How to have a GROOVY Garden—PT’s Garden Basics

Most of you know that 2020 was a heroic year in the gardening world. Many new friends joined us in the garden to learn new ways to provide for families, as well as taking a break from isolating ourselves because of the pandemic.
          This seems a good time to revisit some garden basics as we enjoy the lovely month of May. [For more details on gardening, kindly see my website:]

Light Patterns

          Study the light patterns in your garden at different times throughout the day. Where are the shady spots? Sunny spots? Where does the morning light show first? Choose plants whose light requirements fit those spots. For example, because a hosta requires shade, the hosta will do fine with morning light. However, strong afternoon sunlight might quickly burn the leaves of the plant. Follow Mother Nature’s light patterns, and you will do fine.

Leaf Patterns

          Part of the beauty of plants is the variation in their leaf patterns. Delphiniums are one of my favorites. Not only do delphiniums have various shades of blue, purple and white, they also have different leaves, which creates interest in the bed. I showcase my cosmos plants in my cottage garden, largely because their feathery leaves and enchanting flowers make one want to linger.

Plant Heights

          “It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a plant!” Take a look above the trees and bushes in your yard. Notice the different heights of the trees, which makes for a lovely silhouette. Pay attention to the heights of flowers. It seems obvious, but put your tallest plants in the back of the bed, then second tallest, and so on. Put your shortest plants in front. This will allow you to enjoy all of the plants as well as make for a more interesting garden.

The Dirt

          You know you’ve become a gardener when you call dirt by its proper name, ‘soil’. Soil is the gardening god and nothing will change that part. Depending on where you live, your soil may be sandy, or clay-like, rocky or deep black. And that soil (along with which planting zone you reside in) will determine what plants will fit for you, and what time of year you can plant. If you have heavy clay soil, add compost to it to make it more workable. The key is this:
                   Good drainage = good soil = healthy root systems = healthy plants


          If your plant’s directions say ‘average water’, then don’t wait for it to dry out before watering again. Plants that are over watered my show wilted leaves or brown-edged leaves.

Crowded flowers?

          One of my favorite looks in a flower garden is to ‘crowd’ the flowers enough to make them look even fuller and richer. A cottage garden, which often has masses of different flowers where there is no beginning or end. This is part of their charm. Crowded flowers are not haphazardly placed, rather, carefully orchestrated, so there is no interruption in the beauty.

Giving Plants a ‘Haircut’

          Many perennials and shrubs love to be cut back. Directions on how much to cut back and the time to cut back will be given on the plant tag. Cutting back, or giving them a ‘haircut’, helps to ensure that plants will not grow ‘out of control’ and also forces the plant to put out new growth.


          Want your annuals and perennials to look as good at the end of the season as they do at the beginning of the season? Remove or cut back the spent blooms, which keeps the plant looking pretty and encourages them to bloom over a longer period of time.


          Weeding flower beds is one of the grunge jobs of the garden. But it is necessary to keep the weeds under control. I have found a handy dandy tool that helps to retrieve the root of the weed and pull it out of the ground. It is very easy to have the weeds overtake a flower bed, in essence, suffocating the flowers out. Do weeding a little bit at a time, and think of this each time a weed is removed “now my flowers can breathe easier”.

Protect your plants
There is no shortage of rabbits, raccoons, and deer in Iowa. The best way to protect your plants from critters is with the Plant Patron®, the nontoxic, humane way to deter animals. Buy your Plant Patron® at

Visit your Garden every day…if only for a short while.
 Use the garden as a reflective time, setting aside your cares and worries…to enjoy the flowers. You may see little surprises in the garden: a plant you thought dead is springing to life; a spider has constructed a beautiful web; the butterflies are happily moving from one flower to another. And you may just see a hummingbird.

Let’s Plant On together.