compiled by Chris Watson, Marisa Rubin and Kelly Thompson
Looking to start a garden of your own, or develop a better green thumb? Here are tips for many kinds of growing, from the beautiful to the practical. If you’re looking for healthy vegetables, beautiful hummingbirds or maybe even fairies, Northwest Ohio has no shortage of greenhouse growers who are more than happy to walk a new gardener through the startup process.
First and foremost, you need a story for your fairy garden. What are your fairies going to do in your garden? Are they going to swim, gossip, relax?
What you’ll need
Various plants: flowers, moss, terrariums and leafy greens
Planters: Shallow round ones, and window boxes. It can be fun to play around with the arrangements in larger planters.
Soil: Bagged potting mixtures are an easy start, if you are forgetful or fear over/under watering your plants, select a moisture control potting soil.
Fairy evidence: This is where you can let your creativity run wild. Anything works for fairy evidence; bird feeders, feathers, wooden sticks, paths, special stones, glitter-covered chairs, decorated shoe boxes, or miniature Barbie furniture.
Where to find the fairy evidence: You can stop by any garden or local craft store.
Step 1: Fill up your planter with dirt.
Step 2: Do a general layout of your fairy essentials, making sure you like the arrangement. For an easy way to remember what you like, snap a photo for reference after planting.
Step 3: Pick the places you’d like to put your plants and other environmental items.
Step 4: Dig a hole in your planter, just deep enough for your plant to be level with the potting soil, and place it into the hole, filling the empty spaces with loose soil. Repeat for all of your plants, except for the moss if you chose to use it.
Step 5: Add moss on top of planter surface.
Step 6: Place the fairy essentials in the garden.
Step 7: Let the fairies play!
Thinking about ornamental?
Our experts, Cindy Bench and Theresa Hoen, both listed the same go-to ornamental plants: geraniums, profusion zinnias, marigolds, tansies and snapdragons. Bench added, “I also like ornamental kales and cabbages late in the season. They look pretty and provide the bonus of being tasty.”
These unique additions will bring new life to your garden:
This is a very tolerant perennial that blooms with small white or pink flowers, then produces tiny strawberries that burst with sweetness. Some varieties of the alpine strawberry even produce white or yellow berries. A small bush plant, it doesn’t send out runners like other varieties of strawberries, making it perfect for small pots. A favorite of fairies!
This edible plant is a perfect choice for a water garden. Native to Southern Asia, this perennial favors soils that are flooded, or saturated. The taro’s adaptability has allowed it to flourish in different climates across the globe. It is generally cultivated for its corm (edible stem) and sometimes as a leaf vegetable. The taro is also widely used as an decorative plant in landscaping.
Purple Bush Basil
A variety of the well-known favorite herb, this ornamental basil grows as a small bush with deep purple leaves, and is well-suited to small containers, requiring a minimum level of care. Ornamental basil has a pungent aroma and is a welcome addition in salads, soups, sauces and many other dishes.
Wild Bergamot/Bee Balm
Wild Bergamot is a plant everyone should have in their garden. It attracts hummingbirds with its long tube-like flower clusters and intense fragrance. Native Americans long considered this a medicinal plant, using it to treat everything from the common cold to excessive flatulence.
A water garden is a special landscape area constructed out of man-made water features, like ponds, fountains and waterfalls. The primary focus is on aquatic plants and ornamental fish. The gardens can be any size or depth. The idea of water gardens dates back to ancient Chinese and Persian gardens, for food purposes and decoration.
Common water-garden fish are koi and goldfish, which both come in a variety of colors and aren’t particular about water temperature (excluding extremes).
Note: Use caution when maintaining water gardens. There are many predators attracted to ponds, like snakes, raccoons and even house cats.
From the experts
VEGETABLES AND EXOTICS
Growing fresh vegetables or nursing an exotic ornamental doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, gardening is a quintessential healthy activity, providing outdoor, low impact exercise, interest generation, and in the case of vegetable gardening, lunch and dinner.
The problem is rarely desire, but how to get started and, more importantly, how to set up to be successful. Success, like any hobby or profession, starts with apprenticing with people who already have experience. We consulted with two local experts for a few start-up gardening tips.
Most people start off too ambitious, then lose control of their garden. Cindy Bench of Bench Farms (Curtice, OH) has a good solution. “I recommend starting with container or raised-bed gardening. First, it is easier to get at pots and raised beds since, at least for some of us, the ground is getting farther away.” This restriction might seem too limiting for some, but beds can be expanded or more containers added as your green thumb skills improve.
Plants grow down
“No matter what you plant,” counciled Theresa Hoen of Hoen’s Garden Center and Landscaping, “you must do good prep. It’s imperative that you start with a good soil foundation.”
Whether it’s in containers or just digging in the dirt, all soil needs to be amended. If you have clay soil, you will want to amend with good peat. For sandy soil, clean topsoil will need to be added. There are also excellent natural amendments that can be added with both kinds of soils.
For containers, Hoen recommends regular potting mix, not soil. “Don’t go digging in the backyard for container soil,” Hoen cautioned. “You will be very disappointed.”
Plants grow up
“All plants need sun,” Bench explained. She recommended that new gardeners pick a spot that has six hours of sun per day; “suntan sun,” as she called it. If you position containers around the side of a building or near a driveway, you can supplement some of your sun through radiating heat.
Southern or Western exposures work best. “When looking at plants, we tell our customers to check their light in the morning and afternoon. If most of the sun comes before noon, that is ‘partial sun.’ If your six hours comes after lunch, you are in ‘full sun,’” Hoen explained.
Plants are alive
Like any living thing, some basic maintenance is necessary to be successful with plants. Water is first and foremost. Cindy Bench has a simple rule: “Low, slow and water from the ground up. The leaves should remain dry.”
Likewise, plants need food, especially container plants. Hoen added, “You must fertilize at least a little. There are many products available, some with time-release capability, that will help with feeding and watering.”
Bench favors tomatoes and peppers as a vegetable startup. “They are heat lovers, and will produce well, giving a good sense of success early in your gardening journey,” she said, explaining that herbs are “pretty easy to start with . . . they have a high impact when showing off gardening in the kitchen.”
The peak season for hummingbirds is May and June, followed by their early July migration.
Hummingbirds are most attracted to the color red. Stick to red, tubular flowers like honeysuckle, bee balm and cardinal flowers.
Hummingbird feeders are great for attracting the colorful birds when your flowers aren’t blooming. Just fill a feeder with a few drops of homemade nectar, made simply from sugar and water.
You need to find the perfect location for your hummingbird garden, preferably a spot that you can easily observe. An ideal hummingbird garden would have both shade and sun, allowing the birds to hang out and enjoy the garden’s attractions.
Be wise about your selection. Hummingbirds tend to use their sense of sight more than their sense of smell. Pick brightly colored flowers, like red and pink, that are tubular or trumpet-shaped so they can easily see and enjoy the nectar. A variety of flowers is a good idea as well, it will give them a variety of flavors to enjoy.
Think of trees that would produce a soft yet sturdy material from which hummingbirds can create a nest. Moss is a common favorite.
A small bird bath or water mister works well.
A Few Local Resources
Bench Farms 9am-8pm every day
9151 Jerusalem Rd, Curtice.
(419) 836-9443, benchfarms.com
Hoen’s Garden Center and Landscaping
9am-5pm M-F, 10am-4pm Sat.
1710 Perrysburg-Holland Rd., Holland.
Garden Smiles by Carruth
10am-6pm M-F, 10am-5pm Sat., 12am-5pm Sun.
211 Mechanic St, Waterville.
9am-8pm M-S, 10am-6pm Sun.
4171 Monroe St.