chinese money plant in tea cup
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It’s a new year and many are reflecting on their 2019 gardening season and making resolutions for the 2020 gardening season. If you are anything like me, you started missing gardening in early November and can’t wait for temperatures to rise and strive for all those grand resolutions. When I can’t garden, I read reports from the Horticulture Industry.

One report that caught my eye, from the 2020 Garden Trends Report by the Garden Media Group, focuses on horticulture in the urban environment, particularly urban trees and parks in a response to communities’ lack of interaction with nature.

An article titled Strategically Growing the Urban Forest Will Improve Our World by Theodore Endreny, says that urban areas that are planted at the average global tree density rate, could mean 121 billion trees and every dollar spent on urban trees will return $2.25 through services like cooling buildings through shade and cleaning the air and water through filtration.

However, urban trees withstand pollution, poor soils, limited legroom for roots, and pressure from insects and disease. What’s worse, most are planted incorrectly and their health is not monitored. Many of these trees do not live to their full potential—maybe it’s their urban challenges that cause them to die young. I do predict that there will be much more research and education on caring for urban trees.

A second trend that will continue into 2020 is the houseplant craze. It is fueled by either the barrage of beautiful pictures on Instagram, or the actual health benefits of them, or both. My Instagram account has been inundated with images of the trendy Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides), Black Raven ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), variegated monsteras (Monstera deliciosa), string of hearts (Ceropegia woodii), rubber trees (Ficus elastica) in every size and color—so many succulent varieties they almost didn’t look like real plants—and my personal favorite, jungle cacti.

My own Instagram, UofIHortNerd, highlighted my night-blooming cereus cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) that bloomed for only three nights this summer (at 4 a.m. I might add) with the most exquisite and delicate downward-facing blossoms that filled the night air with fragrance. Although my post received a humble 11 likes, some houseplant Instagram accounts that I follow receive thousands of likes for a well-posed houseplant, and I want every one of them—their plants, that is!

People know that just being in a room with a beautiful plant uplifts our spirits and well-being but can they also improve the air we breathe. A study at the University of Georgia, found that tropical houseplants purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternate), Ivy (Hedera helix), wax plant (Hoya carnosa), and asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus) rated the highest in removing toxins from the air. A win-win for beauty and health.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was introduced to us in the 70s to remind us about being environmentally conscience in our daily lives. Creative repurposing for the garden is a huge trend on Pinterest. Although this has been trending for many years, it is here to stay.

There are classics like making a miniature greenhouse out of plastic bottles, cold frames out of old windows, seed trays out of egg cartons, or utilizing toilet paper rolls and newspapers. Gardeners are now repurposing sturdier, less biodegradable items like milk jugs, antique furniture, tires, and bird baths that are otherwise destined for the trash. This concept supports a gardening trend I personally love: Wabi Sabi is a Japanese appreciation of the imperfect, and finding beauty in the simple, rustic, natural world, best explained by an example: You are walking in your neighborhood and see a rusty old fence that has clematis growing on it, and the spent blooms have fallen in the moss growing under the grand oak tree and it is beautiful. Do you replace the rusty old fence, clean up the spent clematis blossoms, or try to grow grass instead of moss? Not if you adopt the concept of wabi sabi.

Gardeners are thinking about their soil. From composting to growing cover crops, gardeners are no longer under the misconception adding a little lime and tilling each year is the way to truly manage the health of the soil. A larger concept of managing soil organisms like bacteria, fungi and invertebrates are taking a bigger role in the minds of gardeners.

The University of Oklahoma runs a citizen scientist effort called What’s in Your Backyard to discover the numerous amounts of fungi and see how they can be used in the medical industry.  

The organisms living in the soil play a momentous role in maintaining a healthy soil system and productive plants. Microorganisms digest organic matter like leaves and dead root systems creating nutrients that are available to plants. A gardener’s role is to feed these organisms, so plants grow better, and the structure of soil is improved. Limiting tillage, reducing compaction, growing a diversity of plants, using mulch, cease using pesticides, and allowing decomposition of organic matter can conserve an promote these microorganisms. Visit the Landscape For Life website for more soil management tips

Cover crops add organic matter, reduce soil erosion, suppress weed, improve water quality and provide places for nesting birds. University of Illinois suggests selecting cover crops based on needs in your garden. For example, a legume cover crop such as Austrian peas or hairy vetch can fix nitrogen deficiencies, or plant grass cover crops such as winter wheat, grain rye or oats to scavenge leftover nutrients from the vegetable garden. For more information on cover crops please visit University of Minnesota Extension’s site for Cover Crops and Green Manures in Home Gardens and my colleague Chris Enroth’s take on backyard cover crops from earlier this year.