Before we get any further into this, I have a confession. I’m trying to find a nice way to say this. I am not a reliable gardener. I don’t have a green thumb. Plants should be nervous about coming to live with me. I am gardenally challenged.
One of my favourite gardening proverbs is ‘the best fertiliser is the gardener’s shadow’ (Chinese). When you’re out in your garden every day, you notice things. You catch problems while they’re still small. You see what needs feeding, that aphids are building up here, this bit needs weeding, this patch is too dry.
I think this is my problem. I am more likely to go on a garden binge, then get distracted with soapmaking/parenting/writing/dancing/drawing/attending workshops/reading/cooking… you get the idea. I don’t keep up with the small gardening jobs, until they build up again.
The good news is, if I can grow stuff, so can you. I don’t have some charmed garden, and I don’t spend days in it every week. Each climate and soil has its easy crops. There will be something you can produce.
Keep planting when you don’t succeed. Try a different variety, location, pest control or fertiliser. I often plant a crop mostly in one place with a few tucked in somewhere random, just to see if it does better there.
Try to keep a record of your efforts in a garden journal. Jot down when you plant seeds or seedlings, how many, which varieties they are, when you harvest the produce, and even what the yield was. Note what is flowering, when the seasons change, when pests strike. Over the years, you’ll start to build up a tailored planting and garden management schedule with everything you need to know.
The main thing I do to counter all my gardening failures is to just keep on planting. Eventually something will work. The chives will establish and form a nice healthy clump. The calendula will reseed itself and appear in a thicket with the autumn rains. The sweetpeas have seeded in all my rose pots, the garlic and jonquils are emerging from the lawn. The blueberry finally has room to grow, after I repotted it in some nice acidic soil. The celery I took a chance on is growing tall and lush.
Visit many other gardens to see how gardeners do it in your local area, and what they grow and when. You can see what grows easily in your area by observing the most common, healthiest plants and which plants are growing unattended.
The good thing about being climatically or gardenally challenged is you find out what plants are best adapted to your area. No cosseting here. It’s survival of the fittest. Growing plants that are either endemic to your local region or originating from a similar climate will mean that you use the least amount of watering and fertiliser. That’s not only better for your time, but also costs you less and uses less resources.
With a compost bin, nothing is wasted in a garden. Throw weeds that could resprout into a bucket of water to rot into liquid fertiliser. Small plants and misshapen fruits can still be used in the kitchen. Find out which backyard weeds are edible. Each year builds on the last, as perennials grow larger and the soil grows richer. Keep it all circulating. Your knowledge and skills will increase with every season. When you feel like giving up, toss those doubts in the compost pile too and carry on growing.