Working at a Feed Store and Garden Center, and being the resident gardener, I’m asked a lot of questions about a lot of things. I never claim to know all of the answers, often I have to look things up when brought something I’ve not really seen before or haven’t experienced personally.
But some things about gardening never change. I consider these things “the basics” of gardening, and I wanted to share those things with you today, to really get to the root of many garden solutions (see what I did there?).
The boss and I are headed to a trade show this weekend to scope out new and exciting products to bring to you, so this entry will be pretty short. I’m sitting on a plane at the moment, very much “in the clouds” as it were. As I fly through the sky it’s hard to not think about having my hands in the earth and growing things.
Here’s a quick list of the things that I consider the basics of gardening. These are things that I feel you should have, or know, in order to have any success in the growing endeavor. Ready?
Garden Essentials #1: Access
In order to garden you have to have a suitable place to garden. Whether you have a yard, a patio, or you’re building a greenhouse with LED grow lights in your closet (hey, no judgement from me – everyone needs fresh tomatoes), you need to have dirt, and light, and space. It’s as simple as that!
Most of us have some kind of patio or yard to work with, and that’s great. Whether you’re planting in ground, in a container, or raised bed or whatever, being outside gives you “free” access to light and dirt.
Access, though, is also about having access to water, and to the tools of gardening, like shovels, hoes, soil knives, pots, and more. That’s where our store fits in, and we love it.
Garden Essentials #2: Amendments
If you’re in Florida, you need to have soil amendments to grow most plants in the ground. Florida sits on a limestone shelf, and thus our native soil is very sandy. Sandy soil allows water to run through it pretty quickly, and it’s very compact, with not a lot of space for your roots to get access to the air, leading to root rot. Also, organic matter in the soil is a source of nutrients for your plants and the micro-ecosystems that plants establish to grow properly (like the complex relationship with fungi/mycorrhizae).
There are a vast number of soil amendments, and I won’t go into all of them here. I’ve written previous blog entries about some of them and will link them below! One of the most important ones, though, is organic matter like compost, dry leaves, old mulch, and other materials like that. Tilling these kinds of materials into the soil provides a whole new kind of food to the plants and other creatures that live in the soil. It attracts earthworms, which open airways in the soil and leave behind castings, which are nutrient rich “worm droppings” – you can actually buy bags of those droppings from us, by the way – and other beneficial burrowing critters.
Basically, Amendments are necessary if you are growing anything but native Florida plants, which are accustomed to the regular soil we have here. Fertilizer is also an amendment, in case you were wondering.
Garden Essentials #3: Water
Plants need water. I know I mentioned water in the Access (#1) section above, but that was more about having literal access to running water. This is more about actually doing the watering.
Water is the substrate that allows all of the chemical reactions that sustain plant life to actually happen. It’s the same in our own bodies, in case you didn’t know that. (Plants and People are more alike than you might realize!)
Consistent watering is required, and that “schedule” should be based on many factors, such as how much water the soil holds, what kind of plant it is, the ambient temperature and humidity of the environment. Yes, you can over water. You can under water too.
No one can really tell you how much is too much or too little, because there’s so many factors. You have to experiment, and watch your plants, and examine your soil. Gardening is a constant learning process, and it’s always full of surprises for you.
Garden Essentials #4: Consistency
In every “how to” article I write, I always come back to the one constant in gardening: Consistency. Consistent care. Consistent watering. Consistent feeding. Consistent light cycles. These are the HUGE lessons one must learn to achieve the success in the garden that most of us crave.
In a way, plants that are not native to where you are growing them are a lot like children. They depend on your actions for their survival.
Gardening takes patience and effort. It takes a methodical schedule of events to be successful at it. It takes commitment, caring, not only for your plants but to learn from them, paying attention to what they are trying to tell you, and to what they can teach you about life on our planet.
I know this blog is pretty short, but the root of nearly all the questions I get asked at the store are found in these 4 things. Of course, I’m not including pests and plant diseases here, but I can tell you that a plant that has everything it needs to thrive is usually not really affected by disease. Insects we can take care of with careful application of substances used to control them…or you can just choose to share your plants with the local wildlife – plant extras for them too.
I hope you found this helpful, especially if you are a beginner in the gardening world. I love helping people who are new to the joy of gardening, to get them through the little pain points that all gardeners go through in their journey.
Take care, and until next time, Keep Growing!