New Years Resolutions: What Are Yours?


Cut wasteful spending. I know, this is starting to sound like a political platform. But as much as I love depositing a significant portion of my paycheck at our local nurseries, it occurs to me that I just might have enough plants by now. Taking cuttings, divisions, and seeds from what works, and distributing those plants around the garden, just might be the better strategy for 2007. Besides, with all that extra cash, I can spend more on fertilizer, soil, and tools. (That really does sound like a political strategy!)

Deploy some new strategies.  I’ve heard organic gardening experts say that after four years of purely organic techniques, a garden will practically take care of itself. That’s been true for me—in part. My garden has such a healthy, diverse insect population that I rarely see pests like aphid or whitefly. The chickens eat the snails. Diseases rarely show up, and when they do, there’s usually a good organic product like Serenade that will take care of it.

But this year, I’m going to add Messenger to the arsenal. Messenger is a natural plant growth regulator made from a protein called harpin, which is usually found in bacteria that cause plant diseases. It works like a vaccine, stimulating a plant’s natural immune system, causing it to grow, get stronger, and fight off diseases more easily. Although it isn’t certified as organic, most organic gardeners would feel good about using it as a safe alternative to pesticides and fungicides.

Get some bees. Orchard mason bees, that is. A honeybee hive is probably more than I can handle, but orchard mason bees are native North American bees that are friendly, gentle, and solitary, meaning they don’t form colonies and they very rarely sting. You may already have some living in little crevices in wood around your garden, and if you do, you’ll see them out in early spring, pollinating your flowers and trees long before those Italian honeybees get moving.

You can buy a wooden bee house filled with mason bee larvae starting in February or March; once you get them set up in your garden, they’ll hatch on their own. Some people buy new bees every year, especially if they have an orchard to pollinate, but it’s entirely likely that your bees will settle in and raise little bee families of their own. Some nurseries carry them, or check online at

What’s on your agenda for 2007?


  1. Oh – the bees sound like a great idea. Thanks. I say that to myself every year – no new plants, just work with the ones that you have – but then the seed catalogs come out…and I’m toast.

  2. Good luck on the Messenger. I read all of their documents. They are not really making any specific claims that seem to be testable scientifically. They make a nice chain of statements but they are not connected by cause & effect. They do have a nice graph showing differences in one study but we do not know what the conditions are in this study. In many cases producers of these types of products conduct studies that do not apply any extra nutrients to the plants. When the studies are repeated with fertilizers as another treatment there is no difference. I have done some of these for tests for the Dept of Ag in our state.

    You say ” It works like a vaccine, stimulating a plant’s natural immune system, causing it to grow, get stronger, and fight off diseases more easily.” Plants do not have an immune system. They have no ability to make antibodies. Their response is not like animals. Yes a healthy plant growing actively can “resist” stresses. I would bet that this product has no statistical effect on a healthy plant.

    I would not take testimonials seriously. I know professional growers who swore by a product that never showed any significant effect in our scientific studies. Eventually they gave up as the result were never repeatable.

    Caveat emptor.

  3. Not to upset the chain of thought, but I totally read “get some bees” as “get some BEERS.” Whew.

    I resolve to have patience with the garden this year. I have one small area to fill in with woodland plants, but I’m going to try very hard to be laid back about the remaining open spaces in the rest of the yard so as not to crowd things too soon.

    (Maybe having some beers would help with the laid-back thing, no?)

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