Young people today are afraid of gardening. They say it’s “hard,” “mystifying,” and “intimidating.” They don’t know where to begin and they’re terrified of making a mistake. To those who shrink in fear at the prospect of tearing open a seed packet lest they suffer a paper cut, let Grumpy comfort you. Master these six basic principles and gardening will become as second-nature as texting or asking your parents for money.
Some plants don’t need soil, but all garden plants need sunlight and water. They need varying amounts of both, but no plant will live for long in a dark room and parched soil. If you cannot supply both light and water, hang pictures of plants or buy plastic ones.
Start with good soil and 90% of your work is already done. Good soil is loose, drains well, and contains plenty of organic matter, such as composted manure, ground bark, chopped leaves, pine straw, and grass clippings. Add lots of organic matter to your outdoor garden beds every year to improve fertility, loosen clay, and attract earthworms, the gardener’s best friends. When planting containers, however, always use named brand potting soil, never bagged topsoil or soil from the garden. The latter are too heavy and dense for pots.
Aim first for a small success. Rather than planting an entire border, plant a single container. Choose some annual flowers in colors that you like in a pot that’s at least 12 inches wide. The bigger the pot, the less often you’ll have to water, and the more plants it will accommodate. Put it a place of prominence within easy reach. Once you master the art of keeping a single container alive, try two or three. Gradually build your confidence to attempt more ambitious plantings.
Learn by doing, not by reading. No matter how comprehensive a garden book may be, it can’t account for the special conditions in your garden. People who put their hands in the dirt and actually grow things acquire much more knowledge than any book can provide.
Plants die, just like people. They always have and they always will. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a failure. Every gardener, novice and veteran, kills plants. So don’t sweat it. Think of it as the Big Guy saying, “Well, you’ve spent enough time learning all you can about that plant. Time for you to learn how to grow something new and more interesting.”
Gardening is good for you — both physically and emotionally. Working in the garden exposes you to sunlight for making Vitamin D, good for strong bones and good vibes. It’s good exercise too. Why pay to walk indoors on a treadmill when you can mow your lawn and rake your leaves for free? And believe me, NOTHING works better to put aside the worries of the world than immersing yourself in the garden. Every little victory, challenge, and surprise sets that serotonin flowing. So get gardening, hipsters. Trust me, you got this.