Gardening need not be difficult or impossible; in fact, you can start small and work your way up. You get many chances to experiment, explore and examine, until you can master some things which will be really therapeutic, stimulating and impressive. Here are 25 tips to help you on your way.
1. Mason Jar Garden
Starting small is always a good idea. By procuring for yourself some mason jars (wide-mouth ones are best), you will find that the best spot to start your adventures in gardening is a windowsill which is facing southwest or, in general, south. Your next step is to fill each jar with moist earth, onto which you place just half a dozen herb seeds; then, another layer of earth which you endeavor to keep as moist as possible. It shouldn’t be waterlogged, though, but certainly moist. After some days, some green shoots of growth will begin to emerge. With a small pair of scissors you can clip their tops, and they’ll grow even more abundantly. Don’t clip too much, though, else you’ll shock it and it won’t grow at all! Within a relatively short space of time you’ll see the results of your labors and will have the beginning of a herb garden. It can be transferred to a greenhouse, if you get really serious. Thanks to the translucent Mason jar, you’ll be able to see everything happening, from seed to herb. Your children or grandchildren will love it.
2. Seed Packets
These are not always quite so easy to interpret. The most important thing to look for is that actual planting instructions. Unlike tinned food or other products, they will often only have a short shelf-life, needing to be planted within weeks of purchasing them, some even days. It can often be advantageous to start your seeds off indoors, and then transfer them when they’ve grown a bit. This is especially true if you live somewhere which is particularly cold. In fact, the packet will usually tell you the optimum amount of time it takes for seeds to grow and flourish. Another thing to consider is depth, ie. smaller seeds won’t need to be burrowed in quite as deep, whereas larger seeds will. The packet will also inform you of how close together each seed can be planted, as well as whether they can cope with frost; some can, some can’t. It’s important to know.
3. Garden Planner
We use a plan for many of life’s events, so why not a garden? You can create your own planner, either by printing a free version, or simply drawing up a seasonal plan of what to plant when, and where in our garden. This will allow you to anticipate future projects, and will prevent overcrowding or bottle-neck planting plans, throughout the calendar year.
4. Bottle Ecosystem
Using plastic bottles, you can create your own mini ecosystem, which is a great way for your children to become as enthused about gardening as you are. Just slice off the top off a medium-sized plastic bottle (64 fl oz.), then do the same again with another one. The bits which have been cut off will now function as a reservoir, attached by a wick which will end up falling down into a base of water. Soil will then be placed into the upturned section of bottle, the wick keeping it moist, and seeds can be planted in a moist and fertile environment. Hey presto; your very own ecosystem which you can see developing before your eyes.
5. Aero Garden
Before you get those precious seedlings into the great outdoors, consider getting some sort of seed starting kit to nurture them into life. If you don’t want to purchase one you can make your own. In fact, old trays from used boxes of chocolates can be modified; sponge bits can be placed into each chocolate mold and tiny amounts of soil can be added. Seedlings can start life off indoors and, when ready, can graduate to an outdoors greenhouse or even the actual earth.
6. Mini Greenhouses
Full sized greenhouses are obviously expensive and cumbersome; a proper investment rather than a start-up affair. For ‘green’ gardeners with little experience, mini greenhouses are dirt cheap and come in all shapes and sizes. They can be used indoors or outdoors and, not being made from glass but special plastics, will allow enough light to filter in and help grow your seedlings, and are even light enough to take in and out at will. You could make your own mini greenhouse, if you want.
7. Child Garden
That’s right. Whatever you decide to do in your own gardening adventures, your children can join in an mimic. They can have their child-sized spades, forks, pots and greenhouses. They can nurture seeds, water flowers and even do some weeding. Sunflowers are an excellent and hardy plant and children will love it when they shoot up in next to no time, with very little effort.
8. Children and Gardening
Keep it simple. Don’t set up six garden beds and buy seven varieties of peas and spend tons on ‘miracle’ fertilizers. Keep it simple and easy. A single six by three foot garden bed can house a plethora of food producing plants. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your child with too much to handle.
You don’t even need a garden in order to do gardening; you can do it in your kitchen! With a few potting bins and some inexpensive potting soil, you can then simply chop off the end of a lettuce or other vegetable and endeavor to re-plant it. Celery, lettuce, scallion plants and other vegetables can re-sprout and you can enjoy the benefits of delicious and free food. This recycling in a whole new and exciting way.
10. Seeding Square
A seeding square is essentially a plastic square foot by square foot frame, which enables you to see exactly where you can plant seeds and grow a reasonably sized garden. All you do is press it into the soil, lift it up and plant seeds in the impression left. It enables you to maximize the amount of available space in a given space; ideal for grow boxes, allotments, or smaller gardens where you have to make the most of what you have.
11. Veg Garden
Aim to grow vegetables in as small a space as possible. As you gain more experience you can fan out, but quality is better than quantity to begin with. Consider having an enclosed area with a raised garden. Wooden planks are all you need to section it off. You can then use a fifty:fifty ratio of natural soil and rich compost or even mushroom soil. Then, cover the top layer with a few inches of mulch. You can even create your own mulch using old bags of leaves which have decomposed from previous seasons. In order to get seeds germinating and growing, initially you can start them off in plastic egg carton, with just a smidgen of soil in each egg mold. Once they’re strong enough, just transfer to your garden.
It was good enough in times of war, and it’s good enough in peace time. All you need is a 10 x 20 foot space, full of soil. Then, a hoe, trowel, gardening gloves, watering can. You can start by planting a few modest fruit trees; pears, apples or oranges depending on your climate. Vegetables are also great, but the beauty of fruit are that they can be preserved or made into purees, juices, pies, cakes and so many other recipes.
13. Square Foot Box
If the size of the garden is a worry, consider just having a 3 ft x 3 ft box, something which can even be a great way of introducing children to the idea of gardening, on a small scale. Ensure that your box is made of natural, untreated wood, to avoid any chemical treatments from damaging seeds and emerging plants. It should be around 5 or 6 inches deep, and not so heavy that you cannot move it into a sunnier position, if desired. Your children will love the whole process of planting and seeing seeds germinate and, later, flower into fruitfulness.
14. Scraps to Riches
It is really quite easy to grow food from scraps; just leave an inch or so remaining, dunk into some water (halfway up), store in a closed jar for a couple of days; then, once you see the green shoots emerge, place into a pot filled with soil. Celery is also fairly straightforward, although you’ll need warm water instead of cold, and more sunlight – store in a greenhouse, if you can. One week should suffice for you to see some growth emerge. If you have old potatoes in a cupboard, with strange roots growing, this is great. Cut the potato up and bury it in the ground. You’ll have new potatoes growing after just a couple of months!
Free carrots? Well, if you lop off the tops and submerse them half in water; then place by a window, you’ll get carrot leaves; lovely in carrot soup. Ginger is great for you; if you can get some into the earth with buds intact, in a sunny spot, some green shoots should show themselves in around three months. Avocado is another incredibly healthy food; all you need is the pit; ensure that the (slightly pointy) ‘top’ stays dry, while the (slightly flatter) ‘bottom’ will yield a root in due course. Submerge in water, maybe by using toothpicks, and in a few months a root will appear. Finally, Basil can be re-grown, as long as the stems are roughly four inches long. Keep in water with the leaves nice and dry, above the water. Then, ensure it’s in the sun for a significant part of each day and roots will start to appear even after just a couple of days. Transplant into soil as soon as this happen.
15. Blueberry Magic!
Blueberries flourish in soil which is acidic; ideally with a pH level of 5.0. They require space; (somewhere between 4 and 8 feet apart) and height (between 12 and 18 inches). This will also facilitate drainage and will help you to thoroughly compost the in-between spaces. Blueberries also thrive in sun; the more of it the better. What you’ll have at the end of it all is easy-to-pick fruit that is good for your physical and mental health.
16. Pole Bean Towers
After purchasing some inexpensive wooden poles at a garden center, drill some holes roughly one foot from the top of each one. Cluster the poles together, side by side, and thread a wire through them, then twist and fix into position. You may then splay out the poles and grow pole beans or runner-beans up them, changing the position each year because it’s a mobile fixture.
In any garden, you need flowers or plants that are going to be spectacular, or at least have the ‘wow’ factor. Plants such as snapdragons, canna lilies, salvia, geraniums or dahlias make for excellent viewing, and everything else can complement and accompany such wonders. Once you have decided on the exact color scheme you want to go for, you can the start to fill in the rest of your display with ‘extras’; ordinary flowers such as gerbera, arabis, petunias or begonias, to name but a few.
Vinca is a robust and vibrant flower, which can withstand hot days, dry days, and even deers days. Deer days?! Yes, it is not fancied by deer so will festoon your garden with wonderful purples, pinks and whites, without being gobbled up by hungry creatures.
Sunflowers are easy to plant and grow; they ascend to some really quite impressive heights. They are big, bold, colorful and cheering to have in your yard. It might sound like stating the obvious, but they love to grow in very sunny area.
Zinnias come in every color apart from blue. They have the tender, gentle look of daisies or dahlias; they need plenty of space between them when planting, although the instructions of the packet will guide.
Marigolds bring much vibrancy and energy into any garden; various shades of gold, red, yellow light up your garden, and some types can get to as high as five feet.
Impatiens are best planted in shaded areas, and in the warmth of spring, when the coldest of the winter has just about gone. They need plenty of water, and yet thrive in a soil which efficiently drains away the water, allowing roots to sink right down, and keeping the colors vibrant and uplifting.
Begonias are great; low maintenance, colorful, able to thrive in shaded or sunnier areas. They will be able to grow beautifully in either a traditional flower bed or a hanging basket. They’re relatively inexpensive and will complement a wide range of others flowers without wanting to steal the show.
These flowers are particularly prone to do well in spring and fall. They are actually very attractive to butterflies, which makes them seem so gentle and welcoming. However, they are equally adept at thriving in intemperate, colder climates. They also have a beautiful creamy, pink texture, which adds an element of style and sophistication to any garden.
These plants flower in a delicious burgundy, with hues of green and red also apparent. Strictly speaking, they don’t have flowers per se; however, the whole plant is vibrant and is ideal for the borders of your garden, or as a complement for other plants which will go on to flower.
The main thing to remember about gardening is that you don’t have to get everything right at once, and you get season after season, year after year, to try things out. You will soon find out what will take well in your garden’s particular soil, although with the vast range of soils, composts and treatments out there, you don’t have to be restricted to your earth’s natural properties. Grow bags, grow boxes, greenhouses and indoor plants all present wonderful opportunities for you to develop green fingers.
The last thing to remember is how much children can get stuck in and develop lifelong habits, which will help them to be potentially self-sufficient in years to come. In an age in which technology and screens seem to rule, working on a garden project and involving the whole family can be a therapeutic, beneficial venture that will pay dividends in the not too distant future.
There are few things quite so satisfying as growing your own fruit and vegetables, then preparing and cooking them to the pleasure of family and friends. A garden truly is a place of tranquillity, joy and fulfilment, in which people from all kinds of backgrounds and ages can get involved. You can go as fast or as slowly as you want. Just breathing in the fresh air and feasting your eyes your garden can be enough.