Five tips for new gardeners from a local expert - InfoNews

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Five tips for new gardeners from a local expert

Image Credit: PEXELS
May 06, 2020 - 7:40 AM

With the days getting warmer and many of us stuck at home, now is a great time to start a new hobby in your own backyard.

Many have chosen to take up gardening during the pandemic, as seen by the uptick in business at garden centres across the Okanagan.

However, while gardening may seem relatively simple, there are a few things beginners should know before they get their hands dirty.

Here are five tips to make your new garden a success.


Thyming is everything

While you may be eager to get your plants outside as soon as possible, you need to resist the urge. Gardening expert and Kamloops resident Darren Broadfoot said that it's important for new gardeners to know the difference between cold season plants and warm season plants.

Consult a growing chart for your region to find out when to plant, and when to start your seeds.

For example, spinach is good to plant in April, but you don't want to plant tomatoes outside until mid-May. You can start your lettuce indoors now, and move the plants outside in early May. 


Herb your enthusiasm and start with the basics

Broadfoot suggests that new gardeners start by growing only a few plants, so that they don't get overwhelmed or discouraged.

"Master growing cucumbers, lettuce and peas in a few small well looked after beds," he said.

Other easy plants to grow are radishes, bush cucumbers, bush beans and squash. Beginners should stay away from more challenging pursuits until they get comfortable with the gardening basics. 

"Root crops such as carrots and beets can have more issues than say, growing yourself a lot of lettuce and cucumbers," he said. 

Seedlings should be planted in shallow, well-spaced holes in the dirt. Seed packets will provide specific planting instructions.


The root of the problem: watering your plants

A common problem with new gardeners is over watering, or forgetting to water altogether.

Broadfoot suggests watering plants slowly, pausing to let the water sink into the soil. If you've done this correctly, the soil is moist, but the water isn't pooling on top. 

"We just want moist soil, like a real good chocolate cake," he said. 

You can test your soil for moisture by taking a small sample in your hands, and rolling it into a ball and squeezing it. 

"You don’t want to be able to wring it out like a sponge, that's too much water," he said. 

You can also test your dirt by putting your finger in the soil to make sure you're not creating mud. If you're wondering whether or not to water, you can do this same test to see if the soil under the surface is moist. If not, it's time to grab your watering can.

If you're watering seedlings, use a spray bottle with a gentle mister or a soft shower mode on your hose, as strong water spray will wash the seeds away. 


Building a salad foundation: the secret is healthy soil

Good quality soil is key to growing big, healthy plants. The secret to a successful soil blend is a hearty compost.

"Compost should be made by combining 1/3 greens and 3/4 browns in a mounded pile," Broadfoot said. "Use a hose or watering can to dampen the brown layers."

Compost should consist of food and organic waste, such as:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • coffee grounds and filters
  • tea bags
  • egg shells
  • nut shells
  • yard waste
  • newspaper, paper towel and napkins

For more information on starting your own compost, contact Kamloops' Friendly Composting on Facebook.

Broadfoot suggests mixing three parts compost material to one part soil, and using liquid organic fertilizers to maximize the nutrients in your garden.


Protect your plants and have peas of mind

If you've put in the work analyzing growing charts, buying plants and seeds, perfecting a watering schedule and making compost, the last thing you want is for your plant to die. 

It's important to identify threats to your plants' health, and how to protect your your crops.

"Frost protection fleece or installed bird netting will keep the current invasion of sparrows away from fresh seedlings," Broadfoot said.

Sparrows will be feeding on seedlings for the next few weeks, before migrating further north. 

Gardeners should be diligent in checking their plants for signs of insect infestation.

"Look at your garden as much as possible including with a flashlight at night to spot early signs of slugs, beetles and caterpillars," he said.

Put on some gardening gloves and pick off the crawling invaders, disposing of them far away from your garden. 

Yellow leaves can be indicative of many different problems, which can be difficult for a novice to diagnose. 

"Always prune off old, yellowing leaves," he said. "If the problem continues it's best to seek an expert."

You can take a photo or bring a leaf sample into your local garden centre to get their opinion, or consult gardening sources online. 

The easiest mistake for a new green thumb to make is planting their garden in too much shade.

"Shade is a silent but powerful enemy for most plants."


Gardening: it grows on you

Even the wisest gardeners will fail sometimes, but don't sweat it.

"Gardening can be a great life lesson," Broadfoot said. "Sooner or later you will fail. Totally and utterly fail. And in gardening that’s totally and utterly okay."

While a failed crop may be a huge disappointment, it also presents and opportunity to learn and try again.

Eventually, with practice, your garden will yield tons of fresh produce that you can eat, proudly. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

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