Gardeners need to make New Year’s resolutions, too

Rob Zimmer

The New Year has arrived, and what a better time than now to begin dreaming of gardening in 2024. It is time for some New Year’s resolutions to help make your garden dreams come true.

Each year, as new plant and seed catalogs begin to arrive in January, I love to make a list of gardening goals for the new year. So many new plants to try. So many new ways to grow. So many additions. So many changes. It’s all part of the ever-changing world of gardening. It’s a joy to create these lists and come up with garden dreams in the middle of the coldest season.

Need help coming up with some gardening goals for this year? Here are some of my suggestions.

It’s easy to be captivated by regal monarch butterflies now, in the heart of winter. It’s a great time to make a resolution to bring more nectar and host plants to your property to give them a helping hand.

Of course, the various native milkweeds are must-haves in the garden as they provide a host for monarch caterpillars.

Swamp milkweed is by far my favorite, as it is not as aggressive as common milkweed yet still grows tall and showy. Orange milkweed, often called butterfly weed, is another excellent choice for our area, especially for properties that are dry and sandy.

Great nectar plants for monarchs include perennials that are native to our area such as blazing stars, aster, Joe-pye weed, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod and others. Many annuals also offer a great nectar source for monarchs, especially Mexican sunflower, zinnia, cosmos and purple heliotrope.

Another goal for many gardeners is to provide nectar and pollen sources for our many species of native bees, including the bumblebees. One species of bumblebee, the rusty-patched bumblebee is actually considered endangered in Wisconsin and gardeners are thrilled to find them dancing among their blossoms.

For pollinators, including the bumblebees, native plants are always the best. Just about any native wildflower will do. Bumblebees also love many annuals, such as zinnias, heliotrope, sunflower, salvia and many others.

Growing edible plants is another resolution many gardeners make each year. Growing edible plants has never been easier. It’s possible to grow delicious greens, root crops, fruits and vegetables even without a garden plot.

More and more gardeners are discovering the joys of growing in containers. Explore growing edible plants in containers by doing an online search or visiting your local garden center to see what they provide for herbs, tomatoes, root crops, even bush crops such as blueberries, raspberries and more.

Another New Year’s resolution for gardeners is to extend the growing season beyond the traditional Labor Day timeframe. Adding perennials, annuals and shrubs that bloom well into October, even into November is a rewarding and satisfying gardening journey.

In addition to the beauty and ornamental value, plants that bloom until Halloween or beyond are also excellent sources of food, nectar and pollen for birds, butterflies, bees and more. In fact, this is the time of year that many of these species need this precious resource the most.

Include berry-producing shrubs, annuals and perennials that bloom throughout October into November and extend your growing season by months.

These are just a few gardening goals for the New Year. Enjoy creating resolutions of your own to expand on your beloved hobby.

Rob Zimmer is a nature and garden author, public speaker and radio show host on WHBY. Readers can find him on Facebook at