I happen to think that gardeners learn more from their mistakes than their successes.
And who knows better than Washington State University Master Gardeners? Over many decades, they’ve grown thousands of plants. It didn’t always go well. At the start of this new season, I asked them to share: “What was the best gardening advice you ever got?”
• Dee Adams: Never plant the “TOES” together. PotaTOES and tomaTOES are both in the nightshade family, and they crave the same soil nutrients and are susceptible to the same diseases.
If you get your sugar snap and snow peas in early, you can harvest the peas and then grow green beans in the same spot.
Each spring, empty all containers and compost the old potting soil. Then scrub the containers with a mild bleach solution before filling with fresh soil.
• Gini Obert: “Plant what you will eat and try one thing new every year.” This year it’s culinary sesame seeds. I should have beautiful summer flowers and will harvest the seeds in the fall.
Plant veggie seeds in the bottom of a V-shaped trench and cover the seeds with a small amount of soil. The trench protects the seed from wind and collects moisture, helping with germination.
• Margie Conzatti: Keeping a small tarp or garbage container close by when working in garden for waste clippings and weeds makes cleanup quicker.
• Sheila Gunderson: When starting a new garden, the best money you will spend is on a plan. The second best investment is testing and building the soil.
• Lindy Sheehan: When I moved back to Yakima after living in Seattle for 30 years, I had to relearn what plants were possible in my new USDA climate zone.
“Put the right plant in the right place.” Tomatoes love sun and hostas love shade. That tree you like may grow to over 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
Buy the best tools you can afford. I personally love the new ergonomic tools.
• Renee Holwegner: “If it brings you joy, do it!” It was advice relevant to the busy life I was keeping at the time, but I think it’s applicable in the garden, too.
I had many roses at the old house. Tired of prickly dead-heading chores, you won’t find a single traditional, thorny rose in my new garden. I only brought plants from the old garden that brought me joy.
I’m quickly learning the plants I thought I had room for in the new garden, grasses namely, aren’t real joy-getters when they multiply like bunnies. Off with their heads! I will begin the long process of removing them this year. It only took two seasons with feather grass to suck the joy right out of growing them.
• Pat Bombard: Plant where and when your plant will thrive. Is it sun/part sun/shade? What type of soil is best? Wait until after the last frost date to plant, especially if it’s an annual.
• Jenny Mansfield: Decades ago, I got plain and simple advice from my father, who was a fruit grower, and it’s still true today. Feed your soil by adding compost again and again. If you do, it will reward you over and over.
• Patricia Moszeter: Age in place. Do whatever it takes to keep gardening. Do not let age get in the way. Enjoy the sunshine. Smile and take it easy. There are lots of helpful tools for an oldie but goodie.
• Diana Pieti: Learn from your mistakes and use a garden journal so you remember them.
• Debra Kroon: “Do what you do the best, and hire out the rest.”
Take risks. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You want to try something new? Check your planting zone. We are 5 to 6 in Yakima, with some wiggle room on either side. Plants in Zones 7+ are considered annuals here in Yakima unless given a warmer microclimate.
Consider a naturalized style, rather than groomed and organized. This creates a friendlier and more welcoming habitat for pollinators.
• Jim Black: Don’t plant until you test your soil and make necessary adjustments, and then plant only what will thrive in those conditions and in that light. That’s the best advice, but I seldom follow it.
• Bill Gillespie: Always read the directions on the seed packet and follow them.
• Annette Olson: Diana Pieti encouraged me to plant a xeric garden. I did and it’s beautiful! Milkweed naturalized in this garden has a lovely scent and feeds the bees and butterflies.
• Phyllis Pugnetti and Melody Westmoreland: Gardeners love plants so much that we agonize over their death, almost as if they were puppies or kittens. Another gardener gave them this advice: “Get over it. Plants die all the time. And when they do, they can be replaced.”
For more gardening information, links and photographs, visit the Yakima Master Gardener Column website at https://tinyurl.com/mg-columns.