Best 20 Garden Tips from 2020, part 1

6 issues of Northern Gardener magazineThe end of the year is a great time for reflection about what’s ahead and what we learned during the season. In 2020, despite all its challenges and upheaval, each of the six issues of Northern Gardener contained advice, inspiration and information that cold-climate gardeners could put to use immediately. In this post and the next, we offer the 20 top garden tips from Northern Gardener in 2020.

  1. Go green and plant bareroot plants. In her article on gardening more sustainably in our January/February issue, Gail Brown Hudson suggests buying plants such as rhubarb, asparagus, roses, trees and shrubs as bare-roots. Planting bare-roots requires a wider hole, but is easy and plants tend to do just as well or better than those planted from plastic pots. Plus, no pot to recycle or toss.
  2. Install garden covers in fall. In Meg Cowden’s article in our January/February issue on getting an early start with seed sowing in the vegetable garden, she advocated preparing the soil in some beds and installing hoop frames outdoors before the ground freezes. The hoops can be covered with polyfilm later in the winter to allow the soil to warm, the snow to melt and the ground to be ready for early transplanting.

    orange impatiens in green pot

    Beacon impatiens (photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural)

  3. New impatiens varieties resist downy mildew! Plant to Pick columnist Debbie Lonnee introduced us to two new series of impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew: the Beacon impatiens and Imara XDR impatiens. I tested the Beacons in a damp spot in my garden — they looked great into October! If you love impatiens, try one of these new varieties.
  4. You can start plants in a window! While grow lights are the recommended way for starting seeds indoors in winter, you can start plants in a window, according to columnist Eric Johnson, writing in our March/April issue. Seedlings will need to be rotated and the process may take longer, but it will work, if you have a window that gets six hours of direct sun.
  5. If you care about pollinators, plant goldenrod and aster. Pollinators columnist Rhonda Fleming Hayes pointed out the importance of these two late-season perennials in creating a habitat that welcomes bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife by providing autumn food. Another of our favorite garden tips from that column  .. .
  6. Goldenrod is not making you sneeze. If you have fall allergies, blame ragweed not goldenrod for your sniffles.
  7. Colchicums are the coolest bulbs. Kathy Purdy is a colchicum enthusiast and she wants other northern gardeners to join her in planting these unusual and wonderful bulbs. Colchicums produce foliage in spring, which then dies back. Come September, they send up sweet crocus-like flowers. A joy for end of season gardeners! Her article was in the September/October issue.
  8. You can update a cement patio with paint! Who knew? Eric Johnson had a tired, slightly pitted cement patio. Rather than go through the expense of replacing it, he used concrete resurfacer to give it a completely new look. The resurfacer is not hard to apply and you can add color (Eric used a sleek slate gray) to create a new look.

    golden hakonechola Aureola

    Nothing brightens a space like gold foliage. This is ‘Aureola’ hakone grass. (Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens Inc.

  9. Nothing brightens a garden like gold foliage. In her article on using gold flowers and foliage in your garden in our July/August issue, Michelle Mero Riedel notes how gold foliage makes a garden sparkle. Three plants she recommends: ‘Aureola’ hakone grass, ‘Goldflame’ spirea, and ‘Illumination’ periwinkle.
  10. Take a stroll. Here’s one of our favorite garden tips. Joie Lee, whose gorgeous Duluth garden was profiled in the November/December issue by Kelsey Roseth, says a slow walk through the garden each day or so will help you see what it needs. We love another tip from Joie: weeding is better with music!

For 10 more tips on gardening from our 2020 issues, check out this post.






  1. […] 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 […]

  2. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening on January 2, 2021 at 2:57 am

    Thank you for including me!

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