Gardening is one of the most rewarding — and healthiest — hobbies. Spending time outside ensures you get plenty of health-boosting vitamin D and a good workout. Growing your own herbs and vegetables also contributes to a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, not everyone is gifted with a natural affinity for plant care. If you struggle to keep plants alive, you can turn your luck around with some patience and research. In this article, Jennifer Miree Cope shares her tips for successful plant care.
Understand Plant Terms
You can’t expect to know how to care for plants if you don’t understand their needs. Here are some of the most common plant terms:
- Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one year (most vegetables are annuals)
- Bare-Root: Plants that are sold with their roots wrapped in burlap instead of potted in soil (fruit trees and roses are common examples of bare-root plants)
- Biennial: Plants that live two years
- Full Sun: Plants that need at least six hours of direct sunlight every day
- Partial Sun: Plants that need four to six hours of direct sun per day
- Partial Shade: Plants that do well in shady spots but need two to four hours of sun per day to thrive
- Perennial: Plants that live for more than two years; they may go dormant in the winter but come back in the spring
Before determining the best location for a plant, you must also know its soil and watering needs. Some plants, like hardy herbs, grow well in poor soil and require little water once established. Others need moist, rich, loamy soil to do well.
Choose the Right Plants
Many aspiring gardeners think they are bad at taking care of plants — but they are simply choosing the wrong plants. Planning is an essential part of gardening. Whether you’re planting a vegetable garden or want to enjoy the benefits of having plants in the house, selecting the right plant for the right location is key.
Your Plants Are Hungry, So Feed Them
Whether indoors or out, plants need more than just water to survive. Have the soil in your outdoor planting beds tested, and adjust it as needed. Adding an organic slow-release fertilizer mid-season is also a good idea.
African violets and other flowering indoor plants do best with fertilizers that are formulated especially for plants that produce flowers. Most houseplants need only an occasional dose of liquid fertilizer, or you can use a slow-release fertilizing spike instead.
Enjoy More and Stress Less
Gardening shouldn’t increase your stress levels; it should lower them. Make friends with the fact that some things will go wrong. Plants are living things and, as such, can be unpredictable.
Dealing with insects, gophers, and brown spots on your roses is all part of the experience of gardening. However, when you select the right plants for your area and give them the basics they need to stay healthy, you’ll have more successes than failures.
Get Growing with Jennifer Miree Cope
Jennifer Miree Cope is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and is renowned for her skill and passion for landscape design. She donates much of her time and energy to charitable organizations such as Holiday House, Children’s Fresh Air Farm, and STAIR tutoring.