Gardening not as scary as some think

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Master Gardener Purviben K. Trived-Ziemba perpares her home for spring gardening.

Master Gardener Purviben K. Trived-Ziemba perpares her home for spring gardening.

During World War II, many families grew victory gardens to do their civic duty. Today, many children grow up knowing nothing about how vegetables are produced, which plants are native plants, or anything else about plants. To many citizens, vegetables come from supermarkets or neighborhood food vendors. Plants will liven up your garden, your home and will help create ambiance. The top two reasons people give for not having a home vegetable gardening or house plant are:

  1. I do not have time or space and I don’t know whom to ask for help

  2. I want to have some plants or grow vegetables but I have a black thumb.

Please allow me to share some small home gardening concepts with you. Let me answer some questions for you and let us start small.

Question: How much time and space will gardening take?

Answer: It is subjective. You can care for a small table top plant by spending five minutes a week or take hours a day when you plant several acres of flowers or vegetables.

Q: I have a black thumb. Are there any plants I will be able to keep?

A: Yes. My friend, there is a hope for you. Actually, you may have a thriving garden. Aloe, Paddle Plant, Spider Plant, Money Plant, and Silver Dollar are some of the house plants that can thrive on neglect. These plants need to have occasional water and will need to be transplanted when they outgrow the planter and once a year they will benefit from new soil. Petunias, ferns, ornamental cabbage and rosemary will also do well with very little effort on a gardener’s part.

Q: Where do I get these plants?

A: If you have a friend or a neighbor with a green thumb, ask him or her for a cutting. Eight out of ten times, this friend will be willing to help you with any hiccups you have while taking care of the plant. Green Envy, ABC Plant Nursery & Garden Center, Quail’s Nest, Mark’s Greenhouses Nursery, or Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, Kmart, and Publix are some of the places you can find your plant. Make sure your plant is healthy; it is not droopy or has spots on it. Albany Tech has an excellent horticulture department; buying from their April plant sale will serve two fold purposes. The students will learn entrepreneurship and you will get healthy plants for pennies. A good thing about aloe, spider plant, silver dollar and money plant is that you can take a cutting to grow new plants. So after your initial investment, you can have your mini plant garden. My $10 aloe from a local store has propagated 6-7 times. There are at least 60 aloe plants that I have shared with friends, families and colleagues from this one plant.

Q: I do not want to spend too much money on the planters.

A: You do not have to get fancy containers for the plant. Coffee containers or any container without a lid make excellent planters. I just jab my scissors at the bottom of container a couple of times to make drainage holes. Coffee cups, mugs, and old shoes (yup!), Easter baskets and buckets that you are no longer using will make nice planters as well. Give your children some crayons, markers, ribbons etc and let the creativity flow. A simple bow hot glued to the planter will give the planter a festive touch. You can also buy planters. Terra cotta planters are the best as the pores allow better ventilation for your plants. If you feel creative, make Hypertufa planters using manufactures directions. A kiddy pool will make excellent raised bed garden on a porch while storage containers can be used for small shrubs. Make sure you planter has drainage holes or you risk root rot for plants.

Q: How do I care of my plants?

A: Most plants come with directions and the plant nursery can advise you; your local Master Gardener or UGA Cooperative Extension will be a help as well. Contact them via 229-436-7216 or uga4095@uga.edu. You need to know if your plant requires moisture or it thrives on lack of water, how often it needs to be fertilized and how big it will grow. A common mistake is watering too much and drowning your plants. Succulents such as Aloe do best indoors or in green houses. Though it can live outdoors as part of your ornamental garden, it does not take too well to harsh sunlight, heavy rain, frost or snow. In pots, aloe will require well-drained sandy potting soil and a bright sunny location. Good quality commercial propagation mix or pre-packaged “cacti and succulent mix” will allow good drainage. Spider plants can get moisture from the environment but still require occasional watering. Allow the soil to have very little moisture and then water it. Watering every three to four days should be sufficient for your plant. You may want to use commercial moisture beads or water pipes to keep moisture longer. You may also use ice cubes; freezing water in small water bottles and sticking them upside down will ensure that plants will have slow release of water without drying out the soil or over watering.

Q: What happens if my plant dies?

A: Before giving up, make sure the plant is truly dead. Some plants go dormant in winter. Others such as rosemary, silver dollar and peddle plant has amazing ability to come back. Twist the stem; if it is brown and woody, the plant may be dead. If a little green is left there is a hope. Often, I leave my plant alone for a while and it comes back. If you are sure it is dead, just get rid of it and start again.

You can always ask Master Gardener Extension Volunteers any questions. These volunteers will not replace your lawn service or become free gardeners for you but they can answer questions such as, what to do, can you help me with my plant, what kind of soil do I have, what can I plant and such. For more information you may contact your local Cooperative Extension office by calling 1(800) ASKUGA1 or in Dougherty County you can contact James Morgan at (229) 436-7216 or morganjl@uga.edu Use your best judgment to choose and care for your plants.

Purviben K. Trivedi-Ziemba is a UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteer and a member of the Southwest Georgia Master Gardeners.