As a child, I had a strong aversion to gardening because it sounded like just another chore. Even throughout college it didn’t faze me that I hardly knew the first thing about plants. In fact, I can remember wondering to myself: Who on earth would want to be a horticulture major? And as a newlywed, I accidentally killed many of my mother-in-law’s plants when she put me in charge of them while she was vacationing. Man, that was a stressful introduction to the concept of over-watering. Who knew? I fought tears when she returned and I had to show her how wilted and dead they were, despite my devotion to the task. But the the closer I get to 40 years old, the more I’m drawn to gardening… anyone else? In talking with some of my fellow almost-40-year-old friends, I really feel like it’s a thing!
All of that said, it’s pretty ironic that I married a florist and have a mother-in-law and mom that adore their plants. They must have all rubbed off on me because now I love shopping at the local nursery, and spend at least an hour a day tending to our little flower garden. I even have dreams of having a small flower farm here on our property someday and converting space in our barn devoted to designing bouquets. And in case you’re wondering, since I haven’t mentioned it awhile, my mom and I still do our weekly project days together, but I haven’t documented it much lately because it’s hard to pull out the camera when you’re knee-deep in dirt, which is how we’ve spent most of our time together this summer.
But on to what I’ve learned!
Do you have little critters (for me, it’s the deer) wanting to eat your plants? If so, Irish Spring soap is your friend. Take a cheese grater to the soap and sprinkle the shavings around your plants. The smell of the soap will keep hungry animals away. I’ve found this approach to be a lot more effective and economical than sprays like Deer Off. Another tip is to plant things deer don’t like around the borders of your garden. For example, I have dusty miller in my flower boxes. The deer don’t like the unusual silver color or fuzzy texture of this plant, and so it deters them from the other plants that they do like in my flower boxes. That said, I’ve also learned that even if a plant is advertised as one that deer don’t like, they will eat anything if they’re in the mood or hungry enough.
Look for planter pots at second-hand stores because they can be so pricey elsewhere. They don’t even have to be pots technically made for plants because there are special drill bits you can use to drill drainage holes into the bottom of any pot that strikes your fancy. Here is a list of the type of bits you’ll want depending on what your pot is made of:
Plastic: Sharp twist bit
Metal: Ultra-durable cobalt steel bit
Unglazed Terra Cotta: Soak overnight in water then use a tile bit, a diamond grinder bit, or a Dremel tool
Glazed Terra Cotta: Diamond tipped tile bit
Thick glass: Glass and tile drill bits
Ceramics: Diamond drill bit or a masonry bit with a winged tungsten-carbide tip Hypertufa: Masonry bit
(Read more at Gardening Know How: Punching Holes In Planters: How To Make Holes For Potted Plants https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/containers/how-to-make-holes-for-potted-plants.htm)
Mulch keeps the weeds down so much. I’ve been absolutely blown away by how much it’s cut down on my time weeding. Plus, it makes your garden beds look much more put together. I personally really like black mulch because it makes my dirt look so healthy and rich.
Pinching is a way to get even more blooms out of your flowers. Not all flowering plants appreciate this so research a bit beforehand, but pinching is basically taking every third stem of your plant and cutting (aka pinching it) right above the nearest leaves on the stem. You typically do this when a plant is young and by doing so you will get so many more blooms and a much fuller plant, too. I love how the more you cut your blossoms, the more blooms you’ll have to share with your friends and family!
Dirt is everything. It’s more than worth the money and effort to make sure you’re working with good dirt. I often buy a bag of garden soil and mix it with the native soil when I’m adding something new to my garden. Honestly, you’re wasting your time and money if you are planting in poor soil.
With the exception of potted plants, a deep water every two to three days is better than watering everyday. It helps the roots grow down deeper into the ground rather than spread widely and more shallowly. But again, each plant is different, so there are some exceptions to this rule. Also, watering in the morning or evening is best, but morning is the very best time so that your roots have time to dry out before the sun sets. Wet roots hanging out over night can promote rot, fungal growth and insect problems.
Most plants, but especially geraniums, I’ve noticed, love Miracle Grow. I’ve always put geraniums in my flower boxes and I like to fertilize them with Miracle Grow. You can do this up to weekly, although I rarely have the time to do it that often. But believe me when I say they will take off–it’s called Miracle Grow for a reason, I guess!
It is imperative that you weed around the base of your plants. If not, the unwanted weeds/grass will crowd the root of your plant and steal water from it, especially when it’s young.
Most plants have many varieties, some so vast they don’t even look like they’re from the same family. For example, this summer I bought six “Bowl of Love” peonies thinking their blossoms would look like a traditional peony, but while still beautiful, their blooms looked completely different than I was expecting, which was a little frustrating and disappointing to me, so take your time researching what your particular variety looks like.
And my favorite thing of all–I discovered the most amazing expandable garden hose! It expands up to three times when it’s got water flowing through it, and when you turn off the hose, it shrinks. It’s so much easier to maneuver and put away. Seriously, probably the most life-changing thing I got for my garden this year! No more kinks or connecting multiple hoses together. This one is long, lightweight, and requires zero lugging!
And that’s a wrap for now! I’ve learned so much about gardening this year, and I’m hoping to give aspiring gardeners like myself a leg up with this post!