Articles, Blog

3 gardening lessons learned (one important one!)

December 15, 2019


Hi there it’s Alexandra from the
Middle-sized Garden YouTube channel and blog and today I’m talking about three
lessons I’ve learnt in gardening this year and one of them is probably the
most important lesson I have ever learnt in gardening, so I hope that will help
you too. I was tagged in this YouTube challenge by Sean James Cameron – his
YouTube channel Sean’s Kitchen Garden covers allotment and vegetable growing
with all sorts of useful tips like how to grow garlic. So what is this
fantastically important lesson I’ve learned? Well, it’s that learning about
gardening is not just about discovering the facts. It’s not just about
discovering how to prune roses or how to make compost – it’s about discovering your
own personal gardening style and that’s something that doesn’t happen immediately. It does
take a few years to evolve, but I think I could have got there a bit sooner if I’d
really thought about it. When gardening is about how to do things like
how to prune roses and how to make compost, it’s important to realise that there are often several ways
of doing it. And so you really have to find out which way suits you best or
which way suits your garden bes. For example, when I started gardening I was
incredibly baffled by the fact that some people went into quite a lot of complex
detail over their compost and they made sure that they got the proportions of
brown to green right and they turned it and they chopped it up and everything like
that – it was quite a work of art. But some people would say ‘oh I just throw
everything in’. Eventually I discovered that there are TWO ways of making
compost and if you take a great deal of care over your compost and you get the
proportions right, you will get more compost and much faster than you do if you just
throw it in. However if you are the sort of person like me who prefers to ‘just
throw it in’ you will still get compost but it will take quite a long time – and by quite
a long time I mean about eighteen months. And people seem to get really quite
evangelical and passionately devoted to the way they’ve been taught to do things
and I think this can actually make us feel worse about our gardening. For
example I have lots of beautiful self seeded flowers in May and June and they
create a lovely exciting unexpected amount of color in the garden and when I
talk about this I do get the odd comment from someone who says ‘oh I wish I did
less weeding because then I’d have more self seeded flowers’ and of course
they’re absolutely right – if you weed really carefully and
thoroughly, you really aren’t going to get many self seeded flowers but on the
other hand the plants you do plant are going to be really healthy, they’re not
going to be competing with weeds and self seeders, so your beds will look
gorgeous and you certainly don’t have to feel bad about them. And perhaps I don’t
have to feel bad about the fact that in May and June my self-seeders are gorgeous
but quite a lot of the rest of the year there are far too many weeds in the
garden. And even your microclimate makes a difference. I first really grasped this
watching The Impatient Gardener’s videos – she’s in Wisconsin and she grows
many of the same plants I do (lavender roses etc) but she has a microclimate
that’s even different from Wisconsin because she’s pretty much on the shores
of Lake Michigan and this affects how cold she gets in winter (and in summer, in
fact) And here in Faversham we are about a mile from the sea, so we don’t get many
frosts but five miles inland at Doddington Place Gardens then there may
be a frost of minus six degrees when I only have minus one degree or even not minus
any degrees. So within a very short drive you can have quite different conditions
even though we are all given the same gardening advice. So it’s a question of
finding out what suits your lifestyle, what suits your tastes, what suits your
microclimate, what suits your soil and of course this isn’t going to come quickly.
The second thing I’ve learnt is a bit more practical –
it’s that raised beds are not so good if you live in a fairly dry area. We live in
a very dry part of southeast England and we’ve had quite a lot of hosepipe bans
and some very dry summers. And before I had raised beds I did regularly have
very good harvests of vegetables. Since I’ve had raised beds, I haven’t. So I’ve
been looking at enriching the soil, I’ve been looking at the kind of plants, I
grow – but a friend of mine walked past the raised beds – he’s very well qualified
horticulturally, he’s been teaching horticulture all his life – and he said
‘well, of course, raised beds need more water.’
I hadn’t realized that and so I am going to try and do something about the
irrigation. Obviously I do take a hose out there and I water the pots, I water only
new plants in the borders and then I get to the veg patch and of course by then
I’ve often run out of time so I think ‘well I’ll do that this evening or
tomorrow morning’ and then that slips so it turns into very irregular watering, and
that is not good for plants, particularly not vegetables.
The third thing I’ve discovered – which is a fun thing – is that you can have plants
inside Christmas baubles. I got this from Yuliya’s channel Y Garden and she’s put
some air plants inside Christmas baubles. The Christmas baubles are like mini
terrariums. Now lots of plants are not going to want to go inside a Christmas
bauble but air plants actually can be very happy in that and Yuliya seems to
have kept them from one year to the other looking perfectly well, so I’ll put
a link to that in the description below because you might like to find out – you’re
certainly never going to find out from me how to put an air plant into a
Christmas bauble. And now I’m going to tag some people and actually I’m going to
start by tagging you because the comments on videos are so interesting
and I’m so grateful for all the positive comments. So I’d love to know what
you’ve learnt in gardening and what you’d like to learn. When I think about
finding your gardening style I really notice this on the comments that I get
on the videos because sometimes I’ll get comments when someone says ‘oh yes I do that
too’ and I’ll get comments that say ‘I wouldn’t dream of doing that’ because they disagree,
and actually it’s really helpful when you disagree, because you’re in a
different place from me, you have different style from me and when people
read the comment, they’ll see that there are lots and lots of different ways of
gardening. So that’s number one tag – it’s over to you! Number two tag is to Mr
Plant Geek – he has a YouTube channel called mr. plant geek and a podcast
called The Plant-based Podcast. And Mr. Plant Geek is about plants in all
possible ways, not just in gardens but in food and drink, medicines – in
everything. And the third tag is to The Enduring Gardener, who’s charting the
progress of his cottage garden, and he says that having a cottage garden gives
him carte blanche to grow any plant he likes,
anywhere he likes and I think that’s a great philosophy. There are links in the
description below to all the YouTube channels I’ve mentioned and also
to helpful posts or videos of mine, and if you’d like to see more garden
tours, more interviews of expert gardeners and more visits to the garden
shows next year, then please do subscribe to the Middle-sized Garden YouTube
channel and thank you for watching goodbye!

28 Comments

  • Reply Neldidellavittoria December 14, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Excellent new video. I completely agree on everyone finding their own style. And thank you for the tip on raised beds: I'd have thought it was just the opposite, and was planning to grow my kitchen garden on raised beds next year, as I'm moving to a very dry area of the country. Now I know better. 🙂

  • Reply Joann Micik December 14, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    This year, I FINALLY figured out how to grow hydrangeas. Mine, except for Annabelle, never bloomed; finally realized they were not getting enough sun. I've been gardening for 30 years; you learn something every day. Also, thank you for another wonderful vid; you and your garden are both lovely!

  • Reply Meredith December 14, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    I follow The Impatient Gardener and Y Garden, I am looking forward to checking out your other YouTube suggestions. I love your compost bins, I don't know how I've missed them watching your videos. I have found my most important lesson in my 50 years of gardening to be that my garden is more beautiful when I am working with Mother Nature, rather than fighting against her. I've spent a great deal of time yanking things out of the ground, working hard tilling and digging, fighting the squirrels, bunnies and bugs. I've gone to no-till and gardening isn't as much work. One year I spoke to the bunnies and said, look, you can have these three snap pea vines but leave the rest for me. To my amazement, those were the only ones eaten. I'm willing to share. The year we had to take down four large oak trees I was sad for many months and then I started noticing all these little oak trees that had sprouted from the squirrels burying their nuts. I've begun to see everything has a purpose here, I just had to learn to see it. I'm still working on mosquitoes and cockroaches, though.

  • Reply Sean's Kitchen Garden December 14, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Excellent points. I'm finding that my allotment doesn't get frost when the majority of the allotment site does, same for the wind, I don't seem to get it as bad as those plots along the central path.

  • Reply Ruby Arias December 14, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    You look extra gorgeous in this video.

  • Reply Marlise Govan December 14, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    🌷🌿🌱🌿🌸ENJOYED 🌼🌿🌱🌿🌹

  • Reply convinth December 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Is not gardening a microcosm of life? One in which you never stop learning.

  • Reply Kathy Raidt December 14, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    I learned that I can dig up plants that aren't interesting or pleasing to me and substitute them with flowers I haven't grown before.

  • Reply J Shack December 14, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    1st thing I learned in my first ever year of having a garden having previously lived in a flat is that I am excited by it.
    2nd thing is that plants are so expensive and to fill a blank canvas garden is a big task financially. I need more patience
    3rd thing is that it feels very lovely to grow things from seed and see them do well so more of that this year.

  • Reply Adra Bruzzese December 14, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Alexandra, I love that you mention other channels. I follow both Erin and Yuliya. Yuliya is my absolute favorite You Tuber. I started gardening in the past 8 yrs in zone 6. The first 2 yrs were disastrous 😊 because I bought only what I knew and didnt pay attention to the tags. So I've learned to pay attention to zone and sun/shade to a degree. I find alot of shade perennials handle sun rather well and vice versa. Most importantly you can do everything right and a plant can still die. I'll try the same plant twice and if doesnt do well I buy something different. Also plants have an expiration date I find lavender only lives for 5 yrs in my climate, so I replace the dead with new. I started composting this year, I'm sure I will learn alot about that in the coming years. Thank you for such a great video. I will check out the other channels you mentioned.

  • Reply Gardening at Douentza December 14, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    Enjoyed this a lot. Thank you.

  • Reply Liliana Alvarez December 14, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Hello l am from Uruguay and love cottage garden l do everything you learn thanks.

  • Reply AuntFanny December 14, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Wise words, as always. Having lost two very close friends this year, I have learnt that gardening is not nearly as enjoyable if it done in isolation as it is when you have horticultural chums. So thank you for all your vids over the past year!

  • Reply Barbara Lindberg December 14, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for this excellent post and sharing about other channels that I can watch. I'm in Canada and learned about your channel from The Impatient Gardener. I'd like to share two channels that I watch regularly, one is Garden Answer where she talks about both outdoor and indoor plants https://www.youtube.com/user/gardenanswer/videos
    The second one is about indoor plants called Plant One On Me and because you mentioned soil I wanted to share one of her videos done with soil expert Kirsten Kurtz at Cornell University which is so informational that I'm sure you'll enjoy it. A few minutes into the video she'll do some soil testing which is very interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9ZWimcbDjQ&t=220s

    This is the same Cornell soil expert but using soil as art! It's pretty amazing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0FRhn4q0_E&t=61s

  • Reply FlowerGrower Smith December 14, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Great video Alexandra. My biggest lesson this year is how important windbreak is. I’m setting up a vegetable garden on a new block and the wind was pretty strong. As soon as I set up a temporary windbreak (with shadecloth and galvanised pickets) the impact was almost immediate. Also, I used to have raised beds but not any more. Thanks and looking forward to next years MSG videos!

  • Reply Wende Kirckhoff December 14, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    I prefer the cottage garden, maybe since I prefer a cottage. Also plan on doing a lot more no dig for all gardening, I too had raised veg beds this year, they didn't do well at all. Have you watched Garden Answer on here with Laura an Aaron, they live in Oregon, very dry where they are, they also have loads of great info, she grew up in her families seed store, which is like a seed, gift an plant shop rolled into one. Hope you have a Fabulous Holiday.!

  • Reply Georgia Cinq-Mars December 14, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Yes! I have learned the same things. Cold Compost is my style, I’ll wait for it! Self seeders come from not being as fussy with weeds. Drip irrigation is the way to go, I’ve seen an amazing difference in my beds and borders. Who knew?

  • Reply from37on December 15, 2019 at 12:09 am

    Hello from Dallas, Texas… I wanted to to say that I love your videos/channel. It has proven to be a wealth of information and ideas. I would like to make a suggestion. could you show some of your viewer's garden photos. That would be fun. Thank you for your great work.

  • Reply Hazelford December 15, 2019 at 12:22 am

    You look absolutely super in this vid. Even prettier than your garden or the dog!!

  • Reply Ellie Bosch December 15, 2019 at 12:30 am

    I’ve learned that first and foremost you have to enjoy gardening and not get discouraged if you fail on growing some plants, make your garden manageable size that you can take care of yourself so it does hot get overwhelming. Grow more perennials and your zone appropriate plants that can survive on their own without much help from you. I guess balance is the key to successful gardening.

  • Reply April Taylor December 15, 2019 at 12:45 am

    I learned to raise new plants above the soil level, the difference between compost and mulch, and to not get too excited when watching gardening videos that I go out and buy way too many plants before preparing the soil and just start sticking them everywhere for fear they will die in the pots! I also started seeds way too early out of pure excitement. I had to transplant some four and five times before it was warm enough to go outside. I garden in Asheville, NC.

  • Reply linda bergman December 15, 2019 at 1:24 am

    I’ve learned my clay and rock soil here in the county side outside of Pittsburgh pa in the US is not different then all other bad soil and I must compose it regularly…
    🥺🥺🥺

  • Reply Jill E December 15, 2019 at 2:21 am

    Thank you for this video! I also love Yulia and The Impatient Gardener. The thing I've learned about myself is that I really don't like to water. I moved to my new/old place 4 years ago with a blank slate back yard with some open area and some wooded. I'm slowly adding plants, but they have to be ones that can get established then pretty much make it on their own. So, that means a lot of native azaleas, rhododendrons, indian hawthorn, etc in my Southeastern US zone 8A garden. I've also learned that I'll never really be a plantswoman with the energy and memory to collect plants and know all their different needs. I I think that suits my style for repeat plantings and a rhythm through the garden of consistency and a restrained palette of plants. Oh, and design first, plant second.

  • Reply Sweet Peas and Yarrow: A Ranch Diary December 15, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I've learned that my garden is my favorite creative outlet. The past few years when certain people see what I've done, they get so excited and joyous about it. So I have learned that I love to make other people happy with my garden and inspire them to try it.

  • Reply Carol G December 15, 2019 at 2:36 am

    Thank you for this video! I have learned over the years to put plants together that need water or don't need water. I found myself having to water too many garden beds and then tried moving things…mostly flowers really…to their own bed. This probably would make sense to a lot of people but when I started gardening I just put things where I thought they would look pretty and the learned from my water bill. Thank you for making videos for us. I appreciate and look forward to seeing them. And I love your dog and that fancy tail!

  • Reply Sarah Bates December 15, 2019 at 3:11 am

    I’m gardening just west of Boston, Ma (zone 5a) and so appreciate your comments about finding your own style. I just started learning to garden when we bought a 4 acre farm with 2 acres of gardens when we became empty nesters, and YouTube has been my teacher! I’ve killed my share of lovely plants, had success with others, and am finding my way and my style. Thank you for your wonderful videos – they’re practical, informative, and inspiring! (And I also enjoy Erin at The Impatient Gardner and Yulia at YGarden, as well as Laura at Garden Answer – and look forward to the others you’ve now shared)

  • Reply jeanie ling December 15, 2019 at 5:06 am

    Gardening is 3D. It moves in the wind and changes with the light, the day, the moment.
    Okra, begun as direct-sown seed, grouped in nines or so , six inches apart, then fed feather/bone/blood meal and well-watered in a south-facing location :

    looks tropical, grows 7 feet tall, 5 feet wide , is a wonderful backdrop,

    creates shade, and garners oohs and aaaahs. People think it exotic, but then exclaim OOOO kraaaa???? lol.
    Leaves can be removed all through the summer as each ages and new leaves quickly replace.
    Until middle-late summer, height can be shortened a bit for fullness further down.
    Pollinators love the small hibiscus-like blooms.
    When fed, watered and groomed it thrives the hottest days.
    The stems in this situation, some become like young tree trunks.
    Large leaves, and the interesting pods, to eat or dry or share, creates 50 or 70 seeds inside to do all again the following summer. 1 okra seed packet appr $ 1.79.

  • Reply Nancy Parmelee December 15, 2019 at 7:11 am

    I have learned so many things over the years. One thing I’ve learned the past 4 or 5 years is watering with a bloom booster attached to my hose has made a big difference in the amount of blooms and color in my garden, especially in my container gardens. Having friends that garden and share the same passion is extra exciting, to be able to go plant shopping together, share information and plants, it makes it more fun than doing it by yourself.

  • Leave a Reply