Lessons from the garden for the new year

Lessons from the garden for the new year

Some of us have made new year resolutions we hope will change our lives. Some have made less formidable promises to ourselves. Others have decided to ignore the calendar as much as possible or just sit back and see what fate will bring.

I suspect my garden is in the third category and has paid as little attention to the human labeling of time as did my dogs to their dinner time after Daylight Savings Time rolled in.

For most other living creatures on this planet, time is not something to measure or categorize. But we humans tend to circumscribe our whole lives by years, months, minutes and sometimes even seconds. I guess it’s a control thing.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons I value my garden so much. It is a wise teacher. It teaches me that time will continue on no matter what I do or what beliefs I cling to — political, religious, economic or anything else. Seeds will sprout, leaf out and flower; fruit will drop seeds and die as newly formed seedlings sprout again.

I will make splendid plans and the weather or the wildlife will ignore them. And I will continue ageing no matter how well I eat and exercise until the day I stop altogether.

So I have a choice. I can choose to feel badly about my short, egocentric period on this earth, or I can celebrate what a magnificent gift it is to be here and experience being a unique part of the awesome living tapestry of life. Considering how bleak the first choice is and how much fun the latter one is, why not go for the joyful one?

After all, the truth of the matter is that I can spend every day learning new things and passing them on.

This makes me feel even more a part of the complex dance of life. I can make someone smile, rescue a worm stranded on the sidewalk, pat a pooch and give a plant a happy home.

These are lessons my garden has shown me in so many ways. I don’t have to be rich, famous or admired to do something that makes a difference. I just need to participate in experiencing and honoring the magical life on this awesome planet! 

So, now that I realize I have everything I need to be happy and relevant in the coming new year, I’m gonna arm myself with shovel, fork and trowel, and I’m gonna go out there and do some good.

I can help people plan their gardens to feed their souls while doing my best to help balance our human use of soil, water and air with the harmony needed to care for the planet.

I can plant California natives where they will create homes and food for the local fauna. I can make a special area for amending soil so I can grow fresh healthy food and pretty flowers for cutting without using excessive water.

I can enjoy every day in the gentle air, the soft winter sun, the stimulating seasonal rains, and be thankful for having the daily reminder in my garden of what is truly important about being alive. And you can do the same.

Okay, now that I’m done with my proselytizing, here are some things we can all do at this time of year to feel fulfilled in the garden:

Plan to redesign your garden for more fun and productive beauty. Draw it out rough-sketched on paper, computer or formally measured and mapped so you can catch mistakes before they become expensive.

Soil can be prepped for the spring. Amendments can be added where more organics are needed or soil needs to be aerated.

Winter is the perfect time to fix or change irrigation systems.

To keep weed germination down in open areas you will not get around to planting for a while try covering the soil with black plastic. It heats up in the sun and effectively kills many weeds germinating beneath. Just pull it off when you are ready to plant.

Plant low-water lawns, trees and shrubs during winter months. 

Most of your pruning can be done at this time of year as well.

Keep hoeing and pulling weeds as they sprout. 

Sprinkle wildflower seeds to bring riotous color to open areas. 

Plant drought-tolerant plants and low ground-covers to save water and defend from wildfires.

There are boundless opportunities to work with your landscape in January. You can use inclement days for shopping and designing. You can also just enjoy wandering through your landscape and watch the shows nature is presenting everywhere you look. 

So, I wish you all a Happy New Year and lots of fun, healing and healthful gardening. It’s never too late to start learning all the lessons the garden has to teach. Just step outside, look, listen and learn! 

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