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Turn Your Black Thumb Green

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Like most members of my generation, I’ve never been a particularly good gardener.

Sure, I can keep a cactus alive for a few months, and fake plants flourish under my care, but anything leafy and green dies for one reason or another in about two weeks.

For most of my adult life, I haven’t had much space or opportunity to garden anyway — being an apartment dweller — so having a less-than-green thumb didn’t seem like much of a detriment.

Then I bought a house.

Now, I have a front and backyard of luscious greenery that requires my constant care. I have a relatively large lawn as well as a seeming botanical garden-worth of shrubs and flowers.

Worst of all, the previous owners seemed to enjoy gardening, so the yard lacks any automation features that would make it easy to keep the landscape alive.

When I first moved in, I figured I couldn’t overcome my black thumb and that I should steel myself for the inevitable death of the gorgeous greenery.

Yet, through some aggressive re-education, some much-needed professional intervention and regrettably some trial and error, I have been successful in getting my garden to grow. Here’s how.

Thinking about starting a garden, but don't have a green thumb? Learn four tips to turn black thumb green this gardening season.

4 Tips to Turn Your Black Thumb Green

Take Gardening Classes

While one of my neighbors has been generous in offering her services as a gardening mentor, I knew I needed something a bit more heavy-duty to help me learn how to maintain my landscape.

Thus, I enrolled in some gardening classes offered by my local Parks and Recreation office.

Unbeknownst to most people, local municipalities offer dozens of free and low-cost classes and services, including athletics, cooking, arts and crafts, music, career skills and — lucky for me — gardening.

The classes usually occur at night during the week in a recreation building near your home, and they’ll be various lengths, from about a month to a full season.

If this option isn’t available to you, you might check with a local community college or university to see if you can enroll in a gardening course, or you can check out courses online.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, tend to provide outstanding information for free, but you are accountable for your own attendance and assignment completion.

Additionally, MOOCs are usually highly specialized, so you need to be careful to enroll in one that fits your climate and gardening needs.

Start Simple

You shouldn’t expect to go from killing everything you touch to being a horticultural wunderkind in a matter of weeks.

It takes years of practice to hone your gardening intuition; while I can keep my small garden alive, I wouldn’t experiment with advanced plants or large spaces just yet.

A good place to start is with a container that you can keep a close eye on, filled with a plant that thrives under most conditions.

Don’t try to grow a plant from seed with your first gardening endeavor; experiment with something already growing in your yard or pick up a mature plant from a local nursery.

To start with, I outsourced most of my landscape care to professionals and stuck with keeping two hydrangea bushes alive.

These gorgeous, flowered shrubs are rather easy to grow but do require some attention.

Admittedly, these weren’t in containers, but I already had a lush garden to play with, so I hardly needed container plants on my conscience, too.

If you want to go the perennial route, you might start with knockout roses, black-eyed Susans, yarrow or something similar, depending on your climate.

Alternatively, annuals give you a bright pop of color that will change with the season; consider petunias, zinnias, marigolds and similar blooms.

 Kitchen gardening is a whole other beast that I haven’t tackled yet, so if you are planning to grow food and flavorings for your kitchen, more power to you.

I don’t have much advice in this realm, but again, I suggest starting small and simple. Most herbs are incredibly forgiving, specially basil (which tells you immediately when something is wrong), rosemary and mint (both of which grow like weeds).

On the vegetable side, you might look into nightshades, like tomatoes and peppers, as well as members of the squash family — even though both options are technically fruits, not vegetables.

Make a Maintenance Schedule

Growing things is undeniably a science, which means gardening benefits from a tightly controlled schedule.

I found that by researching and writing out a schedule of care for the plants in my yard, I learned more about my garden’s needs and felt more confident in my ability to deliver them at the right time and in the right quantity.

You can usually find a basic maintenance schedule for near-universal garden features like lawns and large trees, but you’ll have to dig deep to find out what your flowers and shrubs need from you and when.

As an example, here’s a snippet of the spring and summer portions of my schedule:

Spring

  • Remove old mulch and remulch up to 2 inches from trunks
  • Prune dead and broken branches
  • Remove any dead plants
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs
  • Test and amend soil
  • Divide crowded perennials

Summer

  • Weed
  • Trim hedges after new growth
  • Deadhead flowers
  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs
  • Watch for pests and disease
  • Train new vine growth

Automate and Outsource

 Finally, it’s important that you accept that you cannot be a master of all things outdoors unless you are willing to commit your entire life to it.

I am not willing to become a gardener by trade; it’s an interesting hobby that saves me some money on landscaping while keeping my home’s curb appeal, but it isn’t my passion or a potential source of income for me.

With this realization, you should start looking for ways you can reduce your workload in your yard, starting with automation tools and ending with outsourced labor.

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I identified the lawn as my primary gardening disinterest. I don’t have space in my yard to house a lawnmower, a lawn aerator or really any of the tools essential for lawn care.

Thankfully, the previous homeowners had already installed an automated sprinkler system, and I got recommendations for lawn care service providers from my neighbors.

Additionally, I found a tree service to provide semi-regular pruning for the old, large dogwood and maple trees on my property.

Now, I only need to worry about the smaller shrubs, bushes and flowers in my garden, which suits my beginner gardening abilities nicely.

If you expect to become a gardening whiz overnight, you need to think again. Fortunately, through education, time and effort, it is possible to grow a green thumb — and grow a beautiful, green garden in turn.

About the Author:

Tiffani is a leader in marketing authority, she prides herself in her ability to create and provide high quality content that audiences find valuable. She also enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With many years of experience, Tiffani has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing content and relationship across multiple platforms and audiences.

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