My 1st year Gardening: 10 Things I Have Learned

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

Hey everyone, in April 2012, I decided to take up gardening something other than the trumpet lilies, Ivy and liriope which I planted in 2006! I think I have read every kind of gardening article under the sun in the last 7 months...some flower specific, some not. I have learned more about insects/pests, moles, voles, slugs and snails than I probably should know! Before April, if asked, I probably thought "black spot" was due to lack of water or too much sun and that NEEM oil was the latest sun tan oil for a trip to the beach! And of course, I thought "scale" was only referred to when talking about fish and that "sheering" was just for sheep! Not to mention I thought powdery mildew on leaves was supposed to be there!

A few other things I have learned over the course of my 1st season with gardening:

1. Full Sun: I learned that certain plants that are said to require "full sun" didn't mean the plant had to have the scorching southern sun during the hottest part of the day from 11am to 5pm. Sometimes just 3 or 4 hours during that time can be considered 6 hours of sun.

2. Full Sun/Part Sun: I learned that a lot of plants that can be planted in full sun or part sun usually meant full sun in cooler zones and part sun in warmer zones.

3. Ordering Plants Online: Until April, I never even knew ordering plants online was possible. I have learned that some online nurseries are much better than others. Just because an online nursery offers 3 plants for the price of 1 doesn't mean the plants you receive will arrive alive, and if they do, it doesn't mean they are healthy and will grow! I learned that sometimes paying more for a 1 plant at one nursery is sometimes better than paying the same price (or less) for 3 plants at another nursery. I also learned that, for the most part, the pictures showing gorgeous, colorful, lush plants is not what mine will look like 3 weeks, or even 6 months, after I plant it! Sometimes, it takes a year or longer to get my plant to look like the plant in the picture, and that is only if I take REALLY good care of it! I learned how excruciatingly painful it is having to wait 2 or 3 weeks for my plants to arrive!

4. Planting in the right spot: I learned that water loving plants should not be intermixed with plants that prefer to be more on the dry side. (Canna and roses do not mix! Nor do Callas and Purslane) I learned I should either have a separate flower bed for the 2 or plant them really far apart! I learned that no matter how beautiful a plant is, it doesn't always have to go it in the center of a bed! (Yes, I planted a Imperial Blue Plumbago between Canna and behind roses and purslane. What in the world was I thinking?) I learned never to plant big leaf plants (such as Ginger, Alocasia, and Colocasia) underneath or close to oak trees! Otherwise, there will be many tears and holes in those leaves!

5. Spacing Plants & Plant Maturity: I have learned to heed the suggested spacing requirements. However, I learned that when heeding suggested spacing requirements, that the 1st growing season, there most likely (depending on the plants) will be much more space between plants than I preferred. I learned that "full maturity" of some plants can take 1, 2, or more than 3 years! I learned that until plants reach maturity, I can plant annuals in-between them to take up some space.

6. Watering Plants: Yes, the majority of plants require at least 1 inch of water a week. Well, here in zone 8b coastal SC, with the drought, humidity and scorching heat, the 1 inch of water I gave the plants most likely dries up before the plants can take it all in. Therefore, I learned that sometimes I am gonna have to water more than once a week! I learned to water a plant at the base, but to also water several inches out from the base, as well. (The roots gotta have soft, moist soil in order to spread!) I learned that if it rains, I might still have to water plants the same day. Plants that are shaded under trees don't get as much of the rain as plants that are not shaded by trees. So, just because it rained an inch, it doesn't mean my shade garden received an inch!

7. Potted perennials: Yes, potted perennials can be beautiful and add a lot to my yard, deck, porches, and even in my gardens. However, I have learned that the potted perennials, which don't have bulbs or tubers I can remove and replant next spring, are going to have to be brought inside for the winter! I learned that I really don't have much space with good lighting inside the house to accommodate all these potted plants. (5 ferns, 2 philodendrons, 5 tropical Hibiscus, 10 spider plants, 1 Pachystachys Lutea, and 3 Dracaena Palms). I learned the window with the best light is the bay window in my kitchen! (Eh, who needs a kitchen table...we can eat in front of the TV for the winter! Ha ha!)

8.Spring Fever: I learned that spring fever doesn't mean I have to buy every plant that is hardy in my zone 8b. (Yes, I started the spring with 3 small gardens and now have 11. Some of them are not small either!)

9. Evergreen & Herbaceous Perennials: I have learned that herbaceous perennials are beautiful in bloom during spring, summer and even fall. Conversely, I learned that a flowerbed full of gorgeous herbaceous perennials looks bare and desolate by the end of fall and all of winter. Therefore, I have learned to plant some evergreen perennials in these beds as well, to avoid desert-looking eyesores. Especially the ones in the front yard!

10. Experience & Knowledge: Some garden centers and online plant nurseries do not explain a lot of what I have learned when purchasing plants. I have learned that different plant nurseries list different hardiness zone for the same plant. I have learned that the best way to gain knowledge is not only through experience, but to get the advice from other gardeners that grow the same types of plants and have already learned what works and what doesn't. I have received so much advice here at Dave's Garden and I am truly thankful for every bit of it. The knowledge I have gained through other gardeners here at Dave's Garden is the very best and extremely accurate.

Of course, I learned so much more than just these 10 things :-)

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

you learned a ton!!! and will still be learning something new everyday

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Yup...gardening is like learning a new learn a few basics and then, the more you speak the more you learn. And it is always easier when other folks speak the same language.....grin

Tobyhanna, PA(Zone 5a)

Got to agree. We just keep learning all the time. If you think about it, plants and people are similar in many ways. Some don't like wet feet ... some like to bake in the sun ... some are loud and colorful ... some are quiet and shy. As they say, variety is the spice of life. :>)

Kenmore, NY(Zone 6a)

Boy Savvy, you're pretty savvy for a first year gardener!

Isn't DG the greatest? I've meet some of my very best friends here. ^_^ I feel like such a novice here sometimes, but I just keep reading & reading.. then I go to work and everyone thinks I'm the plant guru. (lol)

It sounds like you're well on your way to being a very fine gardener.

Fabens, TX(Zone 8a)

Enjoyed reading your artical, wish you the best of gardening in the future.

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

Wow you're a natural! Can't wait to see what you learn next year!

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

Ya know, I was thinking the other day about something else I have learned this year while researching Canna. I have learned that, more often than not, when looking up information on Canna, 99% of the search results are for Cannabis care and issues LOL And if I did a search on "Canna Lily" then most of the search results would be for Calla lilies. It would drive me crazy.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Note to self....Google is an idiot savant....ya have to find just the right words to trigger its' wealth of info. LOL I have found the same thing, especially when doing searches for plants.

(Zone 7a)

I'm with Jean. You have to outsmart the machine in front of you to get results that make sense! LOL

Savvy, thanks for posting this. Most of us learn by doing but we can also learn from others' mistakes! The hardest lesson, IMHO, is waiting until the right time to plant. There is nothing sadder than to put in...saaaay...Japanese Iris in late Spring and have all 10 die in the Summer heat.(Yeah, I did that this year.)I should have waited until Fall but I got impatient. Sigh...oh, well.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

I was so pleased when my kids were all finally grown...I spent years trying to "outsmart" them and thought I was through with that....then I got a laptop and found Google....sigh

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

In cases like this use the - operator. For example to search for Canna and not get cannabis enter canna -cannabis in a google search. There is also a site operator. It is in the form of site: The nice thing about it is that you can specify just a class of link..For example you can specify .edu and get mostly university sites. You can also combine the two and eliminate a whole class of things.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

I have found that works well when you know what you are searching for Doug, but sometimes when trying to ID a plant, you are using descriptives and that can take you to some pretty strange places. Also, it seems that some words have a plethora of connotations and Google is happy to give the ALL to you....grin

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

LOL. The worst part of it is that I tend to follow some of the more "interesting" ones and it takes me forever to get back to the original search.

For plant Id's I tend to go to a site like this with a picture. If I'm using google and have a guess what it is. the I start with images. Sometimes I've gotten lucky.

If it's a cultivated plant I find a large nursery the most useful. For wild ones you old standby field guide work for me.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

I agree. I have started a search for something and after what seems like just a short time, glanced at the clock and discovered I have been site hopping for a couple hours. Time flies quickly for the curious mind....grin (thank goodness for Avast...kept me out of bad places more than once...whew!)

Dunnellon, FL(Zone 9a)

You learned a good amount for your first year!

Here is my learning about gardening story....
When I was a baby, as soon I could walk, I would go to wherever plants where located.
I would feel the leaves and flowers, wondering "If other people can grow these things (PLANTS), can I?
At the age of 6, I was growing huge sunflowers in pots. When my Dad taught me how to sprout seeds, I was craving the next teaching.
At age 10, I took gardening to the next level. I was growing everything under the sun. A small porch was not suiting my needs any more. My Dad was in shock of my "gardening knowledge." I was talking a new language that he could not understand, botanical plant names. Example: Senna alata
Currently, I am 13 years of age, (Yes, 13.) and I have my garden on a 10 acre plot of land. I also just recently built a greenhouse, too! I am glad I have a wonderful garden and I thank all of you kind people of Dave's Garden for being of great help of me whenever I ask something like for a Plant ID on The Plant ID Forum. I don't feel alone here, because everyone here is has my same passion, Gardening! I also thank everybody for making this site friendly to people at or near my age. Thanks everyone!

P.S: Feel free if you have any garden knowledge that you want to tell me, or if you talk gardening, D-Mail me!
Just had to add this bit of info about me here!

Happy Gardening!


Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

The only factor age plays in gardening is when we get too old to tend them....I do not think the joys found there ever get old.

Dunnellon, FL(Zone 9a)

Right on Moon!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I have to admit, I am very careful while searching on Google, many years ago we had visitors from USA staying with us for several weeks, they wanted to see, visit, everything on the huge list they produced, we managed to get all things covered from Mary Queen of Scot's to The Poet Robert Burns birthplace just along the coast from us, They were given the name of beautiful Garden to visit but could not remember the name (we have hundreds of Gardens here, all open to visitors) anyway I searched for hours, my husband searched also, we could not find the garden, this Garden specialised in Roses.
I in my wisdom decided at last gasp to type in Rose Garden, Success I yelled as many Sites came up for Rose Gardens, they all crowded around the computer and as I (still smarting at how cleaver I was) opened the first site listed and there in front of us was pictures and diagrams of what looked like dozen different sex positions and as everyone let out a gasp and muffles laugh I just slid off the chair and almost crawled into the bathroom to compose myself.

End of this story is, we toured lots of different Gardens with our guests and every garden had Rose beds But, I managed to keep a dignified Silence at the mention of Rose garden, so be afraid, be very afraid when searching the net ha, ha, ha.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

That's why I have my search engine with the strictest filter. I don't use google anyway cause their CEO is crazy.
I use Bing

Kenmore, NY(Zone 6a)

Years ago, when we first got internet access on our computers at work (and I didn't have it at home either) I surfed for hockey equipment for my son. We have a store here called "Dick's Sporting Goods'.

Enough said.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

We have the same store here....One of their ads for Christmas their first year here gave a lot of folks pause "Shop Dick's for your Man this year"

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I can only imagine! LOL

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

LOL wasn't really sure what they were offering.....

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

I bet whoever made up that slogan, Moon, was slapping themselves on the back the whole holiday season. I can see them all sitting in the board room laughing so hard while trying to come up with slogans each year!

And I agree...AGE has nothing to do with gardening. My 2 year old granddaughter is on her way to being a master! She loved helping dig the new flowerbed shown in the 1st picture. The 2nd & 3rd pics are her admiring her hard work :-)

Thumbnail by SavvyDaze Thumbnail by SavvyDaze Thumbnail by SavvyDaze
Kenmore, NY(Zone 6a)

She's a super cutie. Your garden bed looks wonderful.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

What a cutie she is...looks like a fine gardening partner to me. As for the slogan....I think someone was getting smacked, but maybe not on the back....grin

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

You are probably right, moon LOL And yes, she is a great gardening partner...and only a handful of times did I have to explain to her that we don't dig in the garden after we put in plants and mulch LOL

I did learn a lesson, though. I can't cut off dead foliage or flowers in her view. She must have watched me remove dead Calla flowers, cause one day she brought me a whole clump of Calla lilies with flowers, leaves, roots, and bulb still attached! Of course, I was horrified, but I sucked it up and faked a smile and said, "Awww thank you!" LOL

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

There is a fine line between laughter and tears sometimes Grin....just gotta stick'em back in the ground "for later". Ya don't want to dampen that enthusiasm.

Kenmore, NY(Zone 6a)

I used to play with my mom's flowers. I brought her all the tulips once. ^_^

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

Moon, there really is a fine line lol I've experienced it many times with her this summer, especially when things were just blooming. However, as summer went along, she got better and waited patiently for me to give her the spent flowers. But there wasn't a fine line when it came to our 2 little Yorkie/Chihuahua mixes unsuccessfully digging for moles in my gardens, but successfully digging up a fern or some other plant. I've tried using decorative fencing around the gardens, but eventually the dogs realized they can just right over them. I've put decorative stepping stones in the garden areas the moles like best (near Hostas, Canna, Colocasia, Alocasia, Astilbe, and Ferns.) They don't prevent the moles from making mounds in-between around, or under them, but they are doing pretty good at preventing the pups from digging so much, or at least prevents them from digging big holes. I've had some of those stones get buried by the mole, because when he raised the area around it, the mulch and soil fell on it. There is always something going on in my gardens lol

Smileymom, one time I picked all my neighbor's tulips that lined her front sidewalk. I guess another neighbor had seen me and told her, cause she confronted me outside later that afternoon. I think I was about 5 or 6 lol She wasn't mean about it, but even as young as I was, I knew she was annoyed lol

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Whoo Hoo, Smiley....I KNOW your Mom was just thrilled....LOL

There is such a trade off...we want to pass the love of gardening on to them....but that can be a trial of its own....and we want lovely gardens....she may be ready for her own little garden patch in the Spring....a couple veggie plants and some cosmos and daisies or a few wildflowers....I think she would love tending her own little garden. As for the dogs....moles hold great power over them....I have "excavations" all over the dog yard....grin

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Hmmmph, didn't EVER see any sense bringing dying flowers and plants home, always brought root dirt and all, :) told my fellars that to stay on my good side, better not send cut flowers cuz nuthin less than a whole living plant would work. Had lots of fun looking for them together, too....

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