Oleh: I have a friend Lisa who decided to become a cool gardener. Sure, why not? I asked if she needs some help and she said she’s fine. So I was quite skeptical. She is a great interior designer, but she never did gardening. On the other hand, she is quite a determined person, so I wanted to see what will happen. After several months she told me that it was the last time she did something so unpredictable, so she’d better get back to designing. I was curious where did all of Lisa’s enthusiasm go, so I asked what happened. And it turned out that almost all her greens and flowers died. All symptoms she described sounded familiar, so I asked for details. It appeared she made several basic mistakes most of the beginners do. So I thought to myself – why don’t I describe some tips for the beginner in writing considering that I made the same mistakes in the past as well. It could help others to avoid beginner’s mistakes. I saw some similar posts already on the internet, but I want to share my real experience which is a little bit different so I would be able to bring my own value to it. That’s how this blog started. I asked for help with the blog from my other friend Maksym, and it appeared that he spends a lot of time with plants as well. So this post is our first “written baby.”
Be prepared that some plants will die especially at the beginning. Start it simple
Lisa wanted to have exotic plants in her garden so her neighbors would be envious. She spent a small fortune on seeds and weeds, and they didn’t grow as expected. Her plan was so amazing, but the results were upsetting.
We start planting because we want to have a beautiful garden. And often in our imagination, we can see different plants mixed together by combining colors and textures. Especially after walking through Pinterest boards with beautiful compositions. STOP! You can’t imagine what a nightmare it can be to grow such a beauty with a lot of different plants in one place. Store those images in your own board not to forget the final goal for the future. And choose a simple combination of several plants only for a first season. During your gardening journey from beginner to expert, you will have a lot of adventures while losing some plants and trying to heal them. Thus you will gain experience which will lead you to success. The simpler your gardening idea is – the biggest chance of success you have. Same as driving a car, one should first learn the rules, acquire basic skills, and only after that, start driving in public places. With gardening, it’s even more complicated, because even after several years of experience you continuously face new, unexpected issues and spend days or weeks to figure out a solution.
Discover your zone
You may have noticed that plants in savannah differ from greenery in a rainforest. The reason for that is because of the drastic climate difference. To describe each region we use plant hardiness zone criteria as the main characteristic. Additionally, we should consider the annual amount of precipitation. Those criteria should be applied while choosing plants. Because there is no place where all types of plants will grow easily. The environment will be a determinative factor if a plant will survive or die.
Choose plants easy to grow and right for region and soil
You already know about hardiness zones. You should use this knowledge while choosing plans that you want to see in your place. So whenever you see some beautiful flower or another plant – check required zone right away. Also, there is one important thing to consider while creating your gardening plan – how hard it is to care about each specific herb or tree. For instance to grow green onions all you need to do is to put onion bulb into a glass with water. But to grow bamboo to a bush size, you should spend years without having assured result. Here are some tips on what to pay your attention to:
- How easy it is to seed and get first leaves;
- How much light and moisture it requires daily. Isn’t it too sensitive to those influencers?
- Does it require special soil conditions;
- Does it require special care like mechanical support, spraying, old leaves periodical cutting etc;
- How much should you wait till you receive expected appearance;
- How should you handle it in winter?
Know your soil
It doesn’t mean: “Yeah, I know, it’s black and smells cool after rain.” Your soil should be rich on microelements. And what doesn’t work or works badly is the approach, “let’s put generic fertilizer.” Such a mistake is common not for beginners only.
Plants in your garden use “building material” to produce leaves, flowers, and fruits. Those are minerals, water, oxygen, and sun energy. Soil fertility differs from place to place and could be measured by the amount of each vital mineral, ability to keep moisture and elasticity. Some of those characteristics could be changed, and others are too expensive to fix. To check your soil for minerals and PH, you could send samples to a lab or do it by yourself with one of the gardening kits applicable for gardening beginners and for experts. Read the article about our bad experience without knowing our soil properly.
Improve your soil
Follow the sun
Not literally but some plants enjoy sunbathing, and some will struggle if they receive too much sun. Just note the spots on your garden/yard where the sun stays most of the time and spots that are mostly shadowed. Most of the edible plants like vegetables, fruits and some herbs will be thankful to receive at least 5-6 hours of sun. And trust us they will pay you back with tasty and juicy presents. And a lot of plants would like semi-shadow or shadow. Please read carefully about each plant you want to grow and decide the best place in your garden.
Know plants calendar and method of seeding
Each plant comes from a specific region and vegetation process rely on a climate of that region. That means that some plants need 3-4 months from seeds to harvest while others should start seeding early spring, and till the autumn, we probably should see some expected results. That means that in some cases we can seed some plants directly to bed in mid-summer. But others we should seed into a container to receive seedlings before acceptable outdoor temperature establishes. Also, some seeds are too small or gentle and need special care for successful germination.
Proper plants spacing
Hopefully, you have a big garden otherwise you have to plan carefully what to plant and where. Pumpkins and melons will require much more space than strawberries. Also be careful with neighbors your plants have. For example, not only girls on a date will hate garlic and onion smell same will beans not be able to handle the company of these two. Tomatoes are not best friends with potatoes and cabbage (because of insects vulnerability) should stay away from strawberry.
Watering with an individual approach
Hey, did we mention that post is about obvious tips for a gardening beginner? Sure, if your soil is like stone and plants look like herbs in a witch hut, you should immediately water your plants. But some plants require more water and others like cacti or most of the succulents will die if they receive too much of it. So know how thirsty your plants are. That information you can get them from plant description. Also, bear in mind, spots that are under sunlight most of the time will need extra water. And one more thing (who could think that there is so much about watering) water early in the morning or in the evening to reduce moisture loss through evaporation.
Maksym: my wife uses a really simple method to check if watering is needed – she just touches the soil under the leaves if it’s dry or not. But I found the really good watering approach in a budget^.
Why? First of all, because it looks beautiful. Second and more importantly is because it doesn’t give weeds space to grow. You don’t want to have your garden look like wildlife and find there after some time a lama eating your grass. And the most important reason is that having soil covered with mulch protects it from sun and heat so moisture will persist longer.
Label and organize, make a calendar what to do and when
In a fantasy world, we throw a seed into the soil, and it soars next day. Sadly to admit – it doesn’t work like that. Between seeding and harvesting or enjoying a look, we wait for months till that happens. If we have more than one species, it becomes complicated to track growth, fertilization, watering and so on. Imagine you have three different basils, and you seed one near the other. After 2 months you will forget the names of those. To reproduce only one basil you liked next time would be complicated to recall what the name of it. Not to get trapped you should organize the process. First of all – don’t throw away seeds packaging. You will find some useful information, and it’s easier to track what you have in beds. Also, it’s useful to prepare labels for each plant and put it in beds near that plant. One more important thing is to write records to notepad about events. For instance, time of seeding and temperature that day, time of fertilization and so on. Why do you need this? To make corrections next season and to have better results even earlier.
Oleh: -: Sorry Maksym, but regarding the notepad, I have little DOUBTS. Oh, they appeared to be not that little 🙂 Really, who would do that?
Maksym: If someone, as I am, likes to have everything organized and to have clear algorithms for improvements – keeping a calendar with notes is priceless. Because the next year you will want to improve something remembering that last year wasn’t the best result. And only carefully filled calendar will bring you detailed information what was done a year ago. Based on that, you could generate some ideas for improvement.
Track the growing process
Same as with kids, plants growth is hard to notice if you don’t track their growing progress. And imagine how proud you would be if you know that just yesterday your little tomato was 3 inches height and now it is 4. Also especially at the beginning, it’s useful to track if your plants are doing ok or they are starting to lose their healthy view. To do this, you should be prepared upfront. Otherwise one day you’ll wonder if these are real changes or your imagination is just playing with you. In one of our articles you can find great and simple tools and ideas on how to measure and track a progress (printable ruler, calendar with notes, color measurement tool)