A new year and a fresh start

Happy New Year! We hope you had a very happy and rewarding 2007 and are full of excitement and anticipation as we enter this fresh year of 2008 which affords us a new clean start. Every year results in special memories and experiences that accumulate to tell the stories of our lives. Although we get a fresh start each year we hopefully are wise enough to learn from our experiences in the earlier preceding years to do a better job each new year in picking out how to spend our time, what skills to develop, whom we want to spend our time with and the myriad of other choices and decisions we get to make each day. A new year gives us a great opportunity to re-evaluate whether we are happy and growing in our jobs, our families, church, community, friendships, education and hobbies. The older I get the more I have come to realize that if something is not working in family, church, work or personal relationships it may involve my attitude or carrying too much baggage or memory instead of exercising forgiveness and giving things a fresh start. The New Year seems a good time to re-evaluate, to forgive and to start fresh but blessed with the knowledge and experiences of past successes and short-comings.

Our yards and gardens can use a fresh start or a review every now and then as well and a new year provides a good opportunity to do just that.  If your trees and shrubs got slammed by the ice storm that may have created issues that force you to do some planning and of course the first thing you have to do is prune out the damaged branches or cut down trees or shrubs damaged beyond recovery. After dealing with the emergency issues, take some time to decide if you want to spend more or less time outdoors in the year ahead. Do you want to grow any of your own food? Do you want to add new trees or shrubs to your permanent landscape? Do you like the amount of flowerbeds you have now or do you want to add new beds around the trees in the front yard or new flowerbeds along the front sidewalk? Do you want to remake your backyard into an outdoor living area? Do you want to add a garden pond, a cold frame or a greenhouse? Do you want to add stone walks or create a butterfly or wildlife garden?

There are an endless array of possibilities to change or upgrade your personal outdoor living and landscape environment. If you want to spend more time outside getting a physical workout, taking in some sunshine, and communing with nature you can easily tackle most all these projects yourself and may only want to hire a landscaper or gardener for heavier projects like laying stone pathways or digging garden ponds. If you don’t want to tackle the actual physical work but still want to enjoy the beauty and serenity of an upgraded landscape you can hire the landscape design and installation services from a local nursery or garden center to make these dreams and visions a reality. Many people enjoy the experience of planting their own color annuals or vegetables, mowing their lawn and basic yard maintenance but if you prefer to spend all your outdoor time with a glass of iced tea in a swinging chair or on a patio recliner you can hire really good yard services to mow and trim your yard and even plant your seasonal color plants.                

Take time to decide how you want your yard to look and how much of the work you want to do and how much you want do with your children, the help of neighborhood youth or you can hire commercial landscapers, garden centers or lawn services to help you plan, create and maintain the yard and gardens you have dreamed about. Whether you are going to do the work yourself or have someone to do the work for you this is good time of year to do a soil test. Dig down to about 6” deep at several places in your flowerbeds or lawn and then use samples from 3 or 4 similar areas to fill a pint bottle with soil. Take the bottle to your nearest OSU county extension office and they will run a good soil test for $10.00 and get the results completed in about 2 to 3 weeks. Since the cost of fertilizer has shot way up the last couple of years and with all of us working to be more responsible with the environment soil tests make more sense now than ever. In this region we usually do not need any additional phosphorous and may not even need any potassium. You may only need to feed nitrogen to your lawn and possibly even your gardens. There is no sense to pay for more fertilizer than you need and the extra phosphorous can negatively affect our water quality and encourage more algae bloom in streams and lakes. I would encourage you to do a soil test in your front yard and another from your backyard and maybe a third from your main flowerbed. When you get your results take them to your local nursery or garden center to help you select the best fertilizer program for your yard without wasting valuable minerals and resources. You will probably save enough on your fertilizer to pay for the soil tests plus you will be more environmentally responsible to only feed what is needed this spring and summer. 

All the mail order seed and garden catalogs are now mailing out so this winter season is a great time to review these catalogs and pick out new plants you want to try. I like to encourage you to buy locally and our local nurseries offer many new plants but occasionally there will be specialty or unusual plants that are only available by mail order or over the internet.  Do try something new as it can be fun and lets you feel like a plant explorer and gives you something to show friends and talk about. Have fun planning your garden and make time to enjoy your yard and gardens as part of a very special 2008.

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