Unfortunately for most of us gardening is not a year round activity. The winter months can end up having us gardeners yearning for Spring to hurry up and get here. Although winter is in full force here in the States, that’s no reason to stop sharpening our skills and knowledge of gardening. I have found that there is always something new to learn about gardening, and winter is the perfect time to improve your gardening prowess.
Here are five ways that you can improve your gardening skills and knowledge:
Catch up on your reading. Perhaps you purchased a couple gardening books during the summer, but never had time to read or finish them. Now is a great time to do that. Well written gardening books are an invaluable source of information about your favorite gardening topics. Perhaps you are interested in learning a new form of gardening, a new technique, or a new style of gardening – there is more than likely a book on the subject.
You can also read gardening magazines, and visit gardening websites. Another great resource on the web is the Horticulture departments of universities. Some of these have a vast amount of good information. Here are a few of the ones I visit regularly:
- Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture
- N.C. State Horticulture
- Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center
I can not tell you how much I have learned about vegetable gardening just by talking with other gardeners. It seems that everyone has a different way of doing things – a different methodology – that brings new ideas and new practices. I remember when I was a child sitting around a wood stove with my grandfather as he talked about gardening with his friends. Those were some very lively chats, but they always shared their techniques – some that worked great, some that were total busts. The point is, they always shared their gardening tales and learned from one another.
If you don’t know anyone else that vegetable gardens, maybe you can join a local gardening club, or participate in gardening clinics (or workshops) held by your local nursery. If you are out for a walk, or driving, stop and talk to someone that you may see out working in their garden. This might prove to be difficult for someone that is shy, but it is well worth it. I do this very often in the summer, and have met some great people (and gardeners) doing so.
Another way of communicating with other vegetable gardeners is participating in gardening forums, or message boards, on the internet. I like to frequent a couple sometimes just to read, or ask a question myself. Try to participate as much as you can, and do not be afraid to ask questions. Most of the folks on these forums are very helpful and friendly. Here are a few of the forums I recommend:
- GardenWeb – Vegetable Gardening – This forum is chocked full of very knowledgeable and helpful folks. GardenWeb also features many other forums that are also loaded with information – from composting to seed starting and everything in between.
- Helpful Gardener Garden Forum – To be honest, I have not visited this forum that much, but when I have I found some very good advice and helpful people.
- Dave’s Garden – Vegetable Gardening Discussion – Dave’s Garden is a very popular and helpful discussion forum. Its many members are very knowledgable and heplful, but Dave’s Garden is a subscription-based forum, costing $19.95 per year. The price is well worth it for a new gardeners since the site has plant profiles, and many other very useful features.
If you happen to stop by the Garden Web forum, my name on there is tee_riddle. My name on the Helpful Gardener forum is VeggieGardener. If you stop by and see these names, please say hello!
As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”. This is also true with gardening. Really, it is just getting out there and doing it. Many times I have heard someone that is interested in gardening say, “I just don’t know how to”. The best advice I can give them is to just get out there and start gardening. The more you garden the more you will pick up on things, and the better at it you will get. Sure, it is very difficult to do that during the winter months. During these times, try your hand at indoor gardening. By indoor gardening, you can grow fresh herbs and vegetables all year. Doing this will also help to keep you from getting a bit rusty by continually honing your gardening skills.
Experimenting with different methods and techniques is a great way to improve your gardening skills. How do you know how a certain plant may or may not react to something unless you try it out? I would not recommend doing this to your whole garden, but you can devote a couple plants in your garden to experimentation. Try different fertilizers, a different watering schedule, new pruning techniques, or maybe try a different cultivar of a particular vegetable. The possibilities are virtually endless. Experimenting can go a long way towards learning something new.
Sharing is not necessarily a skill or knowledge, but it is a must-do when gardening. Whether you share you expertise in a subject, or share your vegetables with a neighbor – sharing is a very rewarding part of gardening. A fellow gardener and I have a friendly competition on who has the best looking and best tasting tomatoes each year. We gather up our best tomatoes and share with one another. We talk about how we grew them, what fertilizers we used, how we pruned or did not prune – all while sitting down to a big plate of sliced tomatoes. It’s one of the biggest things I look forward to each year.
I also love to share my summer squash, zucchini, okra, and tomatoes with my neighbors. They gladly come up to the fence when they see me with my arms loaded with vegetables. It is also a good time to connect with them. How ever you decide to share your garden with others, I highly recommend doing so, it is well worth it!
If you have some more ways of improving your gardening skills, please feel free to share them in the comments area!