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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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.


6 Tips for Abundant Edible Container Gardens

Struggling to grow food successfully in pots? Would you love to have abundant container gardens? Overflowing with delicious, healthy, colourful food? Fruit and vegetables that nourish your body? Give you joy to grow, cook and eat? If you think this is in the ‘too hard basket’ read on for my tips …

Grow an abundant harvest of home grown food in edible container gardens | The Micro Gardener

This is the kind of food I love helping people learn how to grow.


A continual abundance of organic vegetables, herbs and fruits that sustain you with good health can be yours to enjoy.

When I first started planting edibles in micro gardens, I made a LOT of mistakes. I wasted so much time and money. There were plenty of ‘dried arrangements’ (dead plants!) as a result. I struggled with poor harvests. Over the years I’ve realised container gardening requires a different set of skills to growing directly in your garden.


Delicious nutritious vegies are easy to grow at home in edible container gardens

With some basic knowledge, delicious nutritious vegies are easy to grow at home in container gardens.


These are 6 key techniques you can use to maximise your harvests. Grow a continual abundance of delicious home grown organic food. Tuck in!


DIY Pallet Planter

Looking for a DIY Pallet Planter project? I’m always creating compact solutions for my garden. If you have limited time, money, space or skills you may find this easy, low-cost pallet project a simple way to make your garden functional and beautiful.

A tutorial on how to make your own vertical pallet planter

A tutorial on how to make your own vertical pallet planter


DIY Upcycled Broken Pot Ideas

What do you do with a Broken Pot?

I don’t know how these accidents happen, but I’m left to pick up the pieces (literally). I’m ‘shattered’ by the number of broken pots around this place! I hope my dilemma and discoveries will help inspire what you too can do with broken pots.

DIY Upcycled Broken Pot Ideas. Image top right: http://flic.kr/p/H5SNr | The Micro Gardener

To put you in the picture, there have been multiple casualties here lately. I’m not talking about my bruised hubby falling off the ladder – his ego not his body! … No, these accidents have happened to my precious pot collections.


Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens

Second only to sprouts, microgreens are the quickest food crop we urban gardeners can grow! If you have limited time, space or gardening skills let me introduce you to growing microgreens. You can learn how to grow microgreens – tasty, nutrient-dense ‘fast food’ – in just a few easy steps.

What are Microgreens?

With sprouts, you eat the fully germinated seed. I think of sprouts as the ‘babies’ of the plant world. A seed that bursts open with the first root and shoot(s). Whereas sprouts are seeds that germinate by being soaked and rinsed in water, microgreens are grown in soil.


6 Easy DIY Container Garden Projects

Looking for creative DIY container garden projectsMicro Gardening in containers offers you SO many benefits. If you are a beginner or need some ideas to get started, I’ve compiled these tutorials to inspire you – regardless of your space, skills or budget!

Easy DIY Container Garden Project - I change the flowers in these bright pink gumboot planters seasonally - an easy way to upcycle outgrown boots. I also plant in my adult pairs when they split. Just drill holes in the soles! I put tiny pots into the top of this pair & they sit nicely with a clay worm as garden art.

I change the flowers in these bright pink gumboot planters seasonally – an easy way to upcycle outgrown boots. I also plant in my adult pairs when they split. Just drill holes in the soles! I put tiny pots into the top of this pair & they sit nicely with a clay worm as garden art.


4 Steps to Create your DIY Container Garden


You can make a new or repurposed planter for a herb, vegetable, ornamental or flower garden in just a few easy steps: (more…)

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

Have you ever ended up with ‘dried herb arrangements’ (those that died of thirst or sunburn)? Or herbs that rotted and drowned due to waterlogged roots?  Whether you want to plant herbs in a pot, garden bed or a herb spiral, my 5 Step Guide to Planting Herbs can help you successfully choose the best position and maintain your herb garden.

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

In this article I also share key tips on where to plant herbs so they thrive. Understanding the kind of microclimate each herb prefers, can make all the difference to growing them successfully! So ‘dig in’!


Lushly planted mature herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

“The construct itself gives variable aspects and drainage, with sunny dry sites for oil-rich herbs such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, and moist or shaded sites for green foliage herbs such as mint, parsley, chives, and coriander.” – Bill Mollison



4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral

Want to make your own vertical herb spiral garden? This compact space saving design can be made with just a few basic steps.

Construction materials and methods vary. So after deciding on the best position and gathering your materials, you can have one built the same day.

Stone filled gabion walls are an elegant twist on this herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

Depending on your budget and taste, herb spirals can be made very economically or be quite elaborate like this one with stone filled gabion walls.

 * [The original link to this image (via Cara-Ornamentals) is no longer available. I have no control over this & apologise for any inconvenience but you’ll find alternative resources below.]

If you like this particular design and want to learn to make the curved wire baskets, see the end of this post for videos and wire basket suppliers for Gabion Herb Spirals. These are some basic instructions for making a gabion wall or visit BlondeMafia or Garden Drum. More instructional videos for gabions are here and here. For the tutorial steps, read on!

15 Benefits of a Herb Spiral in Your Garden

Herb Spiral Design

Do you have limited sun, space or time to garden? Want a highly productive, energy efficient way to grow food?  Then consider a herb spiral design in your garden. Creating a Herb Spiral close to your kitchen might be your perfect solution.

 The Herb Spiral design is easily accessible from all sides: to plant, water, fertilise and harvest. This large long herb spiral has a dry microclimate at the top and a moist zone at the bottom. | The Micro Gardener

The Herb Spiral design is easily accessible from all sides: to plant, water, fertilise and harvest. This large long herb spiral has a dry microclimate at the top and a moist zone at the bottom.

What is a Herb Spiral?

The Herb Spiral is a highly productive and energy efficient, vertical garden design. You can stack plants horizontally AND vertically to maximise space. It’s a practical and attractive solution for urban gardeners. A herb spiral design is typically 1.5 – 2m (5 – 6.5ft) wide in diameter at the base and rises to 1.0 – 1.3m (3.2 – 4.2ft). The centre of the spiral is at the highest point. The spiral ramp provides a planting area large enough to fit in all your common culinary herbs.