New Year, New Promises To Keep

THE REAL DIRT

January 01, 1995|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Egad, it's New Year's Day. Time to make a bushel of new gardening resolutions and post them on the refrigerator door. Item No. 1 concerns the icebox itself: I promise to shake the dirt off all vegetables before bringing them inside. Half of the soil in the back yard winds up in the lettuce crisper. My wife says she is tired of cleaning the refrigerator with a garden shovel.

This is also the year that I promise to:

* Grow flowers tall enough to hide the mailbox. If the postman can't find me, he can't leave any bills. A row of giant cosmos will do fine.

* Take better care of my garden tools. Surely there's a more sensible way to clean a shovel than by banging it on the driveway to loosen the dirt.

* Identify the bird on the block whose cry is driving me crazy. He sounds just like the bird in the opening credits of the TV show "Northern Exposure." Every time I hear this bird, I expect a moose to come lumbering through the garden.

* Ask my barber for a bag of hair. I've been meaning to do this for some time. Organic gardeners report that lining the perimeter of their beds with human hair deters varmints like rabbits and deer. But does it attract bald eagles?

* Spend a week at the seashore without calling home to check on my flowers and vegetables.

* Store the garden hose for the winter before it freezes and cracks. I'm tired of having to chip out the hose from beneath the ice as if it were some frozen prehistoric beast.

* Build a squirrel feeder and hope the birds use it. Why not? The squirrels are too busy hogging the bird feeder.

* Make peace with ground ivy, a stubborn weed that, despite my best efforts, has taken over the yard. Digging up these invasive plants is a futile task; ground ivy cannot be defeated by hand. Chemical remedies are not an option; I'd sooner live with weeds than kill an earthworm.

* Remove tomato cages from the garden before they freeze there. Last winter, I needed a crowbar to pry the cages out of the ground.

* Show restraint in sowing the first seeds of spring. Forget the first robin; I won't budge until I see the first worm.

* Show restraint in harvesting the first fruits of summer. This time, the inaugural tomato will be red-ripe, and not orange, when I pick it.

* Gather a few seeds of my favorite plants, store them for the winter and sow them next year, just to see what crops up.

* Whistle while I weed. This garden chore need not be a miserable task.

* Stop growing those few testy plants that demand too much of my time. Say goodbye to cauliflower, the most finicky of vegetables, and coreopsis, a profuse perennial that blooms all summer provided the hundreds of dead blossoms are removed daily by hand. Never mind. There are plenty of low-maintenance plants around.

* Raise the world's biggest zucchini. Next summer, I'll choose the healthiest squash plant and allow it to grow a single zucchini, which will get bigger and Bigger and BIGGER. Will it explode? Tune in next year.

* Photograph the garden each month and examine the pictures in winter, to determine what went wrong. Something always does. Problems occur on a regular basis, though I've usually forgotten them by summer's end. The photos will keep me from repeating mistakes.

* Build a scarecrow and see if it works.

* Do a better job of rotating my crops, i.e., moving them around each year. Vegetables raised continually in the same spot are prone to disease. Last summer, I grew tomatoes in the plot where they'd flourished the year before. The vines withered and died at the height of the harvest.

* Put off leaf-raking chores until all the trees are bare. My Bradford pear trees shed until December. Who's got a rake with a snow-blower attachment?

* Quit scalding my plants in summer with water from a garden hose that's been lying out in the sun. I must remember to let the hose run awhile before spritzing the flowers.

* Wear shoes in the garden. I like going barefoot and feeling the warm soil on my soles. But my wife says the soil is full of microscopic vermin that can crawl up my toes and make me sick. So I've promised to wear shoes. Bummer.

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