Answers to your gardening questions
effective Deer Fence!
Like To Be A Good Gardener? (Aug.
Welcome through Fred’s
Garden Gate! We'd all like to be good gardeners...right? I
mean...it's an admirable goal...right? There's a lot more to
gardening, however, than throwing a few plants and a little
fertilizer in the ground. There are some crucial
secrets—"keys," if you will—to unlocking the entrance
to that coveted good-gardener goal. Follow along as I tick off a few
of those keys to successful gardening.
1. Develop an attitude! Learn a lesson from an old Mieneke Muffler TV commercial that proclaimed, "I'm not going to pay a lot for this muffler!" It was still the same person; still the same price; still the same muffler product that it had always been...but note the attitude: strong, determined. And it must've been an effective commercial because it ran a long time.
Likewise, a good gardener says, "I'm not starting this so I can look back on my failures?" "I'm not going to live in a weed patch!" "I'm going to be the best darned gardener I can be!" "I'm not going to contaminate my (our) environment!" "I'm not going to waste valuable resources!" And just as important, "I'm not going to pay a lot for this garden!"
But: Be ready for a set-back now and then. We live in an imperfect world and mistakes inevitably happen. The trick: be a "come-back artist" who's determined to succeed. Keep an eye on your goal. And remain positive, upbeat...lean forward!
2. Select a purpose! There isn't likely to be any lasting success in the garden if the gardener lacks a definite goal. Would you take off on a long trip without first deciding where you where you were going? Probably not. Decide what you want and what you expect to get out of your garden. Food? Then grow the best and the healthiest possible. Flowers? Then determine to have the very best and most beautiful. A showcase garden? The envy of the neighborhood? Then strive to make yours the very best it can be. Absolute perfection? That's a bit trickier.
3. Build an intellectual foundation! That means not only gathering information but putting it to use. Educate yourself. Read every book, scour every magazine; subscribe to a good gardening newsletter; send for every free catalog; pick up every "how-to-do-it" sheet or brochure; come home with armloads of literature from your University Extension Service; sign up for every short course; join and become active in your local garden club; ask questions of successful gardeners and "pros" like nursery people, landscapers and garden writers; get a soil test done so you'll know what you already have; and take notes of everything garden-related. Spend some time on the Internet—but be careful what you accept as truth because the World-Wide-Web is awash in misinformation. Spend most of that online time at University and Cooperative Extension sites. That's where most of the reliable and authenticated information can be found. But, most important, put what you've learned to good and effective use...into action.
4. Devise a system that works for you. First, organize your materials. I know from experience that boxes full of catalogs or a whole library of gardening or horticultural books and other literature won't do anyone a speck of good unless they're put to use. And they can't be used effectively unless they're in some reasonable order—perhaps even catalogued and cross-indexed. It might be a simple matter of some three-by-five cards, filed by date, alphabetically or by subject matter. It doesn't matter which, as long as it works for you. Create a system that puts useful information right at your fingertips. Most of mine, for example, is on the computer, and the magazines and other literature are arranged in the bookcase by date. Some frequently accessed data gleaned from magazines and other publications—such as insects and their control, managing plant diseases, pictorial representations of plant nutritional deficiencies—I've scanned or photocopied and placed into individual binders on the subject.
Second, organize your time. Most gardeners I know are fairly accomplished procrastinators. Me, too. It's a constant battle because there are always so many other things to do. But that's not the way to get things done in the garden. The trick: prioritize. Sort out the important from what's not. Then line 'em up and begin knocking 'em down one after the other until all the tasks of the day or week, month or year, are accomplished. What's important in gardening? You decide. Weeds? Bugs? Weeds? Deadheading? Weeds? Composting? Feeding? Staking and tying? Weeds? How about a complete assortment of catalogs? Is that important to you? What about attending garden club presentations or short courses and seminars?
The point: You'll probably want to take yourself through a complete reality check. Are you willing to spend the amount of time it'll take to have a real knockout garden? You may find it necessary to make some minor adjustments. TV. Sunday afternoon drives in the country. Iced tea by the pool. It's your decision.
Here's a trick to make it stick: Make a commitment and get it on paper. Map out your season well ahead of time. Break it down into a schedule of jobs by the month, week and, if it works for you, by the day. What really matters is that it gets done. So stick with it.
5. Avoid mistakes! Remember the old line, "Look before you leap?" The above four points, effectively implemented, will go a long way toward keeping the disasters and set-backs to a minimum. But there's more. Stop and seriously consider the consequences of what you're about to do. "Should I really be fertilizing this much?" "Is it really necessary to spray the entire yard just because I saw a little patch of this or that bug?" Wouldn't all these leaves be better off in the compost pile rather than going up in smoke?" "Is the plant that I'm about to spend a bundle on hardy where I live?" "How is what I'm about to do or plant going to impact my neighbor?" Carefully and thoughtfully consider the possible consequences of every step taken in your new gardening pastime or career.
6. Share your experiences. Another old saying goes something like "One of the greatest bargains in life is the second-hand experience of others." What joy is there in having a head full of gardening knowledge and expertise that isn't freely shared with other struggling or budding gardeners? Are you especially adept in one particular area of gardening? Then go out and find someone who needs help in that area. Be active in the club. Volunteer at the Extension. Write an article for your local paper. Grab the chance to teach a group of youngsters how to plant a seed, or take a cutting, or build a compost pile. And then watch excitement build into confidence, and enjoy all those rewarding smiles!
7. Have some fun in the process! Helping others is fun, for sure, but there are other ways of truly enjoying yourself while gardening. If you have the patience, consider hybridizing. Imagine the thrill of seeing the first brand-new flower burst open on a warm summer morning—never before seen by anyone but you. What about unusual or comical topiary. Carefully sculptured plants in the shape of...well, anything. An elephant; an urn; perhaps even a wheelbarrow; or a hat. That'll bring a smile to any gardener's face. Guaranteed!
Lighten up! Smile and whistle while you work. Count butterflies. Enjoy squirrels chattering in the trees. Just being in the garden, soaking up the fresh air, the fragrances, the satisfaction of being part of creation, and sharing with passers-by while watching healthy plants flourish as a result of your efforts is reward a-plenty!
So, whaddaya think? Seven easy steps to becoming—and being—a good gardener. Growing (pun intended) numbers of folks just like us are applying rules just like these. And they're enjoying healthier, better planned and organized...and more beautiful gardens.
All this—and a lot more—can be found in Fred's free downloadable gardening book: "Keys to the Garden Gate"
|Find your State and County Cooperative Extension Office||Which Maine Hardiness Zone Do I Live In? (.pdf)|
© 10/2007 Hill Gardens of Maine; 107 Route 3, Palermo, Maine 04354. All Rights Reserved. Updated: 08/07/11