The straight dirt on getting a green thumb

10:45 am August 22nd, 2014

By Tillie Vuksich
Dear Tillie,
I’ve recently retired and would like to start doing some patio gardening, but I have no clue where to start. I heard you are an avid gardener and know your way around a nursery. Could you give me some tips on what to grow in pots on my deck that a new gardener will have success with?
Gardener in the Making
Dear Gardener in the Making,                
You heard right, I am a gardener and love nothing more than getting dirt under my nails while tending the earth. Gardening is one of those hobbies that mix in many other types of activities: exercise, meditation, research, giving, planning, and shopping. It’s a fantastic hobby on any level, and I’m so glad to hear you are ready to get a green thumb.
First, you must figure out how much light your porch receives in a day. Is it full sun or full shade? That will guide you to which plants will perform their best in your location. If you have more sun throughout the day, then that means your pots will dry out fast and you may have to water twice a day during the summer. Or you can choose drought-tolerant plants that need much less water to maintain plant health. I like Sedums, which come in all sizes and colors. I also recommend strawberry plants for their easy care and because they give you delicious fruit to enjoy.
You can find soil for potted plants in any garden center to match the needs of a sun or shade plant. You want to get a pot (I prefer one that looks good on its own and can complement the plant it houses) that is at least double the size of the of the pot you buy your plant in. It needs room for growth and new soil. Also, your new pot needs to have a drain hole so the roots won’t sit in water.
If you have more shade than sun, I recommend Hosta. They come in many beautiful sizes and colors. Hydrangea is a great shrub for shade and does well in pots, too. Visit some garden nurseries and don’t be afraid to ask questions. But be careful, it’s like going to the dog pound – they are all beautiful and you want to give them all a good home.
I recommend starting with two plants. Make them your babies and study up on their care and demands. The local library is a fantastic resource for books you can borrow for free for up three weeks. The best part is you can find a book specifically about your chosen plants. Once you have become an expert on those plants, add one more and so on.
Most people get in too deep too fast, and when they haven’t taken the time to research those dozens of plants, the plants end up not performing well and even die. Hence, those people refer to the green thumb that they don’t have. It’s easy to avoid by taking gardening slow while mastering the skills needed to keep these silent friends happy.
It’s fun and rewarding to step onto your deck and be surrounded by plants that you know all about and can easily share your knowledge of them with anyone who wants to listen!
Tillie Vuksich is an Eatonville, mother and wife who loves gardening, crafty things and time with her family. Send questions for her to

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