New Year, New Garden: 7 Resolutions for 2024

The best laid plans for the garden are usually made in the dead of winter, when short days give us long, cozy evenings to dream up a new project or pore over seed catalogues in anticipation of next summer’s borders. In a similar way, it’s a good time to make some resolutions and to implement changes to not only what you’ll plant but how you’ll maintain it all, too. Here then are some of my garden resolutions for 2024.

1. Keep a garden notebook.

Above: Making a note of key flowers to grow with floral designer Milli Proust’s cottage window. Photograph by Eva Nemeth, from Milli’s debut book From Seed to Bloom.

How many times do you make a mental note and then very swiftly forget all about it? In the garden it’s all too easy to forget six months later, say, the exact position where you wanted to plant a swathe of spring bulbs, or the spot you were hoping to relocate a plant, or the name of the shrub you wanted to buy. A notebook is arguably the most underestimated tool for the gardener; making notes, lists, and sketches through the gardening year, both in your own garden and when visiting others, will keep plant names and plans all in one place.

2. Ditch the impulsive plant shopping.

Above: South Wood Farm in Devon, England, designed by Arne Maynard. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

In my garden there is always a table through the growing season of plants that have not yet found their spot—a collection of impulse purchases, bought during over-excited, under-planned visits to the plant nursery, that are then neglected there was never a set plan for them. As the season comes and goes, those plants stay on the table, an embarrassing reminder of my failure to properly plan. So this year I’m vowing to eradicate this habit and buy only the plants I already have a spot for.

3. Make more space for messiness.

The dovecote at Old-Lands in Wales. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: The dovecote at Old-Lands in Wales. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

As my garden margins have become messier—with nettles, brambles, wildflowers and weeds—the insect and bird life has boomed. It doesn’t take much to create habitats for wildlife: Undisturbed corners, dead hedges, log piles, fallen wood, leaf mounds will all provide useful hiding places and habitats for the creatures that are fundamental to the health and life of your garden. By leaving a variety of weeds to grow, you will also boost biodiversity too.

4. Boost the soil.

Above: The rich planting at Kiftsgate Court Gardens. Photograph by Sabina Ruber, from Vanessa Berridge’s Three Generations of Women Gardeners.

I can get a bit lazy in my approach to the annual mulch, but this past summer, while comparing my borders to pictures taken a few years ago, it became clear that it needed a significant boost come winter. I expect a lot from my garden, which features borders planted successionally so that there is something always in flower from late winter right through until November, and a rich mulch with organic matter will give it much needed nutrients for the growing season ahead. As I have very sandy, free draining soil in my garden, I prefer a rich mulch, either manure or Dalefoot’s Double Strength compost; both, of course, are peat-free.

5. Invest in naturalizing bulbs.

Narcissus &#8\2\16;Pheasant&#8\2\17;s Eye&#8\2\17; is planted in swathes in the meadow at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. Photograph by Clare Coulson.
Above: Narcissus ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ is planted in swathes in the meadow at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. Photograph by Clare Coulson.

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