Call me naïve, but when we first bought our home in 2012, I thought that all I needed to know about gardening is that I needed to water my plants and make sure the weeds don’t get overgrown.
Even though my family home growing up was abundant with gardens, my mom was an avid gardener who really only involved me in weeding and watering, so I never really grasped how much you need to know about keeping your garden healthy until we moved into our home.
We have many different plants, shrubs, bushes and trees because the family who owned it in the 1990s owned a garden center down the road. I learned this from a neighbour who was telling us all about the history of the owners of our house. There are tropical species and many local species; flowers, ferns and cedars. We have many perennials that bloom at different times. I quickly realized, as I witnessed the health of my beautiful garden deteriorate, that I needed to know a bit more about gardening lest I kill all of the plants around me. So in my research, by talking to other gardeners and home owners and some good old fashioned Google searching, I picked up some great tips and general knowledge. The gardens look so much better now.
Here’s what I’d suggest you do if you are a beginner gardener and don’t know where to start:
Different Plants Need Different Care
Some plants need more water than others, some are sensitive to the environment, and they all do well in specific climates with specific sun/shade balances. Some grow better when they are cut back, pruned, or “dead headed”, and some don’t. Finding out what plants are in your garden is key; if you don’t know already, try Googling the plant’s characteristics to find out what it is so that you can care for it properly.
If Plants Exist, Research
I already touched on this, but I had no idea what any of the plants were in my garden. Because I didn’t know, I couldn’t take care of them properly. If you can’t find the plant through a Google search, ask a neighbour or consult on Twitter to see if anybody can identify it. If you still can’t figure it out, take a photo of the plant and bring it to a local garden center. They should have no problem letting you know what it is.
If No Plants Exist, Watch What You Plant
We went to a garden center to pick out some perennials for some planters that were previously empty. I prefer perennials because then I don’t have to plant every single year, and I can enjoy them forever! I found some cool looking grasses and flowering plants, and had them all in my cart, but then I realized a sign on the aisle that indicated that they were “shade loving perennials”. Had I walked out of there with a cart-full of shade lovers, they all would have suffered in the 16 hours/day sunshine that the planters I had meant them for. I had to completely change direction.
I also have always wanted lavender in my garden, but realized after looking into it that I couldn’t plant any because it does best in hot, dry areas; I live in a warm, but very wet area and we don’t really have any covered garden space to keep the plant reasonably dry. I learned a lot of lessons that day!
Water When the Sun Goes Down
We had this plant that was doing reasonably well in our garden. It must be native to our area, because we weren’t really taking care of it. When the summer came and it started drying out, I began to water it. I’d water in the afternoon at around 4. I noticed the plant start to look pretty sad and asked one of my co-workers, who loves to garden, why that might be. We were brainstorming what I’ve been doing differently and she suggested that because I was watering at the high of the day when the sunshine is blazing hot, it was essentially “frying” the plant, because water attracts heat and sun. The water is more likely to evaporate right out of the soil, as well, when it’s sunny and hot out, and it won’t reach the root.
I began watering the plant at around 8, when the sun went behind a mountain, and the plant sprang back.
Gardening can be a fun and rewarding activity, but it’s really discouraging to see your garden take a turn for the worse. Learning a bit about it will help you realize that there’s more to keeping plants alive than just water!