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Easy to Learn Guide for Beginning Pacific Northwest Gardeners

Updated on November 13, 2019
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Sheri lived in the Pacific Northwest for 50 years, planting a dozen gardens of various types. She gardens in Florida now.

Gardening can be a lifelong hobby and has the benefits of good exercise, healthy fresh air, tons of blooms, an ever changing presentation of natural beauty, and attracting wildlife. My husband told me to design a garden first before building it since he had a previous wife who had studied horticulture. So I started with the many flower catalogs in winter and dreamed up what to plant and where to plant it.

Garden Advice Tip #1 : Beginning gardeners should start with a small garden, design it, dig it out, and plant it.

What to Do About Removing Lawns in Your Yard

I was told to poison lawn, or cover it with wet cardboard to kill it in order to plant a garden, but I just dug it out shovel by shovel, allowing the clumps to dry out, then shaking the dirt back into the opened up area a day later. It is easier to start near an edge and in late summer when grass has naturally died back from drought or during wet winter months when the ground is saturated and easier to get a shovel to cut. If digging a garden out of lawn, plan to remove the gravel used in leveling lawns and to amend the soil with manure and peat moss. Leave a healthy edge between lawn and gardens to prevent grass from entering your garden.

Garden Advice Tip #2 : Beginning gardeners should plan to remove as much lawn unneeded for play activities as possible, one garden at a time.

The reason to eliminate lawn is the hassle and expense to ensure a lush green lawn can be as time consuming and use more water than a garden. The benefit of replacing lawn with gardens is that if you do your work right, you will eliminate the noise of lawn mowers, weed eaters, lawn edgers, and other tools of the trade. This makes life more pleasurable and less stressful.

Why Use Small Plants when Planting Your Garden?

Small plants are larger than seedlings, have more than four petals and a stem and will grow faster than larger, root bound plants. Smaller plants always cost less money.

Garden Advice Tip #3: Beginning gardeners should save money on plants.

A package of seeds that can produce 10-40 plants will cost less than one small plant start. Often, once a plant is grown, you can take cuttings off the main plant and have many more. One easy way to make cuttings is one to prune plants like hedges, dip the ends into rooting solution and the place them into dirt. A second easy way is to just cover a branch with dirt, then check back after a couple of weeks. Often, roots will form and you can cut off the new plant and move it to where you want it.

Why Use Wildflowers in Your Garden?

Wildflowers used in your garden are best selected from wildflowers that are native to your region. Wildflowers will take less water, will be used to the soil and often are supported by the insect life to pollinate it. Many wildflowers are annuals although some are perennial. Foxglove, for instance, is an biennial, it often blooms the second year. To grow more foxglove, take some of the seed pods and shake them out in the area they will grow in. Slightly disturb the soil, then leave them alone. Read “Best Drought Resistant Wildflowers” to find more good examples of wildflowers for Pacific Northwest gardens.

Garden AdviceTip #4 : Beginning gardeners should use wildflowers because they grow well.

Sage and poppies can make a startling contrast in a mixed border garden that combines the use of evergreen herbs and perennials.
Sage and poppies can make a startling contrast in a mixed border garden that combines the use of evergreen herbs and perennials.

Why Use Herbs in Your Garden?

Herbs are a delight in the garden because they will flower for long periods, attract pollinators to the garden, smell wonderful and are useful in the kitchen. Herbs also tend to be native plants and are often low maintenance as they require little water, feeding or pruning. Many herbs are also evergreen and can be quite pleasing in a mixed color perennial garden.

Garden Advice Tip #5 : Beginning gardeners should use herbs to add scent and flavor to cooking.

Why Use Variegated Plants in Your Garden?

Variegated plant offer lighter colors and a variety of colors in the midst of evergreen leaves. Green is welcome to many people but can be unappealing when used as the sole color. To brighten shady spots, variegated plants will help to reflect light. Mixing plants in a hedge can assure blooms and fruits that attract wildlife and provide year round color.

Garden Advice Tip #6 : Beginning gardeners should mix colors to add vibrancy to a garden.

What's Your Least Favorite Pacific Northwest Plant?

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Many annuals such as money plant and plants such as ferns that grow from a runner can be attractive pests in your garden. Choose with care.
Many annuals such as money plant and plants such as ferns that grow from a runner can be attractive pests in your garden. Choose with care.

What Plants to Avoid in Your Garden

It is hard to believe, but many plants sold in flower baskets or sound appealing and have pretty flowers can be invasive and hard to manage in a garden. Plants that spread by root rhizome, send out runners, or develop roots when they touch the ground, are often poor choices in gardens; same with any plant that isn’t cold hardy for the climate or doesn’t like your soil type. Others that self sow can be annoying, too. Read more about my troubles with plants in my garden in "Worst Pacific Northwest Wildflowers."

Garden Advice Tip #7 : Beginning gardeners should listen when someone says don’t plant this plant.

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