The Myth of the Green Thumb

The Myth of the Green Thumb


People often assume that a green thumb is some kind of magical gift bestowed on someone by genetics or a higher power or that you must have magic beans to get such a great crop. Although you may have a gift for gardening because you have passion or inspiration it is something that you can learn. Time, effort, energy, attention, study, and perseverance are what will make it look like you have a magical talent.


Here are some things you need to become a great gardener:


  • Give your plants enough water – this might mean every day if it is dry. If you do not have time to do this you may wish to consider a drip irrigation system.
  • Give your plants food – this might involve adding some organic plant food once a week. This can come from the store in liquid form which you can add to the water. Plants in pots suffer quickly if they run out of nutrients. If you do not have time to do this you could get some slow release fertilizer pellets. I feed my plants once a week with liquid organic fertilizer and a little Epson salt mixed in a bucket of water. The Epson salt helps plants take in magnesium and sulfur. Tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers really love this combination.
  • Give your plants time and attention – cut off the dead heads, remove old leaves, and look out for bugs.
  • Stake your plants so that they can climb upwards. Make sure you tie them with thicker, preferably stretchy ties. I personally like using old t-shirts cut up or spaghetti straps from tops as these stretch as the plant grows.
  • Make sure your plants have enough space to grow.
  • Gardening is an ongoing thing. Don’t just seed things once in spring. Successional seeding is important, as it will make sure you get a constant supply of plants. Carrots, beans, peas, and lettuce can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks for a constant supply. Commitment to the entire growing season is important so if you are going away you may need a plant sitter.
  • Of course, having been taught about plants at a young age is a definite advantage but it is not a necessity. My mother grew up in the city and had just one experience with gardening when she was a child, yet this spurred a lifelong interest in nature. The things that are not taught as a child can be self-taught as an adult by reading lots and studying.
  • Plan your garden. Once you have grown a few things successfully you can go on to plan the following year. For example you may think, next year I will put the potatoes here and grow more beans. Make a few drawings to help you visualize how you can make things even better next year.
  • Don’t dwell on the failures. All of us, even the best gardeners will have some things that simply don’t work. It could be because of the weather, the seeds, or simply bad planning. This year alone I had a number of failed crops.
  • Celebrate your successes. People will start to make comments such as “Wow! You have a really green thumb” and you will know that it is actually because of your hard work and not a magical blessing.


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