Wednesday, March 14, 2012


image: Denver Botanic Gardens

The time has come for the sun to shine brighter and wee little plants to start poking their heads from their wintery graves. Which also means it's time to get DIRTY! 

As I left my driveway this morning I saw the sweet little starts of daffodils and thought to myself, "it's finally here." I love the start of a new season. This year is particularly great because 'ol Jack Frost decided not to visit New England with any snowstorms. I can't say I'm exceptionally sad about it. But we were left with quite a bleak view for all winter. Needless to say I am ready for the world to give me some GREEN!

I thought about all of the wonderful things I could post about to get you ready for spring. And then I got dizzy because I didn't know where to start. SO I decided to write up my personal plan of action AND let you in on some of my favorite websites. These sites are tried and true - whether you're gearing up to plant your own veggie mart or splash your house with some color. 

Let's get started! 


You have no idea how much this simple little task can make or break your garden. Plants are just as complicated as humans. We require more than to eat, poop, and sleep, right? So plants need more than soil, water, and sun. The soil pH and nutrient balance is an important part of your garden. Every state should have a university agricultural extension and can typically analyze your soil for a small fee. Just type in "[your state] agricultural extension" into Google and BAM. You're on your way


Now that you know what your soil is lacking (or has too much off), take some time to amend the soil. This is especially important for long term plants (perennials, shrubs, trees) and veggie gardens. Do you expect to get nutrients from your veggies? Well they have to get it from the ground first. So don't skip this step! Areas with annuals don't need as much prep because you will be pulling them out after the season is over. If you don't have enough in the budget to amend all your soil (which I don't recommend anyway), then do small spaces at a time. That takes me to my next point


Get inspired. Take your ideas from pinterest to reality! Look at websites, check out books, find your favorite color schemes, and have fun with it. Then, check your plant hardiness ZONE. An important point to note is that most plants do NOT grow the way they say they grow on those 'lil tags that accompany them. Remember, these plants are grown in California so they probably aren't going to grow the same way in your state. See what grows well in your soil type, in the shade, in the sun, with lots of water, without any water. Then do the research around your house. Where is there a lot of sun? Where is there a lot of shade? Where does the water pile up? Where is there a lot of wind? These will all help shape where and what you plant.


Now let me make myself clear: Don't get ahead of yourself! It's easy to do when we feeble ones gain ambition. But if we take on too much, we will soon be swimming in a sea of un-cared for planties. If this is your first year, do a small area of annuals and see what works for you. If your whole house needs to be landscaped, I recommend hiring a landscape designer or architect to help. That way you can have an entire plan and attack small chunks as your budget permits. Also remember that the more you put in, the more maintenance will be required. Later I will do a post on maintenance, but for now just remember that there is no such thing as a "no-maintenance" landscape. For those of you making your own plan, plan what colors and what plant will go where. Take some time to write it or draw it out. Make sure to take full grown sizes into account. This will be very helpful so you don't buy too many plants.

For vegetable gardens: I just found this lovely site that will make a plan for you. It takes into account where you live, what and when you should plant, and then sends you lovely reminders. Check it out here!


You don't have to buy from the most expensive nursery, but that might be a good place to start your looking. They often have the most unique plants available. Home Depot and Lowes will have mass annuals for a waaay better price, so save the petunias for a later trip. Use this time to pick the sales associates' brain and see what you like best. If you are doing a small garden, gather inspiration from the pre-planted pots. If you are doing veggies, the nursery will give you all of the information you need of varieties and fertilizer. And remember, when you buy plants you pay for what you get. Quality is pretty much stated on the price tag. If you want to save money, buy a smaller version of the plant. It will be stronger in the long run because it has grown up in your landscape, not a foreign one. 


The right tools need not be the most expensive ones, but make sure you have what you need. Gardening gloves, a great looking hat, and a hand trowel will be a great start! But eventually you will find that additional tools will help you be more efficient. I guarantee that you will have more satisfaction if you find the tools that make it easier on you. Heck, I need one of those little padded knee things to lean on. Haters can hate! I'm lovin' me my gard'nin time!


If you don't want to spend your whole life outside in the weeds, make sure to put down two things. 1 - a pre emergent herbicides and 2 - a weed barrier. I personally HATE that black junk they sell in the nurseries, so I always recommend that you put down old newspaper. This is great for two reasons: 1 - You can dig into it easily if you need to do additional planting or re-planting and 2 - you don't have to dig it up at the end of the year. It is completely organic and will decompose into the soil. 


Now that you have made a plan, start planting! Have fun! Invite your friends to plant with you! I have found gardening is a great way to dig deep into someone's soul. Pun definitely intended. Also, make sure you plant correctly. Especially with your more expensive plants. Check the tag and follow the guidelines. Do not suffocate your plants!! Most of us bury our shrubs and trees too deep. They don't get oxygen this way. Check the tag to be sure of depth AND width.


There are two types of water people. Those who neglect and those who kill with love. Don't be either of these.  Make sure you know the water requirements for your plants and FOLLOW IT. Believe it or not, killing with love is more common - ESPECIALLY FOR YOUR LAWN. A general rule of (green) thumb (tee hee) is that your plants need more in the beginning, and less as time goes on. Later in life let them get a little thirsty (only a little). This will help their roots grow deep and strong. Except for annuals. Water the heck out of 'em.


As the years go on you will learn more and more about your garden... You will also forget more and more about your garden. I'm not kidding people! Keep a journal, you will be glad you did. Write down what you planted and where. Talk about how many veggies you got from one plant. What you did one year to the next. And when you find the plant of your dreams, you will be soooo glad that you wrote down the botanical and common and variety names so you could order ten thousand more 5 years later. Plus, it's a great way to see your growth as a gardener.

Well not that I've talked your ear off, here are some more great resources and websites.

Not having a green thumb is a myth. The only trick is knowing the tricks. So get out there, get some sun, and have some fun!

In later posts I will talk about some of my favorite design techniques and how to get the most "bang outta your buck." I look forward to sharing more with you!


  1. i love your blog, Jenny! and i love your tip about old newspapers as a weed barrier. i just finished digging up the nasty black landscape cloth in our garden that the previous owners had put in. i didn't think the veggies i want to grow would like it. it's like just under 200 square feet, and i had to dig out all that nasty stuff. why oh why did they put it there???

    1. Thanks Aleatha! I'm so glad you like my blog and that you found some tips helpful tips :)

      And I completely hear you on the black weed cloth. How anyone EVER thought it was a good idea is waaaay beyond me! But I can promise your veggies will love their newspaper protection. And will be more intellectually stimulated as well. I like doing different sections for different types of plants. Like giving my annuals the comic section. I've got to keep them cheery and happy if I expect them to keep me cheery and happy!

      What veggies are you planting this year?