Winter’s drawing to a close, and it’s time to start thinking about changes you may want to make to your garden. Here are some ideas to try if you want to be in the vanguard of gardening trends for 2020.
Whether you grow vines on trellises, three-legged or four-legged frames, tuteurs (four-sided pyramid- or obelisk-like trellises), wires stretched between screws set in a brick wall or even tomato cages, growing plants upward is in vogue. In addition to making it possible to create more lush environments by packing in plants that take up little ground space, vining plants draw the eye upward for an added dimension and provide an exclamation point in a horizontal design.
Vines aren’t the only way to achieve a vertical garden. This exciting trend includes affixing flower pots onto a fence or wall using wrought iron flower pot rings or other devices, hanging baskets from trees or pot hooks, attaching closely arranged window boxes or planters to walls and fences and creating living walls (planting systems are available online).
Grow a vertical vegetable garden in pots near your kitchen door or on a deck. Peas, pole beans, cucumbers, some melons and indeterminate tomato varieties are all vining crops that actually perform better when they are kept well off the ground. Support them with a trellis, twine that is anchored to the pot and an overhead beam or on cages.
Fill in the bare ground at the feet of the vines with named vegetable varieties that are compact or that are known to produce prolifically so you get as much harvest as possible from one large pot. 'Tom Thumb' is a "midget" head lettuce; 'Jade Cross' Brussels sprouts yield an early, prolific crop. As a rule the smaller the fruit, the more the plants tend to produce so look for medium- to small-fruited varieties such as cherry tomatoes.
Invest in Garden Gold
In his 1929 book “The Gardener’s Year,” Czech author Karel Čapek wrote, “I find a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil.”
As Čapek suggests, good soil is fundamental to gardening. One of the best ways to create excellent soil is to compost garden and vegetative kitchen scraps and spread the decomposed material on the garden beds. There’s nothing new about that – except this year composting is one of the hot garden trends.
Composting is the miracle drug of gardening. Add it to heavy clay soil, and you make the soil lighter and improve drainage. Add it to sandy soil, and you provide needed bulk, as well as water retaining properties. Rich in micronutrients and organisms, compost feeds and builds the soil, helps balance the pH and boosts plants’ immune systems. There’s never a time when compost is inappropriate in the garden, and if you make it yourself, this valuable substance is free.
Making compost is easy – unless you want to be more scientific and have your materials decompose within weeks. There are all kinds of recipes for making compost, some that are quite daunting. If you want a batch quickly, then follow one of the recipes provided to create compost in a little as two weeks.
If you aren’t in a rush, you can simply pile up garden debris and kitchen waste in an out-of-the-way corner and let nature run its course. In about a year, you’ll have compost. Optimally the pile should be about 4 feet high and at least 4 feet tall and wide, although it can extend as long as you like. As the material breaks down, the pile will shrink in volume by about 50 percent.
What to compost
To avoid flies, other pests and potential odor, bury kitchen scraps a few inches deep in the pile.
• High-carbon "browns"
• Aged sawdust
• Dry leaves (shredded will compost faster)
• Shredded twigs
• Straw or hay
• Chopped corn stalks
• Paper (in moderation)
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Tea bags
• Ground corncobs
• Fresh leaves (except walnut)
• Fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps
• Lawn clippings
• Pine needles
• Weeds (if not gone to seed)
• Disease-free plant debris
• Seaweed or kelp
What not to compost
• Animal feces
• Charcoal or charcoal ashes (wood ashes are excellent)
• Dairy products
• Diseased or pest-laden garden debris
• Invasive weeds
• Meat and meat products
Low-Maintenance Equals Sustainability
Come the summer months, most Lakers want to put their time and energy into enjoying water activities with their families and guests. While other gardeners around the country may not be blessed with a lake as wonderful as ours – or any lake – a national gardening trend, which is fueled by an aging Baby Boomer population, is to make gardens easier to manage. Many people do not want to give up on having a garden; they just want to be able to manage the workload without being a slave to the landscape. They are seeking a sustainable workload.
The term low-maintenance never means no-maintenance. Any garden needs some care, but there is a lot you can do to minimize the work while still having an attractive landscape. Here are some tips:
• Favor flowering shrubs over other flowers. Shrubs generally require a lot less work than perennials.
• Place plants where they will get what they need without your help. For example, situate water-loving plants near the wettest sections of the garden, group shade lovers on the fringe of the woods and put sun-loving plants in exposed locations.
• Group plants with similar needs together so that you do not have to tend to each individually.
• Reduce your area of lawn. Weekly mowing is not considered a low-maintenance activity. In addition lawn fertilizer leaches into the lake, polluting the water.
Other garden trends for 2020 include taking advantage of new technologies to grow houseplants; repurposing old items to use as containers or sculptures in the garden; adding water features such as fountains in pots; and growing your own food (even something as simple as basil for a sliced tomato salad or mint for your mojito).