You're familiar with the basics...now it's time to take it up a notch!
Here are 5 ways to improve your gardening skills and have the garden of your dreams.
If you're content with replacing annual blooms every season, the gardening basics will do just fine. Water them a few times a week, fertilize occasionally, and prune them back when they get too leggy.
But if you want to raise a crop of vegetables for the dinner table or win top prize at the flower show, it helps to improve your gardening skills so you can graduate from Gardening 101.
Here are five great ways to cultivate your budding gardening skills and strengthen that green thumb.
1. Know Your Zone
The first step in improving your gardening skills is knowing what zone you're gardening in.
The USDA's Plant Hardiness Zone Map provides an easy visual guide to identify your gardening zone. This map is based on the average lowest winter temperatures and will help you determine which plants will thrive in your yard.
For example, most varieties of apples are best suited for zones 3-5. You can try to plant an orchard of Honeycrisps and Granny Smiths in Florida (zones 8-10), but they probably won't do well.
On the other hand, a zone that can grow apples well will subsequently not be able to grow a thriving orange tree. (Now the Florida orange industry makes a lot of sense!)
Once you know your zone, you can narrow down your options to only plants that will thrive where you live.
2. Soil Check
We've already talked about the importance of proper nutrients for your plants. But don't stop at buying a bag of potting mix and calling it a day. There's actually a science to making sure your plants have the optimal levels of nutrients.
And it all starts with soil.
There are actually three main types of soil found throughout the world: sand, silt, and clay. The ideal growing medium for most plants is a mixture of these, a combination called "loam."
But even loam can be (and should be) combined differently depending on what you're growing. You may be planting vegetables that need a higher pH or a flower that needs better drainage.
Store-bought soil is a great starting point, but there's a very good chance you'll have to customize it with fertilizer or other materials to make it the perfect formula.
Soil testing kits are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to know the concentration of pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil you're using. If your soil has too much or too little of an ingredient, you can then take steps to bring everything back into balance.
To have the fertilizer calculations made for you, use a service that analyzes a sample of your soil that you send through the mail.
3. Save Your Seeds
Once you're starting to see consistently great results, don't let those seeds go to waste...save them!
Not only will this be a huge cost saver if you're hoping to expand your garden, it will also mean you don't have to start your new plants from square one.
Seed saving allows plants to adapt to your climate and produce better flowers, fruit, or foliage in the future.
Commercially prepared seeds have been "conditioned" to withstand temperature fluctuations and harsh climates by use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Saving seeds helps the plants to adapt to your methods. The soil you always use becomes perfect. The amount of water? Perfect.
Soon you’ll be on your way to a bountiful harvest and beautiful flowers every season!
4. Attend a Flower & Garden Show
Flower & garden shows aren't just an excuse for experts to show off their great gardening skills (although that's part of it). They're also a fun way to meet other gardening enthusiasts and learn a thing or two.
In addition to the vendor booths and amazing botanical displays, these shows also feature seminars, workshops, and other educational classes to help take your garden to new heights.
No matter where you live, there's a flower & garden show near you. Arm yourself with questions and a list of plants or products you’re looking for. Bring comfortable shoes and a notebook to record what you've learned and—above all—have fun!
5. Connect With the Community
Research is great, but sometimes the best advice comes from real-world experience. But no one said this experience has to be your own.
There's plenty of expert advice in books or on Google, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily for you, you're not blazing any new trails. Other people who have had similar issues and experience can provide guidance for your growing gardening skills.
So how do you find them?
You can find regular classes at local gardening club, as well as a community of like-minded individuals with the same interests and goals as you. Plus, since you all live in the same zone, you're sure to get great advice catered to the climate and conditions you're dealing with.
And if you don't have a gardening club near you, go virtual! Gardening forums are a great way to get specific advice as well as to share what you've learned! The National Gardening Association and Gardening-Forums.com are active communities for newbies and experts alike.
The people involved in gardening clubs and forums have generally been through the weeds already (pardon the pun!) and can help you through whatever gardening issues you might come across.
When you start a hobby like gardening it can seem daunting or overwhelming when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. There are so many zones, varietals, species...and ways that things can go wrong.
But remember, even a gardening expert was once a beginner. And this is the start of a beautiful journey!
Start with the basics, and when you've gotten the hang of those, you can use these tips to take your gardening skills to the next level. And of course, part of gardening is about having the right tools.
At Arcadia Garden Products, you can be sure to find the most beautiful planters, decor, and advice to take your flowers, food, and foliage to new heights! We love to see people learning new gardening skills and we're always here to help with any questions.