Toast in the New Year with garden resolutions. Two key ingredients to ensuring your soil is healthy is…
Compost and Mulch!

As 2014 winds to a close, for many of us it’s the time to identify areas in our lives that need improvement and commitment. Of course, there are the classic categories. I’ve had some regulars on my list every year — lose 5 pounds, exercise more and cut down on sweets. This year, like many folks in Marin, I’m thinking about ways to improve the world around me rather than just my own body. Primarily, I’m thinking about sustainable gardening practices and ways to be more green.

Here is a list of my New Year’s resolutions to improve my soil, lessen my use of harmful products and leave my garden in better shape for the future. Feel free to borrow items on my list for your own resolutions.

This year, I will:

• Give my soil a nutritional boost by adding a nice layer of compost around the base of each plant. This includes plants in my raised beds and containers that line my patio. No need to dig around the root ball — there’s lots of living going on down there. Just apply the compost on the top of the soil.

• Follow up with a thick layer of mulch on top of the compost. The mulch can be made of chipped up branches, leaves, or vineyard mulch. Mulching keeps the soil moist and retards the growth of unwanted plants and weeds.

• Get rid of plants that are water hogs and replace them with plants that are less thirsty — possibly California native plants. Find ideas for suitable native and water-wise plants at Marin Master Gardener’s website: www.marinmg.org.



• Sheet compost the lawn on the side of the house and create some mounds of soil for more water-wise plants or vegetables.

• Check my irrigation system for leaks, over-watering, and emitter placement. As plants grow the emitter may not be where the majority of roots have grown. Move emitters out to accommodate the new roots.

• Reserve a space for composting my clippings and leaves. Nothing fancy here, just pile them up and let them decompose. Or consider a composting bin or rotating composter as an alternative.

• Spend time walking in my garden and yard regularly, observing the plants and conditions, looking for pests and beneficial insects. When I find something strange, read about it on the Master Gardener Integrated Pest Management site at www.marinmg.org and click the link to “Pests and Other Problems.”

• Integrate edibles into my landscape. There’s always room for herbs — they add color and scent to the garden and are delicious in the kitchen. Or I might try some artichokes at the top of my hill. Think veggies!

Unlike joining a gym or going on a diet, these resolutions are simple, easy ways to make a big difference in your garden. Whether that garden is a series of containers or a bodacious backyard, these small steps taken by more and more people add up to a big difference in our sustainability practices and leave the world in better shape.

And who knows, I might lose a pound or two, as well. Happy New Year!

The University of California Marin Master Gardeners are sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening, plant pests or diseases, call 473-4204 from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays, or bring in samples or pictures to 1682 Novato Blvd., Suite 150B, Novato.