Gardening Aspirations for the New Year

I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I will make an exception. I want to make the world a better place, and I am convinced the home garden is a good place to start.

In 2018, I resolve to include a diversity of flowering plants in my garden, including those native to our region.

Well designed and properly tended gardens draw in pollinators. Many pollinator species are in decline. The reasons for this are many, including fragmentation of native pollinator habitats and improper use of pesticides.

The U.S. Forest Service recommends using a wide variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year to attract and support a variety of pollinators. This includes plants that bloom in the evening to support moths and bats. They also suggest using pesticides only when necessary to protect pollinators, and spraying at night when pollinators are not active.

Monarda (beebalm) species are annual and perennial flowers that bloom all summer long and attract native bees, bumblebees and butterflies. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.
Monarda (beebalm) species are annual and perennial flowers that bloom all summer long and attract native bees, bumblebees and butterflies. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Good plants for support of pollinators include milkweed (Asclepias speciosa is native to northern Nevada and larval host to monarch caterpillars), penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius performed well in our penstemon trials and is long-blooming), and mountain beebalm (Monardella odoratissima is a bee magnet and great in a rock garden). Using plants native to our region supports survival of a variety of locally native pollinators.

In 2018, I resolve to grow at least three things my family can eat.

Edible gardens can feed the world, one family at a time. While it’s true that most people lack the space or resources to grow all of their own food, growing some of your own food provides regional food security and reduces the negative impact to the environment of transporting produce long distances.

I am like many urban dwellers in that I don’t have a lot of growing space. My vegetable garden space is limited to what I can grow in containers on a patio. This spring, I am going to try my family’s favorites: spinach, carrots, and green beans.

The important thing with containers for vegetables is that they be large enough to accommodate your plants, including their roots, and they should have drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. Choose a good potting mix that drains well and is designed for large containers. It’s best to wet the soil thoroughly and allow it to drain before you plant your seeds.

In 2018, I resolve to spend more time in my garden, slowing down to observe my plants and decompress from life’s stressors.

Nature has a calming effect on us – reducing anxiety and producing a sense of well-being. Countless studies have demonstrated this. The most recent was done by researchers at Stanford University, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. It showed that time spent in nature actually decreases activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

So how can we take advantage of this? Even if you can’t get out and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us, you can learn from nature to create the same effect in your home garden. Grow plants that are native or adapted to your region. Broadcast seed or bulbs in your garden and plant them where they land for a natural look. Allow flowers to reseed in your garden so they spread organically as they would in nature.


Heidi Kratsch is the horticulture specialist for the northern area of Nevada. Garden questions? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or