Some of us have green thumbs. Others of us have thumbs that are . . . black. Sheila Roberts, author of LOVE IN BLOOM falls into that category. So, why on earth did she decide to write her latest feel-good novel about girlfriends and set it in a community garden . . . and then add gardening tips to the book? Well, rather like deciding to landscape her new house herself, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But just as her characters learn how to make good things grow in both their gardens and their lives, Sheila, too, learned how to green up her thumb. You can, too. Here are Sheila’s tips:
1. Recruit help. We all know women who would rather play in the dirt than play bunco. And avid gardeners love to share their knowledge. Lure your girlfriends over to help you with your garden project with the promise of lunch. Or coffee. Heck, just ask them for help. They’ll be glad to give you a consultation.
2. Think variety. Try to plant a mix of heights, shapes and colors when you’re planning your garden. Again, consult your friends who garden. Every gardener loves to share her tips.
3. Never turn down the offer of a free plant. (You can always rip it out later if you don’t like it.) Plants and flowers are expensive. You can save a fortune simply by scrounging from your friends and neighbors.
4. If you’re clueless about what to plant, drive around different neighborhoods and take pictures of yards and flower beds you like. Take the pictures to your local nursery and the experts there will be able to tell you the names of the plants and whether or not they are easy to care for.
5. Plant what you love the most. You’ll be more inclined to want to care for it. Me, I like to eat and I like to cook with herbs, so I’ve planted a lot of edibles on my property. Rosemary is great. It covers a lot of ground and is wonderful in herbed biscuits and chicken recipes. Rhubarb fills in a flower bed nicely. Blueberries also make a nice addition to your flowerbed. (And you can probably think of a lot of good things to do with them.)
6. Plan ahead. If you plant seeds or bulbs, you will save almost fifty percent over what you’d spend by purchasing the same plant in a pot at the nursery.
7. Plant perennials (the things that come back year after year). This way you will always have something coming up in your garden. You can always add annuals for extra color.
8. Have a “garden party”. Remember how Tom Sawyer convinced his friends to help him paint that fence? Do the same with your friends. Get a garden buddy to come help you with your gardening in exchange for your help with spring cleaning or cooking a week’s worth of meals (or whatever you happen to be good at). Gardening can be solitary work. If you’re not solitary, you won’t enjoy it much. Do it with a friend and it will be more fun. If you can’t get a friend, get your iPod or listen to talk radio.
9. Take it slow. Your garden doesn’t have to be instantly perfect. If you’re dealing with new landscaping, keep in mind this description of how your garden grows: sleep, creep, leap. Your first year you won’t see much. Your second year you’ll see progress. And your third year? Wow! Who planted all this amazing stuff? Gardening is a process more than it is a project.