Expert Advice Before Your First Time Gardening

Welcome to the #365Firsts Podcast and the Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. The show aims to encourage, prepare, and inspire you to do things you’ve never done before and complete your #365FirstsChallenge list. 

In each episode of this series, we give you tips and advice to set you up for success, for specific firsts and new experiences. The guests and topics are as varied as the options and possibilities of new experiences. 

Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, improve your health and happiness, work on your self-development, add excitement and adventure to your life, or simply have first times, you’re going to love our podcast.

In This Episode

Spring is coming up quickly, and it’s starting to look beautiful outside. More and more people are starting to head outdoor and perhaps exploring the possibilities of finally starting a garden, so we wanted to bring you an episode dedicated to this wonderful, natural craft. Gardening is a lot of fun, rewarding and provide all sorts of benefits, but it can be difficult to know where to start or a bit intimidating.

For example, when is the best time to plant herbs in the garden? And how do you care for saplings properly? There are lots of different areas of gardening that can seem confusing at first, and it’s very helpful to consult an expert wherever possible.

That’s why we decided to bring Melinda Myers on to the show. She has an incredible amount of experience in the world of all things gardening, plants, flowers and overall horticulture, and is the perfect guest expert to consult if you’re looking to get into gardening for the first time. She also loves introducing new people to gardening.

The Guest Expert 

Melinda is a nationally known expert in the world of gardening. She’s a TV and radio host, a renowned author and columnist, with over 30 years of horticulture experience. Melinda has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening, the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, and Jackson and Perkins’ Beautiful Roses Made Easy.

Melinda also hosts the nationally-syndicated ‘Melinda’s Garden Moment’ show, which airs on over 115 TV and radio stations throughout America. She hosts the internationally distributed Great Courses ‘How To Grow Anything’ DVD series, which includes the latest Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set.

Melinda is a columnist and contributing editor for the Bird & Blooms magazine, the writer of a bi-monthly ‘Gardener’s Questions’ column, a regular column for the Chicagoland Gardening and Wisconsin Gardening magazines, and a nationally-distributed gardening column.

As you can see, Melinda’s word is essentially gospel in the gardening community, and she has a plethora of information that’ll help out any aspiring gardeners looking to get started this year.

What You Need To Know About Gardening For The First Time

Melinda started off the episode by describing her experiences learning about plants at school, and how she gained a love for gardening through her time with family. There’s always something new to learn about gardening and plants, whether it’s a medicinal use for herbs, the name of a plant part or how to grow a particular type of rose.

The First Step is Plant Something

The first step Melinda advised taking to get started with gardening is to simply plant something. It can feel intimidating to plant for the first time or to buy your first plant, but Melinda notes every gardener has made mistakes or killed plants. It’s a learning curve, and Melinda pointed out that dead plants are great additions to you compost, so they will live on in other ways!

Melinda described how every season for a gardener is a new adventure. Many new gardeners will be put off by the possibility of failure, but Melinda encouraged everybody to get started in any way they can. Starting off with a container, potting mix and a few seeds to try out gardening on a smaller scale is a fantastic idea.

What to plant

Homegrown vegetables, fruits, and herbs always taste the best so they make for great options of what to decide to grow. Melinda noted that if you’re inspired by a plant, you’re most likely to start growing them – so think of the meals you’d want to prepare and what you can grow for it at home, smells you’d love to enjoy in your backyard or any other inspiring aspect of adding plants into your life and look for these seeds or bulbs. 

When growing food, it’s helpful to make sure that you’re only planting what you think you’ll use, and to pick things just before they’re ripe so that animals don’t get to them before you do. 

Where to Plant

Don’t let space be an excuse. Having no space for gardening is a problem many people find when they’re trying to get started with gardening. Melinda is a firm believer there is always space to grow things – most of her work has been done in a tiny city lot. Whether you have a window sill, steps, a balcony or even a sidewalk, you’ll be able to grow something.

Growing things in pots is a wonderful way to garden in limited space. Using vases and potted plants throughout the house is a fantastic way to bring more greenery into the home, and it can be done in any kind of home. Potted tomatoes are a great place to start.

What to Look for and Do Before Planting

Knowing whether you have the right sunlight, temperature or soil can be the difference between successfully growing or killing a plant. Melinda advised to always check out the plant tags before buying a plant. Some plants need more sunshine, less moisture, more pruning or more space to grow – and this is important to check out before you get planting. 

Before buying soil or compost, make sure to check out what you already have in your garden. Feel it in your hands, to check what you have at your disposal already- it could be sandy and gritty, soft and fertile, or sticky and clay-like. Adding organic materials like compost into the soil can be a great way to have a better garden – look into a technique called Lasagna Gardening to learn more about doing this. 

There’s a misconception that you can only plant in spring and gather in summer. Gardening can actually happen all year round, in any climate or weather. It simply takes research and preparation. Make sure to research your local climate and weather, and plan your gardening around this. Tracking weather patterns, frost and sunset guides will be incredibly helpful in matching your conditions to your plant selection. 

What to Do to Keep Your Garden and Plants Healthy

In terms of tracking your garden’s health, Melinda advised keeping an eye on water levels. This will vary depending on where you are in the world, of course. She noted using your finger to feel the earth a few inches down is a great way to see whether more water is needed. 

Watching out for bugs is important too, as some insects can completely ruin your plants. Melinda advised learning a little bit about insects and harmful bugs in your area, some might pose a threat, while others, can actually be very handy e.g. ladybugs, as they eat aphids. Allowing nature to run its course is simple yet effective way to manage pests but you do need to keep a watchful eye, and find the best ways to protect your garden as required.

As for animals, fences can be great for preventing them from getting into and eating your plants…to include the animals you purposely keep around the house!!

Your Garden and Your Pets

Dealing with pets as a gardener can be tricky, and Melinda advised checking out the ASPCA’s website for information about potentially toxic plants. Avoiding products like cocoa bean mulch is important, as these can be toxic for pets. If possible, try to set aside an area of your garden for your pets to enjoy.

The Benefits of Gardening

In terms of the benefits of gardening, Melinda highlighted that it can be wonderfully beneficial for humans to be around plants. It can help with physical wellbeing, stress management and even mental health problems, which is amazing. Plants can also help to make the most use of natural water sources, and to filter the air as well. 

Join the Community of Gardners

Getting involved with the community is incredibly important for new gardeners. Don’t be afraid to ask people questions if you’re curious about their plants or if you’re having issues, and try to get involved with local gardening events where possible. 

As you can see, gardening for the first time is not as intimidating as it might seem. Gardening is incredibly rewarding, and the advice that Melinda gave in this episode will undoubtedly be handy for any wannabe gardeners reading this post. 

Get In Touch With Melinda 

We had a lot of fun recording this episode, sharing laughs and stories, and learning more from Melinda about her experiences in the world of gardening. Her contact links are as follows;

If you have any further questions or feedback about her work, we’re sure that she would be more than happy to hear from you.

How To Reach Us

It’s been great working on this show, and we hope that the advice from our experts and in-house team have been helpful. Our main goal is to help our community experience a wide variety of new things for the first time, and we’d love to hear what you think.

Is there a particular topic that you’d like to see, or something you want advice on? Is there something that you think we could be doing better? Feel free to have a chat with a member of our team at today.

What’s Coming Up Next Time?

New episodes of Expert Advice Before Your First Time are released every Thursday, and we’ve got a great roster of experienced guests lined up to give you more expert advice. 

Next time on the 19th, we’ll be chatting with Jono Bacon about first-time crowdfunding. After that, the episode on the 26th of March will be about volunteering for the Peace Corps for the first time, featuring Jen McFarland.  You can listen and subscribe on Apple, Google, or Spotify. While you’re there – please leave a review if you can. It really does help us with our work, and each review is deeply appreciated.

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