An inspiring amount of people took to the garden in 2020! Seed providers, garden centers, and hometown farmers markets all hit remarkable highs while everyone looked for a hobby to occupy themselves. There were bound to be a few mistakes. However, it was one of the best times in history to learn something new with the online community's help. If 2020 pushed you to try out your green thumb, here are a few ways MIgardener recommends you level up your skills in the new year! Happy 2021, everyone.
Let's get started!
Planning is Everything
I know it's January, and spring still feels very far away for most of us, but right now is the perfect time to start planning your garden. A properly planned garden won't just look good; it will also increase the harvest's success overall. In your first year gardening in 2020, chances are (for the sake of this article) you planted wherever there was space. This lack of planning often leads to planting too soon and planting each variety in a less than ideal location. Each variety has specific sunlight, temperature, and climate instructions. Some varieties create shadows of their own, which can be another reason not to plan around them, no matter the convenience of saving space. There's no point in planting something that will not thrive in its location. It's a waste of money and resources. Check out MIgardener's favorite Clyde's garden planner to help you plan your 2021 garden!
Sun Map to the Max
When deciding which direction to situate your garden beds in 2021 can be made easier with sun mapping. First, you'll want to observe the surrounding light of your yard. Second, take note of anything that will cast shadows, like trees, houses, bushes, and fences. Watch where the sun hits in your yard first before deciding where to place your beds.
The decision to situate your beds north to south vs. east to west won't matter as long as you plant your varieties by height. This technique makes sun mapping more simple. Plant your tallest crops, like sunflowers, either in the garden space's front or back end. No matter what, those tall plants will either get full sun in the mornings or the evenings. As long as you don't plant tall crops at each end of the garden, you will be golden. This avoids shading everything in between the tall crops from the sun at all hours of the day. Sun mapping will help you avoid wasting seeds by planting them in a space that gets the wrong amount of sunlight. For more on sun mapping, watch this video.
An easy and fun project for 2021, especially as a first-timer, is growing vertically on a trellis. I believe growing on a trellis is one of the easiest ways to add a touch of beauty and romance to a garden. In my second year of gardening, I hand made a trellis for my snap peas out of long sticks and twine. Sure, it wasn't the strongest structure, but I loved it because it was mine. There are a few shapes a trellis can take in a range of difficulty levels. You can start simply as I did, or go for a big project and create an arched cattle panel trellis.
You can grow SO many varieties vertically. Peas and pole beans are the obvious crops, but vining plants like cucumbers, melons, and even small pumpkins will grow phenomenally on a trellis. Growing these varieties vertically is known to improve fruit set and the overall harvest because it allows the flowers to be open to pollinators. Vertical growing also decreases the chances of powdery mildew and other diseases and pests.
Try Succession Planting
In your first year gardening in 2020, you probably tried to plant the amount of food you thought you would need. Most likely, this resulted in a handful of large harvests that felt wonderful to share with friends and family. However, the chances are that you also had more food than you could handle. So much garden waste is caused by planting this way. Unless your whole life is dedicated to homesteading, it can be difficult to harvest and preserve everything you grow without any waste. By planting in succession, the process of harvesting and using your harvest is much more manageable. You can plant most varieties in succession. For example, the lettuce pictured above was planted six weeks apart to allow six separate weeks of harvest. Succession planting will make your 2021 harvest a resource for your family with plenty to share, but it will also help avoid waste.
Waste Water No Longer
One of the main mistakes made as a first time gardener is overwatering. Especially with larger plants, you assume they need more water than they do. If you have good soil, watering regularly will be less of a concern. To learn more about the five pillars of healthy soil, click here. The best advice to avoid overwatering your garden in 2021 is to check near the roots. Break the habit of only checking the soil's visual dryness and dig a little deeper to check for soil moisture. Then, only water when your plants are dry a few inches down. Ultimately, this will save you money on your water bill and a lot of energy you would use on overwatered and failed plants.
I hope this little guide inspires you to refine your garden in the new year! Remember always to have fun and be adventurous in your garden space.
- Kaitlynn from MIgardener