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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.

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

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10 Tips to Grow More Food in a Small Garden

Want to grow at least some of your own fresh ingredients? If you think you’re limited by a small garden, don’t be! You just need to use your space wisely.

10 tips to grow more food in a small garden

Few people have the perfect area to grow a productive food garden. So, clever design and plant choices are vital for success.

I help my clients to maximise the food they grow even when their garden is tiny, on a slope, in the shade, narrow, has poor soil, too much or not enough water and the list goes on! These tips will help you do the same.

How to Grow More Food in a Small Garden Space

1. Prioritise. Just Grow the Essentials

  • Grow the foods you love and buy most often. If you’re going to spend time growing food, it should provide ingredients you will use and save money on your shopping bill.
  • If you’re mowing lawn or growing plants that don’t serve you, you could be wasting valuable space in your garden! Make tough choices.
Grow More Food in a Small Garden: One of my client's front garden makeover before with lawn and an edible garden after 10 weeks!

A front garden makeover at one of my clients – Before with lawn; After 10 weeks – a productive pretty edible garden!

  • Dig up the lawn and save money on mower fuel!
  • Sell your ornamentals, so you have more space (and money) to grow food.

“We grow lawn that we harvest weekly in the growing season and throw it away. Why not food that we can eat?” Dave Jarratt – Sustainable Soil Solutions

  • For example, if you are buying a weekly organic food box, aim to cut the cost by a third or half by supplementing some of the ingredients from your own garden.
  • If you love salads, then it makes sense to avoid chemically grown produce by growing lettuces and salad ingredients.


12 Valuable Tips to Grow Healthy Microgreens

Do you want an abundant harvest of healthy microgreens? Whether you’re growing these nutrient-packed vegetables and herbs for your own health or to sell, these tips can help you succeed quickly.

12 Tips on How to Grow Healthy Microgreens

I’ve been growing microgreens for over 6 years and raised thousands of these tiny vegies and herbs in that time. Not only for our own use and good health, but also to share at public workshops and garden events to help inspire others.

I love these babies and have learned SO much about their needs. So, here are a few of my secrets to help you get a continuous abundance of healthy microgreens.


5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

Why does soil health matter? Because if you want pest and disease-free plants that are nutrient-dense to nourish your health, you need healthy soil!

5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

“Healthy soil has an ongoing capacity to function as a vibrant living ecosystem that can sustain plants, animals and people.” – Anne Gibson

Do YOU have Healthy Soil?

There are many factors that indicate soil health including:

  • a stable pH (not too acid or alkaline);
  • good soil structure;
  • ability to hold and release nutrients to plants;
  • level of organic matter; and
  • biodiversity of soil life.

A soil test kit will help you discover what your soil pH is. Picking up a handful of soil will allow you to get a feel for its structure and how ‘alive’ it is with worms and other tiny soil creatures.

Healthy soil does not look like dead dry lifeless dirt!

If your soil looks and feels like lifeless dry dirt, you may have a lot of work to do!


Best Tips for Growing Root Crops

Do you love digging for hidden treasures in your soil, but sometimes feel disappointed in your harvest? If so, these tips should help make growing root crops much easier and more successful.

Best tips for growing root crops

Discovering an edible surprise is a bit like unwrapping a present, isn’t it? You get that feeling of anticipation as you unearth a handful of potatoes or pull up a bunch of crunchy carrots. Then you start dreaming up how you’re going to enjoy eating those tasty homegrown crops.

So let’s dig into some juicy tips on ways to get more of these delicious vegies and spices on your plate. (more…)

3 Tips on Growing Peas and Beans

Do you love the crisp sweet crunch of young peas and beans? These easy-to-grow crops are perfect for all gardeners in small urban spaces. In pots, plots or garden beds!

3 Tips for Growing Peas and Beans

How do you get the highest yield from your peas and beans, especially if you have limited space?

These are tips I use to grow healthy pea and bean plants that produce an abundant harvest. I hope they help you too.

3 Tips for Growing Peas and Beans

1. Healthy Soil and Fertilising

  • Peas and beans both prefer well drained, moist soils, with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH 6.0-7.5.
  • You can make your own potting mix like I do, or improve your soil with compost and worm castings if you have them. I also add minerals and mulch. Click here for tips on preparing your soil for planting.
  • Every couple of weeks apply a liquid fertiliser such as seaweed, fish emulsion or diluted worm casting concentrate to boost growth.


5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Seeds

Have you tried raising seeds but they failed to germinate successfully? It may be due to one of these five common causes.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Seeds

Raising Seeds: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Choosing Unsafe Food Seeds

  • Did you know the majority of seeds (non-certified organic and some heirloom and open-pollinated brands) are sprayed with fungicides? This chemical process is used to stop rodents and insects from eating the seeds during storage. GMO (genetically modified) seeds are also creeping into our food system. Read the packets carefully when buying your seeds. Look for wording like “Certified Organic” and “Non-GMO”.


9 Secrets for a Low Maintenance Easy Garden

Do you feel your garden is hard work? Too much digging, weeding, watering and fertilising? For minimal results?

The principles for doing less work, with greater rewards are simple. These are just a few of my secrets for creating an easy garden. Dig in!

9 Secrets for a Low-Maintenance Easy Garden - Tips include Good Design; No-dig Gardens; Choosing Plants Wisely; Mulch + more. Dig in!


Easy Garden Ideas

1. Good Design

  • One of the secrets to less work in your garden is thoughtful planning. You may feel overwhelmed if you aim for perfection. I spend time applying Permaculture principles to ‘design out’ potential problems. You can refine and add to your plan later.
  • Begin one project at a time. A simple DIY edible planter is a good place to start. Once you gain confidence, you can create the next element in your garden.
  • Locate your edible containers and food gardens close to your kitchen for easy access.


9 Foods You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps

Are you growing an edible garden? One easy way to save money is to grow some of your plants for free. How? From leftover food scraps that are often thrown away!

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps | The Micro Gardener

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps


You may already be composting your kitchen ‘waste’. That’s a great way to build a healthy soil. However, it may save you money to be selective before throwing everything into your compost system. There are many plant parts that can help you propagate new plants. For minimal effort and no cost.

Why Should You Only Regrow Organic Food?

  • First, a word of warning! For health reasons, I suggest you select organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Too expensive? So is the cost of poor health! I think safe food is one of the best investments we can make.
  • Sadly, non-organic produce is grown using chemicals. Not just one spray either. It’s commonly a cocktail of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and other -icides. These are applied during the growth cycle and even after harvesting. These are often systemic chemicals. That means you can’t wash them off the skin.
  • The chemicals are absorbed internally into the plant tissues through soil and water. Root crops like potatoes are especially vulnerable. Other crops are genetically modified or imported and radiated.


17 Garden Goals for Your Health and Wellbeing

Do you want to improve your health and wellbeing? If you want a garden that feeds your mind, body AND soul, what should you focus on? Want to avoid repeating the same mistakes from last year? Start fresh with these easy goals!

The process of setting your garden goals each year is easy, fun and rewarding.

The process of setting your garden goals each year is easy, fun and rewarding.

A New Year is always a good time to look back, reflect and plan ahead. But you can do some planning at any time of year.

Setting goals can help you:

  • improve your health and wellbeing;
  • learn from your garden as you grow;
  • make more sustainable choices; and
  • find greater enjoyment.

Whether you’re a beginner gardener or experienced, there is always so much to learn. A garden is a great teacher! I call my garden ‘Nature’s Classroom.’ Every year there are new lessons and discoveries. I hope these goals will help YOU plan an edible garden you really enjoy.