While many think of vegetables when using the word garden, the basic definition of a garden, as a plot of soil in which plants are grown, is widely inclusive. Gardeners are passionate about native plants, fruits & vegetables, turfgrasses, roses, houseplants, container plants, mosses, and other plants, too numerous to list.
A relationship with gardening can be as diverse as relationships with families, friends, and partners. And just as all meaningful relationships require love, respect, attention, care, patience, passion, hope, faith, and, yes, work, so does gardening.
Lazy gardeners (LG) respect their garden space and plants. Before purchasing plants, they assess the garden site.
- What is the square footage?
- What are the soil conditions?
- What temperatures occur throughout the year?
- How much sunlight does the garden receive?
For more garden site assessment questions, see HGIC 1050, Choosing a Planting Location.
LGs choose plants based on their garden site, respecting plants’ fundamental needs for health and happiness.
- Plants need adequate space to spread their roots and branches, allowing room for airflow and growth.
- Sufficient soil space allows plant roots to access vital nutrients, water, and oxygen. (It’s Shrub and Tree Planting Time, Mind Your Roots!)
- A soil test determines the soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Soil test results specify the correct fertilizer to supply critical plant nutrients. (HGIC 1652, Soil Testing)
- Organic matter (OM) is vital for soil health. Soil rich in OM only needs organic mulch added to the soil surface to maintain a two to three-inch layer. For soil low in OM, incorporate no more than 20% OM by soil volume by placing two inches of organic matter on the soil surface and tilling it six inches deep. (The Role of Organic Matter in Healthy Soils)
- Choose plants appropriate for the climate. The SC Piedmont is in USDA Hardiness Zones 7b and 8a with a few specks of 7a in the higher elevations. The Midlands is firmly in 8a. Lowcountry and Coastal areas are 8b, with 9a around Charleston and bits of Beaufort County. Visit USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find your hardiness zone.
- Gardens receiving no more than two to four hours of sunlight per day and no afternoon sun need shade-loving plants. Sun-loving plants, like turfgrasses, require at least six hours of sunlight per day.
North Carolina State Extension has a fantastic plant identification and selection website at North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Tool Box. Use the Find a Plant page when choosing plants for the garden.
Paying attention is an easy way to show the garden love. Just as relationships suffer when people are busy or absent, so can plants’ health. Scouting or monitoring are fifty-cent words for strolling through the garden and examining plants for insect and disease problems (or, in my case, enjoyment!). Visiting plants daily or every few days helps to tell what is typical and when there may be a problem. Scouting comes from Integrated Pest Management, a method of sustainably managing pests. For more information, see HGIC 2755, Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Caring for a garden consists of providing for plants’ needs without neglecting them or spoiling them. Light, air, and water are essential for plant survival. Fertilizers supply vital nutrients when they are deficient in the soil. Pesticides help control weed, insect, and disease problems. These are good for plants when provided timely in an appropriate amount. However, over or underusing these necessary items can quickly turn bad for plants. The Clemson Home and Garden Information Center website contains many tips for caring for your garden. Let us be your garden love doctors!