2019 Review: 11 Garden Lessons I Learned

Garden Lessons

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Each year, at the end of the gardening season, I look at my successes and failures. I look at the garden lessons that I learned, and this year is no different. My garden was better than ever, but I did find things this year that worked and things I need to change for 2020.

Gardening is a never-ending learning experience, and it never goes totally according to plan.

An example?

I planted several varieties of cucumbers this year, and NONE OF THEM GREW! I don’t think they received enough sunlight in the area I selected.

Lesson learned. Give my poor cucumbers more sunlight or I won’t have any home-canned pickles for the year.

Here are some more garden lessons that I learned in 2019 and how I will apply it to my 2020 gardening season.

11 Garden Lessons I Learned in 2019

son in the middle of gardening arches

1. Weed Daily for a Few Minutes

I might love to garden, but I don’t enjoy weeding. It feels like a never-ending task, and who has the time to weed for 2-3 hours?

Not me, and I’m assuming not you either.

The trick that I learned this year is to weed daily. Typically, I check my garden at least once a day. I need to make sure I don’t need to water, harvest anything that needs to be picked, or just observing the beauty.

So, I learned to weed daily. I picked a garden bed or just an area to pick weeds. I only took 10-15 minutes per day, typically when my kids were napping and I had a few moments to breathe.

For the first time ever, weeding wasn’t a horrible task.

2. Add More Flowers and Herbs with my Veggies

For years, I kept my vegetable garden strictly for veggies, and my herbs were in a separate area. This year, I decided to incorporate more flowers and herbs with my veggies.

It’s called companion planting, and it’s honestly something I never gave much of a thought.

Boy, I missed out!

Adding flowers to your veggie garden not only increases the beauty, but it also encourages more pollinators to visit. Certain herbs, such as mint, are aromatic and deter pests from visiting. Mint smells wonderful to humans but horrid to insects.

In 2020, each of my garden beds will have flowers and herbs. I plan to look up the right herbs and flowers to go along with the vegetables in the beds, taking even more advantage of companion planting.

3. Arches Are Fantastic for Beans and Peas

Gardening Arches

I used trellis before, but this year, I felt inspired and built metal arches from cattle panels and metal T-posts. The project was simple, and it turns out that arches are a stroke of gardening genius.

It only cost me less than $40 to create an arch, and they’re movable. We do hope to move in 2020, and we can take our arches wherever we go.

This was, by far, the most successful year for our peas and beans.

4. Use Succession Planting for Bush Beans

For my green beans, I use bush beans. The pole beans that I grow I use for dried beans. Bush beans are prolific and produce large quantities of beans at one time.

That can be problematic. You end up with dozens of pounds of green beans that need to be preserved ASAP.

Personally, I find that overwhelming.

So, I use succession planting and plant new beans every week or every other two weeks. I stop 60 days before my estimated first frost date.

Doing this gives me more beans than if I planted everything at one time and makes preservation a whole lot easier!

5. Ground Cherries Get Huge!

Garden Lessons Ground Cherries

Never heard of ground cherries? You are truly missing out on a gem. They’re in the tomato family, but they’re a fruit. Ground cherries taste like a mix between tomatoes and pineapples.

They’re unique, to say the least. You can make delicious ground cherry jam with them.

The first year that I grew ground cherries, I planted them in containers. In 2019, I added them to a garden bed.

Holy moly is all that I have to say!

These plants took over 3/4 of my garden bed. I have no idea what happened. Ground cherry plants are massive!

So, note to myself for 2020, either dedicate an entire garden bed to ground cherries or stick to growing them in containers.

6. Mulch The Heck Out of My Beds

Grass Clippings

If you don’t already mulch your vegetable gardens, 2020 is the time to start – seriously.

Here’s the deal:

We typically just associate mulching with flower beds or landscaping, but organic mulch is invaluable for veggie gardening.

Are you wondering what in the world is organic mulch?

Organic mulch is anything that is going to decompose over time. So, think things like:

  • shredded leaves
  • grass clippings
  • straw
  • compost

Adding organic mulch to your garden has several benefits. You really don’t want to miss out. A few reasons you NEED to mulch include:

  • You don’t have to weed as often. Mulch suppresses weeds, so hello new best friend!
  • Mulch helps to regulate soil temperature. So, it stays warmer in the spring and cooler in the summer.
  • Mulching garden beds help to retain moisture in the soil, so you don’t have to water as often. Heck yes.

That’s just a few of the reasons why you need to mulch this year in 2020.

7. Stake Tomatoes Immediately

Stake Tomatoes

I always just stake tomatoes when they start to get too big, but this year, that became a problem. I forgot to stake them, and then my plants started to lean over. The next thing I knew, my tomato plants were touching the ground.

Talk about bad news bears.

So, this next gardening season, I’m going to stake as soon as I plant them. Then, I use gardening Velcro tape to keep the tomatoes connected to the stakes.

By the way, this gardening Velcro tape seriously is a godsend. I suggest that you give it a try!

8. Prune Tomatoes But Not Too Much

Pruning your tomatoes is a good practice. Remove branches that are too low on the stem and might touch the soil. You should remove suckers that take the energy from the plants that should be devoted to producing fruits.

Take it from me; you can prune TOO much.

That’s why I did this ear. I got a little too happy while pruning, and my harvest suffered because of it.

9. Estimated Frost Dates are Often Wrong

For years, I planted based on the USDA estimated frost dates.

Guess what?

They’ve been wrong in my area for the last several years, and that’s led to other garden lessons like paying attention to the weather in my area.

I typically didn’t put out warm-season plants until the middle of May, but the rest of my gardening friends followed the forecast and set them out at the beginning of May. I missed out on two or more weeks of growing time, which is indispensable for plants.

In 2020, I’m going to start my plants earlier than I have before. If I worry about frosts, I can use row protectors or blankets to defend my plants in the nights.

10. Focus More on Spring Gardening

Summer gardening is my primary focus, and I spent a lot of time devoted to fall gardening. This year, I want to focus more on spring gardening. There is a lot more I could grow if I started earlier and used season extenders.

I want to be sure to start my carrots, beets, radishes, and greens earlier in the season. I need to put out my cabbages and other brassicas sooner rather than later.

I’m wasting time that I could use to grow more food for my family.

11. Start Fall Plants Earlier

One garden lesson that I learned in 2019 is I’m not starting my fall plants at the right time. I tend to wait until July, but if I want fall cabbage plants, I really need to start my seeds in June.

Using These Garden Lessons in 2020

I love to learn, which might be why I decided to homeschool my kids. Half of the time, I learn beside them.

Gardening is always a life lesson. Whether I’m learning how to grow new crops (like popcorn this year!) or giving a new season extender a try, each season is something new for me.

These are my garden lessons for 2019. What did you learn in 2019 that you want to change in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

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