Four Basic Principles to Follow
American author Sam Levenson comically wrote “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” I’ve written extensively about the benefits of creating indoor and outdoor gardens. What I find holds people back most often from even starting is a fear of failure. In life, our mistakes whether common or not, are how we learn; the garden is no different and at some point we just have to take the plunge and begin our own adventure. I’ve worked with all kinds of clients and students. Some people are cautious and want to start small. Some have a “go big or go home” attitude. Some struggle with decisions and want advice and handholding every step of the way. Some want to do everything on their own and figure it out for themselves. All of that is okay.
Whether you are starting your first seedlings in a windowsill, creating a new indoor landscape, or planting your family garden for the 20th time, I’ve broken down some basic principles that can be made as simple or as elaborate as one could wish. Because our lives are always changing this is a great exercise to go through as you embark on a new project.
1. KNOW WHY YOU WANT WHAT YOU WANT
Why are you planting or planning a garden? Is it for beauty? Is it for food? Is it to have a family project? Is it to improve your air quality? Is it to earn some cash on the side? Is it a therapeutic hobby? Is it to add style and appeal to your workspace?
* Action– Decide all the reasons why this is a good idea for you and write it down. Decide on your “dream list” of plants to grow or procure, or at least what you hope to accomplish with the plants in your care.
2. KNOW WHAT YOUR RESOURCES ARE
How much time are you willing to devote? How much money do you want to spend? How much space do you have? Who can you call on for help?
* Action– List your resources and the places or people you can go to for information and assistance.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT
What kind of soil is in your yard? What is the light quality of your indoor space? What is the range of temperature where you want to grow? What pests may be a threat?
*Action-This is where many people freak out and become overwhelmed. Don’t. Remember that list of resources? Use it. Match up your “dream list”, your resources, and your environment to create a plan of what will realistically work for you.
4. EXPERIMENT. MAKE MISTAKES. HAVE SUCCESS. LEARN. REPEAT
This is the jump in and do it part. Get dirty. Have fun. Make your best guesses based on the information you have, give it your best effort and see what happens. I guarantee you will make mistakes and feel bad when you kill a plant. I guarantee you will feel fantastic when you eat that first tomato of the season. I guarantee you will feel more connected to your life when you pay attention and nurture the nature around you.
* Action- Keep a record of what went wrong, what went right, and what you learned. Pay attention to how you felt about your successes and your failures and you will learn about more than keeping plants alive and healthy, you will learn about yourself.