Diving in with Dani: Planning out your garden this summer

Advice from the experts on how to get into gardening if you don’t know what you’re doing

A geranium blooming in Denise Penaloza’s garden. (Dani Penaloza)

Picking the literal fruits of your labour off the vine they grew on is one of the most satisfying feelings one can feel. Or, at least, this is what my mom tells me every summer when she brings in seemingly endless baskets of freshly-grown produce from our garden.

I am not very knowledgeable about gardening, so in the quest to find out more, I spoke with some green-thumbed local experts.

Here are their tips on starting your own garden this summer.

Do your research and think about what you want.

Knowing what you want out of your garden should be the first step in your planning process, says Niall Wimsey, a horticulturist working at Cedar Rim Nursery.

Are you looking to grow flowers? Produce? Shrubs? Trees?

“There’s no point in having lots of fancy flowerbeds if you’re not going to be really interested in it,” he says.

Once you know, start doing some research or some asking around at your local nursery about what these plants need.

Get the right plants for your space.

Yes, what plants generally need is relatively simple — light, water, and fertile soil — but satisfying each plant’s specific needs can be challenging.

“You really have to think carefully about where you’re trying to grow a garden,” says Dr. Mike Bomford, a sustainable agriculture instructor at KPU.

“It’s a matter of picking the plants that work well for the space that you have.”

He emphasizes that finding a spot with enough light is a very important step and planting in well-draining, fertile soil.

And if the soil isn’t already in that state, he suggests adding compost or another source of nutrients for the plants.

Be patient and consistent.

Breanna Himmelright, a student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and contributor to The Runner, got into gardening in her backyard in March last year.

One of the bigger lessons that she has learned along the way is just how much patience and diligence gardening requires.

“Some seeds might take longer to sprout. Some might not even sprout at all,” she says.

She waters her garden twice a day and suggests early morning watering to avoid any unexpected bee encounters.

“As much as we love bees, and we want them around for future generations, dealing with them can be a little anxiety-inducing. So, we want to try to water before they start coming in and clocking in for their 9:00 to 5:00, so to speak,” she jokes.

Keep our little bees in mind.

Having a garden that feeds pollinators is also important, and Bomford says that he likes planting herbs that grow small flowers to attract them.

“They’re maybe not the showiest plants, but bees love them,” he says. And if we can feed our fuzzy little striped friends, they will help pollinate our crops.

Alyssum, dill, cilantro, clover, lavender, and sage are some of Bomford’s, Wimsey’s, and Himmelright’s recommendations.

Have fun and enjoy.

And finally, remember that it is okay to make mistakes and experience some failures along the way.

“Don’t feel pressured. A lot of people come in, and they’re really pressured to get it right the first time,” says Wimsey.

It’s important to enjoy the process even though it can feel like it is taking a while to see results, says Himmelright.

“I think a big part of it is I enjoy seeing a seed go from a small, little thing in the ground to, like, this growing, green plant that continues to change and develop,” she says.

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