“Try This!” Thursday: 5 Tips For Gardening

Here are some of my top tips for starting off your springtime gardening on the right foot! I have been an avid gardener for many years and have been employed as a gardener for the past five. For more specific answers to your gardening questions, stay tuned! I am doing gardening Q&A posts this spring here on my blog.

1. Invest in the right gloves! This means durable, long-lasting, comfortable and lovable. Pay the extra buck for the sturdy garden gloves. I always buy the gloves that have the leather or faux leather palms and finger tips (such as the Mechanix Women’s Padded Palm gloves). A good pair of gloves should last you at least a year, if not more. If you’re going to be doing a lot of work in the garden, it actually saves you money to buy the more expensive, sturdy tools and gloves. A good pair of gloves will protect you from many days of digging in the dirt, from blisters, from insects, and from other causes of injury. The first part that usually wears out in my gloves are the finger tips, so it is imperative that I buy the tougher leathery gloves.

2. Dress for the mess. I get ticks EVERY year, even if I usually catch them before they bite, it really helps to have long tough pants I can tuck into my boots. Ticks carry disease and lyme disease is for life! I wear jeans, mid-calf boots, and a wide-brim hat. I try to wear long-sleeves when it is not too hot. Wearing durable waterproof or water-resistant boots is very helpful in preventing tick bites and damp feet (gross!). A wide-brim hat protects you from the sun and from the gnats. And long-sleeves can help prevent exposure to the sun, irritating plant oils, and bugs. Protecting yourself from infections and bug bites will insure that you can keep returning to your garden this year.

3. Water. Make sure to water potted plants every couple of days during the hot dry stretches – mid-afternoon shade can help reduce heat-induced damage. A plant that is drooping with weak leaves likely needs a drink, but make sure to only water them when it is cool outside or when they are shaded. A plant watered in the afternoon, when it is warmer or hot, may be burned or otherwise damaged.  Also if you’re transplanting potted plants into the ground, fill the hole with water and let it seep down into the ground before you plant – this encourages deep, strong roots and makes for a happier plant when the weather is harsh. Also you can water the ground when it gets too hard and dry to weed; the water will loosen up the dirt and roots. Furthermore, keep a water bottle near you so you don’t get sick with dehydration. Dunk your hair in water to cool off after a hot stretch of yard work.  Water is vital for your garden and for you!

4. Don’t fear the bugs. They usually could not care less about you. The only insects I really have any issue with are angry nests of ants that I disturb when weeding (and the occasional tick). Bees, especially in the morning, are either sleepy or more concerned about the flowers. If you have a problem with hornets or yellow jackets on your property, make sure to have someone smoke them out before you start working in the yard. If you do have an allergy, keep an epi pen with you. The ground is full of bugs, so embrace them. They make our ecosystems possible. And it is always a good sign if your garden fosters lots of earthworms.

5. Buy locally-grown plants for your garden. I am not talking about the plants sitting out at Home Depot or Southern State, but instead about plants you buy directly from the farmers market or from a local Master Gardener plant sale. Maybe even a neighbor has a plant to spare. I have had a higher success rate with plants I bought from local gardeners. They tend to have stronger root systems and to be better adapted for the climate. If you grow vegetables, make sure to rotate your crops each year so that the soil can recover from changes in chemical composition.

Bonus tip: Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy can look very similar. When in doubt, assume it is poison ivy. At maturity, Virginia Creeper has sets of five leaves and Poison Ivy has sets of three. When they are seedlings, they are even more alike – but you can tell them apart by the cotyledon (embryonic first leaves). Poison Ivy has oblong oval shaped ones and Virginia Creeper has heart-shaped ones.

Hope today’s post is helpful as you prepare your garden space for a new planting season! Thank you for stopping by today and I hope you will come again on Saturday for my post about fertilizer.

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