Learning to garden can quickly go from hobby to obsession. If you get really good at it, it can be a business. No matter what you learn, you will always have ways to learn more. Connect with gardeners who grow what you love to eat or the flowers you adore to learn more each season.
Start With Soil
Fertilizers can grow great plants for one season. Healthy soil can grow amazing plants for years to come. If possible, keep an eye out for nitrogen-fixing plants that you can use to boost soil quality. For example, you can plant annual buckwheat or clover in your garden before winter.
Monitor Water Tolerance
When reviewing what you want to grow, keep an eye on your annual average rainfall by month. If you want to grow your own onions or garlic, you may want to put them in pots with a deep gravel base to start. Bulb plants don’t like wet feet. If you love tomatoes, you may need to add water during the ripening phase.
When laying out your garden, make sure you are in a spot with strong sun for at least 6 hours each day. Most vegetables are annual plants. If you want fruit, you will need plenty of sunlight each day. If you plan to dig over the winter, tracking where the moonlight falls in the winter should give you a decent idea of where the sun will fall.
If you’re planning a new garden space, keep an eye on
- where the shade from deciduous trees will fall
- where water pools after it rains hard
- what wind risks your new plants will face
For example, if you have a new house and some outbuildings, there may be a wind tunnel space that will be hard on taller plants. A simple fence may be necessary until they’re established.
If you love peonies, daffodils, and tulips, be aware that these plants need to freeze over the winter to bloom in the spring. For those who live where it doesn’t freeze, you may need to ice these plants down over the winter. That doesn’t mean you can’t have peonies in southern Texas. It just means a bit more work. You may well be happier with native plants.
Many flowers and most veggies are annuals. If you get hybridized seeds, be aware that next year’s crop may be completely different if you let the plants go to seed. For those interested in growing heirloom seed products, finding a seed-sharing exchange can be a good choice. These folks can not only help you set up gardens that can reseed themselves, but you can get great information from other gardeners about what plant works where.
Perennials and Larger Plants
Study the history of the region you now live in. What trees were native before the neighborhood was developed? Were there fruit trees that were native to the region?
Carefully consider the age of the trees currently in your yard and your neighborhood. We have all heard of the tragedy of the American Elm. No small part of the damage done to 90% of the trees in many neighborhoods was that they were actually 90% of the trees in the neighborhood.
If you want an accent tree that can also provide shade, get one and keep an eye out for pest damage.
If you want to put in perennial flowers or shrubs, go for a walk on a local walking trail to see what is thriving, what is attractive, and what may be taking over. In many regions, blackberries are a lovely addition to the landscape. In the Seattle area, they are an invasive pest.
Never Stop Learning
The lessons of sustainable gardening are becoming easier to find. If you can’t safely connect with other gardeners due to challenging world conditions, take some gardening classes online.
Gardeners are a friendly bunch of folks; spending time each week with your fingers in the dirt is good for your spirit. If you’re stuck indoors during the cold winter months, online classes can help you make your garden lists.
Gardening requires experimentation and can be a new lesson each year. To build up your knowledge and skills, keep a journal and take a class or two. When you can get out, ask questions of other gardeners to increase your knowledge.