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Adopt a few new practices to start your gardening year off right

January 12, 2021
A ladybeetle larvae and elongated yellow ladybeetle eggs on the underside of a leaf.
See a new bug in the garden and it looks like it's laying eggs? Don't panic. This is the larva (and eggs) of the ladybug, a garden ally, and should be left to fend off aphids.

Did you make a new year's resolution this month? Extension gardening educators have come up with a few gardening practice resolutions  that should be easy to keep and are sure to help you help your garden grow in 2021.

Keep a journal

Write down observations in a gardening journal. Often, nature has a way of telling you about whether your practices are successful or not. Noting certain diseases, insects or weeds can influence your decisions and help you to make informed choices for the future. — Shane Bugeja

Practice prevention

Anticipate insect and disease issues, and come up with a preventative management plan. The UMN VegEdge website lists insect profiles for many of the vegetables we grow in Minnesota. If you’re trying a new crop or just need a refresher, take a look at the crop profile and learn about the insects you should anticipate for next year’s garden. — Natalie Hoidal

Keep the labels of plants that you buy

Knowing exactly what a plant is, including the name of the cultivar or variety, is important. This is true of annual vegetables as well as permanent long lived trees. My memory is never good enough. I keep the labels for each year in a large envelope and keep a binder full of the annual envelopes. — Mary Meyer

Get rid of invasive plants

In 2021, let’s all make invasive plant management as common as recycling. Identify invasive plants on your property and remove them for good. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weeds List is a good identification tool and, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has excellent guidance for getting rid of these pesky plants. Looking for a good publication to print and have in hard copy? I vote for the Minnesota Department of Transportation Minnesota Noxious Weeds. It is comprehensive and includes lots of pictures as well guidance on prevention, mechanical and chemical management tactics, all-important timing and look-alike plants. — Julie Weisenhorn

Freshen up your gardening tool chest

Do an inventory of handy supplies like row labels, stakes, string, sharpies and zip ties that make your garden well organized and tidy. If something is broken or overused, throw it out. Order more of these supplies now and put them in neat, labeled storage containers so that when you need them in the summer, they’re ready for you. — Annie Klodd

Don't panic

When issues come up in the garden, start by taking a few deep breaths.  It can be incredibly frustrating to see yellow spots or hungry bugs on the plants you’ve worked hard to care for. Some insects are beneficial and some symptoms do not significantly harm plants. Before grabbing the dish soap or searching Google, take a pause, then start to evaluate the problem and figure out what the best course of action is.  — Marissa Schuh

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