20 Best Garden Tips from 2020, part 2

This is a continuation of the earlier post on what we’ve learned in 2020. Here are 10 more garden tips from our top 20 garden tips from 2020. Read more great information, inspiration and garden techniques in every issue of Northern Gardener.

  1. Garden design rules. By Design columnist Diane McGann reviewed several rules for garden design in the September/October and November/December issues. Her conclusion: Rules rule! Following a few guides, such as creating enclosure and having a regulating line, help gardeners create more pleasing designs. The rules actually enhance creativity, she says.

    white crocus flower

    Crocus are a lovely alternative to Siberian squill.

  2. Siberian squill might be invasive. I’ve long been a fan of this tiny, early bulb, but it may be invasive (it does like to spread!) and that’s why Kathy Purdy recommended northern gardeners consider alternatives for early-blooming bulbs in her article in the January/February 2020 issue.
  3. Fall is the best time to plan next year’s garden. In our September/October issue Gail Hudson urged gardeners to use the late days of fall to plan next year’s garden. Take photos to see where you need to take things out or add something — ask yourself, is this plant thriving or just surviving?
  4. Raise a planting area if you have poor drainage. Lee Reich’s informative article on drainage problems in the July/August 2020 issue included this practical advice: if your water table is high, raise the planting area. While using drain tile will also correct a high water table, adding a raised bed or just raising the planting area with extra soil will keep roots high, dry and healthy.

    bee on blue globe thistle flower

    Bees love bluish flowers, including globe thistle.

  5. Bees like blue, butterflies orange. In a fascinating column on pollination syndromes, Rhonda Fleming Hayes talks about the color preferences of bees, butterflies and moths. Bees prefer white, yellow and blue flowers—which certainly explains why my bluish-purple agastache is constantly covered with bees. Butterflies like bright reds and purples, moths prefer paler reds and purples as well as white. “Flies like dull purple and brown, the colors of rotting meat,” Rhonda notes. To each their own!
  6. Process horseradish outside. If you love the bite of horseradish with your beef, consider growing your own. As Jennifer Rensenbrink noted in her article in our May/June issue, horseradish is a very easy root vegetable to grow. But when you process the roots for winter storage, you MUST (like must, we are not kidding, you must) do it outside. The gas released when horseradish is grated is similar to tear gas!
  7. The Rule of 26. Remember Diane McGann’s columns on garden rules? Here’s one I had not heard of, the rule of 26 for steps. When installing stairs, you will have a comfortable walking area if twice the height of the riser plus the tread equals 26. So if you have a riser of 6 inches, the tread should be 14 inches [(2×6)+14=26].
  8. Understand your app. Mary Kay Hass helped readers understand how plant identification apps work, and provided some great garden tips on using the apps well. Most apps use a combination of artificial intelligence and information from users. They are not perfect, so start using one by asking it to identify plants you already know. That will give you a sense of its efficiency. Another great tip: Don’t send a fuzzy photo!
  9. Fewer varieties are better in boulevards. In her wonderful article on dos and don’ts for planting a prairie on your boulevard, Jennifer Rensenbrink offered many hard-earned lessons. One of the most important is to choose fewer varieties of plants to create a more pleasing experience of the boulevard garden. Too many varieties can look like a hodge-podge rather than intentional garden space.
  10. With creeping Charlie, consider a truce. In a wonderful column in our May/June issue, horticulturist Laura Schwarz discussed her developing relationship with one of Minnesota’s most persistent weeds—creeping Charlie. Since the weed was coming from her neighbor’s yard and controlling it would be difficult, she opted to keep it out of her garden beds and look the other way on the stuff in her lawn. A very calm approach to 2020!

I’m looking forward to all the great articles and garden information planned for 2021.


  1. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening on January 2, 2021 at 2:56 am

    Thank you for including me!

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