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So far Anne Gibson has created 150 blog entries.

Gardening Tips for January

The start of a new year is always the ideal time to reflect back, plan ahead and look forward to what you want to grow and learn. So this month I share resources to help you with those goals, gardening tips for January and what to do in your garden; ways gardening can improve your health; sensational tips on strawberries; bushfire garden recovery and food security threats. Lots to dig into!

3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden

In this short article, I share how I plan my garden at the start of each year + there’s a free journal download for you! I discuss ways to learn valuable lessons; reflect on past successes and disappointments for key insights and dig for details when planning this year’s garden. READ NOW.

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Get some inspiration for ideas

Photos of projects and plants can help spark ideas for this year’s garden plans


“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” ― Benjamin Franklin


How to Set Goals for this Year

If you’re going to invest time, money and effort into your garden – even a few pots – isn’t it worth having a plan? At least an idea of what you’d like to achieve in a broad sense. Maybe you want to grow food to support your health and wellbeing, overcome a problem, learn how to grow and use herbs, design a space to expand what you can grow or try container gardening. Or maybe you haven’t given this year’s garden any thought yet!

Wherever you’re at, this article is packed with easy-to-achieve goals and resources to get you going.

17 Garden Goals for Your Health and Wellbeing

17 Garden Goals for Your Health and Wellbeing


When you make a purchase, you are making a difference by helping support my education work to teach people how to grow healthy food.


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3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden

Planning this year’s garden? At the start of a new year, I take time to reflect on the past year and learn valuable lessons from my garden. Why bother? As a life long ‘student’ in Nature’s garden ‘classroom’, I make incredible discoveries and observations every year and always learn new things that make gardening more enjoyable and easier. You can too!

3 Tips for Planning This Year's Garden

3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden

1. Learn Lessons by Observing

When you literally ‘stop to smell the roses‘, you not only slow down for a few minutes to relieve stress with beauty and fragrance, but this action can open up a whole new world of discovery. You may notice aphids and ants or spots on the leaves.

Rather than going unnoticed, these observations can help you learn how to remedy or prevent any potential problems. Instead of feeling disappointed when you notice ‘problems’, consider them ‘learning opportunities’!

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Learn Lessons by Observing your Garden

Observing details can help with troubleshooting and insightful discoveries

By studying details like how plants grow under diverse weather conditions or how insects interact at different times, you can start to form patterns and learn so much about your garden.

What to Observe in your Garden

For example, I spend time observing the various microclimates; plant varieties; which cultivars do well and those that don’t. I have discovered which plants tough it out without water for months (little champions!) and which plants are vulnerable to pests or diseases.

The insights are fascinating and valuable data for decision-making. I know which plants are easy, low-maintenance and highly productive and those who don’t deserve a space because they’re too ‘precious’ and a pain in the neck! Grow more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Take a closer look at your garden to open up a whole new world of insights.

Take a closer look at your garden to open up a whole new world of insights

I record these observations with lots of photos and brief notes in my Garden Journal. After several years of comparing notes, I now know exactly what to expect at the same time each year. Patterns have formed. The trees and plants have gifted me their secrets. I can now predict what will happen when, with ever-increasing accuracy and make decisions accordingly.

For example, which trees will lose their leaves when stressed and when fruit trees will be in flower or set fruit. This information is so valuable because I know when these trees will provide me with a free resource (leaves for mulch or compost) or need more support (moisture and nutrients).

“A garden is always in a flux of giving and taking through the seasons. If you treat the relationship with your plants like a friendship, you’ll soon learn when to back off or lend a helping hand.” – Anne Gibson

As a ‘plant parent’ I am gently guiding and watching over my garden, knowing which plant babies and youngsters need help and those that are all grown up and managing on their own. Rosemary and garlic chives, for example, are fiercely independent! Whereas my lettuces and leafy greens need regular pampering. My garden is like my extended plant ‘family’!

I encourage you to spend time with your plants and keep a journal on what you observe. You’ll be richly rewarded. Here’s a FREE DOWNLOAD to get started.

2. Reflect Back on Last Year

Before planning ahead, take into consideration relevant factors from the past 12 months. A few quick notes can help you remember the most important aspects and avoid repeating the same mistakes!

“If nothing changes, nothing changes. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.” ― Courtney C. Stevens

  • Climate and Weather. How often did it rain and how much? Was your rainfall pretty average for the year or less than normal? How will this affect the decisions you make going forward about what you grow and water management strategies? What challenges did you have with wind, heat, drought or other conditions? Did you overcome these issues or do you need to plan new strategies this year?
  • Plant Selection. What grew well? Which varieties yielded your best harvests? Did you have disappointing results? Think about what factors may have contributed. What can you do differently next time?
3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden

Taking notes on garden observations – successes and disappointments is a valuable part of planning this year’s garden

  • Pests and Diseases. What were your biggest problems? What solutions did you try and did they work? If you felt overwhelmed, focus on building soil health as a priority this year. Pest and disease problems tend to primarily occur with unhealthy, stressed plants.
  • Garden Design. Are all plants doing well or do you need to move some to different spots? More sun or shade? Do you need to reorganise some of the elements in your space because they’re not working as you’d hoped? Did you attempt too much or feel frustrated? Maybe consider scaling down and start small so you grow in confidence as you succeed with container gardens or bite-sized projects instead. Get some help if you need it.


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3. Dig Deeper for Details

Micro gardening is about being observant and stopping to really see what’s happening in a small space, rather than glossing over those little things that don’t seem important or relevant. If I see a new insect on a plant, I take a photo to identify it so I know who the new visitor is. My goal is to discover if they are a friend or foe.

Many insects go through various ‘costume changes’ during their lives, altering their appearance as they develop. So what may appear to be different insects, may actually be the same species just ‘changing their clothes’! Sometimes this makes identification a tricky business so take the time to look over the entire plant at different times.

This ladybird, for example, looks like a crawling hairy yellow baby but grows into a mature adult all dressed up in a glossy bright orange outfit with gossamer wings.

3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden: Learn to identify pest insects at different stages of life like adult and immature larva ladybirds

Adult and immature larva stages of a leaf-eating ladybird

The usual insect culprits tend to turn up each year so I’m waiting and ready! I see less of them now than in the early years because so many birds and spiders are residents in the healthy ecosystem in my kitchen garden. There’s a balance of pests to predators that takes care of itself 95% of the time.

Less Pests and More Predators

I love our expanding family of resident magpies (mum, dad and 2 kids) that follow me around the garden. They are so interested in whatever I’m doing, are incredibly intelligent birds and watch every action I take. If I pluck a few grasshoppers off a plant to hand feed them, they remember and are quick to enjoy a feeding frenzy in that same spot. Days later there are no grasshoppers in residence! Four hungry mouths in that family make quick work of grasshopper protein. It’s a win-win.

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden - Watch the interactions with pests and predators in your garden to work with nature for less problems

Watch the interactions with pests and bird predators in your garden to work with nature for less problems.

I rarely need to ‘fix’ such pest problems now – I just let nature take its course. Birds are always hungry. With chemical-free habitat, seed-bearing plants and clean water, they’ll soon see where there’s food and help with pest management. Have a think about how you can improve this aspect in your garden this year.

Little details can make a BIG difference. Nothing lives in isolation. Everything is connected.

When planning this year’s garden, it also helps to get some inspiration for ideas. There’s plenty on this site. Grab a gardening book or two from your library, visit my Pinterest boards and Houzz ideabooks, and start dreaming!

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Get some inspiration for ideas

Photos of projects and plants can help spark ideas for this year’s garden plans

So, by thinking about your garden as a source of valuable data or a ‘bank’ of information, you can make more informed decisions when planning this year’s garden. If you’d like some help with your garden, check out my consulting services or learn more with the resources below.

Related Articles


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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2020. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

Some links within this article are affiliate links. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. If you purchase a product via an affiliate link, I will earn a small commission (and I mean REALLY small)! There is no additional cost to you. It’s a way you can support my site, so it’s a win-win for both of us. You directly support my ability to continue bringing you original, inspiring and educational content to help benefit your health. Thanks! Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

December 2019 Newsletter

It’s the last newsletter for the year and I hope you enjoy it. For many gardeners, it’s been a tough one facing health issues and climate challenges. So I’ve collated some good health news from interesting research studies on how gardening may help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and written a timely article on tips for gardening in a dry climate. I have also been writing a series of articles on the art of seed saving – a skill every gardener should master for personal food security and to mitigate extreme climate conditions. Plus I’ve created a quick intro video on moon gardening. Grab a relaxing herb tea and dig in!

As it’s the season of giving, there’s also a special 15% Discount Coupon for you! Simply use the code XMAS on checkout and save on all educational products in The Shop during December!

December 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener


Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

Gardening in dry climate conditions can be really stressful but there are loads of simple strategies you can apply to make it easier. Many gardeners in Australia and around the world have been struggling to keep gardens alive and thriving. Drought, winds, dust storms, extended heatwaves and fires have been impacting plants, people and our wildlife.

For many gardeners though, water – or lack of it – is our biggest issue. Struggling, water-stressed plants become magnets for pest insects as nature’s ‘clean up crew’ move in to feed. It’s natural to expect some casualties in hot and dry weather. Without sufficient water, crops can’t take up nutrients from the soil to grow, flower and fruit. Small container gardens also need more frequent watering.

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions | The Micro Gardener

I’m in a drought-stricken area, currently experiencing a heatwave with dry winds, high temps and no let-up in sight. It’s tough – I get it! So how do I protect my garden and grow food in these conditions? In my latest article, I share sustainable, practical strategies for gardening in dry climate conditions. These 18 tips will give you options to help your plants not just survive but thrive.

SHOW ME THE STRATEGIES


Affiliate Links: Your support of this site is appreciated!

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18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

Gardening in dry climate conditions can be really stressful but there are loads of simple strategies you can apply to make it easier. Many gardeners in Australia and around the world have been struggling to keep gardens alive and thriving. Drought, winds, dust storms, extended heatwaves and fires have been impacting plants, people and our wildlife.

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions | The Micro Gardener

Extreme temperatures and long periods without any significant rain in many places are some of the biggest problems. It’s no wonder many gardeners are giving up trying to grow an edible garden.

Yet a garden – no matter how small – gives us hope as well as healthy food. It feeds our mind, body and soul; provides wonderful stress relief; and is a welcome sanctuary to escape to. Even a single, well-cared-for plant can bring great joy and healing.

For many gardeners though, water – or lack of it – is our biggest issue. Struggling, water-stressed plants become magnets for pest insects as nature’s ‘clean up crew’ move in to feed. It’s natural to expect some casualties in hot and dry weather. Without sufficient water, crops can’t take up nutrients from the soil to grow, flower and fruit. Small container gardens also need more frequent watering.

So, what can we do to help our gardens survive and even thrive?

Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions and Hot Temperatures | The Micro Gardener

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

For years I’ve endured all sorts of harsh growing conditions in my gardens. By careful observation, applying Permaculture design principles and journalling where my gardens have been exposed to harsh dry or hot weather, I’ve learned how to grow a kitchen garden that not only survives but thrives! This has enabled me to help my clients who suffer similar problems but in different locations to get the most out of their edible gardens.

I hope by sharing some of these strategies, you will be able to enjoy an abundant productive kitchen garden too.

1. Audit your Garden and Make Tough Choices

That’s right! If you can’t save ALL your plants, prioritise and focus on keeping the most valuable ones alive. If conditions are really tough and you have limited water resources, concentrate on your high-value fruit trees, perennials and essential crops.

Turn thirsty, low-value plants into compost to feed your soil. Some plants may just have to survive without your help or be sacrificed to save others.

Collect seeds and take cuttings to pot up as a backup plan! You can always start again with these.

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

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October 2019 Newsletter

In this newsletter, I discuss earthworms in container gardens; risks and safety tips for using bagged soil mixes; introduce a new herb and medicinal plant guide; share tips for changing seasons and moon gardening timing. Grab a cuppa and dig in!

October 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener


Earthworms in Pots

Earthworms provide incredible benefits in the garden. They help aerate the soil with their tunnels, opening soil pores and improving soil structure and drainage. This helps plant roots access oxygen and allows moisture and nutrients to penetrate. They digest organic matter and leave their castings (‘vermicast’ or poop) with soluble nutrients plants can access immediately, improving crop yields. Vermicast is humus and a pure plant food and soil conditioner. Earthworms are wonderful soil workers indeed!

If you have container gardens and add garden soil or compost to your potting mix, then you may sometimes find an earthworm or two. Whilst earthworms perform many valuable roles, they can occasionally be problematic in pots, especially small ones. If you have just one or two worms, it may take a while for their tunnels to make an impact. However, if you have a community (yes they will breed!) then the plant roots may become exposed to too much air in the potting mix.

The other thing to watch for is if you are raising seedlings in a small pot and there is little organic matter in the potting or seed raising mix, any earthworms present may resort to eating the plant roots if all the organic materials are consumed. I was doing container garden maintenance once and picked up an old pot that was very heavy. Curious, I discovered it was almost pure worm castings that were retaining moisture and the pot was filled with earthworms! They had turned all the potting mix media and mulch into vermicast.

Earthworms with their rich castings

Earthworms with their rich castings

Feeding Earthworms and Repotting Plants

If you notice fresh worm castings on top of the potting mix or mulch, or around the base of the pot, these are a clue of their presence. If you notice a potted plant declining and suspect you have earthworms in your potting mix, you have a couple of options. Keep providing plenty of alternate organic matter like mulch to the top of the pot for the worms to eat instead of your plant roots.

Alternatively, repot your plant. This is simply a matter of upturning your pot and gently setting aside your plants in a cool location. Give them a quick soak in liquid seaweed as a boost. Then look for a network of tunnels in the potting mix and worms squirming around. If you can, rescue your earthworms and add them back into your garden soil where they can continue to work for you. The worm castings are indeed beneficial, so you want to retain this valuable free plant food in your potting mix.

Get your own easy DIY Homemade Potting Mix Recipe Guide using worm castings.

Learn more about the business and biology of worms with the Worm Farming Secrets eBook.

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August 2019 Newsletter

In this juicy newsletter, you’ll find a list of fast-growing vegetables for quick harvests so you eat your own fresh ingredients in <60 days from sowing seed. There’s a free online course available now to help prevent and heal cancer, and I share a new video with tips for companion planting with fruit trees. I cover fertilising your garden organically; planting in August/September, moon gardening and bite-sized gardening tips. Grab a cuppa and dig in!

August 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

 


17 Fast Growing Vegetables for Impatient Gardeners

Are you keen to get some fast-growing vegetables on your plate? A beginner gardener wanting some quick results? Maybe you have a short growing season and want to maximise your time? Or want to fill a few spare pots. Or maybe you’re like me – an impatient gardener! If so, dig into my new list of 17+ speedy veggies for quick picks in 60 days or less + 5 bonus tips to help speed up your harvests. Show me the list.

A list of 17+ fast growing vegetables for quick picks in 60 days or less. Includes leafy greens, legumes, roots vegetables + more for healthy 'fast' food! Plus 5 tips to help speed up your harvests.

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17 Fast Growing Vegetables for Impatient Gardeners

Are you an impatient gardener? Eager to get some fast growing vegetables on your plate? Maybe you have a short growing season? Or want to fill a few spare pots. If you’re keen to find out which vegetables grow quickly, read on!

A list of 17+ fast growing vegetables for quick picks in 60 days or less. Includes leafy greens, legumes, roots vegetables + more for healthy 'fast' food! Plus 5 tips to help speed up your harvests.

Thankfully, there are plenty of fast growing vegetables like leafy greens, legumes, brassicas and root crops you can grow. So let’s dig in.

What do ‘Fast Growing’ Vegetables really mean?

Days to Maturity

While the time frame is open to interpretation, let’s assume you’re looking for foods that will be ready to eat in 60 days or less. You can find the average ‘days to maturity’ on seed packets and in catalogues. This is the time from when you sow seeds to first harvest. Often you will see this as a range e.g. 45-60 days. The vegetables in this list are based on the average harvest date from the time you sow seeds. If you start with seedlings, you can pick even earlier!

Vegetable Varieties

The vegetable variety you choose will play a part in how quickly they grow. So, for example, a small round baby carrot heirloom variety like ‘Paris Market’ that only grows to 4cm in diameter, will be on your table much quicker than one with a long root, like ‘Nantes’. Similarly, climbers will take longer to grow than bush or dwarf varieties. Makes sense right?

Seasonal Timing

It’s also worth remembering that plants tend to grow faster in warmer seasons and mature more slowly in cooler months. So WHEN you plant will also be a factor.

Other Plant Growth Factors

As there is so much variation in climate conditions, soil types, sunlight, moisture and seasons around the world, these suggestions are a guide only. Here in subtropical Queensland, Australia, I can grow year-round with only a relatively mild winter. Your climate may be different. Make sure you give your plants the sunlight hours they do best in if possible as this will speed up or slow down growth accordingly.

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July 2019 Newsletter

In this newsletter, you’ll find tips to grow potatoes and some disturbing information about pesticides. I encourage you to go small when growing your favourite leafy greens and herbs with sprouts and microgreens, share planting tips for this month, the most nutritious lettuce varieties plus some inspiring news about the health benefits of gardening. I hope you pick up some new practical tips to apply this month!

July 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener


Can you Grow Potatoes from Potatoes?

The short answer is yes! If you’ve never seen a packet of potato seeds, that’s for good reason. To grow your favourite potato variety, you need to start with a tuber. An actual potato called a ‘seed potato.’ It’s a funny name because potatoes don’t have seeds!

‘Seed potatoes’ have ‘eyes’ or dormant sprouts, also known as ‘buds.’ Each eye will sprout and develop either a stem with leaves or form roots. Once the plant is big enough, small potatoes will form and then grow.

Organic chitted potatoes ready for planting

Organic chitted potatoes ready for planting

Are all potatoes safe to grow?

Ideally, grow from organically certified seed potato varieties. Why? You want to start with disease-free, safe spuds. Unfortunately, potatoes were included in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2019 ‘Dirty Dozen’ list that ranks the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. It’s not surprising potatoes made the top 12 because studies show root vegetables are particularly vulnerable to absorbing chemicals in the soil.

There’s another important reason to choose certified organic potatoes. You want to avoid the risk of planting GMO spuds as they absorb more toxins. See: Are GMO Potatoes Safe? A Former Monsanto Bioengineer Tells The Truth.

How do you get potatoes to grow shoots?

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May 2019 Newsletter

This month, you’ll learn how to test old seeds to find out if they’re still OK to plant. You’ll also discover simple ways to frost protect crops; easy edibles to grow in shallow pots; plus sustainable uses for lawn clippings. I hope you pick up some new practical tips to apply this month!

May 2019 Newsletter The Micro Gardener


Can You Sow Out of Date Seeds?

Do you have a pile of seed packets stashed away? If you’ve been meaning to sow them, but haven’t got around to it, you’re not alone! 🤭 What if your seeds have gone past their use by date? Should you throw or sow them? In my latest article, I share an easy 3 STEP TEST to help you calculate the viability of your seeds. 🍃  You’ll discover whether those ‘bundles of joy’ are dead ☠️ or alive. 😃 No guilt for bad ‘parenting’! You’ll also learn how to store those potential ‘plant babies’ correctly to extend their life so you don’t waste money. 🍃🌿 I hope you enjoy it.  READ NOW

Can you sow out of date seeds? Find out How to Test Seed Viability in 3 Easy Steps + Tips for Storing your Seeds Safely

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Can You Sow Out of Date Seeds?

Do you have old seeds you haven’t got around to planting? If they are out of date, you may be wondering if you can still sow them. Most gardeners have good intentions when buying seeds, but then life happens! Rather than wasting money you’ve spent on expired seeds, why not test their viability to see if there’s any life left in them? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Can you sow out of date seeds? How to test seed viability and store seeds safely

Out of Date Seeds

Seeds, like other living things, have a shelf-life! Just because seeds are out of date, doesn’t mean they won’t germinate and grow normally. Don’t get rid of them yet! Checking your seeds is much more sustainable than throwing them out and assuming they are useless. I’ll show you an easy way to test them. So you won’t waste time and effort planting the packet if they’re not going to grow.

If the seed packet date has expired, it’s similar to the ‘Best Use By’ date on food packaging. It doesn’t mean the food isn’t edible, but the quality may have deteriorated. Likewise, some of the seeds may still grow if planted, but not necessarily every seed in the packet. The longer you wait to sow, the lower the chance of successful seed germination. (more…)