To those in the know, gardening is one of life’s true pleasures: a chance to commune with the natural world, work steadily and in tune with the seasons, and see the fruits of your labor slowly emerge. Perhaps nothing is more satisfying than the first bite of a tomato you grew yourself, or being able to toss a little basil into a pasta.
But what if you don’t have a green thumb? What if that herb garden always seems to wilt, or the flowerbeds never bloom? Here at Brandermill Woods, we have a number of backyard and windowsill gardeners among us, so we know first-hand the benefit of gardening (particularly as a hobby for seniors). We’ve also picked up a few tips for struggling would-be gardeners. Here are our top five tips for getting started as a gardener:
1. Find out what can grow in your region.
One rookie mistake is to try to grow something out of season or that won’t thrive in your hardiness zone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a handy map to help you identify your zone. Here in Central Virginia, we’re in zone 7. Lemon trees would not do well here, but tomatoes, on the other hand…let’s just say that Hanover County just north of us might be the perfect spot to grow these miracle fruits.
2. Visit a specialized lawn care center or nursery.
Internet research or an old-fashioned book can get you pointed in the right direction, but with gardening there’s no substitute for personal experience. The folks you’ll meet at a good lawn and garden center or nursery have a wealth of experience. They can offer plenty of advice on what to plant and when, whether the plant needs shade or sun, how to fertilize your soil, and much more. Gardening can be a year-round activity, so visit your local nursery today.
3. Pick the right plant for your garden’s location.
A patch of ground, a patio, a windowsill: the type of plants you can grow depends on where you want to plant them. The great news is that there are more than enough options for any location. A nice square of ground gives you the most flexibility for nearly any fruit, vegetable or flower that will thrive in your region, but a small porch or patio gives you the chance for beautiful container gardening and floral arrangements. Even if all you have is a window box, you can still grow a few herbs, and nothing beats cooking with fresh herbs.
4. Know yourself.
There is a range of plants for every type of gardener. The key is to know how much time and energy you can (and will) expend on your garden. Some plants need watering once a week. Rosemary and mint, for instance, work great for the hands-off gardener. Other plants need constant TLC. Take an honest look to determine what type of gardener you are, and choose your plants accordingly.
5. Enjoy getting into the dirt.
The benefits of gardening come from getting your hands dirty. Only once you’ve kneeled down and worked in the earth do you come to appreciate the smell and feel of the plants—and thus appreciate the fruits of your labor. So go ahead, put on a set of old clothes, grab a pair of gloves and a trowel, get to work and have fun!