I wish I could say I grew up with a green thumb, or that I knew the right plants for each season by the time I could do my times tables, but, honestly, mulching was just a chore, transplanting was a job, and watering felt like torture in the sweltering Nashville heat.
And then, one day, it was gone. Or, more appropriately, I was gone. Off to college, leaving all that behind and heading for the allure of the big city’s concrete jungle. Eventually I felt a groaning in my stomach to be a part of nurturing nature, to see what I’d sown emerge with life, to feel the sweet breath of a garden that needed my care.
And so, I bought a house plant. Honestly, I don’t really remember much about that little indoor plant. Likely a succulent, left on a windowsill, bit through by the bitter Chicago chill. But that one plant started something. Eventually I moved to Knoxville and started surrounding myself with container gardens and with plant people.
At that point in my life, I was a poor college student living in a tiny, ancient apartment, so growing a garden or purchasing big, beautiful plants to fill the space was out of the question. To expand my indoor gardens I discovered that propagating plants was both spatially and fiscally within my limits. I would get a mint cutting from one person, a cactus bud from another and, little by little, all my window sills and counter space filled with small containers sprouting tiny young plants. Soon I had a few common house plants and an indoor herb garden big enough to count as decorative with enough little cuttings to give away once they took root.
There were lots of trials that came with my early way of budget gardening. But learning from my mistakes has provided me with some good gardening tips for beginner gardeners. I had a little kalanchoe that I planted in a mug and took with me on several road trips until one night I was caught off guard by a frost and the poor thing died on me.
So here’s Buck’s Basic Gardening Tip #1
Know what temperature your plants need to grow in.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #2
Remember to bring your plants inside if the temperature determined in tip #1 will not be ideal.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #3
Plants don’t make good travel companions.
I grew so many little mint plants that my neighbor and I started conducting experiments, most notably was his attempt to bonsai the mint and my attempt to grow it in a planter turned ash tray that sat on the front stairs up to the old divided up house we lived in. His bonsai became long and leggy with tiny leaves and thin stem. My tobacco mint turned purple from some chemicals in the soil and grew like a weed for a month until one day it shriveled up and died without a moment’s notice.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #4
Have fun with gardening! Never be afraid to push the boundaries and experiment.
I tried, and will continue to try, growing many plants I know very little about. (I found Professor Google to be an adequate teacher, but local garden centers provide great info for growing in your area). With plants so fragile in the propagation phase I have lost many of my efforts. I currently have a Monstera Deliciosa that I am fighting furiously to keep alive after I left it in unreliable hands to go on a trip.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #5
Make friends with a good gardener who knows how to water and care for your plants when you are gone or buy a good self-watering planter.
Despite my many efforts. I have yet to propagate a fiddle leaf fig. Through ignorance I threw out a bromeliad that had just begun to grow its pups; I thought it was dead since the main flower had died, it was only a week later when I did some posthumous research and found that it was about to spring back to life! What a tragedy!
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #6
Learn all you can about your plant and what keeps it healthy. See tip above about local garden centers.
There were leggy plants and half dead ones for every successful propagation, but as the years have gone by the ration has gone more in the favor of the living than the dead, and every new success still brings me joy and pride. My indoor garden introduced me to all the creative opportunities of container gardening.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #7
Have fun, be creative, and don’t give up.
As I have gotten more comfortable with my plants, I have started to explore all the different ways of potting a plant. I’ve been making my own ceramic planters, spinning funky new shapes to put a plant in while finding that some shapes are simply TOO funky to keep a plant in. On the other hand, Crescent Garden’s lightweight durable planters have fit in very well with my apartment dweller/balcony gardening/postgraduate-somewhat-transient lifestyle. And my lifestyle of propagating plants has fit well for the time being. I move often, leaving Knoxville after college to move to Richmond for my career, and I travel frequently to see the world and climb its many rock faces. One day I’ll give my many plant offspring a home and let them grow tall and proud, but till then I’ll continue to nurture the little ones till they are established and then see them off to someone else’s living room or yard. And, yes, I’ll make sure to bring some back home to Momma.
Buck’s Basic Garden Tip #8
Having your hands in the dirt can bring you back to the roots that helped grow.