LEGO art in the garden. Photo by Kelly Allsup.

Looking back, we may realize this was the year we had a surge in cultivating new gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

While most of my readers already garden and are looking for new tips and interesting information, we likely have brand new gardeners who can do without technical jargon and nuanced garden issues! Back to the basics!

Below are a few tips to be a successful new gardener.

  1. Start small! Transforming the whole back yard into vegetables and flowers may be the end goal, but it can be overwhelming once weeds germinate and plants get thirsty. Start with some outdoor pots, a corner garden, or add to your existing landscaping.
  2. Before you plant, know how you will attack your weedy invaders. Weeds will compete with your plants, leaving them less productive.  Each gardener has their favorite tool, but all ages will appreciate a shuffle hoe or Dutch garden hoe, which allow you to uproot small weed seedlings without bending over. A weeding knife allows you to get deep in the soil to the roots of larger weeds. If weeds get too big, mow or weed whack before they flower and seed. Weed early and weed often!
  3. Check your garden daily. Be diligent. Pay attention to the plants. Have fun watching them grow and caring for them. Know that watering in the summer is more intense as the plants are bigger and the temperatures are higher than spring.
  4. Don’t give up if they don’t grow well or fail to give you the produce you hoped for. Sometimes plants fail and sometimes they surprise you. Many factors are out of your control. Not the right plant for the location. Not the best soil. Not the best weather. Not enough water. Too much water. Most gardeners with lush gardens won’t tell you how many plants they had to kill to get the impressive show. Start with easy to grow vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, leafy greens and herbs. Start with easy-to-grow annuals (continuous blooms all summer) like dragon wing begonias, zinnias, sweet alyssum or marigolds.
  5. Take the Backyard Challenge with University of Illinois Extension. The challenge will involve daily posts giving tips on how to interact with their yard and garden. These posts will start the Week of April 21st on the Livingston, Mclean and Woodford Master Gardeners Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MidIllinoisMasterGardener/. We encourage you to do these challenges at home (don’t forget to get the kids involved), but to also like, comment, upload your images, and share these posts with your family and friends.

As always, your McLean County Master Gardeners are here to answer your garden related questions and help you succeed in your gardening efforts. We’re just doing so from home this year!