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getting started with gardening

31 Aug

I believe in holistic, wholesome experiences, and I am quite weary of artificial or commercial products. Based on that, I realized, it is time for me to learn gardening. I am the kind of person who is supposed to have a “black thumb”; I’ve killed almost every plant I ever received. So, I started small, and am trying bit-by-bit to ramp-up.

Here are some tips that helped me get started.

Pick hardy plants

Each geographical area in the US is assigned an agricultural zone. Find your agricultural zone. You can try this site for starters . Based on this, you can narrow-down the plants that will grow well with little care in your area. Local nurseries or master gardener groups can also help identify low-maintenance plants.

Saplings vs Seeds

I liked to start with bringing little plants, or saplings. That way, I can see the plants thrive, or not. And if they die, most sellers provide a replacement for free. With seeds, it was hard to know if some birds or insects ate them up, if they were sprouting or not, and, sometimes, I couldn’t tell if the sprouts were of the intended seed or some weeds :-p Yeah, I’m really a beginner!

Bring them in early in the day

Little plants were living in a different environment, and moving them into a new home can be stressful for them. (Who knew!) Apparently, it’s like bringing foster kids home. They are tender and shy, and don’t know what to expect. Bringing them into their new environment works best earlier in the day. It gives them time to adjust before they “sleep” at night.

Allow time to adjust

I bought some tiny strawberry plants with strawberries already on them. Once the “crop” was picked, they seemed to stop flowering, even though it was still their fruit-bearing season. A friend advised to wait ¬†a year or two, because they need time to adjust. I stayed patient with them. Slowly, they started to flower, but with no fruits. Last week, I actually got some tiny strawberries! The whole process has lasted about 3 months, so I guess I lucked-out. This is the end of their fruit-bearing season, so I hope to get big strawberries in the next season.

Learn some plant language

Like pets, plants speak a different language. Learn to observe when they are asking for more/less water. They often die due to over-watering by zealous new gardeners. So, wait till the leaves begin to wilt/droop a little, (but not so much that they start to turn yellow/brown). Then, water them as gently as you can.

No splashing, and no watering with a strong stream of water, as it will spray mud all around, and valuable nutrients will be lost. Slow “drip-watering” is ideal.

Stop watering before water starts running out the bottom (if in a pot). That water is also carrying valuable nutrients with it.

“Poke” the soil occasionally, preferably just before watering, to aerate the soil, and for better absorption of water. Be gentle, to avoid damaging the roots.

Let sleeping plants lie

However tempting it might be, try to let plants sleep at night, and minimize poking and prodding at night. I even try to avoid watering them at night.

They’re not dead until they’re really dead

I had a fragrant Jasmine plant in a pot, which died due to extreme heat in my garden. I figured it was dead, and stopped watering it. I was also too lazy to uproot it or throw it out. My Dad visited after almost a year, and revived the plant! He trimmed all the dried, “crunchy” leaves and vines. And, he showed me the little speck of green still alive right at the bottom, near the roots. He watered it and moved it into a bit more shady area, and now the plant is thriving!

Be fearless!

Try-out different techniques and experiments. Use search engines generously to look-up care for the particular plants you have. Post pictures on social media accounts or gardening forums, and you will be surprised at the wealth of customized information you will be able to get. And if you kill a few, that’s ok. You can just start over.