Gardening Tips for 2009

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Submitted by: Gienie Assink, Springfield Oregon

And so it begins — a brand-new year, brimming with glorious gardening possibilities and unlimited potential.

Imagine a garden completely free of moss, snails and weeds; a landscape where long-planned additions are completed on schedule and plants remain reliably gorgeous all season.

Hardly realistic, but hey. That’s what winter gardeners do best: dream, scheme and then ream out the old to make way for the new.

Here’s some advice:

Start earlier (no procrastinating!): For example, it’s not too early to bait for slugs or to spread mulch over slumbering borders. Conversely, it’s not too late to kill roof moss, move a shrub or plant bulbs.

Prune and weed regularly: We have a mature garden in a relatively mild climate, so we always have plants that outgrow their allotted space during a season. This year I’m hoping to stay ahead of the curve instead of waiting until a full day’s effort is necessary to whip everything back into some semblance of order.

Incorporate more drought-tolerant plant species: Here in Western Oregon, where we can go weeks without rain between midsummer and early autumn, it makes sense to use plants that thrive in our hot, modified-Mediterranean climate.

This doesn’t mean ripping up the entire landscape in a season. But we need to consider ways that we can rework our landscapes to increase their efficiency. This can include not only reduced water usage, but fertilizer and insecticide use as well.

Enjoy the garden: Sounds like a no-brainer, but all too often I feel like there’s simply no time to linger outdoors. So I’m going to try and give myself permission to set aside 30 guilt-free minutes to sit with a cup of coffee and simply appreciate what is going right.

Think outside the box for problem areas: I have one primary area that causes me endless design grief. Nothing ever seems to work in this hot, dry and hard-to-reach area. This coming season, since conventional shrubs and perennials have failed to thrive, I’m moving to a mixture of art pieces and rugged ornamental grasses. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this drought-tolerant combo does the trick.

Remove some of the old bark mulch before spreading a fresh layer: There is such a thing as too much mulch. I have killed more than one plant by allowing excess mulch to suffocate and rot various perennials, shrubs and even one tree. A depth of 3 inches or less usually is more than sufficient for any mulch.

Small parts of the garden already have been reworked, and I’ll just keep plugging away over the course of the next few years. Change is always hard, but in this instance it’s exciting and worth the effort.

Good luck and have fun!