Tips for Beginner Gardeners

croppingCall 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.

Who knew?

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!


Tips for Beginner Gardeners — 7 Comments

  1. All good tips! Research is really the best thing you can do, and it’s handy to have a friend/family member to answer basic questions. I gardened a lot with my mom, so I knew a lot of plant varieties and what care they needed, but when I moved to a new place I didn’t know much about the area and what would grow well.

    Now that I’m in an apartment, I have to limit myself to pots on the balcony and indoors. I actually wrote a blog post last month with some design ideas and benefits of indoor plants, if anyone would like to check it out:

  2. If you water during the hot and sunny part of the day, the sun reflecting in the water could end up scorching the foliage, which is probably another reason that watering later worked better for you.

  3. Great insight! There’s a brick planterbox in my front yard (I rent) that a couple things are not growing well in. It’s a few feet deep, but I’m sure it hasn’t been nourished in 10 or more years. If I start over, what should I put in the soil to get it ready and healthy to grow again?

  4. Great tips. When we rented a house, we planted succulents for our hot, dry weather. They did the best compared to delicate flowers. I learned a lot from that experience and know that someday, when I own a house, I will stick to native plants for easy care!

  5. For as many tips and research as I do, it still doesn’t work, guess you can’t be good at everything haha. I am into attempt 4 of growing a veggie garden, and the plants, well some are growing but more because they want to than thanks to a green thumb. There is still hope!

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