BY BARBARA STORZ
Here are some resolutions to improve the number of birds and butterflies flocking to your garden, help conserve resources and reduce maintenance. Here are 12 garden resolutions for the new year.
1. Mulch the garden beds with wood chip mulch. This improves weed control, contributes to soil organic matter, helps to retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature.
2. Add a butterfly and hummingbird garden using native plants. A good resource booklet to start with is “Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas” by the Native Plant Project. The book provides information on butterflies supported by our native plants. This booklet is available at the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco and several of the World Birding Centers.
3. Visit one of our World Birding Centers, nature centers, or state or federal parks and learn more about the ecology of South Texas. Each of these facilities is unique and they are always adding new features. Several of these facilities have regularly scheduled walks available with staff ecologists.
4. Add a feeding station for ground birds. If possible, place it where you can observe the birds, like just outside a window.
5. Trim trees and shrubs in January. January is also the best time to trim citrus that is overgrown. Trim the top of citrus flat, then angle the cut to the East. This will improve production of citrus near the trunk of the tree. Keep the “skirt” on the tree as this protects it from mowers and provides 20 to 25 percent of the tree’s production.
6. Finish up planting fall vegetables before Valentine’s Day and begin planting the spring garden in mid-February. A local Vegetable Planting Guide is available on line at hidalgo.agrilife.org or pick up a copy at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park at 1st Street and Business 83.
7. Plant wildflowers in late September to have a bountiful flower show in March and April. Locally owned nurseries will have seeds suitable for South Texas.
8. Learn about the benefits of composting and install a compost bin in a shady spot in the garden. Compost will feed the soil, the turf grass, vegetable garden and perennial beds.
9. Consider protecting some vegetables from summer sun and extend the harvest past June. Kale, Swiss chard, and Brussel sprouts can produce all summer long if they are covered with shade cloth before the middle of June.
10. Plant perennials and annuals in the vegetable garden to support beneficial insects, especially fiddlewood and shrubby blue sage, since they provide nectar for the butterflies and tiny wasps and pollinators and fruit for the birds. Marigold secrets is a chemical from its roots that will reduce populations of nematodes.
11. Install a rainwater capture barrel near the vegetable garden. The plants will love the rainwater and so will the birds. The Hidalgo County Master Gardeners offer classes on how to build a rainwater harvesting system. Inquire at (956) 383-1026.
12. For 2018, make a commitment to share the wonder of nature with a child. Children have a natural curiosity about nature. Enjoy counting insects on the flowers and identify those that are beneficial and those that are harmful to the garden with a child. Research shows children who garden, improve their understanding of science, test scores are higher, as is their vocabulary, and they have a better awareness of our responsibility to care for the environment than children who do not experience nature. (An excellent, award winning, curriculum to support gardening activities with children, can be purchased at www.jmgkids.us.)
Hopefully, these small projects will bring you and your family much joy and inspiration in the coming year.
Please note the Growing Growers Farmers Market in Firemen’s Park will reopen Jan. 6.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her gardening show at 7 a.m. Saturday on 710 KURV Radio, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.