Marianne Binetti

Three New Year’s resolutions to make for a better garden

Grow rhododendrons on the north or east side of the house where they will be shaded from the hot afternoon sun.
Grow rhododendrons on the north or east side of the house where they will be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Staff file, 2015

A new year is a time for fresh starts. You can change a lot In your garden this coming year just by resolving a few issues. In America, the top New Year’s resolutions each year are too lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more often and save more money – all four goals that can be attained by planting a garden. Once you take the time to improve the soil, plant veggie seeds and see them sprout you’ll be motivated to get outdoors every day to protect, pamper and cook with your healthy produce. Growing food makes you exercise more and eating more fruit and vegetables will help anyone lose weight. Growing your own food at home not only saves money on the grocery bill but keeps you occupied during your free time so you’ll be less likely to blow your budget on mindless shopping. Make this the year you dig in and get growing.

Three resolutions to make for a better garden:

Resolve to improve the soil this year and every year

The easy answer to better soil is organic matter. If your soil is clay and drains slowly, add organic matter. If your soil is sandy and drains quickly, add organic matter. If you don’t have a compost pile then the most practical way to quickly improve your soil is with a layer of bagged or delivered compost. Use compost for the vegetable and flower garden and bark chips for around trees and shrubs. Anything that will decay over time such as grass clippings, fallen leaves, shredded paper and chopped up vegetable matter can be dug into the soil to add organic matter. Better soil is at the root of healthy plants that resist disease and drought.

Tip: Trench composting is an easy way to improve the soil just by digging a shallow trench six to eight inches down and filling it with decomposing yard waste such as gutter gunk, grass clippings or leaves. Once the trench is half full, use the soil from that trench to cover and hide the waste so it can finish breaking down and decaying out of site.

Resolve to conserve more water in 2019

You don’t need to give up growing thirsty plants such as fuchsias, lawns or annuals in pots. Just be more mindful of location, the type of container and the size of your lawn to cut back on the water bill. Group thirsty plants in one area so you need only use sprinklers in one area of the landscape with low water use trees and shrubs in the hot spots. Clay pots dry out quicker than ceramic or plastic and small pots need more watering than large pots. A thirsty lawn can be quenched by improving the soil with aeration and a compost dressing in the spring or by allowing the grass to go golden or dormant in the summer.

Tip: Rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias are wonderful evergreens that hate to dry out in the summer. Grow these on the north or east side of the house where they will be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Spiraeas, barberries and evergreens with small, needle like leaves are more drought resistant and once established can thrive on rainfall alone.

Resolve to learn more about gardening in our unique climate

Our heavy rainfall means our soil is naturally acid, and our wet winters and dry summers make for the perfect climate for a wide variety of plant material. Yes, our native plants can be lovely – I’m looking at you sword fern – but we also have some invasive transplants that we might think are native but need to be removed – Himalayan blackberry, you are one of the guilty foreigners, and English ivy we long for our independence from your taxing ways. Learning what grows best in our area and what to avoid is the easy answer to a great garden.

Tip: Come to my talks at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show this month and I promise you some new ideas using favorite easy to grow plants – plus you could win tickets to the NWFG show. You can also check my website at for dates and locations of garden talks all year long.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022