Calling all Brown Thumbs!

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By Linda Mitchener

Do you wish you could have healthy plants? Do you feel sad or guilty that many of your green babies haven’t survived for long after you’ve brought them home? There IS hope for you (and your plants) to blossom and thrive - if you’re committed to giving them a little more attention.

They say “the best fertiliser is a gardener’s shadow” and there is truth in this – like anything in life, what we give our attention to thrives. Unfortunately in the day to day bustle of life, sometimes our plants don’t get all the love and attention they should – so our dreams of having jungle-lush surroundings or feasting on abundant home grown produce are dashed. But brown thumbs rejoice - there’s something gardening can teach us – renewal! Each season nature hits the ‘refresh’ button, and Spring and Autumn in particular are great opportunities to have another go at growing things.

“Fall down 7 times, get up 8”

If your garden has been a little neglected or deliberately left to go its own way over summer – now is the perfect time to start over. Before you do – just take a few moments to survey your plants and garden beds (it’s ok to shed a few tears!) - try to see what lessens there are to learn; why did things not thrive? Too much sun? Not enough sun? Soil too dry? Too many competing roots in the soil? This is where you have the opportunity to change things for the better.

If you found it difficult to find time to spend in your garden, perhaps don’t try to do so much next time. You need to build gardening into your routine somehow. If you’re used to making yourself a cup of tea in the mornings, or when you get home from work, use that little bit of time to go outside. Just those few minutes to observe and check in with your plants are important. Are they looking healthy? Is there something amiss? If you don’t have time then & there set a reminder to make time later. Incorporate it into family time – get the kids to come out with you and look for flowers, or bugs to identify. Put them in charge of a plant of their own to water if they’re interested.

Small is good.

Stick to one smaller area (preferably close to the house) and concentrate on a few things there that you’d like to grow. Even a few pots will be rewarding and will help develop your green thumb.

Starting small means less expense too – don’t skimp on preparing your soil; after all it is the foundation of a healthy garden. Most of Perth has very sandy soil which provides great drainage; but is not good for retaining water and nutrients. Adding clay and organic matter will help; ask your local Garden Centre for advice. Spending some time turning the soil into a good growing medium will pay off; try it and see for yourself! For pots, always buy the best quality potting mix you can afford (believe it or not – there IS a difference, even beyond what you can see).

The next step is plant selection – and again, your local Garden Centre staff will be happy to help with suggestions for things that will cope with your proposed growing environment. Also – look around your neighborhood. What grows well? Ask a neighbor whose garden you admire – they’ll probably be flattered and very happy to pass on their knowledge.

If it’s a vegie garden you want to set up; do some research on what is in season to grow. Many new gardeners are discouraged by things failing to thrive, but if they’ve attempted to grow things at the wrong time of year (or that aren’t suited to the conditions in their garden) they’re doomed to fail from the start. There are some great websites, apps and books (remember those?) that can provide all that information. Another great idea is to join your local community garden. For a small fee, you get to manage a plot of land and learn first-hand from other gardeners around you. Many groups run workshops too – it’s worth checking with your local council to find out where your closest is.

If indoor plants are your passion; start with reliable plant performers (again – do some research!) and build on your experience one green baby at a time. Many indoor plants are killed through over watering (rather than under watering) - self watering pots are brilliant for beginners and busy people alike. Gardening is an on-going learning experience for all of us. Nature loves to bring us new challenges and we won’t always be perfect at responding to them. The trick is to persevere.

This autumn it’s time to discover your inner green thumb. Develop a relationship with your plants and your garden and you’ll never look back! Happy Gardening!