May 1, 2021

by Rosalin Grace

The Mississippi Club

 

 

 

 

Becoming A Better Gardener

 

Rosalin Grace


I have learned to never think that I know all there is to know about anything.  When it comes to gardening, the more I interact with other gardeners and do my own research, the more I realize how much more there is to learn!  I have had some wonderful luck with growing many things, but I am always striving to produce even better results.  Although I am a country girl and grew uparound vegetable and flower gardens all of my childhood, I did not pay much attention to how things were being grown.  I just knew that whatever came out of the garden to the table was darn delicious!  However, I have enjoyed having plants around me for most of  my adult life.  Before I started growing vegetables, I always had lots of house plants throughout my home.   Now, most of the things that I grow are outside and edible.  In my opinion, the goodness of homegrown edibles is enough to encourage anyone to try their hand at gardening.

One of my most valuable gardening assets is a social media gardening group that I am a member of.  The amount of gardening knowledge that I have acquired in just a few months is a good example of how valuable we all are to each other.  For example, until another gardener revealed it, I did not know that you could lay slices of tomato on top of soil, lightly cover, water, and then watch dozens of tomato plants emerge for you to transplant.  I have also learned about the best environmentally-friendly products to use in my garden, which is priceless information.  I also now know that "container" goes far beyond a fancy and expensive flower pot -- plastic buckets, kiddie swimming pools, plastic storage containers, reusable shopping bags, or anything that is safe for growing food.  A popular container right now is the grow bag, which I have come to love.  The most important thing about containers is making sure they are safe for growing food.  If your container is marked with a number, make sure it is not 3, 6 or 7 if you plan to use it for growing food.  The good numbers for growing food are 1, 2, 4, 5. 

 

Learn from other gardeners

 

In my opinion, every gardener needs to learn how to start seed early inside for transplanting outside later when the weather is favorable.  If you only want one or two tomato plants, then it makes sense to just buy a couple of plants from the garden center in the spring.  However, if you are like me and want lots of tomatoes, then starting from seed is an easy and economical way to get dozens of tomato plants for a fraction of the cost you would pay at a garden center.  Many seeds are viable for 2-3 years, so a $2-$3 pack of seed can provide you with plants for more than one season if you do not use them all the first time.

 

Seed started in peat pods

 

Propagation is also something to know a thing or two about.  You can increase your number of plants substantially by using one or more propagation methods -- division, cuttings, layering or grafting.  I have propagated plants by rooting stem cuttings and by division.  Some plants are extremely easy to root by placing stem cuttings in water, such as the ornamental sweet potato vine shown below.  I have also gotten several new rose bushes by simply taking a stem cutting in the fall and sticking it into a pot of soil.  Not every cutting  has taken root, but many have.  Propagation is definitely  your friend if you are on a limited budget but want a lot of plants.


    

Ornamental potato vine and rose plant propagated from stem cutting.

 

No matter what you want to grow, you are sure to find a YouTube video on the subject.  So, if you do not like social media, you can still gain a ton of knowledge about gardening by watching videos.  I have learned about hilling potatoes and growing corn in a container from YouTube videos.  Most likely, you will discover more than one way to grow a particular plant, and it is up to you which way you want to try -- or you might want to try more than one way to see which works best for you.  Gardening can be a never-ending journey if you are willing to explore, and it is exciting and rewarding to successfully grow something that you have never grown before.  Many backyard gardeners find it challenging to grow watermelons, which is something I plan to attempt once again.  Although I did manage to get one decent watermelon a few years ago, I have not gotten any to maturity since.  So it will be a glorious day when I have several fat watermelons happily growing in my garden.  Never let your failures keep you from trying again because where there is a will, there is definitely a way.

 

Like so many others who love to grow things, gardening is medicine and wisdom to my soul.  I like to think of gardening as a conversation with God, and through His plants, He talks to us about many things.  He tells us how important it is to plant good seed in good ground, and that we must attend to what we have planted.   Through His plants, God lets us know that our harvest will be as big as our efforts, and that we must be ready to reap the harvest before it goes to waste.  He tells us that there is a time and a season for everything, and that all things need a rest and time to sleep before waking up again with new life.  Yes, gardening is medicine and wisdom for my soul!

 

Fresh collard greens from the garden

 

As each growing season commences, I look forward to another chance to learn a little more about growing happy plants that produce the biggest and best harvest.  It is key for me to pay close attention to what is happening in the garden at all times, staying on top of problems and recognizing what produces the greatest results.  My never-ending goal is to become the best gardener that I can be.  A few of my recommendations for becoming a better gardener are:

  1. Join a local or social media gardening group, learn from other gardeners (friends, relatives, neighbors)

  2. Search YouTube for gardening videos

  3. Search Google for gardening articles and videos

  4. Grow something

  5. Pay attention to your plants

  6. Identify and correct problems

  7. Enjoy the beauty and wonder of your plants

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned gardener, there is always something else to learn about growing plants.  But there is one thing that every gardener instinctively knows, and that is the joy of a happy plant and a successful harvest.  It is pure delight to pluck a big, ripe tomato from the vine or a juicy lemon from the tree, and the beauty of greenery and flowers bursting with color is a gardener's delight.  Each growing season and harvest is another opportunity to learn more about my plants, and I am happy to keep learning because the more I learn, the bigger and better my harvest will be. 

 

Happy gardening!

 

 

--Rosalin Grace

May 1, 2021