How To Garden Even If Your Thumbs are Dumb


I have to believe that there is no one on Earth that doesn’t like a garden, because really, what’s not to like: fragrance, color, form, bees, worms, food, flavor, drugs.

Of course, there’s also, back-breaking work, dirty finger nails, expense, blackspot, aphids, and just as much chance your hard work won’t come to fruition.

But what the hell. Life’s a challenge anyways. Might as well be able to eat it.

For those of you that find yourselves a bit Garden Challenged, allow me to introduce you to my eleven tips for Gardening with Dumb Thumbs:

1) You need dirt. (Unless you garden hydroponically, which is possible, but then you need a science degree and a controlled climate, and I don’t know about you, but my climate is anything but controlled. Like my tolerance for hydroponic gardening), you just need dirt.

2) This dirt should be a combination of structure, food, and drainage, which translates to top soil, compost, and sand (in that order and a ratio of 4:2:1).

3) Depending on what you grow, the soil should test to a pH level that is optimum to that plant’s needs. Tomato’s like a bit more acid (around 6.0 pH) while lilacs like their soil more alkaline (7.0 pH). I prefer the pH in my head to be more on the neutral side, like a pH of 7.0, which means ‘Personal Health of a 7 year old’.

It’s a GOAL people. Jeez.

4) If you can’t grow your own plants from seed, then purchase the best/largest/healthiest plants you can afford. They may be a little more expensive, but, they are stronger and less disease prone. Like my great Aunt Jenny. She lived to 98 and died with a martini in her hand.


5)You know the little tags on the plants that tell you how far to place each plant apart? Forget that shit. Plant close. This will keep the weeds down and the ability to retain water up.

6) Water and sunshine. How I love the beach…. wait- this is a garden post.

Back to business: You can’t maniuplate sunshine. You either have it, or you don’t, and even though there are plants that love shade, most need light. Lots of it. As for H2O, it’s like wine. I need it and I don’t want it poured on my head. Most plants will do better, with less disease, if you water from the bottom (Am I right Ladies?) Or at least water early enough from the top IF there will be time for the plants to dry off. Reminds me of a joke about two Jews and a Priest in a schvitz, the Priest asked what time it was….

7) In spite of all the Mother Earth Love of gardening organically, unless it’s veggies that are going to go into your mouth- use chemicals. When my roses are covered in aphids and my delphiniums are being eaten by little green worms that laugh in my face- I spray them with apocalyptic juices. I Am Woman. I carry Big Guns.

8) That said, I only use organic remedies and fertilizers in the vegetable garden. Not even I want to grow a third breast. Though I heard it can come in handy.

9)  Deadhead. No- not BED head- DEADHEAD. If you want your plants to continue to produce (and who doesn’t?) snip the spent flower heads off back to the stalk. As for veggies- when my herbs and lettuces start to ‘bolt’ (flower) I give them a hair cut. Maybe it IS Bed Head?

10) Choose plants for growing ‘Seasons’- planting a c-o-m-b-i-n-a-t-i-o-n. It’s no good just to plant for spring, when you think you might live into Autumn.

11)  You can torture yourself with color combinations, or, you can just resign yourself to the fact that most flower colors follow the temperature of the seasons. In example: Pale blues and pretty pinks and soft whites and pale yellows like the cool temperatures of spring. As the weather warms up- so do the colors. This stands to reason if you understand Botany. But since you probably don’t, and I do, you’re welcome.

And finally, don’t forget to take a glass of the bubbly into the garden, and sharpen your tools…

Always sharpen your tools.

My Moss Rose. I let the spent blooms go to pod because the birds love the vitamin C in the winter, and I love the birds.PINIMAGE

My Moss Rose. I let the spent blooms go to pod because the birds love the vitamin C in the winter, and I love the birds.


One of several Foxglove (digitalis) that greet me every morning. PINIMAGE

One of several Foxglove (digitalis) that greet me every morning.


  • William Kendall - If I even tried to seriously garden, I’d end up killing everything I planted.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I don’t believe it. You have such love in your heart. Just look at your photography and writing!ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - Encouragement even for this black-thumb girl!ReplyCancel

  • Lynda@fitnessmomwinecountry - I love the tips and agree, I hate those “tags” that come with my plants. Yes I buy plants/flowers already to put in the dirt because I am way to impatient to wait for seeds, I want instant color and prettiness everywhere. Tip number 9 {clip back the spent flower heads} good one, did not know. I am not a green thumb gal, but I fantasize always about having a beautiful garden and keep purchasing all spring and summer to make sure it stays that way 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Wonderful! Instant satisfaction comes with Annuals (should be clearly marked as such). They only have one season, but often are worth it. Perennials are more pricey but can thrive for many years. To grow from seed you really need an ideal environment that is available in late winter, which means a greenhouse, or one of those covered trays and UV light. Since our winters are so short here in New Orleans, I am lucky enough to be able to sow seeds directly into the soil in February without a greenhouse set-up. I know, I know. I’m lucky. But you’re in WINE COUNTRY! I’d say you have me beat! Ha!ReplyCancel

  • Cary Vaughn - I learned so much.
    Went plant shopping this past weekend and looked for tags that read “resilient.” Those are the plants for me.ReplyCancel

  • Chloe Jeffreys - What an informative post. I learned some stuff. The color thing makes total sense now that you mention it. And my growing season is so short on the Mountain that I have to buy plants that are almost grown if I want to see any fruits from my labor. ReplyCancel

  • Diane - You need to write a gardening manual. Seriously. You had me laughing – and seriously considering trying gardening again! Good on ya!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ya think? I’m certainly open to answering questions. God knows I have opinions! Hope you give it another try. If I couldn’t garden, I couldn’t breathe!ReplyCancel

  • Marilyn Foster - Great post. I live in zone 4 and still waiting for it to warm up. Cant waitReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It’s been a hard long winter everywhere. My heart goes out to all gardeners that have been cooped-up and dreaming. I’ve gardened in zones 5 (N.E. Ohio) -7 (Nashville) and am currently a 9 (New Orleans), which is so ridiculous because I know I’m a 10. HA!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy Vezie Barton - Great informative post. I especially liked the tip of planting closer and cutting down on the weeds. Thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • Lisa Fedele - I love you aside comments! Great info. Almost makes me want to dig in the dirt. Almost, well OK now I need to plant something. Thanks a lot. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Carollynn Hammersmith - Thanks for the primer, I have garden fever (maybe just flu fever, who knows) and am itching to plant some stuff – shrubs, tress, border grasses, etc. Except I have to wait because we need to install a walkway, which will form the basis for the planting beds. Its always something. Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Karen @BakingInATornado - I don’t do gardens as the soil here is difficult, but I do plant outdoor pots with flowers. I always bought them but one year started them indoors from seeds. What a difference when you get the chance to see that first little bit of green poking through the dirt.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - So true. I love the first pokes of green. I time them to see if I can beat the seed package average. This is a problem I have that spreads across all of my life- like seeing if I can beat the caution light at an intersection. Oh brother….ReplyCancel

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