Photo: © Kostenko Maxim - Shutterstock
Whether you're interested in gardening or think it's for people who have nothing better to do, beautifying your yard can be a fun and rewarding hobby. Here are six tips to get you started:
Start with Mulch. It's that brown, red, or tan-colored stuff in bags in the garden center of any large chain superstore. It can be shredded hardwood, pine, or cedar, or any combination of the three. Choose a color you like and decide how many bags you might need. Now double the number of bags, purchase, and head home. Remember to write down the type of mulch you purchased in case you need to buy more.
It is important to know that mulch protects your plants by retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Strong, healthy plants will grow through the mulch, so cover the ground before things start growing or else you'll find yourself trying to mulch around plants—a mistake often made by first-time gardeners that is very time consuming. A great time to start mulching is in early spring when the ground is moist and flowers are just beginning to sprout.
Check Out Local Plant Swaps. Many experienced gardeners host plant swaps, where any number of gardeners get together and trade plants that they have an abundance of. Don't be afraid to go with nothing. Experienced gardeners bring plenty, and you will find there are many plants available to choose from. If you don't know what something is, ask. Most experienced gardeners are more than happy to share their knowledge with you, the gardening newbie. Some helpful things to learn about different plants is how tall they get, when they bloom, and what color they will be. It is also good to know if a plant spreads easily or takes over a garden (avoid these types of plants unless you have a large expanse that you are trying to fill quickly).
Don't Be Afraid to Experiment. You may not know what you are doing, but no one else has to know this. Take out your new shovel, gloves, and knee pad, and start digging. Put taller plants in the back and shorter ones in the front. This will ensure that your smaller plants will not be hidden and will maximize the visibility of all the plants in your garden.
Decide What Colors You Would Like to See and Plan Accordingly. Are you a bright red, yellow, and orange person? Or do you prefer subtle pinks and purples and white? If you are really ambitious, find a color wheel and check out complementary colors—colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. One combination that you will find in gardens everywhere is purple and yellow. Even nature likes this combination, as you will find dandelions and clover with its tiny purple flowers blooming at the same time each spring.
Know the Definitions of Perennial and Annual. Simply put, a perennial comes back year after year. Think P-Perennial-Pops back up. Perennials are more expensive, but within a few years and with proper planting you will have more flowers than you can handle. (Remember the gardeners at the plant swap?) Perennials will be larger and fuller year after year, although don't be surprised if a perennial never shows up again. Some perennials die if not planted in a suitable location and some die without any explanation.
An annual is a plant that will only survive one growing season. Think A-Annual-All gone. Annuals may appear to return, but these are plants from the previous years' seeds and not the same plant coming back bigger and stronger.
Annuals are very colorful and much less expensive than perennials. They are best used in flower boxes or as accents that add immediate spice to a perennial garden. Annuals generally bloom throughout the garden season. Heading annuals—taking off dead blooms—will increase the plant's fullness and flowering. Remember to water annuals often as they are used to being watered daily in a greenhouse.
Add Accents to Your Garden to Enhance Its Originality. Thrift shops or garden centers are great places to find inexpensive garden statues, bird baths, or planters. Look for random objects that can hold dirt and withstand outdoor weather. You now have yourself a new planter!
Place your newly found objects throughout your garden space and don't be afraid to experiment. Bird cages, sections of iron fencing, or tipped-over barrels can make your garden more interesting and unique.
As you keep gardening, your knowledge of plants and their upkeep will continue to blossom. Remember to keep asking questions and keep experimenting. Show off your garden. Cut flowers from your garden and place them throughout your house. You will find that your garden will bring joy and beauty to your life, both inside and out.