"What are your plans for the New Year?" by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

A new gardening season is upon us and with it comes an opportunity to review what worked and what failed in our gardens in 2017. More importantly, now is our chance to dream big and make plans for an even more stupendous garden for this year.

As the seed catalogues pour into my mailbox, I start dreaming about all the wonderful new veggies that I want to grow. Maybe this year I will try some purple cauliflower or Broccolini, (that fancy version of broccoli that is served in those upscale restaurants). What’s on your list to grow in the veggie garden this year?

Every year my wife insists on planting butternut squash in my (oops, I mean our) raised beds and by the middle of August I can’t even walk between the beds. It drives me absolutely nuts (maybe that is her plan), but this year I am going to once again try to persuade my neighbor to the south to let me turn his side yard into a winter squash patch. It’s a lovely hot, sunny spot and all he does is mow the grass there, so why not make it productive by putting in a squash/pumpkin patch that he can enjoy too.

If you are short on space, maybe you too can convince your neighbor to share a little ground.

Speaking of veggie gardens, this would be a great year for all of us gardeners to get involved in a community veggie garden to support our local food banks. There are lots of local churches and service organizations that already have programs going that are always looking for volunteers to help out.

I have been pushing this idea at my local Church for a while now and I have a good feeling that this is the year we are going to make it happen. Think about getting involved.

For several years now, I have been covering an open lot that I own with chips from the tree trimmers to keep the weeds down so I don’t have to mow. It occurred to me last year that perhaps I was being too selfish and it would be better for the environment and the local pollinator community if I planted a “pollinator garden” on this half acre to help out the birds and the bees.

A “pollinator garden” is essentially a glorified wild flower garden with a twist towards pollinators. Anyone can plant this type of garden, you certainly don’t need a half acre, so if you have an area that is just a pain in the neck to maintain or is grass that you do nothing with then consider a “pollinator garden” this year.

My wife and I are always fighting over her shrubs and my perennials, this year I plan on sneaking in as many more perennials as I can get away with before she relegates me to the doghouse. I am going to use the “poor bees as my rational. Surely she can’t argue with that logic. Either way though, this year I am going to fill every single square inch of ground with some kind of plant that will benefit not only the bees, but bring me tons of pleasure and enjoyment all summer long.

Hopefully you’ve got some grandiose plans as well that will come to fruition in 2018. Don’t hesitate to dream big and remember that every new plant you put into your garden will benefit someone or some thing.

Sunnyside will be hosting a free class, “Pruning: Get Ready for Spring,” on Saturday, January 13, 2018, at 10 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at

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