Gardening is a delightful, money-saving hobby. But it also involves a series of skills that need to be learned. Your best teacher is right outside your door—your garden. As we tend our yards, the garden gives us feedback. It shows us what is working and what’s not.
The leaves on your flower and vegetable plants can tell you about the state of your soil. Are the leaves a healthy bright green? Or are they turning light green to yellow? That’s often a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough nitrogen. Do the older leaf edges look as if they are scorched? Then maybe your plant doesn’t have enough potassium. Are the older leaves reddish purple, especially on the underside of the leaf? Then the problem may be not enough phosphorus. Try adding a small amount of balanced fertilizer and see how your plant responds.
Do you ever wonder how often you need to water? Push your finger a couple of inches into the soil to find out when it needs water.
By observing and recording information, you’ll learn which varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers do best in your garden and how much of each crop to plant.
Turn your inner scientist loose in the backyard for homemade science projects. Create a couple of small experimental and control plots. Then use them to try different plant spacing, planting times or pest control methods to see which ones work best. Gardens are terrific educational tools for both children and adults.
Try planting different flowers and herbs mixed in with your vegetables and see which ones help attract beneficial insects and confuse the unfriendly pests. Sally Jean Cunningham’s book Great Garden Companions has good suggestions to get you started.
Our yards can teach us about design too. When you are in your garden, look around. Does your yard have the look and feel that you want, whether that’s serene, woodsy, formal, natural, abundant or whimsical? Are there are places to entertain and play? Are there comfortable spots to sit, relax and enjoy the view? Is there a view? Have you planned some focal points for your yard? Even the humble vegetable patch can be designed to be beautiful as well as practical. Little by little, we can create a place we enjoy spending time.
Our gardens provide us with feedback on our efforts. If we pay attention, we can learn to be better gardeners.