Top Gardening Bloggers Share Their New Year’s ResolutionsColin Campbell-Preston
Hitting the gym and cutting the drinking are among the most common New Year’s resolutions people try to stick to at this time of year. But for the green fingered among you, the start of a new year presents more than just the chance to ditch bad habits — it provides the perfect opportunity to introduce new practices to your gardening routine that could make all the difference to this year’s horticultural efforts.
From reducing your reliance on chemicals to testing the fertility of your garden’s soil more regularly; there are lots of things you can promise to do more of over the next 12 months that could lead to greater gardening success in 2017.
To inspire you to make small, positive changes to your gardening regime this year, we’ve enlisted the help of six gardening bloggers keen to share their New Year’s resolutions with the Capital Gardens’ readership.
David Marsden, The Anxious Gardener
As we start a new year, I haven’t many new plans for either of the two gardens I work in. The number of hours I spend in each is already taken up with the general care and maintenance that big gardens demand. However, I have plenty of re-jigging to do in the borders as I try new plants and call time on those under-performing. A couple of beds need stripping out completely and I’m scratching my head over what to plant instead. My mind is also turning to the tropical border; a year-on-year experiment I hope will bring a little of the exotic to Sussex.
I do, however, want to dedicate more time to growing vegetables. 2016 wasn’t my greatest year for veg and, despite the attacks of deer, pheasant and rabbit; I want 2017 to be a thumping success. But first I need to replace some rotten timbers in the raised beds, resurface the paths and mulch each bed with plenty of compost in my no-dig regime. I’m also allotting one bed entirely to a new crop, strawberries. Even though the owner is usually away, I don’t think they’ll go to waste!
Non Morris, The Dahlia Papers
My gardening resolution for 2017 is to plant more trees. I have just planted two groups of trees in a Suffolk garden. I have planted three of my favourite crab apple tree, Malus transitoria, which will provide a cloud of white blossom in May. The blossom is followed by tiny yellow pearl-like fruits along spreading branches in late summer and autumn. A little further away I have planted a pair of hawthorns, Crataegus orientalis. This is a very pretty small hawthorn with deeply cut grey-blue leaves and orange fruits. I am a great believer in trying to find exactly the right tree as it will be there for many years to come. Planting the trees in small groups in a medium to large garden looks relaxed and natural, and the impact will be more powerful even when the trees are young.
Winter flowering cherries – Prunus subhirtella autumnalis – are another great choice for a smaller garden. You will see them everywhere at the moment illuminating front gardens or quiet corners of the park and they will continue to offer up their palest pink blossom until spring. My favourite sightings this year are of a winter flowering cherry against a house which was painted a deep sky blue and had a matching pink front door and another winter flowering cherry against a classic brick and stucco London house in Notting Hill.
In a really small space, trees can work well in generous containers. I have a row of four U-Cordon apple trees in chalky Cretan terracotta pots about 50cm high and 50cm wide against the south facing back wall of my South London house. Space is tight in this part of the garden but the neat shape of the apple trees is maintained by careful pruning and the trees are surprisingly productive. I do remove the top layer of compost in early spring and replace with fresh compost and keep the pots particularly well-watered in hot weather. They look extremely pretty in spring, handsome when laden with Cox’s apples and provide an elegant silhouette against the white painted wall in winter.
Alexandra Campbell, The Middle-Sized Garden
My main challenge this year is to sort out a particularly pivotal tree. Towards the end of the summer, it appeared to be dying, and it is central to the garden. Step one is to prune off the dead branches and give it a good compost feed, in the hope it recovers.
If it has indeed died, I will need to redesign my main bed. You can’t get an immediate impact with trees — needing at least a few years to settle in and mature, which is why they’re so precious — so I’ll have to think about what else will work there instead. As it had verticillium wilt, I’ll have to choose a tree or shrub that doesn’t get this particular fungal disease as it remains in the soil.
I will have to remind myself that a good gardener always sees a dead tree or plant as an opportunity to do something better, not as a disaster.
Nick, Two Thirsty Gardeners
This year’s big project is likely to be the lawn. What grass is left grows on heavy soil, in a wet part of the country, at the bottom of a long water run-off from the adjacent park. It gets sodden very quickly and its appearance isn’t aided by two greyhounds using it as their race track. I’m not entirely sure what the plan is yet, but it may involve sectioning off some of the lawn for humans only – placing thirsty plants in strategic places, and even looking into some alternatives to grass.
Having welcomed my daughter into the world at the end of last summer, my time is no longer all my own! So this year will be about keeping things simple, easy but successful in the veg garden. Over the last two growing seasons, I’ve been learning about and trying out the no-dig approach, with some great results. Adopting a no-dig approach generally means less weeding and management, which is great for me when my time is more limited than in previous growing seasons, now that I have a baby to care for!
I’ll be sticking to fruit and veg that I’ve grown before – onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries and salad leaves – as I love to use these ingredients fresh in the kitchen. But although I’ll be cutting back and focusing on growing less, I’ll be really looking for varieties that pack a punch when it comes to flavour. This summer will definitely be about quality over quantity.
My long-term goal is to finally get the polytunnel up so I can extend my growing year, and finally have some success with homegrown chillies and peppers. A polytunnel will also help me try out some different things to grow, like sweet potatoes, which thrive in dependably warm conditions and might otherwise struggle in our cooler climate here in Bedfordshire. But whether we have the time to get the polytunnel up before autumn remains a complete mystery. I live in hope.
Rachaelle, Little Green Blog
I have a new project this year – having a large garden, I promise myself every year I’ll grow some food. Well, running a business from home means I never get time to do anything — the last time I actually grew things in the beds was over 10 years ago. Each year since then I’ve grown a couple of tomato plants, some herbs and a bag of potatoes.
This year I’ve decided to put the patio outside my back door to good use. I’ll be container gardening! I have just a few metres of space, but because it’s so easy to reach, I’m hoping I won’t be able to come up with any excuses for failure! I’ve just ordered the seeds I need (I’ve reined myself in and not gone overboard — only buying the things we all love to eat) and I’m waiting for them to arrive. Wish me luck!
Inspired to come up with your own gardening resolution? At Capital Gardens, we have everything you need to expand your gardening repertoire in 2017. Head to one of our three store locations to view our complete range of quality gardening products.