It’s that strange time of the year when every day seems like a Sunday, and there’s plenty of time to think about what you’ll change for the year ahead. For gardeners, the failures of the previous season have faded enough and it’s time to stiffen our backs, page through the seed catalogs arriving daily and make some garden resolutions.
Here are five I’m pondering for the year ahead:
Watch the sun, know its path. Gardeners in the North especially face extreme differences in sun paths and sunlight between the shortest days in December and the long ones in June. In my new urban garden, I’m planning a boulevard native plant garden for the front. But as I stood in the yard in September, removing sod for another project, I could not help but notice that the area seemed shadier than I’d thought. The trees from nearby yards and the planted median in front of our house were throwing a lot of shade in a full-south spot. Maybe all those grasses and coreopsis and coneflowers I had planned might not work? So starting this month, I’ll be watching the sun and shade patterns on that stretch of lawn. By May, when I plan to plant, I’ll have a good idea of where the sun falls and for how long. Knowing how much sun you have and when it hits is vital to making plant selections.
Plant BIG plants on the edges. Last year, I grew Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) in my backyard. If you have ever grown them, you know how big they can get. And, while I loved the bright orange flowers (see the photo at the end of the post to see why) and the incredible privacy they gave us, it started to feel claustrophobic by fall. I still plan to plant them, but only on the edges of that yard. A gal’s got to breath.
Work on that second (and third) crop. While we don’t have a long vegetable growing season in Minnesota, it is possible to get more than one crop of many short-season vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and radishes. Last year, I harvested all my ‘Minnesota Midget‘ melons by early August—leaving a big hole in a section of the vegetable beds. I ended up adding herbs that I purchased to the bed, but paying more attention to timing and planning for second or possibly third crops is a good goal for 2019. Speaking of timing….
Hold off on seed starting. I’ve gotten a lot better at this as I’ve matured as a gardener, but you really do not need to start a ton of seeds for Minnesota before late March or even April. Tomatoes, for example, can’t be planted outside without protection before Memorial Day (or the first week of June) most years. So, unless you plan to use row covers, cold frames or other season-extenders, starting seeds with the proper amount of time between germination and planting out will result in stronger plants. Check the back of the seed packet, count back from your last frost date (early to mid-May in most of Minnesota) and plan from there.
Grow up! As an urban gardener, my space is limited and growing plants on trellises and climbing apparatuses is the best way to grow more. I have a number of trellises in the garden, and by the end of summer, my back fence is covered with flowering vines. But I’ve got my eye on a couple of new places where I can grow vining crops. As the famous garden writer, Katharine White said, “onward and upward in the garden!”
Whatever your resolutions or plans for next year, I wish you a happy, productive and meaningful 2019!