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10 conscious New Year's resolutions for gardeners

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As the year winds down, gardeners can't help but gear up--at least in their imaginations--for another season of gardening. As gardeners, we can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. By cultivating plant life, we can nurture the planet. Cumulatively, gardeners help make a happier new year and happier ecosystems.

A gardener understands the nature of seasons and the cumulative effects of time, so gardeners tend to look beyond just the new year and well into the future. Conscious gardening includes stewardship of the environment, an awareness of and commitment to greener gardening.

Consider these 10 conscious practices for your gardening. If you like the challenge of making New Year's resolutions, choose one or more to guide your new gardening new year.

1) Resolve to cut more flowers and make more bouquets and nosegays so you can enjoy your flowers inside, too. Resolve to learn the names of a few more species this year. You don't have to know the Latin botanical names, but it helps. This article will get you started with basics of botanical Latin.

2) Resolve to spend more time relaxing in your garden, entertaining in your garden, appreciating the fruits of your labors. A gardener's work is never done, yet you want to enjoy the garden, too, as a place to restore yourself and not only a place to wear yourself out planting, weeding, digging. Resolve to stop and smell the roses. And the lilacs. And the lemon verbena. And the peonies.

3) Resolve to grow more species native to your area. Get to know the plants that grow naturally in your area. Find a few that catch your fancy, and add them to your garden as low-maintenance plants that make sense. In Colorado, check out the palette of Plant Select, which includes a lot of native species or plants from other parts of the world that fare well along the Front Range.

4) Resolve to plant a tree. Or trees. Trees give back in spades. Most gardeners know that trees provide shade, beauty, habitat for birds, bees, and other creatures (sometimes children). Some trees yield flowers and/or fruits, and all trees add oxygen to our air and help purify groundwater. Planting a tree is an act of faith and hope and love. If your landscape has a spot for a tree, do some homework and find the ideal tree for your yard.

5) Resolve to compost. If you're a gardener, but you're not composting, you're missing out on an activity with many layers of benefits. You’ll find profound rewards in making your own growing medium from trash that otherwise would be cluttering up already overcrowded landfills. Don’t be surprised if you develop a friendly relationship with the red wiggler works in your compost bin. Compost adds nutrients, helps build healthier soils that hold more water and aren't as likely to bake into adobe brick-like consistency.

6) Resolve to grow organically. It's not that difficult to garden organically: It's a decision and a commitment. If you're a gardener, you know the interconnection of the web of life, so why go around cavalierly tossing around harsh chemicals with frightening labels? Resolve to investigate organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or compost. Resolve to avoid harsh pesticides and learn more about integrated pest management—using good bugs to banish bad ones. Learn to live with some weeds, or invest in a good weed digger.

7) Resolve to conserve water. Every drop is precious. Enough said. We all need to find a way to use less water. This is especially true in semi-arid Colorado and other states plagued by drought.

8) Resolve to visit more public gardens. You'll learn a lot and find inspiration at the many public gardens and parks. And if you're a gardener without a plot of land to work, resolve to volunteer at a garden.

9) Resolve to grow more food, to harvest and share your bounty, to relish every radish and savor each tomato or whatever you grow. Growing food is nothing short of a miracle. If you aren't growing your own produce, resolve to shop more at farmers markets to support local farmers.

10) Resolve to share your passion for gardening, to pass it on, to pay it forward. Divide your irises and share rhizomes with neighbors. Gift a beginning gardener with some plants from your self-sowing perennials. Cultivate a child’s interest in gardening with an easy-to-care-for container garden. There’s no such thing as a black thumb.

This new year, cultivate your own passion for gardening by attending a gardening class, reading gardening books or publications, or asking your friends and neighbors to share their gardening wisdom with you.

The Denver Flower and Garden Examiner has published hundreds of articles, so take a digital stroll through the page for more garden topics of interest to you.

May the new year be fruitful for you and your garden.

••• "Cultivate your corner of the world.

You grow your garden; your garden grows you." •••

• Colleen Smith's gift book "Laid-Back Skier" makes a charming gift! This whimsical, inspirational book includes lots of ski bunnies and encouragement for life's ups and downs. Watch "Laid-Back Skier's" brief YouTube video here.

• Colleen Smith’s first novel, “Glass Halo”—a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize — is available in hardcover or e—book.

To learn more:

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