An (Un)Helpful Guide to Gardening

See the plants in these pictures glistening in all their glory? That is my handiwork right there. And I have earned the right to brag a little considering that this would be the first time in my life that I would consider myself a successful home gardener (sort of). In the not so distant past, I was a plant killer. I would hand a wad of cash over to the cashiers (snake oil salesmen) at the home improvement stores in return for a handful of plants and seeds that I would then basically go home and throw in the trash – sure there were a few weeks in between where I planted them and stared at them waiting for something to happen before they withered and died and found their final resting place in my trash can. I wasn’t trying to kill them – but that was always the end result.


My little sister is a pretty amazing individual in general, but for the purpose of this article it’s worth noting that she is a gardening genius. GENIUS. I have tried to get her to reveal her secrets (“How does your garden grow, dear sister?”) of which she claims there is none (she tried to convince me she had purchased her plants and seed from a giant who lived at the top of a beanstalk, but I couldn’t locate him).

What have I been doing wrong all these years? I plant the vegetables and flowers per the instructions on that little tag thingy that comes on the plant and then I wait for something to happen. Was I supposed to water regularly? Isn’t that what the rain is for? Was I suppose to feed them drops of my blood like Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors? I mean, that seems drastic but I would be willing to try it if someone could guarantee to me that the plants would flourish (and not turn into murderous psychos).

So when I moved a few months ago into a cute little bungalow (read: tiny house), I vowed to make a change in my gardening tactics. For one, I couldn’t afford to waste any more money on plants that weren’t going to live! So here are my tips to avoid killing your plants:

 Start Small

Whatever, I am usually all “Go big! Or go home!” BUT I decided to just try a few plants that my sister noted as being “easy” to grow rather than investing all my gardening budget at once.

 Water Them

Evidently, the rain that nature provides is not enough (I am exhausted already from all the watering). And since I live in Florida where it’s hotter than the surface of the Sun, I have to make sure and water them daily. I may or may not be breaking some watering restrictions, but it’s not like I am watering for 3 hours straight a day, just making sure the soil stays wet. This “watering thing” has had surprising results, the plants seem to like it.

Fertilize Them

Not with your blood. You can just buy the plant food. Brilliant. Someone took the time to invent the science behind plant food so who am I to ignore that. The plants have seemed to respond well to this as well. (I say, as I preen my feathers out of pride).

Read the Directions

I am a bit like a man in this respect (do NOT try and deny that if you are a man you don’t avoid reading directions, maps and post-it notes from your mothers/wives/girlfriends). I am always in a hurry and reading the directions – ahhhh – who has the time for that?! BUT – the little tag thingy that comes with the plant does have some helpful information such as: how much sun they need (they don’t all need the same amount FYI), how much water they need (again, they don’t all need the same amount – who knew?!) and how deep to plant them (evidently, they aren’t meant to stay in that flimsy container they come home in). I had to use a trial and error method as far as the placement of my potted plants and vegetables were concerned thanks to the boiling heat of the Sun’s rays, but we (I say ‘we,’ because I have a small gardening staff now of 4 children. Child Labor Law’s don’t apply to my own kids do they?) seem to be on track now.

Prune Them  

This is time consuming, but worth it. (Whineeeeee) Occasionally, the sun beats down so flipping hard that even the watering and few hours of reprieve at night aren’t enough to keep the plants from getting a sunburn. Don’t yank the brown leaves or flowers off, but rather, speak nicely to them in a soft tone before snipping them with scissors (or just make your kids do it).


Read some gardening articles and tips (there are actual real tips on this site that are actually helpful) and apply them appropriately to your garden. And definitely know your climate – some plants do better in different areas (I knew this beforehand thank you very much).


That’s really all you need to know to get your plants vibing and thriving (I think).


About fourformom

Natalie Lubrano has written 46 posts in this blog.

Natalie Lubrano is a 33-year-old mother of four children that are slowly trying to take over her house. They are ages 9, 7 and twins age 6. Follow her on Twitter: @natlubrano. Read more of her writing at



  1. says

    I tend to go big and regret it! Ha! And then pruning. Ouch, it’s so hard. In my early gardening years I couldn’t cull the “babies” and so everything was stunted. I’m mean now an I rip those things out. ALTHOUGH, I tried to transplant some of my sunflower seedlings. Hahaha! Confessions. Oh my.

    • says

      Sorry Natalie I have to disagree with you …. Gardening is NOT harder than it looks. It’s just like cooking, if you follow the recipe then everything turns out fine. But if you stray from the recipe without really knowing what flavors work together then you end up with a disaster. Same for gardening, just like you wrote here, follow the directions provided, do a little research and stick to the “recipe” and the garden turns out fine …. Just like your pictures. Well done. I’ll be waiting to see your sunflowers next!

      • says

        Well I do think there are more variables at times in gardening than cooking, but I defer to your expertise in an area I am a mere novice. Sunflowers to follow soon;).


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