Do you have a green thumb?
I don’t, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy gardening. In fact, I’ve always had my own garden that made me very proud, but I’ve never been good at keeping a little house plant alive, let alone keeping a garden thriving. Growing up, my grandmother and mother both instilled in me a love of flowers. Lucky for me, I’m living with a landscaper who shares that same passion – only he’s actually good at making a garden look amazing. While we assembled our own gardens this weekend, I picked his brain on some gardening best practices to help any amateur gardener polish their green thumb. Here are his tips for knowing what to plant, where to plant it and how to keep it happy.
Planning Your Garden
1. Determine the location you plan to garden. Keep in mind that the marjority of “pretty” flowers prefer a sunny location. A shady area requires different plants that grow better out of direct sunlight. Don’t put shade plants in the sun and vice versa.
2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by trying to maintain too large a space. On the other hand, make sure the area is sizable enough to hold the plants you want.
Purchasing Your Flowers
3. Once you’ve determined your location, you’ll want to select plants that will fit within the space you’re limited to. This means you need to read the tag to know the growth habits of the plants you want to get. You may love a Rose of Sharon – a flowering shrub that blooms in late summer – but keep in mind that it may look small now but it will grow to be six or seven feet tall in a few short years.
4. Perennials are great because once they are planted they come back every year. However, a perennial’s bloom time is only three to four weeks. For the most robust garden, you’re best bet is to mix in patches of annuals which bloom continually all season. So even though they need to be planted every year, the benefit of an annual is the lasting color.
5. Buy an odd number of each species of plants. Generally, groups of three or five of the same plant together look better than an even number of the same plant, or one by itself – it’s visually more appealing and natural-looking.
Planting Your Garden
6. Healthy plants are limited by the quality of the soil. As a general rule, dark soil is more nutrient rich. You can enrich any soil with Peat Moss and cow manure; just mix both into your soil with a shovel. Chicken manure and compost will also add nutrients back into the soil that the plants will take up.
7. Keep taller and bigger plants to the back of the bed, medium heights in the middle and small items in the front, for obvious reasons: you’ll want to see it all grow. When spacing out your flowers, remember to leave enough space for growth.
8. Don’t burry plants too deep; the bark around the stem will rot away and kill the plant if it is buried. Only bury the roots to the level of the top of the soil around them. Remember this saying, “Too high never die; too low never grow.”
9. It’s recommended to put mulch down over a new planting which will help prevent weed growth and moisture loss in the soil. Plus it always looks cleaner than exposed soil. With that said, you don’t want to put the mulch too high up around the stem of the plant or it will create the same problem as referenced in the last step. In other words, make sure you don’t choke the plant.
10. Water regularly, especially when the plants are new and haven’t established their roots. Try to make it a habit to water your gardens on days that it doesn’t rain. Missing a day isn’t the end of the world, but two or three days of 90 degree temperatures without water can stress the plants.