Make a New Year’s Resolution for Your Yard!

By Guest Contributor: Bob Gale of RestoraFlora Gale Botanical Consulting

Many of us make personal resolutions at the start of each year — we’ll exercise more, be better listeners, read more books, and so on. (Whether we keep those resolutions or not is another matter, but we won’t focus on that here!) Well, 2024 gives us, once again, a new opportunity to make these personal promises.

The question is, have you considered making a New Years resolution for your yard in 2024? Or, do you just say something like, “I can’t wait until spring comes, so I can get outside again and plant my vegetables and some flowers.” If you’re like most people, you say this every year and maybe you pretty much accomplish this work. But, also like many, you might let life get in the way and get things in the ground later than you intended, or maybe never even got around to planting some things as you had hoped. Early in the year, you had a more grandiose, and somewhat nebulous, plan floating around in your mind, but which then dissolved, as spring turned into summer and then fall. This pattern often gets repeated each year.

But it could be much different. By making a definitive resolution — actually writing it out and following it — you can accomplish some wonderful things.

Here’s how:

Ask yourself some questions. What is the condition of my property? Is it a natural forest that is fine, but needs a little management? Are there non-native invasive plants that need controlling? Is it in a haphazard condition, needing a “design?” If so, what would you really like your yard to become; what would your dream yard look like? Who else might benefit from this vision, and how?

If your site does need moderate to major enhancement, focus in a little more. Is your goal an aesthetically pleasing floral display? Do you want a garden to provide a bountiful harvest of vegetables with some colorful flowers along its borders? Perhaps you want to attract more birds to your yard, or pollinating insects and butterflies. Maybe you want all of these.

Well, you can have them! But to succeed, you must resolve to make this project a priority. And then create a plan to get you there. This plan should set step-by-step goals and a schedule to accomplish them. And, if you have kids, involve them in your project! They may not be overjoyed by such “work,” but it will come back to them years later as a fun family memory and will “plant the seeds” of gardening in their minds, which will likely then become their hobby as adults.
The first step in your plan is to get to know your yard:
Light Availability

Determine where any shady, partly shady, or full sun areas occur in your yard. Too much sun? Maybe you need plant some trees. Too many trees and shady areas? Maybe some strategic limb pruning would add sun, or maybe one or two overcrowded or unhealthy trees could be removed.


What’s the topography of your site? Is it mostly level or are there gentle/moderate slopes? Some light grading may be needed to achieve your vision. Are there steep slopes? These might need some terracing or a retaining wall.

What are the moisture conditions around your yard? Areas that differ in moisture would dictate the types of plants that would do best under drier or wetter conditions.

Is your soil texture mostly clay loam, sandy loam, or somewhere in between? Have it tested for Ph and nutrients. Matching plantings to the Ph of your yard is the optimum choice if you want to minimize maintenance. Amendments such as compost and organic nutrients can be added if testing shows a deficiency and you can slightly adjust Ph with periodical additions. But, choosing native plants that are adapted to your existing soil conditions is my recommendation.
Once those basic questions are answered, draw out garden beds and pathways you might have in mind. Paths can involve stepping stones, brick or slate, gravel, or simply wood chips. If you must have grass, consider keeping it to a minimum of narrow winding strips between planted areas. These green strips can then serve as pathways from which to enjoy your yard.
For optimum beauty and wildlife habitat, a diversity in the vertical plant structure that includes herbs, shrubs, understory and overstory trees is best. Also, a species mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs should be considered. Providing a “migratory” connection of shrubs and trees will offer the best cover and safe travel for birds that move around and nest in your yard. Planting these migration routes around the property boundaries works well for many yards and adds screening from neighboring structures and roads. Open areas adjacent to these corridors provides perfect habitat for bird species that favor edge habitats. Full sun patches will be best for planting native perennials (and annuals), which attract pollinating insects, including native bees, flies, and beetles. These in turn will bring birds, large and small, many of which prey on harmful plant pests and mosquitoes.

Your personal space can take on any design you come up with and host many different native plants to fit within them; the sky (and your budget, of course) is the limit. But, in order to make your project happen, set a schedule for completing its parts one by one throughout the months of 2024. Find times to fit each step into your normal schedule. Even if you can only devote an hour per week (preferably the same day and time), try to stick to your weekly schedule. By doing so, you will not only keep your New Years resolution for your yard, you’ll continually appreciate the beauty of your creation and gain a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. In addition, the wild creatures will appreciate living in a safe and healthy community and they will reward you generously with their presence!!

Don’t worry if you haven’t completed your dream plan by the year’s end—just make yourself a “continuing resolution” into the next year! A yard/garden plan is always a work in progress, with new planting experiments to replace some that didn’t quite seem to thrive. Good luck, and have a Happy New Yard Year!!

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