Although New Year’s Day was a while ago now, it’s not too late to make a list of New Year’s resolutions for your 2021 garden.
Right now, the ground is covered in a blanket of white snow, and the garden is a nearly blank slate. Seed catalogs arriving in the mail filled with brightly colored photos of fruits, vegetables, and flowers have us all longing for spring and new beginnings. It’s a great time to make big plans for your 2021 garden and daydream.
One common piece of advice I give for farmers and avid gardeners is to keep a garden journal. It’s very useful to record information such as when you seed and transplant your plants in the spring, which varieties you liked or didn’t like, and pest problems you had.
Recording your actions and thoughts helps correct mistakes and improve in the future. If you accidentally started your tomatoes too early last year, for example, it’s good to note that so that you can aim to seed them a bit later this year.
Or, if one particular variety of tomatoes yielded extraordinarily well for you, noting the variety can help jog your memory when you’re buying plants for your garden the next year. While record-keeping isn’t necessarily a fun activity for many of us, a gardening journal can be fun as well as useful. Include ideas and recipes for how to use the crops you grow in your garden. When the end of the summer zucchini overload hits, maybe you’ll be ready with an idea for a new zucchini recipe to try.
BUYING SEEDS LOCALLY
After making a list of seeds you’ll need this year, consider minimizing your seed purchases from seed companies by phone or online. With the surge in gardening interest last spring due to the pandemic, many seed companies sold out of certain varieties very quickly, leaving farmers without access to varieties that they count on growing.
Some farmers are encouraging home gardeners to purchase their seeds from the display racks at local stores to help ease the backlog of orders at seed companies and ensure that farmers, whose livelihoods depend on seeds, to be able to access varieties they need. Many of our local stores have great selections of seeds from larger companies as well as small ones.
If you have lots of seed packets leftover from previous years, it’s likely that they are still good to plant if they’ve been kept in a dry spot. You can check the germination rate of your seeds by doing your own at-home germination test. Simply place a few seeds on a damp (but not soaking wet) paper towel in a plastic container. Add water to the paper towel as necessary, and count the number of sprouted seeds after a week or two (depending on the crop). The number of sprouted seeds should give you a good indication of the seeds’ viability.
Another great way to get new seeds for the upcoming season is to organize a seed swap with your gardener friends. Even if you can’t get together in person because of the pandemic, a COVID-safe way to host a swap could be to send around lists of seeds you are willing to part with, and send the seeds to friends by mail who are interested in those varieties.
Another great resolution is to dedicate a portion of your vegetable garden to flowering plants. Many seed companies offer pollinator or beneficial insect mixes. Adding a row to the garden helps foster beneficial insects that serve as natural enemies to pests and pollinate our food crops. Flowers serve as important sources of nectar and pollen for these insects.
Additionally, many of the plants in these mixes are great as cut flowers, a nice addition to your kitchen table in the summer. Resist the urge to pull or trim your herbs and vegetables when they flower. Bees, butterflies, and other insects love bolted broccoli, basil, cilantro, and other crops.
Lastly, a resolution to consider is starting up your own at-home composting system so that you can turn your food scraps and lawn waste into food for your garden. There are many different ways to compost. Find a system that is convenient and works best for you.
It’s a shame when food waste is sent to the landfill, where it rots and methane gas is released into the atmosphere. We have the power to transform that waste into nutrients and organic matter that feed our gardens. Compost in bags can be expensive to purchase. Wouldn’t it be nice to make your own?
These are just a few of my suggestions for 2021 gardening resolutions and goals. I’m sure you have ideas of your own. Happy planning!
Elisabeth Hodgdon is the regional vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension – Clinton County. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-561-7450.