See how to set up your outdoor areas for more enjoyment next year and make them a bit more earth-friendly in the process
1. Plant a fruit tree. This New Year’s resolution for your garden might top the charts for maximum reward for the effort. A fruit tree — whether it gives you sweet cherries, peaches, apples, pears, figs, plums, nectarines or persimmons — sets up you and your garden for years of enjoyment, if not decades.
To get started, choose a fruit tree that will produce well in your region. This is largely determined by your soil type and “chill factor” (number of hours the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7.2 degrees Celsius, between November and February) of your region. Source fruit trees through a local nursery or reputable online source, rather than a big-box store, to ensure that you’re receiving trees that are appropriate to your climate and grafted on root stock that will thrive in local soil. Fruit trees all grow best and produce the sweetest fruit in areas with at least six hours of full sun.
You can get started right away in mild climates by planting, clearing the space and installing new walkways or features like arbors. In snowy climates, bookmark ideas for your side yard now and wait until the ground warms up to start digging.
3. Try a new planting combination. As you embrace change in other areas of your life, consider switching up your planting routine as well. Instead of annual flowers for color in beds, try perennials that will come back year after year. Play around with planting combinations at the nursery, putting plants next to each other that take the same light and water requirements, and seeing how they complement each other. You may be surprised by the combinations that work well.
4. Hone your gardening skills. Whether you’re new to gardening or are a seasoned pro, there are always ways to broaden your knowledge of plants and design. Sign up for a class or lecture on a topic of your choice, such as container gardening, water gardens, pruning, orchard care or how to create an espalier. Master Gardener programs, garden clubs, community colleges and local botanical gardens are great resources for classes at a variety of price points.
5. Convert part of your garden to native plants. Working native plants into you garden can help cut down on water and fertilizer use and provide habitat islands for native birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
You may not be ready to trade in your existing garden for an all-native landscape, but consider adding some native species to mixed beds or devoting a section of your backyard to native, pollinator-friendly plants.
While adding a luxe outdoor living feature such as a fire pit, outdoor kitchen, bocce court or pool can provide a reason to get outside, often simple add-ons can help entice us out as well. Colorful throw cushions on the seats and backs of this L-shaped brick bench, for example, make the seating area far more inviting with or without the fire pit.
12. Visit your local botanical garden for inspiration. Although botanical gardens are at a larger scale than most of our home gardens, many of the ideas can be replicated on a smaller scale. Take a stroll through your local botanical garden and look for pleasing plant pairings, great foliage plants or ideas for low-water plants. Aim to re-create one of the planting ideas in your home garden.