Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardening Tips

I was born with a green thumb thanks to my two gardening parents.  My dad is the flower, tree, landscaping gardener, while my mom is the vegetable gardener all the way!  I grew up picking flowers to make bouquets for friends and family, eating cherry tomatoes off the vine, and being sent to the garden to gather lettuce, zucchini  green beans, snow peas, tomatoes and the list goes on.  Gardens are beautiful, but they take a loving and hardworking hard to make them that way.  Now that I live on my own, I too have my own miniature gardens.  I've been asked in the past to share some tips for those of you who have never gardened before or have had bad luck in the past.

vegetable garden

{Plan}
Envision your garden...a garden that is realistic given your schedule and resources...then plan it out.  Depending on your outdoor space, you may only be able to have herbs while others may be able to have 5 tomato plants, 5 pepper plants, herbs, watermelon, zucchini, etc.  No garden is too big or too small as long as you can care for it.  

{Know the Sunlight Recommended}
This is vital.  Some plants thrive on shade while others need full sunlight (6-8 hours of direct sunlight).  Most vegetables need full sunlight.  That alone will limit where your garden will thrive.  Flowers, trees, bushes, etc. vary in regards to sunlight.  

{Common Reasons Plants Wilt or Die}
Most plants die for the following reasons: 
1. A lack of water - if the leaves are dry, it's a good sign that the plant needs more water.  You many be watering your plants daily, but if you are doing it when the sun is high, the plants are absorbing less water.  Always water early morning or evening so the ground can absorb the water.  I've found that replenishing soil after watering helps to maintain moisture in the ground as well.  
2. Too much water - if the earth is never drying up, the plant is mushy (water-logged), ease up on the watering.  
3. Root Suffocation - This is when the roots of the plant do not have enough space or nutrients in the ground.  Plants often die when they are in a pot that is too small for their root structure.  If you buy a tomato plant in a large pot, I recommend transplanting it to a large pot or planting it in the ground.  Tomato roots are supposed to have a few feet to grow.  If you purchase a plant or seeds, there will be instructions on the proper distance to leave between plants. Abide by the rules. 
4. Bugs - Different regions have different bugs.  I wish I could help you, but I've noticed that different bugs attacked my roots in PA, VA and CA...  It all depends on what you are planting and where you live.  

{When To Seed & Plant}
This is a general rule of thumb, but each region has a different No Frost date. This website is a good resource to determine your regions "No Frost" date. 
I usually wait and buy most of my plants in May because I never know when to start my seeds indoors. This handy little chart lets you know when to start seeds indoors as well as when to plant outdoors.

I'm not big on seeding because I don't have the resources at the moment.  If I had a sunny window or the room for a greenhouse, I'd seed my brains out, but sadly, I have a very shaded house and I'm lacking the funds for a greenhouse.  With that, I tend to tromp over to Home Depot and pick the healthiest looking plants for my garden in mid to late April and then again in late May.  I like to plant in waves so that my veggies and herbs last longer.  

{Essential Gardening Items}
Gloves - I am a huge fan of wearing gloves so that I can get down and dirty.  Gardening is not a clean hobby.  I get muddy and I love it.  When I plant, the soil is always wet.  I let the hose run for 15 minutes or so while I dig and plant.  When you transplant plants, watering the soil heavily is vital. 
Fertilizer - I mix my soil with fertilizer because I don't trust that I have rich soil.  If you compost then use that as your fertilizer for sure!  I have a mini compost pile that I turn a few times a year.  There are a ton of worms in it, so you know it's good!  The more worms, the better!  
Shovel - Turn your soil before you plant and after your garden has retired for the year.
Time - Gardens take time on a daily basis.  It's an escape for me.  I talk to me veggies as they grow, adore picking basil and tomatoes for a margarita pizza, yell at bugs for invading, and eat the cherry tomatoes before coming inside.  I only grow cherry tomatoes so I can eat them off the vine.   

{Keeping Deer & Rabbits Out}
I've heard of several old wives tales to keep pests from eating your garden such as planting marigolds and sprinkling the dirt from your vacuum because it smells like human, but the one that works the best is a fence. I am not one to use pesticides because I do eat straight from the vine and I think using chemicals is contradictory to growing your own vegetables.  

{Tricks}
I grow chives from chives.  I buy them at the grocery store, use the stalks and put the bulbs in a jar with a little later on a windowsill.  Before you know it, the bulbs will start sprouting.  Walla, you have chives.  I hear you can do this with several other plants, but I've never done it.  Pinterest is a great source is nifty tricks.  
At the first frost of the season, pick all of your unripe veggies, put them in a brown paper bag and put them on a windowsill in direct sunlight until they ripen; it works for me. 

I realize that this post focused mainly on vegetables, but if you are interested in reading about flowers and decorative plants, please let me know and I will write a post about them.

Much love & Happy Gardening! It's really peaceful and quite rewarding!

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