Q: I want to plant a small flower garden in my yard. I have no idea of what type of gardening tools I need, or what type of flowers to plant, since I am a beginner. How should I get started?
A: My friend David McMullin says that in order to truly learn to garden, “You have to be willing to take a pile of cash and set it on fire!” You nor I have a pile of cash so let me suggest that you start with only a couple of tools: a round point shovel and a trowel. Begin with a small flower bed, perhaps four feet by ten feet. The key to success in any garden is the soil. When you go to a garden center, buy ten cubic feet of bagged soil conditioner. Mix it thoroughly into the bed before you plant.
My feeling is that if you can first be successful with just a few plants you’ll be encouraged to build on that success in the future. For this winter, plant pansies as soon as you find them available. You’ll need fifty for the bed. Plant them ten inches apart and fertilize every month with liquid houseplant fertilizer. Next May pull out the pansies and replace them with daylily, black eyed Susan, ‘Homestead Purple’ verbena and bearded iris. Buy five of each, plant them a foot apart and you’ll have a very nice flower bed with blooms throughout the summer.