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Gardening goals for this year

The new year has arrived and the annual gesture of self-improvement and moderation is often a test of one’s will. Other than desire, home gardeners need to also have goals for 2021. If you’re tired of cleaning out the closets or binging on Hallmark movies, you may want to think about some landscape and gardening goals below for the upcoming year.

Have your soil tested — Soil testing is the most often overlooked gardening practice that saves time, money and the environment. Over-fertilizing with expensive fertilizers is a common problem. Many homeowners guess with fertilizer and lime rates for lawns, shrubs and vegetable gardens. The soil testing kits and information are available at the Cooperative Extension Center on Old Concord Road. Soil samples can be directly shipped or mailed to NCDA in Raleigh by the homeowners for a nominal postage fee. Go to http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/sthome.htm for more complete information.

Have a landscape plan — Impulse buying and planting without a viable plan can be a problem as a landscape matures. Overgrown plants, improperly spaced plant material, diseased, or non-adapted plant material are typical problems associated with impulse planting. Solicit the help of reputable and qualified nurserymen, commercial landscaper or Cooperative Extension agents before planting if you have any doubts about your plant selections.

Start a file of garden tips and information — Take time to file away bits and pieces of useful information. Store it on your computer or that new tablet you got for Christmas. Keep the files readily accessible to periodically update or delete out-of-date information. Keep it close to the “to do” list.

Plant something different — Home gardeners often plant the same varieties each season. While it makes sense to “stick with a winner,” there are new varieties of vegetable and flowers that warrant a homeowner trial. All-America Selections have been extensively tested and are generally a good choice, whether it’s a vegetable, fruit or flower selection. Be sure to label new varieties and make notes about growth, development and other pertinent characteristics during the growing season. These notes may be instrumental in selection of next season’s crop.

Prune correctly — Many homeowners prune fruit trees, vines and shrubs because “it’s the season to prune” or their neighbor is pruning. In short, “ask yourself why should I prune?” Learn about pruning basics; for example, apple trees are pruned to a central leader and peach trees are pruned to an open vase shape. Correct pruning techniques increase yields, produce better quality fruit and reduce pesticide sprays. Correctly pruned shrubs produce more flowers and berries. Judicious pruning is mandatory for quality fruits and healthy shrubs.

Maintain your equipment — Maintain gasoline power equipment with an oil change or tune-up if needed. Sharpen lawn mower blades before the spring season. Sharp blades reduce engine wear, improve the turf’s appearance and reduce the incidence of disease. Sharpen or replace pruner blades. Inspect and replace all seals and gaskets on hand pump sprayers this winter so you will be ready when the pests of spring arrive.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu

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