My thumb was not always green. In fact, it seemed as though I merely had to look at a plant to make it wilt and wither. Over the years, however, gardening became easier. In fact, I eventually found work as a professional gardener! If you are discouraged in spite of your best efforts, I can honestly tell you that through patience, persistence, and passion, you, too, can acquire a green thumb!
That said, over the years I’ve received a lot of great tips about gardening. It fascinates me that even when putting those tips into practice, some things just seem to resonate better for other people. For example, one year my cucumbers were spindly, but my neighbor was canning pickles. There will always be a little luck involved, no matter what.
There seem to be a few gardening tips, however, that really do work in most circumstances.
First and foremost, start small. I know how tempting it is to walk into a nursery and want to buy every plant and seed in the store! If you set aside one small patch of your yard, or even just use containers like flowerpots, you know you can’t go too crazy.
Next, think about the quality of your soil, or planting medium. We use composted horse manure, peat moss and either Perlite or Vermiculite mixed together. Near one corner of the garden, we have a regular compost area. The compost is added to the soil throughout the season, particularly after each harvest. If you are truly starting from scratch, you may want to purchase a commercial organic potting mix. Just ask a knowledgeable employee at the nursery.
Water – gently, steadily, and often – especially in the summer heat.
Keep those weeds pulled out as much as possible.
I know, that was probably stating the obvious. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people complain that they can’t grow anything, but they “never” water! Or equally important, they “never” pull weeds!
Planting certain plants together can often bring good results. I had a grapevine that looked like it was dying, only to plant some hyssop near it, and now the grapevine has lots of green leaves! Allium (onions or garlic) are good companions for a lot of plants, like the cabbage family plants, potatoes, and beans. They also are good companions for roses. I plant chives near my roses and the roses thank me for it every year. The chives produce a beautiful purple flower in early spring, followed by the glorious rose show thereafter. For more in-depth information, read Louise Riotte’s “Carrots Love Tomatoes,” available HERE, and “Roses Love Garlic,” available HERE.
NO NEED FOR SPRAYS
We don’t use chemicals. When we have stubborn weeds, we might pour white vinegar or boiling water on them, which makes for easier removal. One must take care not to douse any nearby “good” plants in the process.
Fear not! Don’t be afraid to try planting something in your garden. What is the worst that could happen? It won’t grow? “If at first you don’t succeed…..” Just make notes about it so you can refer back the following year(s).
Talking to other gardeners is one of the best ways to obtain information. You can read every book on the subject, but local neighbors will have the inside scoop for your area. If you can get hold of your local Cooperative Extension, that is most excellent as well.
Plant seeds as much as possible. As you gain confidence, the seeds you plant can be seeds that you have saved from your own plants. Venture out and exchange seeds with others. Look online for a local seed exchange near you.
Exchange plants with other gardeners. I had to thin some Lilacs, Roses, and Lilies. My friend took them happily. In return, she gave me starts of Lamb’s Ears and Rose Campion.
Think Creatively to Save Money
Ask for manure from a local farmer, or, if you raise animals, you have that covered in spades! Pun intended 😉
Look in your local classified ads or other online community source for things like hay for your compost, or for use as mulch. Some people have old barns full of hay that they would gladly give away for free, as long as you haul it away yourself. Sometimes towns will pile wood chips free for the taking.
Keep trying until something clicks. I have had severe challenges with tomatoes for YEARS! Then one year, FINALLY, I had salsa and spaghetti sauce coming out of my ears! I read A LOT about them, talked to my gardener friend who grows great tomatoes, and there you have it. Here is a peek at some of my previous years’ cherry tomatoes. Those little yellow and white flowers are chamomile:
And to drive the point home, DON’T GIVE UP! Because even if some things don’t grow as you’d hoped, you are still outside, breathing fresh air, and getting exercise! Those things by themselves make gardening a healthy and worthwhile pursuit.
At the end of the day, pour yourself a favorite beverage, like iced tea, lemonade, or, perhaps, wine? Sit outside in a comfy spot. Look around. Breathe. Enjoy being in nature. Share the moment with someone special….or not. Maybe you just want to be blissfully alone. Whatever your preference, it is times like these that help put everything into perspective.
Having said that, let’s hope that the snow will melt and not return for a few months. Basil is in my window, lavender plants are on the porch, half-frozen! I’m nearly ready to dig in the dirt! How about you? And look at your thumb. I’ll bet it’s greener already!
PIN IT FOR LATER