New Year in the Garden

by Melody Stramer, Bexar County Master Gardener

After being confined to our homes for so long, some of us may feel we are in a rut. Here are some ideas to consider at this time of planning for the new garden year, plus some encouragement to think outside the box and expand our perspectives.

First, take a leisurely walk around your landscape to assess what you have. Are the plants happy in their location? Can you use some additional color or screening? What space do you have to work with to try something new? If you are reading this, you already have basic gardening knowledge to help you decide what would work in your own yard’s microclimate. Don’t be afraid of removing plants that are getting too long in the tooth or are just not thriving. Or consider swapping with friends.

Since we’re home more than usual, what a great idea to start or expand an herb/kitchen garden! Fresh herbs just picked do wonders for a dish and are much cheaper than buying them at the market. Plus, you don’t have to worry about chemicals or how long the packaged herbs have been sitting. It’s also a luxury to clip multiple kinds of greens for a great salad, sauté some fresh chard, explore new uses for fennel, or whip up some guacamole and not have to run to the store for cilantro.

Since many of us are cooking at home more often, it’s also a fine time to do some composting if you have not already. Even for our two-person family, it’s amazing how much wonderful compost is generated in a short time. Over the years we have composted and we’ve amended beds all over the yard. Since we have such thin soil, it’s made a great difference and helps the soil hold precious water and nutrients.

Finally, think about what would please you to see and enjoy in your garden. While it may seem on a walk through the neighborhood that you are seeing the same plants over and over, there are lots of choices, especially if it’s an area protected from deer. We like to have an assortment that gives us color all year, augmented by potted plants, but everyone is different. Check out the ever-expanding list of Texas Superstars as a place to start.  Many improved cultivars are available on old favorites. Try some citrus if you have not.  Visit your favorite nurseries to get inspired when it feels safe to do so. Flex your creative juices and put some flowers in with your herbs to add color, or mix the herbs in with your flowers.  At our first house in Virginia, most of the good sun was in the front, so I discreetly added a few tomato plants among the existing plantings.  It’s just an example; if I did that on this lot, it would not work out well at all. Add a classy or whimsical container. And think about ‘objects’, whether functional or whimsical, in your landscape. We once toured a property that had paths to follow which led to one delightful surprise after another of unusual and whimsical presentations, often using what most folks would term ‘junk’. Your own ‘objet d’art’ can add pleasure and amusement, or it can be a reminder of a great trip during which you found the item.

Our yards and gardens are constantly changing and evolving. Let’s get in there with an inspired hand to guide the changes we want.  Enjoy the process and the results. Happy Gardening!