Gardening is a little like doing the laundry: you need as much, if not more, energy at the end of the task as you do at the start.
After several years of gardening, I’ve had my share of successes as well as my share of failures. Whether you are new to gardening or an old pro hoping to maximize your efforts this year, I thought I’d share my best tips for ensuring you the best growing season possible.
Tip #1: Keep Intensive New Experiments to a Minimum
I always love trying new varieties, just for the heck of it. In my Pacific Northwest Garden, I’ve attempted watermelon, quinoa, cantaloupe, goji, kiwi, and edamame to name just a few.
However, it’s easy to get really ambitious and go full enchilada planting anything and everything you find interesting in that seed catalog. My advice? Exercise some restraint! Planting the fussier stuff undoubtedly means more time and energy and more chance for failure. I’ve had years where I had more losses than wins, and that really can take the wind out of your sails planning for the next year.
I’ve learned to try one, maybe two, new fun things while primarily focusing on varieties I have experience with and/or know will work well for my climate.
Tip #2: Consider Your Harvest Before You Plant
Start with the end in mind.
If you don’t like to can or freeze, think long and hard about what you intend to do with the harvest of those 20 tomato plants you’ve sketched in your garden plans. If no one in your family likes beets, why bother? If you know you’re going to be busy in September, maybe you shouldn’t be planting tons of vegetables that will require extensive preserving time.
I like to plant a variety of veggies that will be ready to harvest at different times during the growing season. I’ve also come to really appreciate varieties that practically preserve themselves. I’m also a fan of vegetables like greens and herbs that are cut-and-come-again.
Tip #3: Add Some Perennials
Want a plant that will give you a bang for the buck? Try a perennial!
Unlike annuals, perennials come back year after year, and often will give you larger harvests the more established and larger the plant grows. Consider adding rhubarb, a couple blueberry bushes, or some lavender to your gardenscape this year.
I’ve found the result of having perennials means less bare ground to have to plan for in future years.
Tip #4: Exchange Ideas (or Seeds!) with a Friend
One of the ways you can gather inspiration and save money in the process is to exchange ideas with a friend.
I have a wonderful friend and neighbor that I love to check in with about this time of year. We’ll often go in on seed orders, swap plant starts or seeds and share tips. We’ve even been able to split compost orders before, too!
Tip #5: Plant Flowers
When I started my garden, I only wanted to plant edibles. Edibles, edibles, edibles!
In the last couple years, my daughter has pushed for my flowers and I’m glad I’ve taken her cue. Not only are many flowers very easy and fast to grow, they attract bees (and I don’t need to tell you the importance of that!). They’ve also just added to my enjoyment of walking through my garden and made it aesthetically pleasing.
Tip #6: Don’t Worry About Everything Being Perfect
It can be so easy to get caught up in the beautiful photos on Pinterest, but the reality is that most home-grown organic gardens will have some weeds and bug holes. I always have a couple things that don’t turn out the way I’d hoped….and sometimes more than that.
I think we often imagine that some people have a green thumb and that means they can grow anything, anywhere. But the longer I’m at this, the more I realize that gardening is a learning experience. It takes time and it means you will likely make mistakes.
Instead of lamenting about a less-than-Martha Stewart garden, focus on just enjoying your garden! Take time to observe the lady bugs, smell the flowers, and eat the mint leaves.
Your garden should be a relaxing and fulfilling experience, not just a means to an end.
Now it’s your turn: what are some of your best tips for planting a successful garden?