping track of dates. For example, when did you plant seeds or transplants? When did you harvest your first tomato? You can refer to those dates later when making decisions about next season. (Tip: Get a master gardener calendar; it comes packed with monthly reminders.)

3. Do things at the right time. Plant, prune, fertilize, harvest; gardening is all about timing. For example, plants need important nutrients at critical steps in their development. Figure out in advance when you should feed certain plants (and mark it on that calendar!)

4. Install a smart controller and upgrade irrigation. Never have your sprinklers come on again during a storm. If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time. Water providers have rebates available for upgrading your irrigation technology. It will make your life simpler (and save water and money, too). For rebates: www.bewatersmart.info.

5. Invite wildlife into your garden and enjoy the show. Plant nectar- and pollen-filled flowers that hummingbirds, bees and butterflies love. Other birds like berries and seeds; they appreciate bushes that provide them a feast. Make them feel at home, too. Besides plants, provide a bird feeder, bird bath or bee house. For yourself, put a comfortable chair or bench in a spot where you can watch the antics of visiting winged friends. It’s a sure way to get more fun out of your garden space.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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