Gardening 101

I have this category over there called Gardening 101. It rarely gets used. In the northwest the winter is too depressing to work in the garden. I mean it rains all. the. time. I hate being wet. Although I have been known to go pull Ivy out of my yard while it is pouring. I look like the man in the yellow hat with all of my rain gear on.

So this week I’m going to start a regular feature. Sure I could jump on the Love Thursday or Stuff Portrait Friday bandwagon, but hey, I’m Elle… I have to be different don’t I?

So this week is gardening basics.

Most of us are moms. Our time is limited. Who has time to go out and garden all day when there are dishes to be done, laundry to fold and dinner to cook? I would say not me, but have you seen the state of my floors recently? I love to garden. This isn’t just because I have that fancy horticulture degree or anything. For me it is therapeutic. I find a sense of peace while pulling weeds or trimming the plants. It allows me time to think and connect with nature. Blah Blah granola crap. Live with it.

The first step to gardening is to find out why you want to do it. If you are one of those who says they hate gardening or find no use for it, you haven’t ever successfully grown a plant have you? Gardening is addictive. Like some say playing golf is. (Please don’t email me and say how much you loathe golf.) You get that first plant, that first container that looks great and you can’t get enough. I was the same way. I started with a few containers on my deck and I was hooked. We had one apartment where you couldn’t see out because of the number of containers. I lived in a loft apartment in downtown Tacoma and thought I was going to die because I couldn’t garden. That’s when I took up houseplants. That and I worked for a tropical plant wholesaler at the time.

Either way, you have to want to garden. If you look at plants and simply cringe then gardening just may not be your gig. But I encourage you to give it just once chance. It isn’t all that difficult. Trust me. If my mother can become a gardener so can you.

So we’ll start by making everyone a gardener. This means you have homework. To catch the gardening bug you have to grow your first plant successfully. I am not talking going out and hiring a landscape designer to give you this fancy HGTV backyard. Those with the smallest of apartment decks can even do this.

To be a successful gardener you need just a few supplies. First is a container. Let’s not go gettin’ all fancy and say you have to dig up a chunk of ground. Remember, this is for the apartment dweller too. Go buy a container. I prefer terracotta, but plastic will work too. Just make sure it has a hole in the bottom. For our homework make sure it is at least 8″ in diameter. A 10″ would be ideal. You will also need potting soil. The key word there is potting soil. Please, for the love of God, don’t buy that Miracle Grow crap. Go to your local nursery and buy good old fashioned potting soil. I prefer organic. Buy it from the nursery, not the mega box store or the local quickie mart, but make sure it is labeled potting soil. Just enough to fill the pot will do. Also, don’t under any circumstances put Styrofoam peanuts or crushed soda cans or anything in the bottom of the pot. Last but not least you will need a plant. For this homework lesson we are going to start with something simple. One plant that even the newest of gardeners can grow. A petunia.

Petunias are sticky, and I don’t like that about them however, I spend a small fortune on petunias every year. Why? Because they are easy. Now, when you are buying your petunia you will need to be looking for a very specific kind. I am trying to maximize your success here. Look for one labeled a Supertunia, Surfina, or Wave petunia. All of these are what are known as trailing petunias. They bloom all summer, you never have to dead head them and they grow like mad. You will need only 1 4″ plant. See, I’m making you a gardener without breaking the bank.

Now that you have your pot, soil and plant go home and plant it. Dump the soil into the pot, fill until you are about 3/4″ shy of the top. Dig a hole in your soil and remove the plastic pot from your petunia. And important step is to break up the root ball of the plant just a bit. I do this by squeezing the root ball slightly. Plop the plant into the hole and press the soil in the pot around the root ball. Last but not least water that bad boy. Watering is key.

Water your little petunia about every other day and it is best if you water until water runs out that hole in the bottom of the pot. If you live in a wet climate like me you will need to water less frequently in the early spring. During the hot summer months you will need to water every day. Oh, one more thing. Petunias like sun. About 6-8 hours a day if possible.

We’ll revisit your little petunia from time to time with such things as fertilizer, but for now this will get you started.

16 Comment

  1. Wendy says: Reply

    I love to garden. I could quite happily ignore all laundry, housekeeping and grocery duties to dig in the dirt. When I first moved to southern Texas, I dug a large bed in my front yard and filled it full of beautiful plants. The next morning I looked out and there was nothing but nubs left. Apparently I had succeeded in planting a beautiful salad bar for the deer!

  2. Do you have any suggestions for something to plant on a gravestone? I stupidly planted begonias last summer on the hottest weekend of the year and of course they all died.

    Also, I don’t want to go to the cemetery every day to water.

    Any suggestions?

  3. Whats with the potting soil? Every time I try to use this stuff I end up with dead plants!!! I go out and use good old dirt… my dirt grows plants!!! What is the difference and why do I have such horrible luck with that stuff? Come on horticulture girl – I need info!!!!:-) I have an ongoing “rift” we will say with a not-so- beloved inlaw. He gave me a plant and then he declared I was killing it. Looks fine to me, but would I ever like to create “planto gigantico” just to PROVE HIM THE IDIOT I BELIEVE HIM TO BE! Care to help a fellow bloggy? PLEASE???? The plant is called a “Pony Tail” according to Mr. Asshat. Got an info for me?

  4. Carrie says: Reply

    Ok, I’m game! The only thing I can usually keep alive are my house plants…and I mean usually! Now my big question is, what kind of light is this little petunia going to need?

    I need to learn a lot about plants very quickly as we just had our yard redone last year and I need to fill up all my new flower beds with something other than the dirt/bark mulch they have now. Do you have a book you recommend? The climate here is very similar to the NW.

  5. Tricia says: Reply

    Hey there, I did a community service project last weekend (built a flower bed) and it was fun! I’d love to create a flower bed with herbs outside my kitchen, but also get some potted plants for my entryway. Problem is, it’s completely contained, so I would have to get plants that don’t require sunlight. Any suggestions?

  6. NEAL says: Reply

    Like. The. Header. Just. Like. You. Said. I. Would.

  7. My newly planted Petunias thank you!

  8. hopingforgirl says: Reply

    i’ve tried gardening, i suck at it. we planted some fruit trees last spring, and i was amazed that the same season we planted, the apple tree bore 2 apples!! these were baby trees bought from Costco. i have in my backyard: 3 cherry trees (red, black, rainier), 1 pear, 1 peach & 1 apple. i really don’t know what i’m doing, all i did was plant them & figure i’ll see what happens.

    i also transplanted a redwood tree from CA (i bought it as basically a branch on a road trip in northern CA) and it has grown, but it turns brown whereas i thought it would TAKE OFF in this climate, it hasn’t. Also i tried planting pumpkins, green beans, carrots, etc. but the bunnies came & ate everything!! this year, i will need to get some wire to go around the gardening box (DUH!). i have a desire, but don’t put forth much effort. i have spent many hours digging up weeds, it loses it’s appeal after awhile!!

  9. Jessica says: Reply

    I excel at growing chickweed; did you know it can get almost knee high? Last year I hired a friend’s teenage son to tackle the chickweed garden, and this year I’m hoping to turn it into a flower garden (although my husband keeps pointing out that chickweed does have *lovely* yellow flowers). It helps that this year I *will* clean out the old sand from the sandbox (it hasn’t had a lid on it for goodness only knows how long) and put in new sand for my 2-year old! I think the hours he will want to play in the sandbox will help encourage me to work on gardening. Maybe I’ll even tackle the other chickweed garden (the one you can’t see until you’re on the deck). I have grand plans for the yard (and yes, part of that does still include having you come up and help me pick stuff out – you’re still coming up this year, right??), and investing in that black weed-mat stuff is part of it! Especially for the chickweed-gravel walks! Do you see my garden theme? 😉

  10. Liv says: Reply

    I share your love of gardening. However, I do not care for tropical plants and I live in FL. E keeps trying to get me to get a small palm type plant, and I really don’t want one. Unless it’s a banana tree. That I could get behind.

    I am much more old fashioned. I have peaceful, idealistic, and whimsical scenes in my mind of how I want my yard to look. I want herbs and roses, and small, abundant flowers. One southern plant that I love is Wysteria. Do you know if it comes in white?

    I have to plant almost completely different plants in my back and front yards. My flower beds next to the house rarely get full sun. My back yard rarely gets shade. The upside to that is I can justify having completely different species front and back.

  11. Jenn says: Reply

    Ahh, the call of digging in the dirt, transplanting, and pruning…ok, pruning is my least favorite. In the summer I seriously need a self-cleaning house as the outdoors is all I am willing to work at.

    My plans this year include an herb garden, moving a few favorites to the patio to make room for a walkway, and new pots at the end of our walk…wave petunias might just fit the bill there!

    Love this series and will check in regularly.

  12. M- says: Reply

    I hate gardening…mostly b/c I can kill everything except rhodies. But I did buy some seeds for my window boxes today, tonight, I’ll let my kids plant them, and see what we end up with. BTW, I love your new header (or whatever the top of a blog is called).

  13. Thanks for the step by step for us black thumbers. I actually am nurturing this little flower that my son brought home from church- it was just soil then and now it is actually sprouting.

  14. Rhonda says: Reply

    OK, I am going to do this with you. I need some serious help on the gardening front, so this is just what I need to get me started. I am off to buy my petunias.

  15. serena says: Reply

    great post. I’m crazy about gardening. It makes me soooo peaceful. I’ve moved to a new state – Alaska. I’m dying to get busy and research what will grow here.

  16. […] year we had the great petunia experiment. Only I fell down on the job and didn’t help you along nor did I check back in. If you would […]

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