Gardening for Beginners
For many aspiring gardeners, the first step is the hardest. They fret about planting seeds that never germinate, overwatering until soil disintegrates, or being so neglectful that any plant droops in surrender. But successful gardening is easier than you think.
- Start small with a collection of herbs. These grow well in window boxes, porch container gardens, indoor pots, and backyards, so you can keep them going for some time.
- Choose your spot. Although it seems counterintuitive, select a spot for your container first. It will help you figure out what herbs to grow. For example, marjoram does best in full sun, while mint likes a mix of sun and shade. Determining sunshine needs for particular plants is as easy as browsing the website of a seed vendor like www.johnnyseeds.com.
- Pick your herb varieties based on that location. Most herbs prefer a sunny spot, so if you’re going that route, a nice mix is marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and sage. Not only does that collection blend well in terms of flavor, but the different textures of the leaves make it a pretty combo.
- Get the correct potting soil and the right pot. Because dirt from your backyard has creepy crawlies (the bad kind) and potential plant diseases, always use potting soil, which is available at any greenhouse or garden store. Your best option is soil that’s specific to organic vegetable growing. Most pot types are fine as long as there are drainage holes in the bottom, which help prevent overwatering.
- Use transplants instead of seeds. Obtaining herbs from a local greenhouse or garden store isn’t cheating; it’s just moving your starting line to a better spot. To plant: Put some potting soil in the pot, then carefully take the transplants out of their containers and nestle them into their new home before adding a bit more potting soil to about 2 inches below the rim.
- Water appropriately. Once you put the transplants in the soil, water thoroughly and put the container somewhere appropriate for drainage. After that, determine watering needs by putting a finger into the soil to test for dryness. If it’s feeling moist an inch down, skip the spritz. Otherwise, water lightly. Herbs are prone to root rot, which happens when they sit in water for too long, so it’s better to skimp on watering most of the time.
- Fail, laugh, and learn. This might be the most important step of all, because not every project is going to work. For some gardeners, herbs are challenging but roses are a snap. Every failed project will give you some insight into what went wrong, and you can use that knowledge for the next round. Once you’ve got a thriving herb container, indoors or out, it’s possible that you’ll feel ready for more gardening adventures. Nice work, green thumb!
Elizabeth Millard is the co-owner of Bossy Acres CSA in Dayton, Minn., and author of Indoor Kitchen Gardening.
When the best weather of the year arrives, you want to be out there soaking it up. Here’s what you need to know to make your outdoor workouts as effective as they are fun.
Suggestions for a safe, comfortable open-air workout:
- Pack plenty of water. In the heat, you’ll need about 8 ounces for every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. Keep about 16 ounces of water in an athletic water bottle for immediate use and another 24 to 48 ounces in a thermos to keep it cool. You can also opt for a water carrier that fits like a backpack.
- Choose an area with a bathroom nearby.
- Use a sports watch with a stopwatch function to keep track of your exercise intervals and water consumption.
- Wear a wristband or bring a towel to mop up sweat.
- Dump the baseball cap. Most are made from heavy cotton that keeps heat from escaping and absorbs sweat like a sponge.For better sun protection, go for a runner’s cap made of breathable material like CoolMax with mesh sides for better ventilation. Keep the colors light: white, yellow or blue.
- Always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. You may want to invest in a wraparound style to keep the glare out of your front view and peripheral vision. Look for brands with rubber ends, since they prevent slippage when you sweat.
- Apply sunscreen on your face and any exposed skin, such as arms and legs, if you are going to be outdoors for more than 15 minutes. Getting a little sunshine will probably do you good, but you don’t want to risk a burn.
- Pin your house key and car keys in your pocket so you won’t lose them.
- Stuff a washcloth or rag into a backpack so you can wipe your face and sunglasses as needed.
“People with high happiness set-points are human just like the rest of us. They don’t have special powers, an extra heart or X-ray vision. They just have different habits. It’s that simple. Psychologists say that at least 90 percent of all behavior is habitual. So, to become happier, you need to look at your habits.”
How’s your “practice” of happiness? Ask yourself these two questions:
- What is the No. 1 habit I can develop in my life that will have the greatest positive impact?
- What is the No. 1 habit I can remove from my life that will have the greatest positive impact?