So you want to try your hand at gardening and literally have no earthly clue how to go about it? Well, this article is for all of you brave souls.
Step 1: Choose a Gardening Type
Decide what kind of gardening you would like to attempt. Be it flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables or house plants and do a bit of a library search or google search on your dream plant.
Trust me on this…it could save you a bit of a surprise like for instance if you thought you had to plant a seed for each round little brussel sprout. I had devoted a 15 foot section…imagine my dismay when I saw all of the little brussel sprouts growing up all of the stalks planted in that row for a family of two at the time. It has taken me until now to like them again.
Step 2: Light & Moisture
Note the light and moisture requirements of your potential new plant. Now look at what you’ve got and be honest about it.
This actually should be the first step but it’s not near as exciting as picking out a plant you like.
If you for example have a lawn of moss and are surrounded by lush trees you may possibly want to rethink your xeriscaping plans.
The right plant in the right place is an age old saying that is pretty much all you need to remember about steps 1 and 2.
In conversation, you will often hear gardeners or garden centre staff talking about exposure. This is simply a fancy word describing how much sunlight a plant needs to thrive.
Full Sun - usually describes a plant that likes at least 6-8 hours or more direct sunlight per day
Part Sun / Part Shade - while their are subtle variations, typically a plant described this way likes at least 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. Some will tolerate more, some a little less.
Shade - describes plants that prefer less than 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Note that their is a difference between bright, indirectly lit areas and those that get direct sun.
Darkness - describes an area that you shouldn't plant in ... :)
Step 3: Drainage
Unless you are planting water plants or rushes, you will need good drainage.
Not many plants like to sit in water so whether you are planting an indoor plant into a pretty pot or a tree in your backyard you will need good drainage.
If planting into a pot, make sure there are holes in it and then make sure you have a little drip tray with pebbles in it to catch the water so it doesn’t go all over your new stereo the first time you water your little plant ( I speak from experience) and don’t for the love of Pete avoid putting the holes in your little pot because then you will eventually have the bottom 2 inches filled with water that smells a bit like sewage and a dead plant.
If you are planting in the ground, fill your planting hole up with water and see how long it takes to drain out. If it takes longer than 20 min, then you need to raise up the planting bed.
If you dig a hole and find solid clay, do not fill with good soil and then plant your plant. You are making a soil filled swimming pool for your plant. They don’t like that much.
Raise up the planting bed. What’s this you say? It simply means make sure there is no grass under the plant. Don’t dig a hole. Fill the area around your new plant (generally 2-3 feet out around the plant) with new soil.
Step:4 – The Dirt, or more correctly ... Soil
It is the food for your plant as generally, aside from some of the carnivorous plants (yes they were cool until they ate some of my Mason Bees), they don’t catch their food but instead absorb it from the soil.
Give your plant the food it needs. Specific plants like specific soils. Blueberry plants, Rhodos and Ferns for example like an acidic loamy soil…kind of like the peaty soil in the forest, so don’t surround them with heavy, chalky, mushroom manure. Instead, you can feed that soil to your roses.
So if you don’t skip step 1, you’ll know what kind of soil to add to your planting beds, and generally you do have to add soil or compost to your planting beds to make them all fluffy and easy to work.
Ok that is not the technical reason - but its good enough for now.
Step:5 - Planting Depth
If you buy a plant in a pot or in a ball and want to plant it, make sure the top of the soil that was in the original pot or top of the rootball that was in the burlap can be seen on top of the ground.
Don’t add soil and bury that plant so deep that the new level is more than 4” up the stem…unless you are planting tomatoes or clematis, but we can talk about that another time.
You can even watch a video of how to plant a tree on our website. With bulbs its generally 3 times the height of the bulb. With seeds generally the smaller the seed, the shallower the hole. They’ll tell you how deep on the package too.
Step:6 – Water
All plants, even air plants, need water in varying degrees. Find out how much they like to drink and be consistent. Plants will let you know when they are in trouble. Their leaves will yellow and fall off. This could mean over or under watering.
Get dirty, stick your finger in the soil to determine the moisture content and adjust accordingly. Some plants like ferns like to be misted. Some plants like larger pebble trays underneath their drip trays with water. The pebbles increase the surface area and the water evaporates off of them increasing the humidity.
When describing watering preferences, you will often hear gardeners use the term 'moist, but well drained'. In other words, don't drown the plant, but water regularly. Likewise, don't let the plant dry out either. The amount of water a plant needs also depends on the soil. Sandy soils allow water to pass through quickly - water these more often. Heavy silty or clay soils will need less frequent watering as they hold onto the water longer.
These are some starter tips. Don’t be afraid. If you make a mistake, well that means you are a true gardener…there is not one of us gardeners who hasn’t made a million already and then we compost our mistake and start over J.