Friday, May 28, 2010

Gardening for the Rest of Us Part III: Tips for Newbie Gardeners

The side-garden today with winter-sown poppies and Sweet William and
Coreopsis purchased from the farmer's market. None of these plants were here when I moved in.

Read part I and part II of this series

After three seasons of gardening, my garden is finally growing into the lush cottage garden I dreamed of. It's not perfect, nor is it done, but that's part of the fun. I've learned that the biggest skill you need in gardening is patience. You don't have to be an plant expert, or have a huge budget, to have a pretty garden that makes you happy.

I've also learned that some of the serendipitous plantings are the prettiest. The less I baby my garden, the better it seems to do. The garden is finally beginning to fill up, which means lots of fun surprises and blooms each year. I still don't feel like a gardening expert, but I know I don't have to be. And neither do you!

Wintersown Irish-Eyes Rudbeckia

Tips for creating a garden for newbies:
  1. You don't need to have a perfect plan before you start gardening. If you are a planner, then by all means, plan away! But if not, don't let that stop you from creating your garden. Plants can be moved. It's more important to make sure you're planting something that will grow easily in your area and the planting site.

  2. You can become knowledgeable about gardening for free. A little gardening knowledge goes a long way when you're starting from scratch, and helps boost your gardening confidence, and you can get it for free! Go to the library, read gardening blogs, visit your local university's extension site, etc.

  3. Gardening isn't rocket science. Just get out there and try it. Follow planting directions, try compost instead of chemical fertilizer, weed sometimes and then let them go. Sure some of your plants might not make it, but most will. If something dies you can always try again next season. This is easier to do with cheap plants, see above.

  4. If something doesn't grow in one spot, try again in another.

  5. Improve your soil. But you don't need to use synthetic fertilizers or other expensive add-ins to do so. Just start a compost pile and add compost before planting and whenever you can. I try to add compost when I plant (some of my beds have more clay than others and need more compost).

  6. Want cheap plants? Try winter-sowing, direct sow seeds, swap plants with friends and neighbors and learn how to propagate plants.

    This is the best year yet by far for my 33-cent Cottage Pinks

  7. Watch for sales. If you're patient, you can find most things you need for your garden on sale, including seeds, potting soil (for winter-sowing), plants, garden tools and more. Those 10 cent seed packs you can find at Walgreen's and other places work just fine. Many of the perennials I bought from garden centers were just 33 cents each. I found lilacs for $5 and a peony for $3.95. If you're patient, you can save a lot. Also check garage sales to find gardening tools on the cheap.

  8. Some perennials won't do much until the second year, so don't count anything out until you see what comes back next season. And on the third year, watch out, they'll really start to show their stuff!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gardening for the Rest of Us, Part II

Read Part I here

My second gardening season I bought some more flowers from a mail order company (cough, Michigan Bulb, cough), because that seemed like a more affordable option. I still tried to follow my great gardening plan where I could and adjust it as needed, but after a while I just started plopping things in where I thought they would look good. I supplemented the mail order plants with cosmos and a few perennials I found on sale locally for 33 cents each. I also direct sowed some seeds right into my flower beds.

Some of these efforts did better than others. Half of the plants I ordered either didn't bloom in the first place, or didn't come back a second year. Direct seeding wasn't a great success either, although some things like bachelor buttons and sweet alyssum did grow and even bloom from seed. The tiny perennials I bought locally did the best of all of the plants that year, and I still have most if not all of them. Still, my garden was sparse. I longed for the lush full gardens that others had, but I figured creating my garden would be gradual process. Every year it got a little better.

That winter I discovered something that would make the biggest difference in my garden: winter sowing. I was skeptical that you could plant seeds in plastic bottles and containers in winter and get plants in spring, but I decided to give it a try. And you know what? It works! If you want to have a variety of plants cheaply, then you must try winter sowing.

Now most of the yearly additions to my garden are winter-sowed flowers. This spring I planted poppies, zinnias and holly hocks, all of which were winter-sowed. I've also successfully winter sowed Irish Eyes Rudbeckia, columbine, cerinthe, nasturiums, cleome, bachelor buttons, sweet alyssum, Sweet William, poppies of all kinds, cosmos, coneflowers and more.

Read part III

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Now That's a Poppy!

I pulled in the driveway tonight after a rather long day, and what did I spy with my little eye? A big, bright spot of pink that definitely wasn't there this morning. I jumped out of the car and immediately went over to investigate.

It's a poppy!

A giant pink oriental poppy no less. It's almost as big as my hand,
and I don't have dainty little girl hands. This one just showed up this spring, it must have self-sowed from the poppies I planted (after winter sowing) last spring.

Isn't it beautiful? I love poppies. Some day I want to grow a giant field of them.
Note to self: Winter-sow many more poppies next year.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gardening for the Rest of Us, Part I

Think you can't garden?
Overwhelmed by the task of planning and creating a new garden?

Think you can't afford to have the unique plants of your dreams?

Think you need to plan your garden to the ninth degree before planting?

I know how you feel. To me gardening was an overwhelming task until I realized that plants have been blooming without our help since before humans existed. Eventually, I've learned to let go and just get my hands dirty and try things in the garden. Now some people compliment my garden (which is still in the minor leagues of gardening in my mind) and say "I could never do that." Well if I can, then trust me, anyone can!! But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I knew nothing about plants or gardening when I bought min hus and wanted to create a garden. I didn't grow up around any gardeners, and I didn't have friends nearby who were into it. So, as I do whenever I want to learn something new, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books on gardening. Make a plan before you plant anything! was the credo I read over and over again. So I planned and planned. I wrote list of flowers that would grow well here and bloom for a long period of time, then I drew up a plan for the garage bed.

Finally, after way too much time had passed, I went to the garden center armed with my shopping list of flowers to buy. And you know what? They didn't have most of the plants on my list. Where was all the beautiful and unique flowers I'd lovingly selected from my gardening in Ohio books? I didn't want a garden full of geraniums and petunias like everyone else. I wanted to garden creatively! Far too overwhelmed and disappointed to change my plan on the spot, I left the garden center.

This was pretty much the sum of my garden that first year.

I didn't end up planting anything my first season in my house until July and that was only to spruce up the place before some friends came over to have dinner and see my house for the first time. I bought my first plants from the farmer's market: two yellow coreopsis, two balloon flowers and two purple sage. July in Ohio is hardly a good time to plant anything, it was 90+ and the area was in full sun, but I watered them and managed to keep them alive. That was all I bought the first year except for fall bulbs and a few planters for my deck.

Gardening turned out to be a lot harder than I'd thought.

Read part II and part III.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: The Columbine are Blooming!

So many flowers in the garden are ready to pop, but my garden is still transitioning from spring to summer on this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I'm noticing that the old phrase about gardens "The first year they creep, the second year they sleep, the third year they leap" is proving to be very true. Things are finally beginning to leap in my garden!

First up is Miss Kim, the lilac. I have two of these lilacs and this year they have double or three times as many lovely blooms as last year. Finally there are enough blooms that I can bring some inside to enjoy!

This year is the first year for Columbine blooms in my garden. These columbine were winter-sown last year, but this is the first year they bloom. Strangely, only the pink columbine seem to have survived although I had also sown some blue.

Also blooming in my garden:
  • Tiny red dianthus
  • Scabiosa
Want to see more blooms? Visit May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of every month to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Living Room Redo

Yesterday the boyfriend completed a mini-makeover in the living room so we could move the new TV in. This spot used to be the weak point of the living room, but now it makes me happy.

It's fun to look back and see how the house has evolved over the five years I've lived here (five years, wow!). But don't just take my word for it. See how this same spot looked two years ago.

This was before the fireplace makeover. And would you believe that that's the same entertainment center in this pic as the ones above?

Yep, it is. I couldn't find a new TV stand I liked, so the boyfriend cut off the top, spray-painted it white and attached new knobs. It looks so much better it's hard to even tell that it's the same piece. Plus,it saves it from going to the landfill. It's a win-win.


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