Gardening is a great way to get outdoors, beautify your home, stay fit, and even unwind. Regardless of what you may have heard, successful gardening does not require inherent talent; a “green thumb,” if you will. Growing beautiful, healthy and productive gardens is a skill that can be learned from experienced gardeners as well as from an abundance of research-based information available in print and online. One of my favorite places to start is at the University of Minnesota’s Yard and Garden website.
I have quite a few years of experience with gardening, and even volunteered as a Master Gardener for a time. Over the years, I have collected several top tips for gardening success. If you do nothing else, following these tips will get you on the path to beautiful gardens!
Here’s the Dirt
1. If you don’t have good soil, it’s likely your gardens will not thrive. Before you begin to tackle your gardens, read my recent post “Here’s the Dirt on Gardening.”
Right Plant, Right Place
2. Understand your plant’s sunlight needs by reading the label or researching online.
3. Plant vegetable gardens in full sun.
4. Provide sufficient space around plants (particularly vegetables but also some flowers like roses) to allow for air circulation, which can prevent fungal diseases.
5. Water so that soil is moist to a depth of 5-6 inches. Here are some general guidelines by soil type:
Sandy soil: Water twice a week, 3 times if hot/dry weather
Loamy soil: Water once a week, every 4-5 days if hot/dry
Clay soil: Water until puddles form, stop until water soaks in and then start again until soil is sufficiently moist, as needed
6. Watering in the morning is best. Watering in full sun wastes water to evaporation, and watering at night allows water to hang around plants for too long, which can lead to fungal disease.
7. Consider applying water with drip/soaker hose system. This is the most efficient way to deliver water to plants AND the best way to prevent fungal disease because water does not touch the leaves and you are not causing water to splash up from the soil onto your plants.
8. Mulching is the single best thing you can do for gardening success. Applying 3 inches of mulch to your gardens after planting will discourage weed growth, add nutrition to the soil, preserve moisture in the soil so you don’t need to water as often, and prevent fungal diseases living in soil from splashing up onto plants.
9. Compost is your best mulch. Grass clippings work too – but mow before grass goes to seed. Learn about our local compost “Garden Green” here.
10. Reserve commercial mulching products (bark, etc) for top dressing flower gardens.
Enemies of Plants
11. Diagnose potential insect pests and plant disease.
12. Practice good sanitation in the garden:
Remove and dispose of (NOT in compost pile!) diseased plants.
Clean up all garden areas in the fall.
Rotate crops: Don’t plant the same thing in the same spot year after year.
Get Big Results from Small Spaces
13. Interplanting: Planting a crop that takes all season to grow (carrots) among a quick growing, cool season plant (lettuce).
14. Succession Planting: Once you’ve harvested a crop, like lettuce you’ve planted in the spring, plant something else in that spot.
15. Relay Planting: To ensure you have a continuous crop of lettuce, sow seeds every few weeks.
16. Provide a vertical structure (like a fence or teepee) for your vine crops like cucumbers, melons, and squash to save precious garden real estate