Zen or the Art of Gardening

Eponine Howarth

Cultivating a garden for a prolonged period of time and subsequently ruining it is frustrating. So, I devised some basic gardening tips for beginners. Gardening is by no means an exact science, even experienced gardeners make mistakes.

    Check your soil type

For a long time, I neglected my soil, which once impoverished, ruined all the careful sowing and weeding.

Before choosing a plant, check your soil type. Some plants thrive in one type, and not another. A silty soil feels soft and soapy. A peaty soil feels damp and spongy. A sandy soil feels gritty. Identifying your soil type makes the growing and maintaining of a garden easier. Make sure your soil is healthy.

    Choose the right plants

Like pumpkins, melons and other ground-gobbling vines, I need ample elbow–room to grow.

It’s important to select plants that match one’s growing conditions. This means choosing heat-tolerant plants in warm climates. A silty soil is good for moisture-loving trees such a Willow, Birch, Dogwood and Cypress.

    Give your plant enough space

I am always tempted by too many plants and placing multiple plants in the same flowerpot. Rooky mistake!

Use space to allay the competition between plants. Proper spacing allows them to grow more freely enabling them to reach their full sizes. If you place young plants too close together, not all will survive. Crowded plants are also more susceptible to disease.

    Site it right

I placed my plant in Spain. This made weekend visits to the garden a real treat!

Place your garden in a part of your yard where you’ll see it regularly. That way, you’ll be much more likely to spend time in it.

    Follow the sun

I forgot to give my plant daily sunlight.

Misjudging sunlight is a common pitfall when you’re first learning to garden. Pay attention to how sunlight plays through your yard before choosing a spot for your garden. Most edible plants, including many vegetables, herbs, and fruits, need at least six hours of sun in order to thrive.

    Be gentle with new plants

I once dropped the flowerpot…

If you remove new plants from their pots by pulling their stems, you are likely to break or bruise them. Instead, be gentle.

    Plan ahead with your design

I had no big picture in mind, although a part of me secretly wished that this garden would last forever. I’ve always preferred gardening in residential areas, or sometimes garden hotels.

Before you do any digging, have a think about the big picture of your garden. Indoor gardening is concerned with the growing of houseplants within a residence or building, in a conservatory, or in a greenhouse. People often surround their house and garden with a hedge. The hedge acts as a home to wildlife which also helps in the development of flowers and other plant life. Otherwise, community gardening can be a social activity, in which an area of land is gardened by a group of people. Gardening also occurs in non-residential areas, parks, public or semi-public gardens, botanical gardens or zoological gardens, amusement parks, along transportation corridors, and around tourist attractions and garden hotels

    Label

I tend to forget to label plants.

For first-time gardeners, it can be easy to forget what you’ve planted and where. Take an extra minute to write a plant label and pop it in the ground next to the seeds, bulbs or plants you’ve planted.

    Be mindful of the roots

The hole must be big enough.

Before you attempt to put a new plant in the soil, make sure the hole is bigger than the root ball. A plant’s roots need to be able to spread to get the best chance of absorbing the soil’s nutrients.

    Water mindfully

Natural moisture is very important.

Plants are designed to live outside and to draw natural moisture from the earth without the need for daily artificial irrigation — unless we’re experiencing a drought. As a rough guide, poke your fingers about two inches into the soil around the plant; if it’s very dry, add some water. Remember, it is not the frequency of watering but how thorough you are in watering that helps your plant grow.

    Learn your frost dates

Plants have a tough time dealing with winter so it’s best to give them ample protection during this season.

Take care of your garden during adverse weather conditions. Planting too early, or late, in the season can spell disaster for your garden. Don’t accidentally kill plants by putting them out prematurely.

    Be brutal with weeds

Fuck weeds.

It’s important to learn early on that weeds and garden pests are a gardener’s worst enemy. A pest may crowd out desirable plants, disturb soil, stunt the growth of young seedlings, steal or damage fruit, or otherwise kill plants, hamper their growth, damage their appearance, or reduce the quality of the edible or ornamental portions of the plant.

    Choose the right gardening tools

Garden tools are fantastic, for both individual or collective gardening.

Consider investing on a gardening knife, rake, draw hoe, fork, spade and a wheelbarrow.

    Keep a garden diary

Be patient. Don’t give up too easily. It may take some work to get to where you want to be. With many factors at play, you probably won’t get it right the first time, and that’s okay.

A garden diary helps you remember what works and what doesn’t and you can also jot down names of plants you’d like to try growing in the future. Also, if you are just starting out, don’t sweat it. Choose easy plants to begin with like sunflowers, or roses.

    Have fun with it

Gardening is all down to earth.

Allow yourself to experiment and try new things. If you realise you’ve planted something in the wrong place – either because it’s the wrong height or colour, or because it’s not growing well – you can move it. Most plants and shrubs, even young trees, can be uprooted and replanted. A major part of the fascination of gardening is that no one garden is quite like another; and it is in finding the most imaginative solutions to challenges that the gardener demonstrates artistry and finds the subtler levels of satisfaction. The gardener assesses and accommodates the unique complex of temperature, wind, rainfall, sunlight, and shade found within his own garden boundaries. Some people get lazy and prefer a staff of gardeners or groundskeepers. But, ideally, we should cultivate our own garden.

Happy growing!

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