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In the Garden: Planting the seeds for real improvement in 2016 – Yakima Herald

It never fails. Days after Christmas, gloriously vibrant seed and perennial catalogs spill out of the mailbox, a reminder that there’s a garden out there, sleeping underneath all this snow, and it will reawaken once again. A new year is ahead, full of fresh possibilities, and it’s time to make some plans.

My garden is a work in progress that will never be completed in my lifetime, and I’ve learned to resist expecting perfection. But as I mull over so many of my “woulda, shoulda, coulda” moments in last year’s garden, I know there’s room for improvement. I love new beginnings, and here’s my list of resolutions for 2016:

• Not only will I finish every task I begin, but I will factor in time for cleanup. I will not get out any tools that I will not have time to put away that day. I will not leave piles of deadheads moldering away in wheelbarrows; it’s the compost pile before sundown. And I will actually turn my compost pile once in a while. Sure, compost happens, but it happens much faster with some help from me.

• I will create a long-range garden design plan, and consider having it tattooed on my forehead so I can’t leave it in my other purse. I have a knack for seeing a Plant I Never Wanted, but consumed with plant lust, perceive it to be the very Plant I Can’t Live Another Day Without. After I get it home, I remember that I have no empty places to put it. Or I discover that it is best suited for USDA Climate Zone 7, or needs high humidity, lots of water, and acid soil. A plant like that has no place in my garden. And so, the object of my quickly cooled desire either sits in its nursery pot for months and months, or gets shoehorned into a less than desirable location, just for the sake of getting it planted. So, let me repeat, no more buying plants unless I have a specific spot or need.

• I will continue to pare down the number of plants I grow that are water guzzlers and wilters. I will replace them with plants that not only tolerate drought, but revel in it. As the snow piles up and reservoirs refill, memories of our infernal summer of 2015 fade, but the reality is that clean water will continue to become a more scarce and expensive commodity. Gardeners must adapt to changing conditions and implement gardening practices that are more sustainable.

• I will take better care of my garden tools. I could not do any worse, so there is tremendous potential here. Garden tools are a big investment and should last for years, yet I manage to measure the life of my pruners in hours. I resolve to attach long neon lanyards to all my hand tools so they become beacons in a sea of green. Yesterday, while out refilling the bird feeders, I discovered the handle of my favorite spade sticking out of the snow (I used it on a cold November morning to plant a batch of perennials that were impulsively purchased in June, but had no place to grow). There is no method to my madness, but that’s all about to change in 2016. I’ll be sharpening, oiling and properly storing my hand tools, and changing the oil and spark plugs on my fuel-driven power tools, just like the manual recommends.

• I will make no pruning cuts without good reasons. Cass Turnbull, founder of PlantAmnesty, asserts that 80 percent of the pruning done by homeowners and professionals alike is what she calls “mal-pruning.” To learn to do it right, I’m enrolling in Pruning 101 later this winter. The Yakima Area Arboretum class, led by arborist Sean Tait, includes an evening lecture and an outdoor workshop to practice. Call the Arboretum at 509-248-7337 for information about tree-care classes.

• I will make a determined and sincere effort to share extra food and flowers with neighbors or food banks. Last summer, faced with an abundance of basil, a gardening couple down the street made a simple farm stand in their driveway. Encouraged by a FREE BASIL sign, their oversupply was scooped up in no time by delighted passers-by. I would like to be a more giving gardener, and this generous spirit is just what Yakima neighborhoods need in the New Year.

• Carol Barany and her husband, John, found paradise on 11/3 acres just west of Franklin Park, where they raised three children and became Master Gardeners. Email her at

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