As the end of every year approaches, I think about making New Year's Resolutions. Rarely do I actually follow them, so I generally don't make many. But this year, in the midst of drought, and worrying incessantly about our local landscape, I am making some resolutions--mainly related to gardening and attracting wildlife.
It turns out that when one googles "New Year's Resolutions for Gardeners," hundreds of results appear. Who would have thought! So after reading through a number of articles (many of which have similar content), here are my suggestions for us here in northern Arizona.
1. Compost. If you have a vegetable garden, it will benefit your soil. It's also easy and produces less landfill.
2. Buy heirloom seeds. They are generally organic, and you'll be preserving the genetic diversity of plants.
3. Don't use pesticides. Although I've recently read that organic vegetables are not necessarily better for humans, pesticide-free gardens and landscapes are indeed better for pollinators and other wildlife.
4. Install birdbaths. Many birds eat bugs--plus in times of drought, you'll be providing much-needed water for them.
5. Plant natives. Again, you'll be providing habitat for native wildlife--and native plants are generally drought tolerant.
6. Use free water. Install rain barrels or dry creek beds (passive rainwater harvesting) off gutters and downspouts. Placing a bucket in the shower to capture water is another good method.
7. Keep pollinators in mind. Plant milkweed for monarchs. Encourage wildflowers to grow by not mowing. Plant native flowers with different bloom times. Provide water sources for bees and butterflies.
8. Reduce your lawn. You'll save water (and money), and can create a beautiful wildlife habitat.
9. Plan before you plant. Here in northern Arizona with our microclimates and elevation variations, you need to figure out where and what to plant to be successful. Luckily, we have many resources, which leads me to the last resolution:
10. Talk to someone who has experience. That could be a Master Gardener, an Arboretum staff member, or your neighbor. Or your grandmother or mother. (My grandmother and mother were planting heirloom seeds before they were even called "heirloom".)
You can find numerous resources online about each of these ideas and resolutions, including having your yard or property certified as a Wildlife Habitat.
What strikes me about this list is that these resolutions, when viewed together, exemplify a holistic perspective on gardening that's not just about how your tomatoes did this year. This perspective is characterized by the understanding and appreciation that our "gardening" can be intimately interconnected to our landscape and to the world beyond us.
This perspective includes taking into account native plants and wildlife, pollinator health, and water conservation. It also includes the passing of knowledge from one generation to another.
Perhaps this is why some of us are so drawn to plants and gardening. At its best, it is a conscious act of connecting to other living things, and of living a life of stewardship. So, to all gardeners--supremely conscious stewards of our green world--Happy New Year! And good luck with those resolutions!