Friday, August 24, 2012

Five Things I've Learned About Gardening

  I've always loved digging in the dirt for as long as I can remember. When I lived in Southern California I used to go out in the evening  and dig in the dirt.
I can remember the warm brown dirt in my hands and thinking how I love the feel of it!
I don't quite have a love affair with the dirt I currently have. The thick red clay dirt  we have has a lot of rocks and is hard to garden in.

The first thing I've learned about gardening is that having good dirt is so important, otherwise, nothing is going to grow. One of the first things you MUST do when you start a garden is to assess your soil and amend it as needed. What you need to amend the soil with will depend on what type of soil you have.

The second thing I've learned about gardening is that you need a good book or two to help you along. You can't do this yourself.
Get a great book for your area. When I was in SoCal, Sunset had the best books. Here in the South, it's The Southern Living Garden Book.

I studied Southern Living's gardening book when I was planning my flower garden more than 10 years ago.
For vegetable gardening, I recommend The Self Sufficient gardener. There are a bunch more, and it's helpful to have more than one book.

The third thing I've learned about gardening is to make a plan for your whole garden even if you aren't going to plant your garden all at once. If you're doing it yourself, start small. Take a small section of your yard and fill it in with plants that will do well in that location. That's how we did our yard. First we did the front beds closest to the house, then the side yard, etc. It took several years to do our whole landscaped garden, but it was an enjoyable process.
I made this landscape plan myself when we first moved in.

The fourth thing I've learned about gardening is to plant shrubs and flowers that grow well in your part of the country. Also, if a plant calls for full sun, then don't plant it in the shade and if it likes shade, don't plant it in the sun. Sounds simple enough! Following this rule will make your life so much easier.

The fifth thing I've learned about gardening is no matter how well you plan, amend and water, some plants just won't make it. Or, you'll plant two plants that are exactly the same, and plant them at the same time, and one will do well and the other will be tiny. I've  planted 5 of the exact same shrub, prepared the soil the exact same way and watered them the same amount, only to have one of them keel over after a year. Don't blame yourself if this happens, just go get another plant to fill in. That's just the way it is.
Two zucchini plants, planted the same way, the same day, with the same soil prep. The one on the left is large and the one on the right is so small you can barely see it.

There are so many other lessons I've learned about gardening in my more than two decades of digging in the dirt, but I still consider myself a novice. There is so much more to learn!

Fall is the best time to plant a landscape in our area because plants and shrubs don't have enough time for roots to establish before Summer if planted in the Spring. So if you live in an area with a hot summer, now's the time to quickly plan out what you want to plant in the Fall. It will be here before you know it!

Don't know about you, but I'm glad that the HOT weather has passed and is a little bit cooler. I've started planting some things for our Fall veggie garden. So far I've planted snap peas, lettuce, radishes and carrots. Everything has popped up and started to grow. I will also plant some broccoli and try some potatoes. This will be my first Fall garden and I'm excited that my seeds have already started to sprout!
Anyone else planting a Fall veggie garden?
Any tips?



  1. Wonderful words of wisdom Pam and gorgeous photos.

    Our gardens will need a complete overhaul after this drought. If the house doesn't sell by the end of the contract, we've decided to keep the house and do some of the things we have on a list. One of those things is garden improvement, which now will be garden repair!

  2. I'm not much of a planned gardener, I just pop stuff in and cross my fingers. I still have a lot to learn. I'm not that into it so I look for low maintenance things that will spread and fill in the spaces. My mom is the true green thumb with the gorgeous gardens.


  3. Great post, Pam! Very informative. I agree with you on having the books. Although we can get so much information on the internet, it's always nice to have the books for reference...I gobble them up and have a big collection.

    You garden always looks so definitely have the green thumb!


  4. Just found your blog recently and I love it! I am a happy new follower.

    I just moved from LA to Boston, and I miss my garden SO MUCH. I was a total newbie at it last year, but ended up with some beautiful tomatoes, broccoli, herbs, and lettuce.

    Out here, I don't have a garden, but I do have a porch with a bunch of pots. :) Any tips on what can be planted in pots in the fall? Are herbs my best bet or do I have any chance with veggies? Any advice you had would be awesome!

  5. Great post Pam. Your landscape plan is impressive. I read garden books all the time. I cannot say I am much of a planner but I do acquire some of those facts.

  6. Great tips Pam! Your gardens always look AMAZING!!

  7. I am jealous! My thumb is black but that up is ok because I can look at your beautiful pictures!!

  8. Good tips Pam! We had great soil in California and Utah and clay, clay, clay in Oregon. I completely agree that the soil is the #1 thing to get right.

    I'm not ready for cooler weather, but I think it's coming. :) I did buy mums today to put in the pots on my driveway, as my summer blooms in those are looking a little tired.

    Good luck with your garden this fall. I'm eager to hear how your harvest is.

    Have a great weekend.

  9. I'm still glad you never sold your house! You guys have done a wonderful job on it! I loved it the first time I saw it! That's all good advice! You've learned well!

  10. Great tips, Pam! I think a plan is wonderful and you can always add or change each year. We try to add an inspiration plant each year!


  11. Great tips Pam...I'm so impressed with your landscape plan! We just built a house and are pretty much starting from scratch and its overwhelming at times.

  12. Wonderful tips! We did our yard in stages too. Congrats on better temps!! We're still hot hot hot!

  13. Thanks for the tips.Wish i have time for gardening, it is the best therapy.

  14. I learn a lot from this Pam. I don't have a green thumb but I manage to have my own garden in our backyard. I will always consider these tips. Thank you!

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