Top 10 New Gardener Questions Answered
I asked my mailing list last month, what two questions were foremost on their minds when talking about miniature gardening. The questions that came up in the survey were more than mini garden questions; they were, in fact, legitimate garden questions. With this current “green” trend heating up, there are probably a lot more people out there with the same questions. So, let me see if I can clear up some of the garden questions right now:
#1 – Right plant, right place. Plants are like people. We’re all different. Each plant has specific needs, and each plant has a specific place it likes the best, just like us. The saying, “Right plant, right place” really means to choose your plants after you’ve figured out the location, light, soil, temperature, etc. of where you want to plant.
#2 – Indoor vs. outdoor: Indoor plants are tropical plants that like to stay 60 degrees Fahrenheit, (about 15 Celsius) or above, all year ‘round. If you are in a colder climate and bring your outdoor plants inside for the winter, they will die. If you live in south Florida, and bring you plants inside for the winter, they won’t.
#3 – How fast plants grow: Plants grow. Some plants grow a lot faster than others. Look on the plant’s tag for how fast and big it will grow and choose accordingly. You don’t have to know it all – just know what you grow.
(A very good example, and a huge pet peeve of mine, is planting a miniature garden with herb starts. That Sage and Lavender that you found at the nursery sure look cute in the wee 4” pots but, they will more than quadruple in size before you are halfway through the summer.)
#4 – Water: Plants have different watering needs. Not all plants need regular water and there are some plants that need water all the time. If you travel a lot, get a succulent garden. If you like doting and putzing almost daily, grow annuals or bonsai.
#5 – How to water: How do you know if your plant needs water? Put your finger into the soil at least an inch deep and, depending upon what the plant needs, water or don’t. Water meters don’t quite work as well as your finger unfortunately and the soil does wash off easily.
#6 – How much light? When talking about “full sun,” “part sun,” “part shade,” and “shade,” this is the light that your garden/deck/porch gets, in general, throughout the year. A good example is the north side of the house, it will get full sun in high summer, but is still a full shade spot. (Note: this is for this side of the equator. ;o)
#7 – The right kind of dirt: Soil is alive and dirt is dead. And no, it’s not a sixties protest line. Soil contains lots of yummy organic matter and tiny critters in it that the plants need to live. It is genuinely “alive.” Dirt is what fills the cracks in the sidewalk. And use potting soil for your containers – soil from the garden bed will not work in a pot.
#8 – Fertilizer: Not every plant needs fertilizer. Vegetables and annuals – the plants that grow fast and just survive for the summer, need more fertilizer. All other plants, look it up or ask first. Too much fertilizer can kill. Consider manure, compost and cover crops as you get further into the idea, as great alternatives for boosting the soil in your garden bed. All pots will need fertilizer eventually.
#9 – Pruning: Not all plants need pruning. Some are to be enjoyed for a lifetime without one snip or saw cut.
#10 – Dead plants: All gardeners lose plants. Don’t be afraid to try gardening for fear of killing plants. If at first you don’t succeed, just go get another plant!
#11 – BONUS! Drainage Holes & Gravel: All outdoor pots will need a drainage hole to allow the rainwater to pass through. Without the hole, the water will rot the plants and become a big smelly mess. Unless, of course, it is a water garden. Don’t use gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage. This recently de-bunked myth actually keeps the water from draining out of the soil (it’s a water surface tension thing.) Where there are rocks there could be soil.
Good garden advice is out there, just beware of the charlatans dishing out advice on the Internet. If they are on Youtube going on about plants and there isn’t a single plant around them you should question that. If they are constantly blogging without pictures or visual examples – go find somebody else to learn from because they probably are arm-chair gardeners trying to fill up the page and regurgitating the info from somebody else.
I’ve met a great group of very talented garden professionals on Twitter and Facebook. You can checkout who I’m following, look for one in your area, and the follow them for their advice and insights. I’m at http://www.twitter.com/twogreenthumbs or http://www.facebook.com/twogreenthumbs.
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