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Top 10 resolutions for Marin gardeners

A whole new (gardening) you in 2013

Ah, January. Nothing like flipping open the new calendar to remind ourselves of all the possibilities a brand new year offers. Why not extend that thinking to your gardening habits? While you're working off that last ten pounds, here are the Top 10 Resolutions to consider adding to your gardening regimen.

  1. Grow some food. Come on, get on board. There are numerous benefits to growing edibles, including the satisfaction of not having to hop in the car so often to go to Safeway. Even if your only gardening space is containers on a deck, growing edibles is completely doable. Start with the easy ones – leafy greens and beans, for instance. Before long you can graduate to some exotic delicacies. Let your taste buds be your guide. The Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden in Novato is an excellent example of a year-round edible landscape.
    Persimmon trees provide shade in summer and food in winter. (Photo: Marie Narlock)
    Persimmon trees provide shade in summer and food in winter. (Photo: Marie Narlock)
  2. Reduce or replace your lawn. Don't worry, no one's going to pester you to rip out your lawn if you're truly using it. But if it's just there for looks then consider this a reminder from your Master Gardener friends to please consider a more eco-friendly alternative. Why are lawns environmentally unfriendly? Because they gulp water at alarming rates. We live in a Mediterranean climate, where every summer is a dry summer. Lawns demand copious quantities of water to stay lush and green, and this taxes our water supply. If you're a Novato resident, be aware that the North Marin Water District (NMWD) will pay you up to $400 to replace your lawn. (Contact NMWD for details.) Need more incentive? Check out this lawn replacement video, which shows how easy it is to sheet compost your lawn and plant directly into it.

  3. Add a layer of compost. Compost is a key ingredient to keeping your soil in tip top shape. An inch or two of organic compost scratched in around the base of plants once a year will keep your soil humming. Buying it by the bag is an option, but if you have a fair amount of ground to cover you're probably better off having it delivered by the yard.

  4. Add a layer of mulch. Top off that layer of compost with a layer of mulch every autumn and then kiss your garden good night for the winter. Mulch keeps weeds out and moisture in. It creates a hospitable environment for earthworms and other beneficial decomposers to do their underground thing.

  5. California's native currant is a winter beauty. (Photo: M. Kampman)
    California's native currant is a winter beauty. (Photo: M. Kampman)
    Try a native plant
    . California's spectacular and unusual flora is one of the reasons why a walk on Mt. Tam is so memorable. From the towering giant redwood tree to the ground-hugging dune sedge, our native plants are not only pleasing to the eye, but they are also critical to the health of our gorgeous surroundings and wildlife. Remember: California natives were born here, so most of them like wet winters and dry summers. Do not overwater. Try one of our native sages for a bright purple show. Toss a handful of poppy seeds (Eschscholzia californica) nearby for a bright orange companion. Add some yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for a long-blooming place for butterflies to land. Here are more ideas and tips for growing California natives

  6. Be a smart nursery shopper. Ever gone to a nursery and bought up a load of sale plants, only to get home and realize you don't have any more room in your garden? Welcome to the club. We gardeners are like kids in a candy store when it comes to cruising the nursery aisles. Make this the year that you only buy the right plant for the right spot. We know, we know, this is a hard one. Just give it a try. Refer to the native plant lists above and choose one plant. Select a suitable spot in your garden and then take the list to the nursery to make your purchase. Repeat wherever you have more bare ground. Running out of ground? Might be time to get some new containers.

  7. Create some habitat. Every day is garden party day in a habitat garden. Fluttering butterflies, buzzing bees, zooming hummingbirds: what's not to love about these garden guests? Habitat gardening is easy. All you have to do is provide the food (plants), water (fountain or small containers), and shelter (more plants) that these welcome visitors need. Visit Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross, or the Falkirk Cultural Center in San Rafael for prime examples of habitat gardens.
    Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon is filled with colorful habitat plants. (Photo: J. Price)
    Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon is filled with colorful habitat plants. (Photo: J. Price)

  8. Water wisely. If your pop up sprayers are watering the sidewalk and your drip system looks more like a series of small fountains, it's probably time for some tinkering. Make it a point to keep your irrigation system in good shape. The goal is to water as little as possible in summer. Remember, the older and more established your plants are, the less water they probably need. Adjust your irrigation timer accordingly.

  9. Visit at least one inspirational garden. How lucky are we to live here in paradise? There are so many varied and distinct gardens to visit nearby, why not plan on making a day of it? The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a showcase in all seasons. Green Gulch offers year round  tranquility. The Gardens at Heather Farm is a fabulous East Bay destination, as is Pepperwood Preserve to the north and Filoli to the south. If you're looking for inspiration in a more remote setting, there are always the trails in the Marin Headlands or at Tilden Park in Berkeley.

  10. Sharp tools make garden chores easier. (Photo: S. Brown)
    Sharp tools make garden chores easier. (Photo: S. Brown)
    Keep tools in good shape
    . Okay, so it's not exactly exciting to sharpen your pruners. But if it makes your trimming easier – and prevents you from having to rip at a branch out of frustration – then it's worth it. The right tool for the job starts with having all your favorite gadgets in tip top shape.

By Marie Narlock