Picking a Healthy Plant

When it comes to getting started with your garden, you have two choices; planting seeds, or buying entire plants. Both have their own benefits. If you plant seeds and care for them every day, you will find it is a much more rewarding experience when you have a full, healthy plant. However, this method is a lot more risky. I can’t tell you how many seeds I’ve planted and never seen any trace of whatsoever.

If you choose to buy the plant from a nursery and install it in your garden, it reduces a lot of the work involved in making it healthy. However, I have found in the past that many incompetent nursery workers will absolutely ruin the future of the plant by putting certain chemicals or fertilizers in. I have adapted to this incompetence by learning to choose the healthiest plant of the bunch. Here I will discuss some of the techniques I use in my screening process for plants.

It may sound superficial, but the one thing you need to check for on your prospective plants is how nice they look. As far as plants go, you can truly judge a book by its cover. If a plant has been treated healthily and has no diseases or pests, you can almost always tell by how nice it looks. If a plant has grown up in improper soil, or has harmful bugs living in it, you can tell from the holey leaves and wilted stems.

If you’re browsing the nursery shelves looking for your dream plant, you want to exclude anything that currently has flowers. Plants are less traumatized by the transplant if they do not currently have any flowers. It’s best to find ones that just consist of buds. However if all you have to choose from are flowering plants, then you should do the unthinkable and sever all of them. It will be worth it for the future health of the plant. I’ve found that transplanting a plant while it is blooming results in having a dead plant ninety percent of the time.

Always check the roots before you plop down the money to purchase the plant. Of course if the roots are in absolutely terrible condition you will be able to tell by looking at the rest of the plant. But if the roots are just slightly out of shape, then you probably won’t be able to tell just by looking at it. Inspect the roots very closely for any signs of brownness, rottenness, or softness. The roots should always be a firm, perfectly well formed infrastructure that holds all the soil together. One can easily tell if the roots are before or past their prime, depending on the root to soil ratio. If there are a ridiculous amount of roots with little soil, or a bunch of soil with few roots, you should not buy that plant.


If you find any abnormalities with the plant, whether it be the shape of the roots or any irregular features with the leaves, you should ask the nursery employees. While usually these things can be the sign of an unhealthy plant, occasionally there will be a logical explanation for it. Always give the nursery a chance before writing them off as horrendous. After all, they are (usually) professionals who have been dealing with plants for years.

So if you decide to take the easy route and get a plant from a nursery, you just have to remember that the health of the plants has been left up to someone you don’t know. Usually they do a good job, but you should always check for yourself. Also take every precaution you can to avoid transplant shock in the plant (when it has trouble adjusting to its new location, and therefore has health problems in the future). Usually the process goes smoothly, but you can never be too sure.


Picking the Ideal Location for your Garden

Once you have picked what garden you want, there are many other factors
you need to decide before you actually get to work with your gardening
tools. Mainly you need to choose its location. This is usually decided by
several factors: How you will water it, how much shade it needs, etc. Some
of these questions can be very important in deciding whether your garden
lives or dies, so don’t take them lightly. You need to take each one into
special consideration.

Choosing the garden’s location within your yard is one of the more
important things to decide. You want to choose a location that will
provide an ideal climate for the plants in your garden. I don’t know what
type of garden you’re dealing with so I can’t give you specific advice,
but if you do a Google search for the plant you’re dealing with then
you’ll find a plethora of sites informing you about the perfect conditions
for its growing. After this, it’s just a matter of finding the most shaded
or most sunny spot in your yard.

Another deciding factor is how you plan on watering your garden. If you
have a sprinkler system already installed for your grass, then it could be
a good idea to put your garden in the middle of your yard. Then it will
get watered at the same time, and require no extra work from your part.
But if this doesn’t provide for a good location for your garden, then you
might end up watering it by hose or dragging a sprinkler out there. In
this case, just make sure your garden is within the ideal distance for a
hose to reach. While this might not seem like a good thing to base the
entire location of your garden on, you’ll be surprised at how nice it is
to plan out in advanced.

Getting the perfect amount of shade for your garden can be a difficult
endeavor. Once you have a basic idea for where you want your garden, you
might want to watch it and record how many hours it spends in sunlight and
how many it spends in shade. Compare your findings to an online web site,
and you should be able to determine whether the spot you chose is ideal or
not for planting and starting your garden in. Of course the amount will
change as the seasons change, but this should give you a good idea of what
to basically expect for the rest of the year. If necessary, later you can
put up some kind of shade to protect your garden from getting too much sun.

After you’ve determined the ideal place for your garden and whether it has
the right amount of sunlight, and whether you will be able to conveniently
water it, you’re one step closer to actually starting your garden. Of
course there are other factors that I have overlooked here, but mostly you
should be able to decide whether your location is good or not based on
common sense. Just think: If I were a plant, would I be able to flourish
here? If you can honestly answer yes, then I think its time for you to
head out to your local gardening store and buy the necessary soil and
fertilizer to get started! Have fun!

Picking the Right Gardening Tools

If you’re thinking about taking your gardening seriously and getting out
there every day to increase the attractiveness of your garden, then you
will want to get the right tools to help you in this. You might be tempted
to go out to the store and just buy the nearest things you see, but you’ll
be much happier if you put lots of thought into the styles and types of
tools you’re buying. There are styles designed just for gardening, and
you’ll be better off buying those.

You can find most of the tools you will need at your local gardening or
home improvement shop. Usually the employees will be simply thrilled to
assist you in finding the ideal tools. If you go to a shop that
specializes in gardening, you can usually get some advice in addition to
service. Gardening store employees are usually an untapped wealth of
wisdom, and they are how I learned almost all that I know about gardening

If you are having a hard time finding the right tool or if you want to
save some money, you might try looking online for the supplies you need.
You’ll have to pay the shipping costs and wait an extra week or two, but
often if you buy more than one tool, the total savings will be worth it.
You should always buy from a reputable seller, though, and search around
beforehand for anything negative that people had to say about their buying

As far as basic digging tools go, you might already have all you’ll need.
There are several types that you should get though, for different specific
tasks. A round point shovel is good for digging holes for plants. A spade
is necessary for all the more intricate work. A garden fork you might not
use as much, but I have one in my tool shed and I’ve been thankful for it
on multiple occasions. Having these different varieties of digging tools
can help you to minimize the work you have to do. For example, if you try
digging a big hole with a little spade then you’ll end up rather tired.
The same goes if you are attempting to do more detailed work with a big
clumsy shovel.

A rake is an absolute necessity. You most likely already have one, but I’m
guessing it’s a lawn rake and not a garden rake. There is definitely a
difference, and if you try to use a lawn rake in a garden then you will
not be happy with the results. Same if you buy a grading or a contractor’s
rake. You’ll want to look for a bowhead rake. I’ve found these are the
best for gardening purposes. They will provide you the maximum control and
accuracy, so you don’t accidentally tear up your precious plants.

As far as hoes go, I don’t believe any gardener should have less than 3.
There are so many useful varieties on the market that I have a hard time
recommending just one, and that’s why I’ll tell you all the ones I usually
use. The one I use the most is the onion hoe, which is very lightweight
and ideal for small cultivations and weeding. The Warren hoe is a larger
model, with a pointed end. If you need to make a hole or dig out a pesky
weed, this is the one for you. There are several other varieties, but I
recommend starting with the ones I mentioned. As you progress in your
gardening savvy, you will find the need for more types.

Most people believe that gardening just consists of a simple spade. But
there are many, many tools with many more variations that you will use in
your gardening career. Usually you can start with just a few different
tools, but you’ll always find that you can use more varieties for special
situations. It’s just a matter of recognizing when one tool could be more
efficient than another.

Preparing Your Garden fo the Winter

Some people believe that when the weather starts getting colder and the
leaves start to fall, it is time to put away the gardening tools and wait
until next spring to work on their garden again. Wrong. Winter is an
important time to maintain your garden’s health and assure yourself a good
crop for next year. You may think that might take to long to prepare your
garden, but the truth is that it takes less than one day to prepare your
garden for the upcoming winter.

When the nighttime temperatures drop to less than forty-five degrees
Fahrenheit for more than four days in a row, or frost is forecasted for
your area (usually around late October or November) you know its time to
begin preparing your garden. You should begin by evaluating your garden
design, check which plants grew well in the past season, and which plants
did not do well. Fall is a good time to decide which plants will remain in
you garden next year, and which ones should go.

It is also a good time to decide which new plants you want to grow. To
make your garden more colorful and healthy, be sure only to plant the more
hardy plants during the fall so that they can withstand the winter. Some
plants that will do fine being planted in fall are: rudbeckia, Aster
Novi-belgii, Anemone Japonica, panicle hyandea, endive, escarole, and
Brussels sprouts. You can find all of these and more in gardening
magazines or your local nursery.

After you have finished this you should begin cleaning up your garden.
Begin by pulling out weeds that may have cropped up, and raking fallen
leaves. Weeds and rotten leaves can carry insects and diseases that might
be harmful to your garden. You should also rid your garden of spent annual
plants, and harvest your vegetables and other plants that cannot withstand
the winter weather. After fall has come and gone, the leaves will be off
your trees and you can see the rotten branches. Trimming off the unwanted
branches from your trees isn’t necessary to your gardens health, but may
help later on by not dropping branches on your plants and not blocking too
much of the sun.

If you have younger trees you should consider wrapping them and supporting
them with stakes to help them survive the winter wind and cold. Putting
mulch over your garden for the winter can be a helpful way to protect
plants from sudden temperature changes and heavy snow. For mulch you can
use about five inches of shredded bark, pine needles, or a variety of
other materials. You have to be careful not to mulch too early, because
some insects may still be alive and able to take shelter in it for the

Once you are finished with your gardening tools you should clean them and
make sure they are in a safe place where they won’t rust and you know
where they’ll be for next year. Before winter comes you should always set
out slug repellent, as slugs are one of the worst bugs to have in your
garden. If you have a pool or fountain in your garden, be sure to take out
any fish that you have in them and bring them inside. There’s nothing
sadder than a fish frozen in a block of ice.

Preparing Healthy Soil

If you’re getting ready to go on a new garden venture, you need to prepare
your soil to ideally house your plants. The best thing you can do in the
soil preparation process is to reach the perfect mixture of sand, silt,
and clay. Preferably there would be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and
20 percent clay. There are several tests used by experienced gardeners to
tell whether the soil has a good composition. First you can compress it in
your hand. If it doesn’t hold its shape and crumbles without any outside
force, your sand ratio is probably a little high. If you poke the
compressed ball with your finger and it doesn’t fall apart easily, your
soil contains too much clay.

If you’re still not sure about the content of your soil, you can separate
each ingredient by using this simple method. Put a cup or two of dirt into
a jar of water. Shake the water up until the soil is suspended, then let
it set until you see it separate into 3 separate layers. The top layer is
clay, the next is silt, and on the bottom is sand. You should be able to
judge the presence of each component within your dirt, and act accordingly.

After you’ve analyzed the content of your soil, if you decide that it is
low on a certain ingredient then you should definitely do something to fix
it. If dealing with too much silt or sand, it’s best to add some peat moss
or compost. If you’ve got too much clay, add a mixture of peat moss and
sand. The peat moss, when moistens, helps for the new ingredient to
infiltrate the mixture better. If you can’t seem to manage to attain a
proper mixture, just head down to your local gardening store. You should
be able to find some kind of product to aid you.

The water content of the soil is another important thing to consider when
preparing for your garden. If your garden is at the bottom of an incline,
it is most likely going to absorb too much water and drown out the plants.
If this is the case, you should probably elevate your garden a few inches
(4 or 5) over the rest of the ground. This will allow for more drainage
and less saturation.

Adding nutrients to your soil is also a vital part of the process, as most
urban soils have little to no nutrients already in them naturally. One to
two weeks prior to planting, you should add a good amount of fertilizer to
your garden. Mix it in really well and let it sit for a while. Once you
have done this, your soil will be completely ready for whatever seeds you
may plant in it.

Once your seeds are planted, you still want to pay attention to the soil.
The first few weeks, the seeds are desperately using up all the nutrients
around them to sprout into a real plant. If they run out of food, how are
they supposed to grow? About a week after planting, you should add the
same amount of fertilizer that you added before. After this you should
continue to use fertilizer, but not as often. If you add a tiny bit every
couple of weeks, that should be plenty to keep your garden thriving.

Basically, the entire process of soil care can be compressed into just
several steps… ensure the makeup of the soil is satisfactory, make sure
you have proper drainage in your garden, add fertilizer before and after
planting, then add fertilizer regularly after that. Follow these simple
steps, and you’ll have a plethora of healthy plants in no time. And if you
need any more details on an individual step, just go to your local nursery
and enquire there. Most of the employees will be more than happy to give
you advice.

The Horrors of Hail

One of the most hazardous things that can happen to your plants is
weather. Many a garden has been demolished overnight because of this
phenomenon. And seemingly, there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Of
course, if weather didn’t exist at all then we wouldn’t have those nice
sunny days that are beneficial to the growth of our plants. But then
again, we wouldn’t have the tragic hailstorms that tear down everything
we’ve worked for so many hours to grow.

When rain starts to fall, usually the first reaction in a gardener is pure
joy. After all, this means you don’t have to worry about going out and
watering it manually. The natural rain fall can’t be anything but good for
all your thirsty plants, can it? Well once that same gardener starts to
see the gorgeous rain drops turn into small globules of ice, usually a
complete emotional breakdown is in order. I know this from experience,
because when I was a blooming gardener I had my garden completely
demolished by about 10 minutes of severe hail.

When I first learned my lesson on the damage hail can do, I quickly
devised a method of coping. I began to keep large clay pots within 10 feet
of my garden, so that at any sign of hail I could run outside and have the
plants sheltered in a matter of seconds. This saved me from being forced
to watch my plants be ripped to pieces on multiple occasions. I’ve never
dealt with hail more than an inch in diameter, but I’m guessing that if
there had been any baseball sized chunks then those pots would have been
quickly demolished.

However, as the number of fragile plants in my garden grew, it became
slightly impractical to have a pot for each plant, and run outside to
place each one before significant damage had already occurred. After much
thought, I ended up building a horizontal, retractable screen mechanism
made out of a strong but flexible wire mesh. At any sign of rain I could
pull the screen out over my entire garden and have instant protection. Not
only did it let the rain through, but the collected hail provided a steady
drip of water for as much as a day afterwards. This project cost me
several hundred dollars, and more blood, sweat, and tears than can be
measured with earth dollars. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

If it’s too late for you, and you’ve recently lost your precious plants to
those wicked balls of ice, then you’re probably looking for some way to
help the plants recover. Unfortunately there aren’t many choices for you.
The best thing you can do is give them the tender care they deserve, and
attempt to nurse them back to health over a long period of time. The
several weeks after being severely damaged by hail are vital to whether
the plant survives or not. If you expect more rain or wind, you should
keep the plant covered. In this brittle stage, even raindrops or a strong
breeze could cause more damage.