So how does one learn if not from books?
Oh, I can hear the rebuttal now just by the title! But hear me out, there are ways to learn without reading, and the most important so far…doing. Reading is doing, but passively. I am talking about actively doing. Since I am seemingly disparaging reading, here is something you can go do… 😀
I see a lot of raggedy edged beds out there, with turf grass encroaching. Go out and kick edge those beds. It is the natural way the pros do it with a flat edging spade. You can let out a lot of gardening frustration with a spade and have full satisfaction with neatly coiffed bed edges. Feel better now?
The Best Gardening Advice is a bit of satire because the best advice is going to come for experts in your gardening area. It is why I keep stressing to find those to ask with your beginning questions. But we do have some general advice to send you on your path of gardening beginnings.
So what is it with books that can cause all that glue-bound inspiration to fizzle? The “doing” to come to a screeching halt?
The last few posts dealt with just a few simple things every beginning gardener should do while learning. The advice was “Just do it!” and “Befriend those in the know.” Two simple tips.
Books are wonderful and I do endorse books, but sometimes the designs are out of reach or may entice you into things not relevant to your planting zone. You must know what works where you live and experts help to keep it real. Look for those who can give more than a quick answer too. You want the understanding.
The beautiful gardens in books make you spend money on plants and things that you will end up replacing, over and over. Some people like this trial and error approach, but it is not fair to the plants or your pocketbook.
Another thing books do is make one tentative about doing. The overwhelming aspect of good design weighs heavily on beginning gardeners and rather than inspiring, stops them cold without a direction in which to take. Or it works the opposite. People read of the “have to have plant” and guess what, don’t really look close enough at the plant’s requirements. The plant ends up as compost.
Last post I told you all about becoming a Master Gardener. Becoming friends with one is the next best thing. They do talks in the community where all gardeners can benefit, so if just beginning to garden, you learn what is relevant to your area. You might just buddy up to the instructor too, often they are the friendliest bunch. Independent nurseries do the same thing so check them out as well.
With lectures and talks to attend, some of which have hands-on practical participation, you can learn to do a soil test for instance, how to identify pest damage, or maybe, set up a bee hive. These things will be great to know and fun to learn. Starting seeds indoors, or in cold frames is also a great learning experience which helps you get a jump on the season. Any beginner can learn to plant seeds.
Let’s Get Friendly
Like becoming a Master Gardener and having that support structure, you can join a garden club.
Garden clubs beautify the community by planting and installing gardens in towns and villages. In colder months they invite in experts, like Master Gardeners, for presentation and lecture.
Garden clubs also make yearly visits to big public gardens. The design schemes are out of your reach generally, but there still is things to take away from them. You just have to think smaller and look at individual parts of the designs.
Not just a single plant, though. Too many do their gardens plant by plant. Look at the design and see why it works. See the massing and the juxtaposition. That post explaining is coming up.
This plant by plant method is generally a mistake, and learning to see and analyze these type of gardens can help greatly in what you learn over time. In garden clubs, there is always a member or two that is good at and understands design.
A little more ambitious?
Take a design course yourself at a community college. Attend a seminar on laying pavers which gives you knowledge on site grading and drainage. Both courses are interactive, and gets one involved in the process to improve the appearance and maintenance of gardens and landscape. That way when…
You dispense advise to others, you come from a place of combined knowledge, yours and those that taught you along the way.
Like I said, you don’t need to have formal training, but you do need practical experience. So if beginning a life of gardening, the best advice? Just start by doing, and make sure to immerse yourself in activities that surround you with others in the know. Oh, and what next… build your confidence and morale… people help there too. Then we get practical, now go kick-edge those beds.