The Q&A Archives: Novice Gardener

Question: I have never gardened before but want to start. Where do I begin? I live in San Francisco and have a small patch of soil that my landlord will allow me to use. What are the basic tools I need? I do know that I am in Zone 10 but that's about it. I want to have a flower garden only. Can you recommend any books to read for further help.

Answer: The first step is to assess the garden plot. Is it in all day sun? Part sun? Mostly shade? The answer to this question will determine the types of flowers you can successfully grow. Next step is to amend the soil with lots of organic matter to loosen it up and provide nutrients to the roots of the plants you'll be growing. Then decide whether you want annual plants or perennials. Annuals grow, flower and die, all in one growing season. Perennials live for 3 or more years. Either or both can be used in a flower garden. You might decide to plant a theme garden of all one color, or all one shape of flower. Or you might want a patchwork of different sizes, shapes and colors of flowers. There are several excellent resources for novice gardeners, including Gardening for Dummies (a basic to intermediate text), published by IDG Books, ISBN # 1-56884-644-4. There are several books in the same series, (Annuals for Dummies, Perennials for Dummies), and they're all very helpful. Another "must have" is Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Publishing Company, ISBN# 0-376-03851-9. This book lists alphabetically all of the plants that grow well on the West Coast, complete with line drawings and descriptions of each. Hope this information helps you become a successful gardener your first time out!

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