Gardeners – get out of your beds  (pun fully intended) and into your study.  A new gardening year awaits your attention.  What are your gardening intentions for the new year?  What get’s created should be planned before and  maintained afterward, not just enjoyed when in prime time.   So get your thinking hats on and think out of the box (you know, that old rut that says follow me and I will lead you nowhere new). Here are some ideas for your new garden year

Use internet resources more to learn about new plants and gardening in your specific area.   Get to know what you grow.

Once you’ve done your homework, grow plants you never have had experience with in the past (especially natives and adaptives).

Plan your gardens to succeed within the environmental and climatic realities, rather than preferences.   Learn when is the proper time to make changes.

Break a few pencil leads and wear down a few erasers to put ideas on paper first, then analyze, revise, and improvise until you are satisfied.

Develop a gardening strategy for years into the future, not just the coming year.   For example, intentionally make changes so you garden will have a new look from year to year.  Those changes can be to hardscaping, area design, choice of plants, etc.    A garden is always a work in process and never completed!

Become active with other gardener groups, networks, and organizations to learn and share experiences that will be mutually beneficial.  Share and swap plants with other gardeners.  Make gardening a social activity in your life.

Resolve to be an environmentally friendly gardener – no use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers.  Go organic, use more compost, and learn how to be a water saving gardener.

If not already, consider becoming a Master Gardener.  The training you’ll receive is equivalent to a short college level course in horticulture designed for our local level, and the opportunity to serve the local gardening community is rewarding.

Resolve to enjoy your garden more and in new ways, such as photographing the beauty of it,  learning how to propagate more plants,  adding artistry to the garden, or developing new ways to reduce maintenance needs.

Winter is an excellent time to do structural changes to your garden, e.g. add new hardscaping, develop and nurture new beds,  and any other preparatory work needed to ensure garden and landscaping success during the upcoming growing season. 

Thinking out of the box will be my goal for 2012.  My gardening has always been focused on perennials and ornamentals, and I have resisted seasonal gardening such as growing veggies.  I have redeveloped my gardening space to allow space for a vegetable garden this year – a new experience for an old gardener.

In view of the harsh summer of 2011, I have been gradually shifting my choice of plants from tender tropical and special care plants to native, adaptable, and tough plants that will endure our climatic extremes in Central Texas.   We have completed the front yard phase, and are continuing to completely redevelop the rest of our yard to be xeriphytic and find that quite liberating in terms of reducing personal stress in addition to the physical stress on our plants.

The most important thing is to garden “intentionally”, not impulsively or haphazardly and there is no better time to begin the process of planning for the new garden season than during the dormant winter months where physical gardening activity comes to a standstill.  Use this time to plant some new thoughts (yes pun intended again) before it’s time to plant new plants for the coming garden season.