2022 — The theme was “be kind to your yard.” Stop using pesticides and synthetic chemical fertilizers. Build up soil. Add native plants alongside ornamentals to offer something for pollinators.
2021 — This column offered reflections on what it was like when we were staying at home all the time during the first year of the pandemic and how much I enjoyed observing small, daily changes in the landscape. I made resolutions to plant trees to recover from storm loss and damage in the forest, set seed-saving goals and planned to add more plants for endangered species, like monarchs that need a specific plant (milkweed) to survive.
2020 — I challenged readers to make a top 5 list of things to do in the garden and shared my own. Looking back, I made it through 4 out of 5! I wanted to channel rainwater into a low area and fill it with plants that would absorb more and reduce run-off. Sometimes garden projects stay on the list for a while. In the past two years, we stopped mowing about 30 percent of what was previously shorn and watching that grow in has been full of discovery — cedar trees, native grasses, an oak tree and a white pine have come through.
2019 — This year was a summary of the most-discussed topics and questions. These included water management — too much and too little — and reader interest in lawns and weeds. Adapting to climate impacts and lowering your carbon footprint in the yard were threaded through most topics. This subject is unavoidable when discussing gardening and yard care.
2018 — This was a roundup of books to pass the short days of winter that included Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book connects her work as a scientist and researcher with the Indigenous knowledge that has been passed on to her as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. It’s still on bestseller lists and perfect for this moment of ongoing climate panic.
2017 — The first-of-the-year column was a response to a reader question about how and when to start a garden. January can be an active month, with everything from composting (try a worm bin), indoor seed-starting and garden planning with a bounty of seed catalogs.
2016 — This year I must have been feeling optimistic and full of energy. The list included encouragement to learn something new, such as organic methods or xeriscaping, and to experiment with something you haven’t tried before — anything from plant propagation to water gardens. Then I included a promotion for growing pawpaw, a native fruit tree that has been described as part mango/part banana. There were ideas about feeding birds with plantings rather than store-bought seed and steps for doing less work in the yard by mulching, adding organic matter instead of tilling and reducing mowing.
2015 — Here I proposed an approach to creating a personal mission statement for your relationship with your yard. It was a series of questions that could help bring balance and connectedness with nature. Start with considering what you want to leave behind for the next generation, ask yourself if your landscape choices are synchronized with your other values and explore how tending a landscape can help you achieve other life goals like wellness and personal health.
2014 — Again, there is a recurring theme, with tips about how to conserve and protect the natural resources in your yard: the soil, water and plants. I mention composting frequently in these New Year’s resolution columns and we’ve made a lot of progress in this area with food-scrap recycling programs locally.
Personally, I do both. I need my home compost for the gardens but now I also have a place to send the mac and cheese my child left in her bowl, excess green bean casserole after the holiday and other miscellaneous bits of uneaten food that isn’t a vegetable or fruit scrap I can compost at home. Household food scraps account for the single-largest item in landfills and, as they decompose, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Composting = good.
2013 — The first Roots and Shoots column appeared at the beginning of spring this year: “Soil! It’s What’s in the Dirt.” It went through common ideas about soil and how to treat it. A short take on my first 750 words is to test before adding any amendments; adding organic matter like compost and shredded leaves is always a good approach to build up soil, and understanding what type of soil you’re planting in (clay, sandy, loamy, acidic, alkaline, etc.) makes all the difference for choosing the right plants.
Reflecting on all these words and resolutions, I can see the progression of my rising fears and concerns about biodiversity loss and the impact of our changing climate. Week by week for 10 years I’ve read and researched and used personal observations and experience to write this column, and the news is grim. Make 2023 a year to do something about climate change with a simple action in your own backyard. Pledge to stop using pesticides, mow less, switch to electric-powered lawn equipment when possible, plant a section of your yard with native plants for pollinators to use. Start with six to 12. Keep it simple. Let it grow.