New Gardening Trends to Try This Season
Today's gardening trends are less about keeping up appearances and more about being practical and ecological. Which ones will you try out this year?
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Reconnect with Nature
In a high-paced, stressful world, people value a peaceful outdoor oasis more than ever. Nature is a tonic for the body and soul, helping us to feel better physically (fresh air, soft sunshine) and emotionally (peaceful sounds, birds and wildlife). “This year’s trends are reinventions from a bygone era — helping to reconnect us with nature, rejuvenate the soil and lead us to a more thoughtful approach to life,” reports the Garden Media Group, which has been tracking gardening trends since 2001.
Creating a garden refuge makes reconnecting with nature possible. And the good thing is, it’s as easy as setting up a hammock or chaise lounge beneath a shade tree. Privacy is important for a peaceful hideaway, so consider a well-positioned hedge (for ground-level privacy) or tree (for privacy from second story windows). If you’re impatient, pair a lattice screen with a quick-growing vine or install a privacy fence.
Start a Victory Garden
Homegrown produce has been gaining traction as people realize the value of fresh, pesticide-free food right outside their door. With concerns about grocery shopping and interruptions in the food supply, the call for modern Victory Gardens has only gotten stronger. “We have seen sales of fruit and vegetables grow exponentially,” says Heidi Mortensen, co-owner of ShrubBucket, noting that year-over-year increases range from 1,180 percent for vegetable sales to 3,366 percent for small fruit sales.
Raised bed mix, tomato cages, earth boxes and tomato barrels are the most popular non-plant items. “Victory Gardens haven’t been this popular in decades,” Mortensen adds. “As more and more people begin to garden, we hope they will find lasting joy and good health in this marvelous hobby.” To get started, look for a sunny, open spot with well-drained soil. Then prepare the bed and plant your choice of produce. If you have rabbits, surround the garden with two-foot-tall chicken wire. Sound like too much work? Here are a dozen vegetables you can grow in pots.
Become More Self-Reliant
Our ancestors knew a lot about self-reliance — they had no other choice if they wanted to survive. Fortunately, today’s gardeners are discovering the satisfaction (and cost savings) that come from being more self-reliant. You can start with something simple and gain momentum. Build a rain barrel to collect rainwater for irrigation. Start your own seeds. Use kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and leaves to make compost. And discover ways to preserve your garden harvest.
Smaller yards often translate into less room for gardening. Or do they? If you grow vertically, you’re utilizing space that otherwise would not be available. Vertical gardens come in various forms, from growing vines on a trellis to stacking planters in a stair-step arrangement. Or try attaching movable planters to structure to create a living wall.
Try Container Gardening
Container gardening is a trend with staying power. It’s a good way to use non-gardening space such as decks and patios. Container gardening also offers a chance to personalize the garden with whatever planter style and plants you love. Containers are simple to plant, so they’re perfect for someone who wants to try it out without committing to a full garden.
You can buy containers or reuse any item that will hold soil and withstand the weather. Just be sure to provide drainage holes and fill the pots with soilless potting mix, preferably containing fertilizer and moisture-holding crystals to save on maintenance.
Take Care of Pollinators
Pollinators aren’t just pretty, they’re critical to agriculture — and therefore to our dinner tables. Honeybee and butterfly numbers are dwindling. Pesticides, mites and decreasing habitat are some of the key reasons. People can help by not using pesticides, especially on windy days and whenever pollinators are active. Also, consider planting a pollinator-friendly garden with plants that bloom at different times of the season. Be sure to include plants that feed butterfly larvae, such as dill, parsley and milkweed.
Create Wildlife Habitat
While lawns aren’t necessarily going away, homeowners are taking a closer look at their size and whether there are better uses for some of that real estate. There’s renewed interest in naturalistic gardens that provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife, including amphibians like frogs and toads. The Garden Trends Report 2020, from Garden Media Group, notes that amphibians are going extinct at an alarming rate, partly due to habitat destruction. To rectify that, you can provide a source of still water for frogs and a toad house for toads. Both eat insects, making them welcome in anyone’s garden. Be sure to include plenty of cover nearby with native plants rather than exotics. Create the ultimate backyard wildlife habitat.
Go Low Maintenance
Today’s homeowners want to enjoy their outdoor living space without spending endless hours maintaining it. That means choosing low maintenance plants that thrive without coddling, frequent watering or trimming. Go with landscape fabric and mulch to cut down on weeding. Plan ahead so the right plant goes in the right spot. That way it won’t outgrow its space or overrun companions. And a happy plant is less prone to insects and diseases.
Drought is an ongoing concern in many areas, which is why xeriscaping, which has been gaining traction for years, is still hot. There’s a whole world of plants that can get by with less water — cactus, succulents and fuzzy-leafed plants, to name a few. Xeriscaping also involves grouping plants with similar watering needs. So, for example, the most drought-tolerant plants might be on a hillside far from the nearest spigot, while thirstier plants would be near the gutter spout where extra water is available.
Organic is in — just look at all the products at the supermarket marked “certified organic.” That popularity is reaching over to gardeners, who are eager to leave a smaller environmental footprint. There are organic alternatives to many synthetic gardening chemicals.
One place to start is the lawn, which is often drowned with chemicals in pursuit of the elusive emerald carpet. Here are seven organic lawn care tips to try this year. You can also select plants that are bred to be resistant to pests and diseases. And fortify the soil regularly with compost, which provides nutrients and beneficial microbes to keep plants healthy.
Save the Soil
Erosion is a serious problem made worse by deforestation (which removes protective cover) and tilling (which exposes more soil to wind erosion). Erratic weather that shifts from drought to heavy rains adds to the problem. It is estimated that erosion and deforestation have washed away one-third of the world’s topsoil, according to the Garden Trends Report 2020. What’s left is often sterile and stripped of nutrients.
The solution is beneath our feet. Use cover crops to avoid bare soil and add nutrients when the cover crop is turned over. Add compost regularly to replenish beneficial microbes. Use organic fertilizers such as Espoma Organic. And consider the Ruth Stout Method of vegetable gardening: building up a mulch of garden debris, which will compost in place. It’s super easy and it really protects the soil.
Here are some tips on how to be more soil-friendly.
Some retailers prefer to use the phrase “indoor plants.” Whatever you call houseplants these days, you can also call them popular. “The houseplant trend is still growing, with no end in sight,” says Mike Rimland, plant hunter for Costa Farms. “Younger generations are finding themselves with less space, time and money, so they are turning to indoor plants for their benefits.” Decorating with plants is also trending, according to the Garden Trends Report 2020.
There are a wide variety of indoor plants available, allowing each person to use plants that speak to their design sensibilities and budget. Most are easy to care for. Studies have shown houseplants can clean the air and reduce stress, which is one reason you see them in doctor’s offices. Another benefit: They bring the great outdoors inside, a key benefit to those without an outdoor garden.
Dwarf plants are becoming more mainstream as yards and gardens shrink and homeowners seek to avoid maintenance headaches down the road. If you’ve got a favorite plant, chances are there’s a dwarf or at least semi-dwarf version of it. No room for an 80-ft.-tall eastern white pine? ‘Nana’ is a dwarf shrub version of white pine that tops out at three to seven feet tall and six to 12 feet wide. There are plenty of other examples, from the aptly-named dwarf Alberta spruce (which only grows an inch or two a year) to Japanese maples with the stature of small shrubs.
Learn more about space-saving trees for today’s smaller yards.
Blue By You
Blue is a comparatively rare color in the garden. But it’s getting more and more attention, especially because it’s the color of the year for 2020. “Blue plants are always the most sought after hue in the garden,” reports the Garden Trends Report 2020. You can introduce blue to the yard with garden art, ceramic containers, accessories, pillows and other decor. As for plants, consider growing grape hyacinth, larkspur, delphinium, salvia, baptisia, bigleaf hydrangea, globe thistle, bachelor’s buttons, blueberries and other wildflowers.
Technology has revolutionized many industries and has even made its way into the garden. “We have seen a huge adoption of mobile technology in the garden over the last couple of years,” says Seth Reed, co-founder of GrowIt!, a popular gardening app. “Gardeners are realizing that they don’t have to go at it alone, whether in person or online. There are apps like GrowIt! where you can connect with other gardeners in your area to share photos and videos, identify plants and ask for help.”
Technology is also making things easier. High-tech irrigation systems deliver a precise amount of water to the landscape to conserve water — and they can be controlled with a smartphone anywhere with WiFi. Here’s one example of a smart sprinkler controller that works with Alexa.