Useful Resources for Successful Gardening
by Max Phelps
Yards to Paradise
It is never wise to begin with a garden center or home center trip and start buying flowers, trees and shrubs that you fall in love with. A successful garden or landscape should start with a plan, with some research, and a little sketch of what you have already, and where you desire to improve the look or function of your space. It’s ok to tour a few garden centers for ideas, maybe a neighborhood stroll, a garden tour or a botanical garden visit. Take notes on things you like, and questions you have. Follow such a trip up with research on the plants you found interesting. Don’t fall for the garden center salesman who pushes pretty plants until you have clearly decided on a plan and on a budget.
Consider sources of inspiration, information, and do a little homework before buying anything.
A good student in school will study and review materials he or she expects to be on a test. A good gardener will spend some time getting the yard right—for it’s a test where the “grade” will be made by everyone who visits or drives past your place.
Many of the universities, especially the ‘land grant’ universities, will have agricultural trials, ornamental trials, breeding programs, as well as pamphlets, books, newsletters and online documents with knowledgeable personnel to assist with your learning and fact collecting. Some I find useful locally at NC State and Clemson. County Extension Agents are a resource many of us fail to take full advantage of.
The computer has certainly aided in putting information quickly into the hands of the beginning gardener, the new homeowner. In fact, it has made any type of information gathering speedier and more effortless. Most search engines can bring thousands or millions of choices for your eyes to look at in just the blink of an eye.
Websites such as Garden Web and Houzz have useful content if you have the time to peruse it all. Many companies have websites that are informative, not just ‘infomercials’.
Many nurseries and gardens have online sales pages that include extensive information on their offerings.
Gardening magazines can be a fine resource. Look at some at your bookstore, public library or home improvement store for free. Subscribe to those you find most helpful, so you get a steady source of continuing garden inspiration.
Sometimes some investigating is useful. Let’s say a newer subdivision, or there’s a street in town where some old homes have been torn down and new ones built. Take a walk and talk with some of the neighbors about who did their landscaping. If you hear of complaints, make a note to cross that company from your list.
Master Gardeners might be helpful, but some are pretty much greenhorns. Taking a couple tests and donating a certain number of hours to community gardens and the like—though a noble thing–does not a garden master make. So, take credentials and braggadocio with a grain of salt.
With so many possibilities these days for learning to garden, learning to design a nice looking yard, and with options to do some yourself or hire professionals to do the big projects, there’s never been a time when the resources and know-how for gardening and landscaping at a professional level were so plentiful.
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