Here's the truth: While I have a green thumb (thanks, Mom), a lot of what I'm doing here is new to me - I'm growing flowers and veggies I've never grown before! What makes it all work is my stubborn refusal to fail at anything I do. I'm too much of a perfectionist to fail. Add to that a healthy dose of research before we left California, and a resource book that has saved my bacon more than a few times and I'm making it happen! The bosses are really happy with the garden and greenhouse, and the flower baskets and planters will all finally go out in a few short days. Fingers crossed that everything comes into bloom and looks beautiful for our first set of guests!
Anyhow, here's what I've observed in hopes of encouraging some of you to get out in your gardens, whether you have a black thumb or a green thumb. (And please, take all of these with a grain of salt, I'm no expert, just a hobbyist who's been thrown into the deep end!)
-Start small. Take on a planter or a few small terra cotta pots, and work on keeping those alive first. When you've kept those alive for a few weeks, and it doesn't seem overwhelming, add another planter or a few more pots.
-Water deeply or not at all. Most planters and pots do not need to be watered daily (unless you live somewhere very hot and/or dry), but when you do water them every other day or every third day, water deeply. When your soil immediately absorbs (within a second) the water you put on it - your soil is dry and your plants are thirsty. Water more deeply. But for God's sake, don't drown your plants - they'll rot. And if it's exceptionally hot and dry or your plants start to droop - water them, please!
-Try some easy veggies. Lettuces are easy, although not in the heat of mid-summer. They're a cool weather plant. All of you in LA, try them in late October through June, or choose one of the Red or Green Salad Bowl lettuces that are more heat resistant, and make sure they get some shade at some point of the day. You can pick the leaves as needed and leave the plant to continue to grow - Bonus! Make sure you squash any slugs you find! If you like Radishes, they're a quick, satisfying and undemanding crop. They don't take up much space at all, and within 25 days of them putting up their first leaves, you harvest them. :) Or put a pot of tomatoes on your back patio. They are delicious and bountiful during the summer! Plus, homegrown tomatoes have SOOOO much more flavor than the ones you buy in the store!
-With flowers, I've found these to be pretty easy:
*Geraniums A perennial in Southern California - they'll produce blooms for years without much fuss. Just deadhead - or remove - the spent blossoms. And the plants themselves have a really neat smell.
*Pansies are great in Spring or Fall. Their cheerful faces will make you smile. Just find them some shade during the heat of summer!
*Petunias Require a lot of deadheading, but a healthy petunia plant will bloom profusely and just requires you to water it. Plus, petunias can be found in a rainbow of colors and many different sizes. I like the ones that really spread and crawl!)
*Dahlias make me happy. They have bright bold colors and will bloom for months. Easy to care for, and they like being in pots! Bonus - since they're technically a bulb, cut them back when they're done at the end of the season, and they'll come back next year!
-Try an herb pot - herbs like their soil drier, less rich with nutrients, and don't like to be fertilized. And make sure they get plenty of sun! Water every few days. Start with Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano. They're easy to care for and it's so convenient to snip fresh herbs instead of settle for dried. :)
-Buy yourself a nice pair of gardening gloves. It's amazing how much braver they'll make you in the long run. I'm not afraid of getting into anything with my heavy duty gloves on!
-Go to a real nursery or garden center. NOT the ones at Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc... Here's the reason - a nursery or garden center generally has employees who may ACTUALLY KNOW something about gardening or be able to help you and answer questions. Plus, I've found that the plants from these places are usually healthier!
-Use organic fertilizers. They're healthier for you and our environment! If you don't compost (and I assume most of you don't), then this is my FAVORITE fertilizer: WORM POWER It's made from the castings of worms - and my plants LOVE IT. I use the worm power shower (it's a tea), and within a few days the plants go crazy from it! (Note: I love and use this product, and am not by any means a paid endorser!)
-Be patient. Growing anything takes time!
If I can do it, so can you. And I can tell you that I have accidentally killed a couple of plants along the way. There's always something to be learned from that, too! Did you over or under water? Does it need more sun or shade? Is it root-bound? Figure it out!
Let me know if I can help you in any way!