In my last post, I talked about my passion for hiking and some of the peace it brings me. But not everyone has access to the kind of trails I can get to, and to be honest, sometimes it’s a hobby that wears me out. Driving several hours, hiking several hours and driving home several hours is a full day. By the time I’m home, I’m wiped out. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but sometimes something close to home and a little less physical is the best way to find a little serenity.
I’ve been into gardening since my high school days. It started when I first began working in kitchens when I was old enough to work. Right away I took to cooking and learning about spices, herbs, seasoning, etc. And when you start in a kitchen, you do the prep work – which often includes cleaning, chopping and dicing up fresh fruits and vegetables for the day’s shift. You can probably see where this is going in relation to my love of gardening. In learning how to use herbs and spices properly, how to match them, which one do NOT work well together, etc., I learned that fresher is almost always better. And thus, having an herb garden for parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, etc. was something I’d always wanted. The same was true for fruits and vegetables. Once I bought my home and had access to a yard, a garden was priority number one!
I started with an herb garden as those are relatively simple and if you’re using pots, you can bring them in and out of the house depending on the weather. Then it was on to vegetables. This sort of naturally got me into landscaping in general so I started planting flowers and getting more involved in caring for and cultivating the bushes, hedges and trees around my house. I’m lucky enough to have a good friend who happens to own one of Portland’s best tree services, he gave me some free tips and advice on ornamental pruning and what works best for my area. All of this brings me a sense of great joy and peace. Watching the roses bloom or my Cherry Blossom tree flower every year is amazing… I’ve even seen people taking pictures of my trees when they’re in full bloom in spring. And there’s nothing quite like harvesting, prepping, cooking and serving your own herbs, fruits and vegetables to your friends straight from your own garden!
Here are a few tips on getting started and enjoying gardening and landscaping around your home.
1. Do a little research.
Google is a wonderful thing in that there’s so much info out there on anything. YouTube is especially helpful for any kind of home improvement or hobby, especially gardening and landscaping. Be sure to learn a little about your climate so you know what will and won’t thrive where you live. I’d love to grow my own coffee beans, but it’s never really going to happen where I live as they need humidity and heat (to my understanding).
2. If you’re a novice, start small.
One of the first things I started with was an herb garden. It’s simple and they’re easy to care for. Plus, if you’re limited on space, herb gardens can be hung or mounted for ease of access and space savings. You can even do some of them inside.
3. Look for discount plants at hardware and grocery stores with a lawn and garden centers.
One of the ways I really developed my green thumb was by buying the $1-$5 plants I’d see at my grocery store. These are typically plants on their last leg. I’d bring them home and work on restoring them. Not all make but when you’re spending 50-80% off the regular price, it’s a great way to practice. Now I actively go to hardware stores, lawn and garden centers and nurseries to seek out these potentially discounted treasures.
4. Be consistent with care.
One of the biggest challenges for new gardeners is forgetting to water or care for plants because it’s not a habit for them. Leave yourself notes or use your phone reminders. Once you’ve created the habit it’ll be old hat, but you don’t want your hard work to wither and wilt when you’re first starting out.
5. Talk to a pro.
Like I said I have a friend who owns a tree service and he’s a great resource. I also never hesitate to ask questions at nurseries and lawn and garden centers. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple people or to seek out someone else if you’re not sure of the advice you’re getting. You should be able to tell the difference between a knowledgeable staff member who knows their stuff and a part-time employee just working for a few extra bucks.
6. If you don’t have space, look into a community garden.
Community gardens are becoming more and more popular and can be a great way for folks without yard space to enjoy gardening. It might also be a way to connect with new friends who share common interests. Remember, Google is your friend here. You might even find groups on meetup.com for community gardening in your area.
7. Grab plants from others who aren’t so vegetation-inclined.
I’ve gotten some really beautiful plants from my mom and neighbors who, for whatever reason, have a tough time keeping plants alive and thriving. Two of the three rose bushes I have came from my mom after she saw how great mine looked. She told me “you should get these two from me because I can’t do anything with them!” Adopting plants has been one of my favorite things.
8. Most of all, have fun!
The whole point of a garden is to cultivate and grow, it’s essentially an act of love… so enjoy it and happy gardening!