By Renate Tilson

New Year’s resolutions are fraught with promises unkept. Lofty ideas and goals somehow get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. This time around, it will be different. This year, I will have a special written list of gardening New Year’s resolutions. It will be very concrete and will include only things I think I can really accomplish.

While the wet and windy weather prevails here in the Willamette Valley, I will start the season by getting my tools in shape. First off, I’ll simply take the lawn mower and the weed trimmer to be sharpened and given a good tune-up—that’s an easy one. I will clean my other tools used for dirt and set them up in a vise for sharpening, using a file and working away from myself with long, strong strokes. Once they are ready, I will lubricate all metal parts and joints with light machine or vegetable oil. Having tools in good shape, ready to go, makes gardening easier when the busy season arrives.

This year, I will make a plan for crop rotation in my vegetable garden. I will put it in writing, just so there’s no doubt about it. The principle is simple: Don’t plant a member of a vegetable family where others of that family were last year. For example, the cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, or melons) this season can go where members of the solanaceae family (tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants) were last season.

One task I can check off the list while cooler weather endures is re-setting some of the stepping stones in my beds to more practical locations. It’s so good to have those flat rocks in the best place possible so I can more easily access all my plants while pruning, watering, tying up, or simply admiring.

A clear and certain item on the list is to repair the compost bin. Somehow, it is not standing right and raccoons get in periodically, making a feast of my kitchen scrap additions. A few nails, repositioning it on level ground, and using some duct tape will ensure it’s in better shape.

Mulch, mulch, mulch—it seems I never do enough of that. More compost will go onto perennials and around the shrubs, which will love the extra jolt of nutrients as well as the protection they get from cold weather and harsh winter winds.

Instead of tossing those packets of last year’s expired seeds, I’ll test for viability. I will place 10 seeds from each packet on a dampened paper towel and cover it with plastic to keep moist. Soon, I’ll know if the seeds will germinate when they answer the simple question: Are they sprouting or not?

I look forward to being more organized about concrete gardening plans, ideas, and progress. I will use a three-ring binder to keep everything in one place with dividers for notes, ideas, photos, and reference materials. It will be a good place to record what I purchased and where I planted it, as well as for tracking individual plants’ progress.

The simplest and perhaps most important of all resolutions will be to keep a plant shopping list in my purse. Sticking to that list, I will not be seduced by plants that look wonderful but have no place in my garden. Also, I will have a handy reminder as to which ones I need in order to achieve my desired effect.

After putting energy and time into digging, planting, pruning, weeding, and mulching, it is high time to sit back with a glass of minted iced tea and to delight in it all. Ahh, the scents, the colors, textures, and the joy of seeing plants developing. I will remember to sit back in the hammock and rejoice in the beautiful products of my labor. Never mind the imperfections here and there. I must remember to make time to enjoy my garden—I deserve it!