Habits of a Successful Gardener

There is no better way to celebrate earth month than getting your garden up, running and ready for the season.  For me, gardening has always been a hobby held near and dear to my heart.  As a child, I used to see my mother in the garden for hours on end with the hot sun beating down on her. It would amaze me how she could be so focused on what I thought was just “dirt.” One day she made me come join her in the garden where she taught me about the soil and the sun work together to produce the beautiful flowers and tasty veggies we see blooming throughout the warmer months.  

One of my most vivid gardening memories of course, started in the kitchen.  While cooking dinner, my mother took the water she had used to boil the vegetables out to the garden.  Instantly intrigued, I of course trailed after her. She took the vegetable water and used it to water her plants. I remember her distinctly saying, “the plants need their vegetable soup too Cynthia.” Every weekend, my mother would get up early around 6:30am to start on her precious garden. She would spend hours working on weeding, watering and planting. Just like most things in life though, her hard work brought great results.

Here are some tricks that have been passed down from my mother that I will gladly share with you in hopes for you to enjoy a prosperous garden.

• Growing my own herbs is where I officially got my start. Being Italian, fresh herbs are the key ingredient to many of my passed down traditional recipes. If you can keep a houseplant alive, you will have no trouble maintaining an herb garden.

• Basil: Pinch off any flowers that appear. This helps to preserve the plant’s flavour. Only take a few leaves from each stem at a time.

• Parsley: Extra patience is required with this herb. Only cut the outermost stalks that are above ground level. This will help encourage further growth.

• Thyme: Thyme can take a while to grow from the seed. This may be a plant that you want to buy at a mature state. Thyme prefers drier soils making it an easy plant to care for. Simply cut off pieces of the stem as you need it.

• Mint: Mint is an invasive plant and is best when you grow it in a container. Pinch off sprigs as you need them.

• Anything can be grown in a pot if you have limited space. The key thing to remember though is that these plants cannot survive without some help. They fully rely on you for water and food.

• If you want to attract wildlife into your garden, ivy is the best for insects and birds. The ivy provides nectar for the insects and the berries for the birds. Ivy is also ideal for shelter for birds such as blackbirds, robins.

• How about the infamous chipmunks. Cute as can be but they can be pests in the garden. A quick trick that will make them think twice about ruining your garden is scattering dog or cat hair around the area.

• Human hair is pure protein for your garden’s root system. I usually take the leftover hair from brushes and place it down in the roots. You will see your garden flourish.

• The secret to preventing you from pulling weeds until you are blue in the face is proper lawn maintenance. Lawn maintenance includes mowing your lawn regularly and making sure your soil has proper fertilization.

• Blossom-end rot is a common problem when trying to grow cucumbers, squash, peppers and tomatoes. This is due to a calcium deficiency, which can result from an insufficient amount of calcium in the soil, uneven watering that affects the way the plants take up the calcium or heavy rain leaching the calcium out of the soil. To prevent this from happening, be sure to mulch well and water regularly to help even out the unwanted moisture.

• Most fruits and vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun. It is best to plant your fruits and vegetables where prime sunlight reaches.

• A DIY compost pile is very simplistic and one of the easiest things to start. Avoid using meats, poisonous plants, oily products or fatty products. Things such as leaves, grass clippings, newspapers, eggshells, coffee grinds, used tea leaves and vegetable debris is the perfect way to start.

My biggest secret to gardening is this: nobody gets it right the first time or even the second. No garden is perfect but will always improve through trial and error. This is the simple joy of gardening, spending the time to tinker around and make it what you think is “perfect”.