There’s nothing like tending a garden to get you thinking ahead but when it comes to making new year’s resolutions you also need to look back. This is the time for assessing what’s gone wrong in the garden and what’s gone right. Pinning your hopes on the future requires taking stock of the past.

Even if you find your new year’s resolutions were actually old years’ resolutions – we’ve all had pledges we haven’t managed to put into action – this might be the year to turn things around.

It’s time to get on top of the garden in 2023.Credit:iStock

Tempting providence though it might be to commit my resolutions to paper, here are some of the shake-ups that would definitely improve my patch.

Improve the Drainage

After three La Ninas straight, there’s no getting away from the bogginess of my soil. My low-lying, flattened-for-farming garden on the edge of saltmarsh has steadily gotten more airless and more waterlogged as the downpours have continued. I should have tackled the issue ages ago, but this year I really am going to deal with the drainage. Wide sweeps of irregular mounding is what I have in mind and then I can replace all the plants I have lost (wattles, agonis, a cherry, and more I can’t bear to mention) in such a way their roots will get a breath of fresh air.

In their private garden in Flinders, Jo Ferguson and Simon Hazel added at least 200mm of a sand, compost and coarse mulch blend over their heavy clay before planting to create a well-drained undulating topography. And at the “garden for the future” at Bendigo Botanic Gardens, landscape architecture firm TCL and planting designer and landscape architect Paul Thompson fashioned mini mountains of soil before even thinking about the plants they would choose to handle the extreme weather conditions being unleashed by climate change. Raising beds is my hands-down first job for the new year, and, even if it is the only resolution I follow through on, I (and my plants) will be happy.

Build a Pond

But I don’t want to do away with water entirely and a pond not only makes a garden feel cooler in the hottest months, it can provide a haven for birds and insects and other wildlife. Strictly speaking, building a pond isn’t my resolution because – in a bid to lure more dragonflies – I did actually build one this year. But there’s more to be done, especially given how many mosquitoes are currently making merry in the water. Having established a variety of different levels in this pond, next year I am committing to adding more plants, making it less uniform more layered and more frog-friendly.

Look at What Other People Do

All of the plants that are on my new year’s to-plant list – the blue-green mallee shrub Eucalyptus laytens ‘Blue Lagoon’; the unusual pan palm Trachycarpus princeps; the beautiful and bizarre Phlomis samia – stem from seeing them in other peoples’ gardens.

You never regret a garden visit. They are an endless source of ideas for plants, planting combinations and layouts. It doesn’t even have to even be an official open garden: as we learnt in COVID, strolling around your own neighbourhood and peeking over front fences is inspirational too. Post-lockdowns, I’ve started to lose the habit. I hope to reprise it in 2023.

Make Timely Use of Compost

It takes so long to shrink a voluminous pile of garden clippings, food scraps and dried leaves into a magic stash of decayed organic material that – once you arrive at a rich, dark, crumble – the temptation is to save it. But there is such a thing as holding onto compost too long. All the while that I agonise about the best use to which I might put my well-rotted stash, the liveliness is eking out. Next year I vow to procrastinate less and to just apply the stuff, then make more.

Get on Top of the Cherry Slugs

The dreaded cherry slug is back. Again. The slimy black larvae of this pesky sawfly are once more eating their way through the leaves of my quince, cherries and plums. Every year I vow to squish every last slug – all summer and autumn long – and thereby end the matter once and for all. But they always outwit me. This season, I am going one further. I will save all the wood ash from the barbecue and repeatedly dust the leaves with it, an old trick that is said to dry out the larvae and kill them. And I am going to keep squashing them too, just to be sure.

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