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For some, gardening can feel like a mysterious skill bestowed on a chosen few, but with a few key pieces information you can be on your way to growing your own little veggie patch.
Growing up in a family that are keen gardeners and studying agriculture at school meant it was easy for me to pick up some basic skills. Now it's become one of my passions and my garden not only provides me with fresh produce but also with a way of engaging with the present moment. Checking my plants is the most peaceful part of my day.
I feel a bit sad when people tell me they don't have a green thumb because I firmly believe everyone can be a gardener. Often the person has just had a bit of bad luck but, with a few tips can easily be on their way to enjoying their own little green patch in their backyard.
Here are some tips I've shared:
1. Plant what's in season
Sometimes it is tempting to just plant whatever seeds happen to be in the cupboard but to ensure your garden is a success it's important to check what climatic conditions your plants require. For this you will need to know what climatic zone you live in. You will find a map showing this in books, on websites and on the back of some seed packets. I live in Sydney where there is a warm temperate climate.
image: Gardening Australia website
To find out when to plant your vegetables you can look up books from the library, use websites such as Gardenate or even get yourself a wall chart for quick reference.
I also have a little notebook where I write down or sketch things I learn. I find this is a good way of building up my knowledge about the plants I like to grow.
Occasionally nurseries stock plants that are not in season to plant and this can be confusing, so it's important to plan ahead.
2. Avoid cheap potting mix
It is worth the investment to buy a premium quality potting mix. Plants growing in containers need to get all their nutrients from a small amount of soil so it needs to be of a high quality.
3. Plant root crops and legumes as seeds not seedlings
Some plants such as carrots and beans are highly sensitive to root disturbance and are best started from seed straight into where they are going to be grown. Others such as silver beet or tomatoes are perfectly happy to be grown up into seedlings in pots and then transplanted.
4. Know the difference between sun and shade loving plants
It's important to check if a plant is more sun or shade loving to ensure it thrives in your garden. Vegetables such as tomatoes and capsicums love the sun, while lettuce, silver beet, spinach, watercress all tolerate or enjoy some shade.
5. Provide consistent watering and adequate drainage
When planting in containers, be sure to pick ones with at least one hole. Most plants won't want to have their roots dry for long periods in the heat or soaking in water for long periods. Regular watering is the key, and cutting down during the colder months. If you are unsure, gently check the soil with your fingers and see how dry or moist it is.
6. Start with some easy plants so you can build your confidence.
When trying something new it's important to feel some sense of success so pick a few easy plants that are suitable for your home. Talk to people in your area and ask them what grows well in your climate. Some herbs are usually a good start.
7. Apply yourself with a positive mindset
Sometimes telling yourself you don't have a green thumb will result in a self-for filling prophecy of disaster. Everyone can grow edible plants. It's just about building up some key pieces of knowledge, experimenting and problem solving when don't go as expected. Occasionally despite all your efforts something won't work and then it's just about acceptance and moving on to the next experiment. Don't let a single experience cause you to give up.
8. It's not you, it's them
Be aware that many plants have a short growing season and will naturally die off. You haven't killed them. It's just part of their natural cycle.
9. Talk to others about gardening
Start up a conversation with friends, family and colleagues about what you are growing and ask about others successes. Joining a gardening group through social media can also be a great way of learning and sharing your experiences.
10. Learn through experience and don't be afraid to fail
The best way to learn is through doing and asking for help when you need it. Don't be afraid to give things a go because even if something doesn't work you'll learn something in the process. I've learnt a lot through my mistakes over the years.
You can also look up information on websites such as Gardenate or ABC Gardening Australia. And look out for free workshops that are run by many councils on basic gardening, worm farming and composting.
What has helped you with your confidence on your journey to becoming growing your own plants? Do you have any tips to share for those just starting out?
To start with some colour here's our guide on growing edible flowers
Read this next: Tips to Successfully Growing Vegetables in Containers