When we bought our home a few years ago, we moved from a condo to a house with gardens completely surrounding the whole house. Plus, three additional free-standing gardens around the property. When I lived in the condo, I could barely keep a plant alive for a month, let alone a massive garden framing the whole house. Here I was with zero gardening experience, poor luck keeping plants alive, and a lot of worries with what the future would bring.
I made it my mission to get our gardens into tip-top shape. The second that things were starting to warm up that first year, I jumped right in and started to attack the overgrowth & get to planting. I ripped out anything that was ugly, ignoring my mom’s advice of: “Don’t pull out something that you think is a weed too early – it could be a plant!” And planted some nice herbs, ignoring my neighbors advice of: “You have to wait until Mother’s Day to plant anything.” Well, guess what – they were right and I made my first of many mistakes in my attempt to learn to garden.
And you know what, I discovered that mistakes were okay because that was how I was going to learn. I was going to plant things that didn’t survive and then I will try to figure out what went wrong – maybe it was too much or too little sun, too much clay in the soil, or even being too tempting for the bunnies to eat. I learned to listen to other’s people’s advice because I didn’t know what I was doing and they probably learned from their own mistakes. And I learned to not give up and to keep at it. Gardens aren’t permanent and you can keep playing & modifying as you learn what works, what doesn’t, and what you like.
I’ve now have had my gardens for three summer seasons and if a new homeowner was to ask me my advice for handling a garden you inherit, here would be my top tips:
- If you can restrain yourself, I’d suggest waiting a full year before ripping things out. You may prematurely pull out a plant that may not look pretty in spring but have a glorious late summer or fall bloom. Also my mom was right, some things that look like weeds really are just plantings starting to sprout up. Some general clean-up once things have sprouted is fine, but I’d wait before removing any plants completely.
- If you do not know the names or caring tips for the plants & flowers in your garden, I’d suggest you go to a nursery and walk around. Try to find & identify the plants in your garden and then read the care instructions they have inserted in the plant to learn what to expect for that plant & how to care for it. I went to the Flower Bin earlier this summer and did just that for a few plants I couldn’t figure out.
- If your budget allows, hire a professional gardener the second summer to help clean-up & care for the garden. I am suggesting the second summer because by they you have had time to see your garden in full bloom and what the problem areas may be. Once you have the professional gardener at your house – ask questions! Find out why a certain plant isn’t looking so good or how to trim back a plant that is past prime with the blooms. Learning from an expert will help you know what to do moving forward.
- If you do plant something yourself, first of all, wait until Mother’s Day to plant. Secondly, make sure you buy the right plant for the space. Does it have enough room to grow to its full size? Does it have the right amount of light or shade? If its edible, will it be protected from critters? Do you want an annual or a perennial? Planting the right plant in the right spot will give you a huge leg up for success.
Lastly – enjoy! Give your garden some love but don’t beat yourself up over the mistakes. The mistakes will just make you a better gardener in the end.