The Q&A Archives: First Steps For A Rookie Gardener

Question: We moved into a new home late last summer with a beautiful garden. The transaction was not friendly so I could not ask the previous owner what was planted in the garden. I have never managed a garden and can barely tell a weed from a precious plant. I am interested though! Right now, I am hoping the garden comes back in the spring as magnificent as it looked when we purchased the property. What are the first steps I should take and when? Is/are there any "must read" books that will serve as a good coach to a rookie gardener?

Answer: You didn't specify, but I'm assuming your garden is a perennial garden. New gardens, especially ones that are already established, are so exciting! Since there are already plants in the garden, you may be wise to observe the garden the first year, learning about what has already been planted and becoming familiar with the plants, their needs and care, and the growing conditions in your yard.

An experienced gardener, whether a neighbor or a professional from a local garden center, is a good source to help you identify plants and figure out how to care for them. Other good sources are visits to public gardens, nurseries and garden centers.

One good book to start with is "Gardening for Dummies" ISBN 1-56884-644-4.You might also wish to locate a few books on perennials and read up on the ones you are growing. Two possibilities are "Perennials for Dummies" by Marcia Tatroe and the Editors of the National Gardening Association ISBN 0-7645-5030-6; and then as you gain experience the very detailed "Perennials for American Gardens" by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Nicolas H. Ekstrom ISBN 0-394-55740-9.

The one thing you can do immediately in spring is remove all the spent foliage and do a very general garden clean-up. This will clear the way for your perennials to begin to show themselves! Most importantly, enjoy your perennials!

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