It is that time of year again: it is time to make My 2020 Garden Plan! I have been looking at my snow-covered garden and getting the itch to grow something, taste something fresh and make some delicious pickles, relish or salsa.
Who is with me?
This long slog from January to April in the northland really gives a gardener cabin-fever, but it is these quiet, cold nights where we come up with new ideas and our garden plans for the new season. It is also almost time to start growing those seedlings!
If you are new to gardening, you might feel overwhelmed. Maybe you want to grow everything in that shiny seed catalog! Maybe you just don’t know where to start.
For veteran gardeners, you are probably so used to growing the same stuff that you don’t think about it too much. You might be curious how other gardeners “DO IT,” and by that I mean creating a 2020 Garden Plan. You can get your mind out of the rain gutter now!
In this podcast episode and post, and I am going to talk about the following:
- Looking Back at 2019
- My 2020 Garden Plan Step 1: My Ultimate Garden List
- Step 2: Reality Check: Reducing the List
- What is Whole30?
- Step 3: Finalizing My 2020 Garden Plan (List of Vegetables and Herbs)
- Next Steps
Looking Back at 2019
As we start the long winter period from January to April, it is good to sit back, quiet your mind and think about what worked and what didn’t in the 2019 Garden Season. Last year was a ground breaking year for me in the garden, and I am VERY pleased with how it went (even though the end of the season was abrupt and too soon).
Raised Bed Gardening: 2017-2019
In case you are new to Small Scale Gardening, my wife Julie and I moved into our house in North Minneapolis in 2017. We inherited two 4’x6’ Square Foot Gardens on the southern side yard with the house. The raised beds were made of wood and had decent sun exposure from mid-morning to late afternoon, with an extra burst of sun late in the day.
While the gardens were functional and had good soil, they were rotting and infested with roots! No matter how I worked the soil, the roots would infiltrate the soil and compete with plants and herbs for water and nutrients.
I am sure some of you might be thinking, “Well, how bad could it have been?” I can assure you, the roots formed a thick, dense mat. My vegetable root systems could not penetrate the thick mat, and it stunted the growth of plants in the garden.
On top of that, the wood sides of the gardens had completely rotted. I installed chicken wire fencing to keep the rabbits out, and in the end, the chicken wire held the garden together! When I removed the chicken wire, the wood sides completely collapsed!
Wicking Bed Gardening: 2019
In 2019, Julie and I saved up the money and went about creating a new garden! We purchased two watering troughs that would be the primary Wicking Beds in this new garden. These galvanized steel troughs have a solid bottom and would not allow any root infestation. At the same time, I designed and built these Wicking Beds so they would only need to be watered 1 time per month. Yes, friends, you did hear me correctly:
I only add water those Wicking Beds 1 time per month!
I also constructed two Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow Systems as well. I first started experimenting with Rain Gutter Grow Systems in 2015, and I wrote about it here at Small Scale Gardening (see it by clicking this text). In those days, I experimented with a 3” PVC pipe, 2” net cups, landscape fabric and cheap plastic baskets from the Dollar Store. Believe it or not, this kind of planter performed very well! The very first system is currently in storage at my mom’s place, but I will be setting it up for her in 2020! I will talk more about that first Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow System in the future.
For my current Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow Systems, I am using what I called “self-watering basins.” These are essentially wood tables with sides on them. Instead of Dollar Tree baskets, I use grow bags with soil in them to grow all kinds of plants including peppers, tomatoes, green onions, herbs and a white pine tree! Again, I will be writing and talking about these systems in the very near future, especially as I prepare to grow all of these vegetables and herbs this season!
As I write this section of the post, I realize that I need to complete different posts about these items and Lessons Learned from the 2019 Garden Season!
My 2020 Garden Plan: 3 Step Garden Planning Process
Planning a garden can be a little overwhelming, especially if you have a huge garden area. To plan a garden, I followed this 3 Step Garden Planning Process:
- Step 1: Create My Ultimate Garden List
- Step 2: Reality Check
- Step 3: Finalize the List
Let’s dig into each of these steps as they relate to My 2020 Garden Plan.
Step 1: My Ultimate Garden List
As I started to work through My 2020 Garden Plan, I wanted to get more input from Julie about what we should grow in the garden. I grabbed my famous Traveling White Board, sat at the kitchen table with her and talked about what we wanted to grow in 2020. I added different vegetables and herbs to the list, and as we talked, the list grew longer. Our Ultimate Garden List (above) started to come together.
We discussed growing greens, spinach, cilantro and basil. Greens and spinach are great in the colder months, but they go to seed once the heat of summer cranks up. Cilantro does not last either, and I have harvested a lot of coriander (cilantro seeds) over the years. I love basil, but it gets downy mildew every year. I wanted to try something different to see if it did better inside than out. I will have to figure out how to grow these inside while I am growing a ton of seedlings!
As I retreated to the basement, I thought about some other plants that I would really like to try this year. Of course, to make things interesting and to keep things somewhat mobile, I wanted to try some of these plants in containers of some kind. These include strawberries (I just bought two packets of seeds), rhubarb, blackberries, blueberries, turmeric, ginger, and comfrey. I know they would grow the best by planting them in the yard, but there are space and root complications.
An example is of this is the rhubarb. While I do have rhubarb growing in the yard, it is located in a permanent shadow from the neighbor’s house. It is struggling in the shadows, and I believe it is really struggling with the underground root systems as well. The reason I say this is that my mother-in-law Barb planted these rhubarb plants from some incredible plants I had in St. Louis Park. Even though I had clay soil in my old garden there, the two rhubarb plants were producers! These clones should be doing better than they are currently, so maybe they need to move or go into containers. More research is required!
My Ultimate Garden List is pretty long compared to the garden space I have available. How do I focus our gardening efforts in 2020? I don’t have the space to grow everything!
Step 2 is the Reality Check: Reducing the List
My friend Amy Digmann at A Farmish Kind of Life talked about “The 3 Stages of Goal Setting in Homesteading” on a recent podcast episode. The first stage is brainstorming, and she credited me in calling this “the Insanity Phase.” We think about ALL the things and want to do everything. Unfortunately, we cannot. We don’t have the time, resources, and in my case, space, to grow everything.
It was time for the next step in My 2020 Garden Plan:
It was time for a reality check.
I started thinking back to 2019 and what happened. My goal in 2019 was to grow ingredients for vegetable soup. The concept was that I would grow the ingredients, make and can vegetable soup. My friend Mike Bell and I termed this as a Soup Garden, and we discussed it in a recent podcast episode.
As I look back, I realize that one important ingredient in the Soup Garden were potatoes. If you have grown potatoes, you know they eat up a lot of space in the garden (so do sweet potatoes). Potatoes pretty much choked out everything in Wicking Bed 1, and I would like to experiment with the system more with other vegetables.
Ok, so potatoes and (by default) sweet potatoes are out, but how do I reduce the list down even more?
The Soup Garden concept is a good one, and I highly recommend it to folks. It does make a lot of sense: grow what you love and what you eat (especially if you can make it into soup and can it)! Without potatoes, are you even making Vegetable Soup?
Fortunately, Julie and I are working on establishing healthy habits and an overall healthy lifestyle, and we are working on the Whole30 Challenge right now. This gave me an idea for this year’s garden!
What is the Whole30 Challenge?
You might be wondering what the Whole30 Challenge is. That is a valid question because up to a couple months ago, I had no clue. To answer the question, I went to the Whole30 website which said the following:
“The Whole30 is designed to change your life in 30 days—but it’s not a diet, a detox, or a weight loss program. Think of it as a short-term reset, created to help you curb your cravings and bad habits, boost your metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and calm your immune system.
For a full 30 days, you’ll completely eliminate the foods that the scientific literature and our clinical experience have deemed the most commonly problematic in one of four areas—your cravings, metabolism, digestion, and immune system. During the elimination period, you’ll experience what life is like without these commonly problematic triggers while paying careful attention to improvements in energy, sleep, digestion, mood, cravings, focus, anxiety, self-confidence, chronic pain or fatigue, athletic performance and recovery, and any number of other symptoms or medical conditions. This elimination period will leave you with a new “normal”—a healthy baseline where, in all likelihood, you will look, feel, and live better than you ever imagined you could.
At the end of the 30 days, you then carefully and systematically reintroduce those foods you’ve been missing, again paying attention to any changes in your health, habits, or mindset.”
You can read the rules for this Whole30 Challenge here. Basically, you are eliminating sugar (real or artificial), beans, rice, processed foods, dairy and alcohol for 30 days. You are essentially deprogramming and resetting for 30 days, and at the end of 30 days, you can add some of these things back into your diet to see how your body reacts (if you wish). Otherwise, you can continue onwards with this new Whole30 lifestyle and live happily ever after!
So what can you eat?
You can eat a ton of vegetables! As Julie and I stacked our grocery cart full of fruits, vegetables and herbs this weekend, I just kept thinking: I can GROW all of this stuff in my garden.
Why not grow a garden in 2020 with the Whole30 lifestyle in mind? I don’t think it has been done before, so why not?
Interestingly, potatoes and sweet potatoes are on the Whole30 approved list, actually, but we won’t be growing them in 2020.
Step 3: Finalizing My 2020 Garden Plan (List of Vegetables and Herbs)
Enough of the background discussions, it’s time to get into the important stuff: what vegetables and herbs made the list?
Here is the final list for My 2020 Garden Plan:
Wicking Beds 1 and 2
- Multicolored Carrots
- Sugar Snap Peas (early season only)
- Zucchini (Zephyr Variety)
Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow System 1 – 16 Grow Bags
- Sweet Peppers
- Chili Peppers
- Banana Peppers
- Bell Peppers
- Jalapeno Peppers
NEW Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow System 2 – 12 Grow Bags
- San Marzano Tomatoes
- Opalka Roma Tomatoes
- Black Cherry Tomato Plant
Patio Herb Garden
Indoor Wicking Beds
This is quite the extensive list, to be sure! I know it is ambitious, and there are only a few things that dropped off the list. I might refine this list as I start growing seedlings this winter and spring, of course.
Where do we go after finishing My 2020 Garden Plan? What are the next steps?
Like many gardeners, I literally have a bucket full of seeds. It is time to go through the seeds I have in my bucket and take an inventory of what I have and what I need this year. I know I need some seeds for a few things on the list including the multicolored carrots and the Zephyr Zucchini (from Johnny’s Seeds). I will go ahead and buy a couple packets of these for this season.
I have saved seeds from a variety of my plants, and I can’t wait to plant them! I have seeds for the tomatoes, peppers and sugar snap peas. I will have to check to see what else I have on hand.
As we conclude My 2020 Garden Plan, it is great to have a good idea what I am growing this year. It is always fun to think about what is possible and narrow it down from there. Working with other family members and thinking about what worked and what didn’t in the garden really does help narrow the list of ALL the things. Finally tying your garden to other lifestyle efforts/habits will help you in both worlds: in your gardening efforts and in your healthy lifestyle.
Make sense? Did you see what I did there?
Stay tuned to Small Scale Gardening to see how this season goes. Stay tuned to Small Scale Life to see how the Whole30 Challenge, our Health and Fitness Renew You Part 2, goes.
Good luck, and let’s learn, do and grow together!
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