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Start your gardening year off right

It’s that time of year when we make resolutions for the upcoming year. Below are a few gardening resolutions all gardeners should consider.

Don’t guess, soil test — Soil testing is the most often overlooked service that saves time, money and the environment. Soil sampling is provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the kits are available at the Agriculture Center on Old Concord Road in Salisbury.

Develop a plan — Impulse buying and planting without a viable plan can be nightmare later as the landscape matures. Overgrown plants, improperly spaced plant material, diseased or non-adapted plant material are typical problems associated with impulse planting.

Maintain equipment — Take time during the winter to maintain power equipment with an oil change or tune-up if needed. Sharpen lawn mower blades as this will reduce engine wear, improve the turf’s appearance and reduce the incidence of fungal disease.

Watch the calendar — Label the calendar for gardening chores that must be done and follow it. The window of opportunity for many gardening activities is quite narrow and must be followed to have a successful growing season. Keep this calendar handy for quick reference.

Prune correctly — Many homeowners prune fruit trees, vines and shrubs because “it’s the season to prune” or in most cases they are just bored and want something to do outdoors. Learn pruning basics. Correctly pruned shrubs produce more flowers and berries. Judicious pruning is mandatory for quality fruits and healthy shrubs.

Be patient — Probably the most difficult of all tasks. Plant growth and development takes time and can be a test of our patience. Instant gratification in horticulture is very rare.

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

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