Experimentation, and indeed killing things, may be the only way to learn about gardening.
I'm getting there but I am trying to assiduously learn from other people, books, shows, wherever and whatever, rather than consigning more ever growing piles to the great compost bin in the sky. It's cheaper. As we discover, plant labels and many gardening (RHS?) websites are bugger all help.
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I think the skill is to learn from the plants themselves. I am still very much a novice when it comes to veg growing and I think that's because most are annuals. It takes aaaaages to distinguish between the effects of bad weather and the effects of bad gardening, because you can't replicate conditions year to year with any confidence. When you've been gardening for many years, you stop using a book and a calendar to tell you when to pot on or plant out or harvest and come to just know when is the right time by the plant and the soil in your garden. At this point, you are 'properly' gardening for the micro-conditions in your own plot and will have far greater success.
I started watching GW regularly not because I wanted to listen to Monty tell me how to put a banana plant in a greenhouse every year but because it's one of few programmes that I know are filmed close to the broadcast date and which show many shots of plants. Hostafan gets annoyed by all the dog shots but I like all the 'filling' sweeping views of the garden. I'm usually looking over Monty's shoulder or at the plants behind his dog's snoozing nose to see how his tomatoes or cavolo nero is looking to compare it to mine. If his is struggling, it's far more likely to be weather related than ineptitude because, whatever others may say about him not being Geoff Hamilton, he has been gardening at Longmeadow for decades and mostly knows what his veg plants need. Therefore when his plants are looking as sick as mine, I stop worrying about what I'm doing wrong and hope for better luck next year. If his are thriving and mine half dead I have a much harder think about what I may have done wrong this time.
I am much better at ornamentals (about 20 years better), not because I 'know' what all plants need - I definitely don't - but because I am better at looking at a plant and thinking 'you're not happy, are you?' and then being able to see if that's a too dry problem or a too wet problem or a hungry problem, or wind burn or smothering by neighbours or eaten by pests or one of the countless other things that can happen. That means I can usually work out what to do next early enough to not actually kill the plant. Having said that, I still lose plenty and still come on here looking for advice on pests and problems and plants I've not come across before.
You get better at it with time. You never get to a point when there's nothing left to learn
Last edited: 24 June 2017 09:14:18