06 Gardening Trends to Watch and Try in 2021
As we head into 2021, green, local and indigenous are still the buzzwords in the garden this year. We’re forming stronger ties with Mother Earth and looking beyond ornamental, thinking: “Sure, it’s pretty, but can I eat it?” Forward-thinking gardeners are ripping up the green concrete—their lawn—and planting front yard veggie patches and hedges of corn, even in the heart of the busiest cities or most lawn-obsessed suburbs.
Backyards have become havens for the birds and the bees with fruit trees and native species while chicken coops and even aquaponics are blending form and function. It seems as though everyone—not just folks with land—is feeling that pull: urban tower-dwellers just need to plant up, growing vertical gardens in containers, on rooftops, and in windowsills.
1. Straw Bale Gardening
Strawbale gardening is taking container gardening to new heights of green. This is where gardeners use bales of straw—not hay, there is a huge difference, hay is full of hayseeds—as a container for planting everything from flowers to saplings to veggies. We love this for a number of reasons: it’s fully compostable, it raises the garden up, which is great for our knees and backs, it’s neat and tidy and doesn’t require hauling bags and bags of soil, and it lets those with poor, toxic or hard, rocky soil garden. What’s not to love?
2. Water Conservation
It’s becoming clear: water is finite, and gardeners—a group of folks well aquatinted with the life and death realities of water—are at the forefront of its conservation. Who among us hasn’t watched our precious tomatoes wilting under a scorching, relentless sun and seriously considered doing a rain dance? Gardeners are taking action by putting in rain barrels, diverting downspouts, investigating cisterns—an ancient idea whose time may just be coming again—grey water capture and aquaponics.
For the uninitiated, aquaponics is a self-contained system of growing edible plants in trays filled with clay beads instead of soil. Water is circulated from containers below, where fish or shrimp are raised. The plants provide oxygen and filtration for the critters, the critters provide fertilizer for the plants. You feed the critters, and if the critters are tasty, you can even harvest them—salad greens on top, perch on the bottom! Now if we could only get that old man next door to stop watering his driveway!
3. Urban Homesteading, Guerrilla Gardening, Foraging, and Harvesting a Wild Bounty
The 100-mile diet is so 2021! Now we’re talking about the 100-meter diet. From backyard hens in urban backyards to beekeeping on swish downtown hotel rooftops to foraging for feral fruit in city parks and ravines. It’s about food security, self-sufficiency, and not letting perfectly good fruit or arable land go to waste.
All across Canada in cities and small towns, folks are banding together, fanning out to harvest apples from long-forgotten trees or descending en masse onto a deserted plot of soil, and planting–for beauty and food. As a nation of gardeners, we’re taking responsibility for the health and well-being of the pollinators—bees, bugs, bats, and birds—eschewing chemicals, creating habitat, hanging up bat and birdhouses, and setting up beehives.
4. Extreme Green
At the root of most trends are the desire to be as green as possible, in cities, suburbs, and countries. Water conservation is just part of it.
Other aspects include composting—outside or inside with worms (vermicomposting), choosing native and drought-resistant species, and creating wildlife habitats rather than highly manicured, ornamental gardens. We’re re-purposing, whether it’s captured greywater or used wine barrels and we’re looking to nature and the old ways for answers where modern science has either failed or made matters worse.
Many garden centers and mail order companies sell bags of ladybugs, nematodes, and even praying mantises for pest control. Furthermore, green, natural fertilizers—made from fishmeal or livestock manure or by-products—are much easier to find now.
5. Gardening in Small and High Places
As cities become more densely packed and urban sprawl is finally being recognized as a squandering of arable land, high-rise living is going to be a way of life for more and more Canadians. Tower-dwellers are looking to container and vertical gardening to keep those ties to Mother Earth strong, and often this is being addressed by the builders and architects, with green roofs and living walls built right into the plans.
On balconies, tomato plants flourish and fruit upside down in plastic bags or pots. With enough sun exposure and access to the indoors in winter, even exotic tropicals are bearing fruit: oranges and figs. Living roofs are so much more than a few pots dotted about the terrace: the whole roof is alive with soil, mosses, and groundcovers.
They’re beautiful and provide natural insulation against the heat and cold. Living walls are calming and all those breathing plants clean the air of impurities and produce lots of fresh, clean oxygen.
6. Winter Interest
In this land of ours, where winter drives gardeners indoors for up to eight months of the year, we’re looking more and more to plants, shrubs, and trees that provide winter interest. Tall prairie grasses that poke out of the snow, shrubs dotted red, white, or orange with berries. These are a visual feast for our eyes and an actual feast for hungry wintering birds.
Evergreens are fantastic for providing color, shelter, and privacy in winter: a stand of cedars next to the house will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and give our winter backyard critters a place to call home.