From The Garden by P. Allen Smith

From the Garden: Top Five Gardening Resolutions

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, mostly related to saving money, losing weight or starting a new hobby. But I’m not going to talk about my exercise goals, my plans to read more or my vow to use candles more often in everyday life (why save their magical light for special occasions?). I’m going to talk about the important stuff—what I’m striving for in my garden in the coming year. Maybe you’ll be able to relate to a few of these ideas.

1. Love my soil. A rich and successful garden begins and ends with healthy soil. I’m fortunate to live on a farm with an abundance of chicken manure (which only a true gardener can appreciate). I make good use of that ready source of organic material to enrich my soil. In 2019, I vow to remain vigilant in the care and upkeep of my garden’s most valuable resource.

2. Step out of my plant comfort zone. I love petunias. If you live in the South, I think it’s almost a requirement that you have a soft spot for this sweet, colorful annual. One reason I love petunias is that they’re reliable performers, so I know I can put them in certain planters without a lot of thought. But is that lazy gardening? What if I stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some new combinations this year? Bacopa, Abutilon, Nicotiana and many other annuals are just as delightful. I vow to try some new plants in spots where I tend to rely on my old standby favorites.

3. Add more whimsy in the garden. I’ve always been a fan of whimsy; it’s one of my 12 principles of garden design. But it’s an easy one to let slide because it’s usually not associated with practicality. On a day-to-day basis, I’m faced with things like spigots that don’t work, the necessity of moving farm equipment and other never-ending chores, so I have to work hard to make time for whimsy. It’s like exercise—you know it’s good for you, but unless you make it a priority, there are many other activities that get in the way. I vow to re-evaluate my garden art, pathways, container plantings and overall garden experience and look for ways to incorporate more whimsical elements.

4. Share the wealth. Starting when I was just a kid, I’ve been very fortunate to have gardening mentors, relatives and even neighbors share their knowledge and expertise with me. I really believe that gardeners are some of the best and most generous people in the world. I think of times when someone has been gracious enough to share a start off a prized plant or grab a shovel and say, “Here, let me dig you up a piece.” I’ve never met a gardener who doesn’t love a free plant, and we usually reciprocate with green gifts of our own. In 2019, I vow to look for ways that I can pay the gift of gardening forward to others, including those who have been so generous with me.

5. Enjoy the garden. This New Year’s resolution might seem like an odd one at first. Of course we garden for the enjoyment of it, right? But when I’m out in my garden, I’m not always in tune to blooming roses, bees on the zinnias or flowers spilling out of front-porch planters. Instead, I’m noticing the barn that needs to be painted, the shovels left out in the rain and the weeding that needs to be done. Why is it so easy to see the flaws and so difficult to just step back and enjoy?

I vow to stop, take a breath and enjoy the beauty of the plants, animals and farm around me. What would you like to change in your gardening life this year? I hope the coming months bring you and your loved ones more peace, joy … and candles.

P. Allen Smith is an author, conservationist and TV host of Garden Home on PBS and Garden Style (check your local listings). He uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, to promote the local-food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry. For tours of the farm, visit


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