Help me develop a green thumb!
April 30, 2005 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to become skilled with gardening and maintaining indoor plants and stuff. What's a good way to develop a green thumb? Book suggestions, websites, personal anecdotes, cost saving tips, good nursuries in Los Angeles, etc are all welcome.

Potential Gardening Venues:
Indoor (houseplants and the like)
Greenhouse (to be finished in the next month)
Various dirt action outdoors.
Huge roof deck.
posted by sirion to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I think you need to kill a lot of plants along this path. At least that is what I tell myself along this journey. A few more seem to thrive each cycle. There are so many good resources it is hard to start. I would spend an afternoon drinking coffee and reading gardening books at your favorite bookstore to decide which ones suit your taste. As for real life, consistency seems to be the failing of many a gardener. Fall off the watering wagon, let some bugs take hold, etc. and all of a sudden even strong plants seem troubled. If you get good plants, good soil, feed, water and sun as directed, your plants should do well. That is easier said than done though.
posted by caddis at 6:39 PM on April 30, 2005

Check out this website.
posted by JohnR at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2005

Response by poster: Is there gadgetry that might help? Like a soil tester? Any recommendations?
posted by sirion at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2005

The most useful gadget for gardening, I've found, is the index finger. Stick it in the soil an inch to check moisture levels.

I'd suggest getting in contact with your local Cooperative Extension service (they're generally the outreach arm of your state agriculture school). The gardening side of the LA county coop. ext. is here.
posted by jaut at 8:44 PM on April 30, 2005

Do a lot of reading, go find real gardeners to hang out with, and experiment. I recommend forums and a lot of patience. Gardening is awesome.

Cost saving tip: join a garden club, if there's one near you. Those crazy gardeners just love to give plants and stuff away.

Books: the Sunset series is supposed to be good for the Western US. They have a good container gardening book.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:48 PM on April 30, 2005

You don't need to do all that research unless you care to. walk around your town, see what works good for other people. Plants like to grow. All you have to do is let them. Pick a spot. Plant stuff. The brown or white part goes in the ground. The green part goes up in the air. Let them do what they do best. See what you can learn from them. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by Ken McE at 5:47 AM on May 1, 2005

Do you have friends who like to garden? I asked my friends lots of questions and asked for foolproof plants to start with. Also, the local nursery is a good place to ask lots of questions (do I have to water this a lot? does it like shade or sun?). Go when they're less busy, not the weekends when they get slammed, and they'll be happy to ask your questions. If they aren't, find another nursery.
I also started by looking for online websites that are about gardening in my particular area and bought books that were for my local area only -- don't waste your money/time on plants that won't be happy where you live, no matter how beautiful they are.
The soil here is pretty crappy (and most of the areas I was trying to plant in were under trees and kind of eroded since nothing would grow there), so I dumped a huge bunch of soil (my fiance has a small truck, but soil people will deliver) to make a nice bed. Then I put mulch on top of that to help keep moisture in and make it look finished.
It also sounds like you're trying to do a lot at once. I suggest starting with a really small project first, so it doesn't feel overwhelming. My friends did all container gardening at their house, and when they moved, they could take it all with them. But containers require a lot of watering, unless you want to set up a dripper system (pretty easy with home repair store parts).
I've only been gardening for about the last year or so and I'm in Texas, but if you have any more questions, feel free to email.
posted by j at 7:12 AM on May 1, 2005

I second j's advice about good soil and advice from your local nursery. For indoor plantings just get good potting soil. For outdoor planting in the ground getting a good bed made from fresh soil really helps. Typical construction for new homes for the past 30 or 40 years has been to scrape off all of the good top soil and sell it, retaining just enough to make the place look presentable to the new owners. A fresh bed of topsoil really gets things off to a great start. The nursery is key. They will know what grows well in your area, in what types of soil and lighting. They will also know how to water, feed, prune and otherwise care for the plants. For larger plantings like shrubs look for a guarantee of six months to a year. Home Depot may have some bargains, but a good nursery will probably offer better advice. For some interesting plants that you probably can not find elsewhere try White Flower Farms.
posted by caddis at 7:35 AM on May 1, 2005

You might find that perennials are easier to care for than annuals. The rule with perennials is Slow, Grow, Whoa: the first year they seem to do little. The second year the grow a bunch, but don't look thick or produce the flowers you were hoping for. Ah, but the third year is the payoff. The plant looks better than the pictures you saw on the web, and your whole garden is amazing!

Make sure you pick plants that are appropriate for the light conditions. If it says "Full Sun" on the plant, make sure it lives in a spot that gets strong sun from 9AM through 5PM. You can almost always place a plant in conditions brighter than what is advertised, but I've never had much luck the other way around.

Oh, and one last thing. Perennials don't take as much work. A garden, and indeed a whole property, can look great all on it's own with just a little weeding and feeding. No big expense each year. For a little extra flair, you may want to plant a few annuals in your perennial garden, but I don't. I just keep my eyes open for new perennials to add.
posted by kc0dxh at 7:35 AM on May 2, 2005

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