A little reflection goes a long way to planning to be better in the coming year.
(Photo: Shutterstock).
Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension
Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

When the end of December rolls around, do you find yourself looking at the past year in review or the one heading your way? A little reflection goes a long way to planning to be better in the coming year, and for me, the list will probably include these goals.

Gather up and organize all the bits of baling twine, twist ties, and clips that hold plants and trellises together. Honestly, the garage looks like silly string spewed everywhere, but it’s because I can’t take twine off objects without thinking “I can use this in the garden,” and scurry it into the garage like a packrat. If I roll all the strands together, I can turn it into a big ball of twine, like the roadside attraction in Minnesota, or Kansas, or anywhere a gardener decided to organize their ties.

Pay attention to the mature size of the plant when putting it in the ground. This is something I lecture on when giving talks but didn’t follow this year, resulting in the Great Zucchini Eclipse of 2018. Plopped in the same bed as the sweet potatoes, I wrongly assumed that 26 to one odds meant that the sweet potatoes would win. The zucchini had other plans, growing monstrously large leaves and expanding its girth to swallow up all of the light, leaving the sweet potatoes to struggle in shade. 

Encourage beneficial organisms to help me keep my pest problems to a minimum. Plantings to provide nectar, pollen, or water keep beneficial insects happy, specialty houses convince bats to nest, and turned over pots attract toads. All of these creatures are useful and if my problem were just insects, this would be terrific.

But in my case, the biggest threat to the plants run on four legs, so attracting birds to roost in the yard is a goal, especially raptors and owls. Since I have no clue what attracts them, I’ll just start hooting and screeching outside in hopes that it will sound welcoming. On second thought, perhaps my behaving that way will be enough to keep the thugs at bay.

Install a rack for holding tools, and use it. This will help me locate spading forks or trenching shovels by seeing the empty space where they should be and remembering that I left them outside by the last job I was doing. In the long run it might teach me to bring in and hang the tools up where they belong.

Get a new pair of gardening gloves, something I should do every year. I’ve discovered that mud, water, and plant sap dry gloves into stiffened forms that crackle when I put them on and start moving them. These hand shaped statuettes have given me insight into my mindset across the seasons, from demure springtime shapes to more expressive finger forms when bugs and disease take their toll.  In celebration of this accidental artistry, new gloves each year are in order.

Be mindful in shopping new plants during the quiet, dreaming season of winter. Although catalogs and e-mails from favorite suppliers whet my appetite for new varieties, growing conditions here in Colorado always provide a reality check. Since I’m experimenting with dry beans, a recent e-mail blast from a specialty catalog caught my eye; a new release had me salivating to try it. But one look beyond the compelling description to see if the plant will work in our short, hot, dry growing season had me discarding the plan to plant it. It wouldn’t work here, because the bean in question is a long season variety that needs more water than I can promise.

What are your thoughts for the new year? Whatever your resolutions may be, here’s wishing you a beautiful, bountiful 2019.

Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.