Nothing says spring and summer like a gorgeous garden in bloom.
We used to always observe gardens from afar, resigned to the fact that we would never be able to grow one on our own. But that was before we met Pete McGuire, the man behind our beautiful garden. Every time we clip an herb or collect some beautiful blooms from our garden, we feel Pete’s touch, inspiration, and tender care. Founder of Colby Hill Landscape Company, Pete is our go-to for creating beautiful outdoor havens, and now–no matter your experience level–he can be yours, too. Read on for Peter’s advice on how to create a flourishing garden, even if you’ve never felt you had the skills. Thanks to Peter’s fantastic tips, we guarantee you’ll finish this article with a green thumb.
What are the most common mistakes you see first-time gardeners making?
- Over-watering. Plant roots need water, but they also need oxygen. Make sure your soil and containers have good drainage. Rule of thumb: soil should be moist and damp like a cake, not wet like a dishrag!
- Plant selection. Just because you like the way a plant looks, does not mean it will thrive in your space. A little research goes a long way.
- Site preparation. Take time beforehand to get the bed properly prepared. Fall is a great time to do this, and then you’re ready to go in the spring. One of my favorite resources for planning is a garden catalog [and if you’re looking for an online resource, we love Gardening Know How].
What are a few things you wish all first-time gardeners knew before starting out?
- Prepare flower beds before buying plants. Strip away sod and weeds, turn the soil, and amend with compost before you purchase your plants. This part might not be as glamorous, but it’s going to set you up for success.
- Start small. A few healthy plants is much more satisfying than an entire garden you’re struggling to keep alive. A happy gardener is a gardener for life; keeping it simple will make the hobby more sustainable.
- Ask for help! Your local garden center can provide you with free advice about what to grow in your particular area; and if you know anyone who keeps a garden, talk to them, too. Most gardeners love to talk about plants, and it’s a great way to connect with others.
Time for some basic prep questions. Can you give us some insight into what we need to consider when it comes to soil, space, and sunlight?
- Soil: For garden plots, you should be buying a mix of topsoil, compost, and peat moss, which will be available from your local garden center in bulk bags or by the cubic yard; for potted plants, Miracle-Gro is a reliable brand, but you can also opt for an organic potting mix.
- Space: Use what you have! A sunny windowsill is enough to grow some delicious fresh basil, parsley, and cilantro. Even if you have a large lot, avoid overwhelming yourself and start small. Focus your attention on one area, such as your front walk or, if you have one, an island area around your bird-feeder. There’s no better springtime combination than fresh flowers and birdsong!
- Sunlight: Before you plant your garden, observe the desired area to determine how much sunlight it gets. Then, work back from there to determine what type of plants will thrive in your area. Vegetable gardens require 6-8 hours of sunlight, though leafy greens [think spinach, arugula, and lettuce] can certainly survive on less. For flower gardens, there are a host of flowers that can grow with ease in shady areas. Observe the area you intend to grow your garden, and cross-check your garden catalog or an online resource [we love Gardening Know How] to determine what plants would work best!
What plants would you recommend growing in cold, wet climates?
What about extremely hot climates?
Again, native plants. Echinacea, Russian Sage, Black-Eyed Susan and Yarrow are colorful, easy-to-grow plants that will appreciate a hot dry climate. Succulents and Cacti are also worth considering. If you’re looking to grow vegetables in the heat and you can provide some supplemental watering, you’re in luck: Beans, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Squash and Corn all thrive in the heat. Yum!
I live in a small apartment. Any tips for growing potted plants and herbs?
Choose unique containers that you love, to showcase the plants at their best [we love The Sill for this, but Etsy also offers fantastic, budget-friendly options], but make sure those pots have good drainage. Splurging on a watering can you enjoy will also motivate you to keep the plants hydrated and happy. But, when it comes to apartment environments and lighting, not everything works. Don’t waste your energy on a plant that isn’t thriving in your space; but be sure to compost it instead of simply throwing it away.
Thanks to Peter, we’re off to go buy some seeds and get started. If you use any of Peter’s fantastic first-timer tips, tag us on social media using #casadesuna.