There are days when I wonder why I bother.
It’s usually at the start of the season: the yard needs a good cleaning, soil and compost need mixing, planters need to be refreshed. The plants I’ve tried to overwinter in a small room with grow lights are withering and it’s not quite warm enough to let them outside. My seedlings are looking leggy and questionable.
It feels like a lot of work.
And it can be expensive. And I fail a lot. And then maybe one year, I do everything right somehow—but the slugs or the moths sneak in and wave their tiny middle fingers at me as they chow down on all my hard work.
Nevertheless, whether I’ve been left with slug-eaten, brown, barely-there plants at the end of a season, or baskets of fresh, organic goodies—at the end of it, I’m pleased. It’s a good kind of tired.
Yeah, it’s hard work. But so is therapy. And gardening is my therapy. Seeing the seedlings come up. Naming my best tomato plants. Just taking space to breathe, to be, to settle the day’s happenings in my head and heart as I tend to my plant babies through the warm months.
I recently asked Elephant Journal readers for their best gardening advice—to hopefully make a newbie’s first year more successful. The clearest advice was that we need to allow ourselves some grace. Some failure. Some patience. We need to learn to slow down. We need to let ourselves learn.
But while failure is one of our greatest teachers, the next greatest is a wise, seasoned gardening witch (#goals) who has learned all those lessons and is willing to pass down all the little tips and tricks to help the newbies out.
Here’s one tip I am happy to pass on and that has served me well: it’s okay to let things die. If a plant is not making you happy, pull it out, and try again. (And this goes for your indoor plants, too.)
Read, learn, and then go out and grow:
“Keep your mint plants contained. You will not win if it’s let free to expand hahaha!” ~ Sarah
On the other hand…
“Grow mint around garden to deter pests!” ~ Mary
“Don’t take anything too personally, it all works out for the best in the end.” ~ Tracy
“Try to buy your starts and seeds from smaller local sellers.” ~ Michelle
“Plant fruit trees now, even if you think you may never get the fruit, time passes whether you planted them or not. If they don’t like where you planted them you can still move them after a few years. 20 years ago I planted a cherry tree, then 4 years later I moved it, now it’s huge and we get loads of cherries. I never thought I would still live here, or would have the patience to wait for the fruit. But the time would have passed either way.” ~ Vanessa
“Plant twice as many tomatoes as you think you’ll use, then learn how to can the leftovers.” ~ Darrell
“We have a separate blender jar to keep and grind eggshells, banana peels, vegetable peels, tea dregs, etc. Awesome nutritional juice for plants.” ~ Nithya
“The distressed clearance plants in the back of Lowe’s or any other nursery are the best kept secret. They may look like they are barely alive but they do come back to life. Even better the following year.” ~ Brooke
“Don’t overwater. I killed a few plants in my garden year 1 by overwatering. Roots need oxygen as much as they need water!” ~ Erica
“Work on making your soil healthy first…if there’s no insects living in your soil a plant can’t live in it either…” ~ Jane
“Try and garden as close to nature as possible. Plants don’t need lots of commercial products, they just need a healthy base. Start with soil and work on keeping it as dark and soft as possible.” ~ Jules
“Don’t get so far into the details that it’s no longer fun…” ~ Kathy
“Don’t don’t don’t use chemicals!! Not good for your pets, not good for you, not good for bees, not good for the earth.” ~ Darlene
“Plant herbs like Rosemary, thyme, Basil, Oregano, dill, cilantro. I think I get more from those more than my veggies.” ~ Sara
“Only plant one zucchini plant!” ~ Tauni
(Tarah agrees): “Omg start small! And don’t ever ever ever plant more than one zucchini plant.” ~ Tarah Lynn
“Have a good look at what is growing well locally before you buy loads of plants. Work with what likes your soil and conditions” ~ Kate
“Watch what the neighbours are growing and trade for cuttings to start your own.” ~ Marcia
“Check out how the sun moves over your garden so you know which plants will thrive where and prepare the soil accordingly THEN start picking out your plants.” ~ Tina
“If you take good care of the soil, the soil will take good care of the plants.” ~ Richard
“Use drought friendly plants. Save water.” ~ Judy
“Ron Finley. I think that’s his name. Google that guy!” ~ Linda
I did! Inspiring! Check him out on Instagram.
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“Bury your tomatoes [deeper].” ~ Michael
“Don’t plant trees or shrubs too close to the house. We’ve made this mistake several times.” ~ Glenna
“Stay ahead of the weeds, and make a point of pulling them after it rains.” ~ Randy
(But Betty says it best): “Get the weeds before they get you.” ~ Betty
“Know your climate zone.” ~ Margi
“Better to dig a 100 hole than buy a 100 tree.” ~ Dean (Your soil matters!)
Advice from a fellow Elephant Journal editor who loves to garden:
“Plant mint in a separate container because it’s invasive and it can literally kill all your other plants. Basil and mint need some shades. Don’t keep them in full sunlight the entire day. YES to don’t overwater. It’s fine to leave your plants for 2 or 3 days without water. But do overwater your basil. If you see earthworms in your soil, rejoice. Keep them. Their residue is of great benefit to the plant. Do you drink coffee? Don’t throw what’s left in your cup. Coffee is GREAT for your plants.” ~ Elyane
“Don’t ask me, I couldn’t grow stink on a monkey.” ~ Brian
“Go to the farmers market.” ~ Debbie
“Plant the weed where the neighbors can’t see.” ~ Daniel (Not a problem in Canada anymore!)