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Resolutions for yard, garden and beyond
Grass is greener...
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We made it to another year! As always, there is something to do in the garden or in the yard. If you had the wisdom to not make a list of New Year’s resolutions, good news: There is time to make some and set yourself up for disappointment!  
I submit here a more-realistic set of resolutions that you can select from and accomplish much more easily than losing 20 pounds. If I had to lose 20 pounds (and I do), I’d have to cut my head off twice.
One: If you had a real tree this year, recycle it. Several options exist for recycling. There is the “Bring One for the Chipper” program, for all those “Fargo” fans. If you have a pond, a Christmas tree makes an excellent fish attractor and cover for small fish to hide from big fish.
Now, you can’t just pitch it into a neighbor’s pond in the middle of the night.  It has to be planned and weighted down so it does not float off and sink in the deep end where it does no good. For weighing the tree down to the pond bottom, I suggest that fruitcake you are not eating. It certainly has the mass and density to do the job. Plus, despite all evidence to the contrary, they are alleged to be biodegradable, and at just about the same rate as the tree.
The tree also can be set up in the corner of your yard to attract songbirds. The songbirds need cover and seeing them perched in the tree helps the neighborhood cats decide on their menu for the day. Plus, the feathers scattered across the yard adds color.
My personal favorite is to use the tree as kindling for an oyster roast, which is the highest and best use for just about any wood.
Two: Treat for scale insects on woody plants with horticultural oils. If you have hollies, Sago palms or magnolias, odds are pretty good you have scale insects sucking on them. This is a good time to spray these plants with a dormant oil spray to smother these insects with a light coat of oil. While insects can and do develop resistance to insecticides, none of them have found an alternative to oxygen as their ultimate electron acceptor. The bug has to be coated with the oil in order to work, so those insects on the underside of leaves have to be sprayed by turning the spray wand up. Since this also is the general direction of you, it is a good idea to make sure the sprayer is cleaned of old pesticide residue before mixing the horticultural oil.
The oil spray will can mess up your clothes, but it won’t change your day like a face full of malathion can.
Three: Submit a soil test and see what your soil needs. Lime and sulfur both work quickly (a couple months) when tilled into the soil, but only infiltrate at a rate of 1 inch depth per year when surface applied. If you need to change pH for your lawn, time’s a wastin’! If you want to get the vegetable garden going, adjusting soil pH is an excellent first step.
Four: This is a good time to tune up the irrigation system. Fix broken heads, check for leaks and run a water audit. Run the can test and see how much water collects in those straight-sided, flat-bottom cans in half an hour so you know how long the cycle has to run to deliver half an inch of water.
Once you have everything tuned up, pull the lowest head and let it drain the system, especially any pipes that are above ground. Blowing the lines clear with compressed air usually is unnecessary, since hard freezes are few and far between. This is Jawjah, not North Dakota.
Five: Planning the garden time!  Of course, this is the time to go online and see what the seed companies have to offer. I remember when the seed catalogs came by U.S. mail and we would start comparing varieties for the coming year. Whether it is vegetable gardens or flower gardens — and foliage gardening is ramping up as well — this is the time to put those orders in.
Six: For the hunters among us, I suggest a New Year’s resolution to teach at least one young hunter how to properly field dress a deer. It is a survival skill handed down from father to son, from one generation to the next since before speech was invented. It’s just your turn to keep the legacy alive.
Seven: Here is the best of them all. This one trumps the rest. This year, get to know your county sheriff and his deputies. Add in the police chief and officers if you live in Pembroke or Richmond Hill. Do you know the names of the deputies or officers that cruise your neighborhood? The world is upside down and whether your little slice of heaven gets covered up in organic fertilizer when the manure spreader starts slinging largely depends on how effective your county sheriff is.
How effective your county sheriff is depends on how much community support he has from you, and that depends on you knowing each other.  
If things get rough, it won’t be FEMA there to help you the day of and after. FEMA teaches the YOYO principle — for at least the first three days after a disaster, You’re On Your Own. It won’t be the National Guard, either; it takes time to mobilize.
Your sheriff and police chiefs will be one point of sanity keeping their heads, and the peace, the morning after while all around them are losing theirs.
I hate that I feel the need to state what should be obvious, but even the self-evident is being challenged and ignored.  Make building and strengthening your community this year’s resolution.

Gardner lives in Keller and is the UGA extension agent for Glynn County, serving South Bryan.

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