Develop Your Inner Green Thumb

Growing a green thumb is not possible. Cultivating one is achievable and satisfying. Begin with patience, expect a few bumps along the way and be prepared to get your hands dirty, even if you do wear gardening gloves.

Master Gardener Jane Hirling says gardening does not have to be time-consuming or back-breaking. “If you have limited time and space, but still want to brighten your home with greenery, flowers or vegetables, begin with a few established plants in window sill pots or set aside a small area outside your kitchen door for a contained garden. Follow the guidelines that come with young cuttings and you should see success within a few weeks.”

If time is not a concern, you may want to enroll in a Master Gardener course highlighting the best choices for regional climate and soil. The course consists of weekly classroom sessions over a period of several months and volunteer hours prior to a certification exam.

“In addition to a little taste of everything essential to gardening, you will come away with materials and resources to continue the learning process,” Hirling explains. “Volunteer hours, in community gardens or parks, for example, are required to maintain certification as a Master Gardener and that’s where you will really learn how to develop a green thumb. Rely on the experience of long-time gardeners, ask questions and dig into projects ranging from herb and vegetable gardens to wildflowers and colorful seasonal gardens.”

Hirling’s suggestions for successful gardening include:

• Know what to grow before you start.

• Know what your planting area looks like at different times of the day and year. Consider sun, shade, and potential weather hazards in your area.

• Will your plants need protection from critters and creatures? Should you build a fence around the garden?

• Do you want to go pesticide free? Research information available about plants and insects that are natural pesticides.

• Don’t give up. No matter what you plant, there’s no harm in starting over or transplanting as you find the perfect sun and shade spot.

• Rely on the resources available. Garden supply personnel are always willing to help you select and maintain a garden.

• County and state agricultural organizations offer a wealth of general information as well as region specific gardening information on respective websites. Free classes and free brochures on special topics are generally available as well.

• Join a Garden Club. You will find friends with similar interests while learning from guest speakers and other members.

Once a garden is planned and off to a healthy start, maintenance is the next green thumb challenge. Again, check with regional and local experts for advice on weather precautions and guidelines. You will want to make sure you cover the roots of your plants during a freeze and water frequently during summer’s dry heat. “Remember that flowers and plants are more hearty than you think,” Hirling says. “Many varieties that turn brown and limp after a winter storm, for example, will bloom again after you cut them back. Don’t pull up anything until you give it a chance to regenerate.”

Weeds won’t kill your plants, but they will hide your green thumb efforts and just don’t look good. Regular weeding will keep your garden fresh and easier to maintain overall. When you see a weed sticking up, pull it right away – don’t wait until the job becomes an all-day chore.

Investing in expensive gardening tools won’t give you a green thumb, but you will need a few essentials for upkeep. Basic supplies include: a large and small shovel, a soil knife, pruning shears, hand trowel, rake, watering can, hose with sprinkling capabilities, and a storage caddy to keep small tools organized. Don’t forget gloves, a water resistant hat with a UPF certified sun rating, and sunscreen.

Start digging. It’s time to turn that brown thumb green.

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