flowersSo! You've been admiring your neighbors' beautiful gardens for years and decided this is the year: You're going to take up gardening. Hooray, you're going to love it! I hope? I love gardening, anyway. Your green-thumb happiness level depends on what kind of start you get, though. First thing to keep in mind is to start small your first year. You can get more ambitious each year as your build your expertise and confidence. Let's get you going with some simple guidelines that will hopefully minimize frustration and maximize your efforts.

gardening tips

1. Get the DL from your neighbors. Everyone's climate and location presents different challenges. Find out from your fellow gardeners which plants get inundated by aphids and which plants go gangbusters no matter what the weather.

2. Choose a sunny plot. Find an area that's in the sun for most of the day. If it also gets shade for 2 or 3 hours, that's even better. Plants usually grow more slowly in the shade, and they flower less, too.

3. Start with annual borders. Don't get in over your head, yet. Start small, like maybe a narrow area just around your lawn or surrounding your mailbox, and plant annual flowers. These are the flowers you re-plant each year. At the garden center, ask for flowers that will bloom through summer. Petunias, zinnias, celosia, marigolds, pansies, and impatiens are usually pretty low-maintenance.

4. Use starters, not seeds. If you're a beginner, use starter plants instead of seeds. If things go well this year, go ahead with seeds next spring (March or April, depending on your climate).

5. Measure your gardening area. How many square feet is your gardening space? Measure, and then tell the gardening center employee so they can tell you how many plants to buy.

6. Herbs before vegetables. YES, it's amazing to grow your own food. I've done it, and it's a blast. But before you go there, start small with a little herb garden: Basil, thyme, parsley, mint, and sage are pretty easy to grow, depending on where you live. Plant them in containers if you can, especially the mint, which will spread everywhere.

7. Feed your soil. Before you plant anything, mix in some compost into your soil. Talk with the garden center people about how much to use.

8. Put yourself on a watering schedule. Once you find out how often your plants need to be watered, make it part of your regular routine. Set up reminders so you'll keep it up. Summer is a busy time of year, and it's easy to forget to water.

Have you ever gardened before? What have you learned?