Gardening. It’s so calming, therapeutic, satisfying, rewarding.
A garden is a wonderful place to relax and get energies out, it’s a tangible spot of the expression of you, a creative outlet in itself, a place of solitude as well as a place to share.
And it’s actually a lot easier to get started and be successful at maintaining than you might think it is. It’s one of those activities and hobbies that you just have to get up and do. Let go of the fear of defeat, intimidation, too much work, too much time, or any negative thoughts of “But I can’t keep a houseplant alive to save my life” or “Everything I touch dies.”
Once you see a little bud form or trim a little herb for your latest recipe, watch regrowth, appreciate your garden becoming a comfortable haven for yourself and for pollinators like butterflies and bees, you’ll find yourself becoming even more compelled to keep on gardening.
Falling in love with gardening.
Oh my goodness do I love it! I would have never thought I’d ever be that person, but here I am, obsessed with gardening. I love talking shop with other gardeners. I love getting my hands in the soil, watering to a plant’s heart of content, gathering the harvests, taking photos of insects, and just being outside, taking in the fresh air and observing the surrounding beauty.
My first year gardening, I thought, ok, where do I begin to make it a productive place of comfort?
I had images of garden landscapes from Pinterest on my mind. I wanted to grow oodles of French and English lavender and bright blue hydrangeas. I wanted to eat an abundance of organically grown crisp cucumbers and tasty cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine. I wanted to be friends with all the critters like Snow White and wander freely among the foliage, not burdened with any gardening chore.
Well, dreams do come true.
My first garden, a real success!
Of course gardening does take some work, mostly work directed toward establishing your gardening skills in the first year. The internal and external rewards are so worth it though. Even during times of the most demanding physical labor, it becomes a time of reducing tension and anxiety, in fact, it’s often energizing.
Here are 8 tips to creating the ambience of a hopeful, tranquil, joyous garden.
1. First, get a head start on making homemade compost.
Making your own homemade compost allows you to be resourceful, less wasteful as you save on the amount of rubbish you throw out, becoming more environmentally conscience, and save money.
If you’re even thinking of having a garden this year, I’d recommend starting your compost today.
I like to use a large wood crate, unfinished, untreated, 18 in. x 12.5 in. x 9.5 in. which can be found at your local hardware store like Home Depot or Walmart.
I line it with either a recyclable, compostable bag or fine mesh chicken wire. I have the local hardware store cut an untreated piece of wood to fit over top.
It is perfect for composting small amounts of raw kitchen scraps such as tops, skins, cores, along with paper scraps, leaves, and coffee grounds. I add Red Wiggler worms. And it will not emit obnoxious odors if you balance out the nitrogen and carbon ratio and stir it once a day.
I prefer keep a little trowel inside for convenient stirring and a plant on top to disguise it.
You’ll have greater control over what goes into your soil. Sometimes the incidentals that grow amongst your plantables can be just as gratifying as an intentional plant.
Here (above) a mango grew from one of the seeds I had in some of the compost I buried.
2. Then simply start with choosing what you want to plant.
Choose what you want to grow before deciding on a design, all the rest will fall into place.
Take your time strolling around your local hardware, nursery, or grocery store. Take in the landscape of your home and surrounding neighborhood. Thumb through magazines, social media, and online forums to garner some ideas.
Don’t be discouraged by the type or size of space, small or large, structural obstacles, HOA ordinances, the amount of sun, climate, weather, or hearing/reading about gardening woes related to the plants you prefer.
Ask yourself, “What do I want to grow?”
Flowers, herbs, vegetables, trees, a combination? Is there a top choice or a must have in your garden?
Fresh or sweet aromas? Are there certain colors or color schemes you are drawn to? Native plants or ones that are more out of the ordinary?
Are there certain herbs and vegetables in your most commonly made dishes or ones you wish you could grow fresh, offering you less trips to the grocery store? Is there something in particular that you can’t regularly find at your local grocer? Perhaps your interest is piqued in this year of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, job loss, or food security.
My top must have as far as herbs are concerned is basil. This type (above) is lime basil which adds a unique, zippy flavor to homemade pestos.
You may find out specifics to the plants you choose as you start your gardening journey. One option is picking a few plants that may be more tried and true to your area and a few that would be considered more risky. The results of risky may surprise you.
The initial success of plant growth will be your cheerleader. As you become a more established gardener, you’ll learn how to creatively arrange, manage, and care for plants that some might deem as either difficult or easy.
You’ll also find yourself having a lot more flexibility within the confines of your space as you try out different plants and alternative methods of growing.
Whether a private plot of land, a deck, or community garden, today’s accessibility to soil methodology, planters, structures, and furniture can allow you to easily fulfill your vision in creating your ideal garden.
3. Garden design.
One of the most exciting aspects of gardening is putting your garden together.
Once you pick out the seeds and starters you want, there are many factors you may want to consider. Go around positioning seed packets and seedlings on the ground where you desire to plant them before digging in the dirt.
This way of planning helps to better visualize which plants you want where. Some plants make better companions than others, some need lots of space, some have more height to them, some need more hours of direct sun. You can then organize them according to pH, likeness, size, proportion, shape, convenience, color, season, succession, and overall planting and space fulfilling goals.
I love Secret Garden style havens, with lush green, full foliage, layered and staggered high and and low to provide privacy with pops of color and varietals. Serene, English cottage pathways and Spanish courtyard-esque manicured plots.
I like an almost crowded look. For certain plants I like layouts of rows, others, quite staggered, always an abundance of things that bring me joy. I’m less of a fan of boxy, bare, coffin-shaped garden beds.
4. Making it easy on yourself.
Gardening should be leisurely and delightful, not drudgery.
Having tools and a watering can readily available will help you make spur of the moment decisions in weeding, sprinkling, pruning, and harvesting. This will decrease any procrastination and apprehension that may creep up during gardening season.
This is especially important if you have just planted seeds or baby plants. You’ll want to identify newly sprouted plants against weeds and newbies require gentle, more frequent watering.
5. Decorating to your heart’s content.
Your garden space is a reflection of you and the things that you like.
Wood barrel planters are a nice touch. Classic terra cotta pots can be left bare or painted with safe paints, adding interest and contrast to whatever you decide to plant in them. Ornamentals, an entertaining accessory.
Start with a few things to your personal style and taste. Believe me, the more that people know about you and your love for gardening, the more you’ll be gifted fun, whimsical garden decor.
6. Turning you garden into a place of retreat.
A garden is a wonderful place for you to relax, read, and snack.
Add a bench, a swing, or simply a chair. Some place to sit, rest, and take in your surroundings and rest in between labor. Think about the position of the sun and the time of day you’ll most likely spend the most time there.
Do you like to get up early or stay up late? When do you prefer to weed and water? You might want to choose a place under some shade or go for the best overall view. Rearrange as often as you please.
Surround yourself with items that make you happy. Chimes, figurines, bird baths. Build it up to a place you’ll see yourself spending time in.
Making your own side table.
And you can easily make a little side table of your own, whether you want to use it for setting down your morning coffee or gardening tools as you work, or for adding heigth to planters.
Just flip over ceramic pot and top it off with a decorative paver, voila! A cute and inexpensive, decorative table!
7. Finding your refuge of inspiration.
Adding little bits of your personality to your garden may happen all at once or over a period of time.
If you want to learn more about creating a personal refuge or are looking for garden inspiration, check out these magazines.
Here are some excellent books on gardening.
Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces by Tara Nolan
Garden Alchemy: 80 Recipes and concoctions for organic fertilizers, plant elixirs, potting mixes, pest deterrents, and more by Stephanie Rose
Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build to Enhance Your Yard or Neighborhood by Philip Schmidt
Creating a sanctuary for animals.
Birds are such a joy. Some are quite chatty, some leave a mess so choose your bird house placement wisely. It either case, it’s always so entertaining to watch them nest, feed their little babies, and hear them singing songs first thing in the morning.
Don’t forget, even insects serve a purpose and need a home.
8. Gardening resources.
Identify and learn flowers and bugs using phone apps. Take a photo right on the spot or import an existing photo to the app and within seconds you’ll get the name of the species and some background information.
Picture This (left) allows you to identify flowers and trees you may see in passing and even help you sort out displaced seeds or scout out weeds in order to differentiate them from your early growth of treasures. With Picture Insect (right), you can identify pests and beautiful, interesting species of bugs.
These apps been pretty accurate in my experience so far, in fact, I am forever grateful for them. From this tree I saw at the market (left) where everything is toxic but the fruits to this Orb weaver (right), walking tight rope, web strung across the cucumber trellis in my backyard.
YouTube Channels I subscribe to.
OYR Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening
RHS – Royal Horticultural Society
Rob Bob’s Aquaponics & Backyard Farm
I hope you enjoyed these 8 tips on creating a happy, peaceful garden sanctuary.
Let me know how your garden fares!
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