Starting a garden can be a little overwhelming because there’s so much to learn and plan for! But don’t panic, I’m here for you! I’ve consulted with the best gardener I know, my Grandpa Jim, and he shared some lifelong secrets that will definitely help any aspiring gardener out there! Although these gardening techniques will give you a great head start, just know that gardening is a year-by-year learning process. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and find out what works best for your garden!
1. Get your soil tested.
This might seem unnecessary, but you definitely need to get your soil tested. Find out its pH, mineral, and bacteria values. This information will help you figure out how to best tend to your garden. And remember, soil varies depending on where you live, which makes it especially important to get your soil tested! You can purchase a soil testing kit online, or you can test it yourself.
If you want to test your soil yourself, start by adding half a cup of water to your soil sample, and then add half a cup of vinegar. If you see your soil start to bubble, then you know it has an alkaline pH value.
2. Know when and how to water.
Watering your plants is not as simple as dumping leftover drinking cups onto your plants! Each flower and plant has its own unique water needs, so do your research and find out how much water they actually need.
The worst thing you can do is flood your plants and drown them. Also, if you live in dry areas, try getting into the habit of watering your plants in the early morning hours, so they have water to help sustain them throughout the warm day.
3. Plant your seeds depending on the sunlight.
Again, all plants are different. Some need direct sunlight, while others will perish in direct sunlight. Keep your plant’s health in mind and research what they need! Remember, if a plant gets limited sunlight, then its photosynthesis process slows down, and the plant will start to stretch upward in search of sunlight. Notice these signals of needed sunlight, and be good to your plants!
4. Wear down the weeds.
If you want to keep a healthy garden, you have to get rid of the weeds! They’re like cockroaches, always coming back! To keep the weeds at bay, you can use wheat straw (and a lot of it). Or, you can use a yard cloth to layer over the weeds and prevent sunlight from streaming through to them.
5. Keep a journal and track your plants’ growth.
The best thing you can do for your plants, is to be cognizant of them. Some plants need specific watering patterns early on, and then they require less as they mature. Some plants need certain nutrients, while others thrive only on sunlight. With so much going on, it’s important for you to keep a journal on the progress of your plants. Record their growth, their watering patterns, and their needs. The best part about this technique, is you can look back and reflect on past plant progress when it comes time to try something new!
6. Use the good pests to your advantage.
While the moles and gophers will cause some serious damage to your garden, don’t give up hope on all animals just yet. There are plenty of amazing critters that can perform a sort of “quid pro quo” with your garden! Some positive pests to be on the lookout for are lizards, frogs, and ladybugs! These lovely creatures will keep the bad pests out (like the dreaded aphids) and in return, they’ll gain some delicious nutrients from your garden! It’s a win, win!
7. Steer clear of pesticides.
I think we’ve all seen enough lawsuits against Monsanto’s Roundup to know that pesticides are a bad idea. Need I remind you of the cancer concerns?!? So please, for a variety of safety reasons, just don’t even go there!
8. Know where you live plays a factor in what you can grow.
You can’t just assume every plant you buy is going to flourish! Gardening truly depends on where you live and what season you begin. Think about the climate you live in, the amount of sun your area receives, and the types of plants that grow in your area. For example, sunny San Diego provides a great environment for nightshades, tomatoes, and lemon trees. So before you even take a trip to your local nursery, do your research!
9. Get comfy with compost.
Compost can make or break your garden, so go ahead and get comfy with compost! You can use potting soil, but really try and use compost. For one, it has a variety of great nutrients your plants will love! And, compost helps your soil absorb and retain moisture, which means less watering (and more conserving)! In addition, compost also protects your plants from diseases and bad pests!
Also, feel free to also try worm castings and fungus as other potential nutrient sources for your plants.
10. Be ready to adjust your techniques as time goes on.
Like most things in life, time changes everything, so be prepared to adjust to your garden’s needs. In the beginning, your plant might require more water. But then, say 3 months later or as the seasons go on, your plant will become established and require less water.
Another thing to keep in mind, is if your plants are year-long or seasonal. For example, pumpkins sprout once a year, and you have to time it just right to get those vibrant, orange giants for Halloween time. On the other hand, the Tiny Buttons Stonecrop is a year-long plant that can thrive even in the winter months. The bottom line is, be aware and ready to adjust your techniques according to your plants!
Did any of these gardening techniques help your flowers grow? If you are an experienced gardener, share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below!
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