Living with Style: Gardening Tips, Tricks For Green Thumbs In All Of Us

By Sasha Witte
Gazette Columnist
Jul 29, 2017

After a long week indoors at the office, there’s no better thing than being outside on a Saturday morning. I talk walks, have a little morning tea, chat with the neighbors, stop and smell the flowers. Saturday mornings help me reset my mind and body, and yellow sunshine and fresh air are a big part of that.

One of my favorite weekend activities is tending the garden. A verdant garden not only makes your home look beautiful but tending one is therapeutic and doubles as exercise! If you have never planted anything in your life, don’t fear! The most nubile green thumbs can start off simple with some marigold seeds or a potted leafy mint plant.

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for keeping a garden lush and beautiful, and for keeping you outside as much as possible! Don’t forget to put on sunscreen.

Space Everything Evenly 

So you’ve purchasing seeds from a gardening/home improvement store. Congratulations! Next up is finding spaces for your new flowers to thrive in. When planting smaller flowers, a great way to space your seeds evenly in a rectangular garden is to take a muffin tin and squish it into your soil. The circular holes formed by the muffin tin are the perfect size for seeds to grow and take new life. Make sure you are paying attention to spacing instructions on seed packets for larger flowers.

Grow A Vertical Vegetable Garden

If you’re short on space or have a smaller outdoor area, consider growing a vertical garden with your favorite veggies. Frame trellises made from wood or metal racks are easy to obtain at your local home improvement store. You can even attach fabric shoe organizers to a fence and plant in the shoe compartments! Vegetables that thrive growing vertically include beefsteak tomatoes, pole beans, peas, mini melons, cucumbers, and squash varieties. In addition to saving space, vertical gardens are easier to maintain with simpler soil prep/watering and can provide more exposure to sunlight.

Keep Bees On Your Side 

Bees are a vital player in the ecosystem. There is no better partner to your garden than a bee to cross-pollinate flowers to produce viable seeds for healthy growth. To attract bees to your outdoor space, plant flowers like sunflowers, poppies, goldenrod, lavender, zinnia, alysium and bee balm. Bee-attracting herbs include thyme, parsley, and sage.

Plant Flowers, Herbs That Keep Mosquitoes Away 

If you do a lot of entertaining outdoors, mosquitoes can be a real nuisance — especially in the summertime! A bonfire or candle smoke helps keep these irritating bugs away from guests and food, but there are also certain plants that dispel them naturally. These herbaceous heroes include citronella, marigold, basil, rosemary, garlic, lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon thyme, catnip and lavender.

Herbs to keep mosquitos away

Marigold is the classic garden worker and keeps all kinds of pests — from bugs to rabbits — away. Lemon balm works really well against mosquitoes and the lemony verbena scent smells great! A member of the mint family, you’ll want to keep this herb contained in a pot.

 Lemon Balm keeps pests away

Put Rapid-Growth Plants In Pots

Plants that grow like weeds are best kept potted. Mint is a great example — untamed it can cover a backyard in a few years. Kept in a pot, it will be contained and will always stay moist. Fresh mint is wonderful as a garnish to desserts and so good in mojitos and so easy to maintain!

Put rapid growth plants in pots

Use Winning Combinations

Lots of flowers and vegetables work well when planted together, such as sunflowers and cucumbers, which both require lots of water and similar soil composition. Cucumbers are sweeter when planted near sunflowers and they can use sunflower stalks as natural trellises. Other combinations include morning glories and corn, and tomatoes and leaf lettuce. Place morning glories in between short rows of corn to make the vines grow up the stalks. Leaf lettuce provides soil coverage for tomatoes, keeping the soil nice and cool.

Know What Makes Plants Unhealthy 

A telltale sign of an unhealthy plant — whether its flowers, herbs, or vegetables — is when the leaves start to look funky and dull. When leaves look yellow and wilted, the plant is overwatered. Add sand to soil to improve soil drainage or replant to a larger bed. When leaves are drooping and faded, they aren’t getting enough sunlight. Move the plant around so it is getting adequate sunbathing time. When leaves are crinkly and dry, the plant is dehydrated. Make sure that you are watering your plants with 1 inch of water at least once a week. Remember that vegetables need 6 hours of sunlight!

When leaves look yellow and wilted, the plant is overwatered

Whether you’re an esteemed gardening pro or planting your first flowers, I hope you get inspired this June to get outside and make your outdoor spaces look beautiful! Happy Gardening!

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