Mistakes new gardeners make


Ruth Abir at her garden in Kisumu. PHOTO | COURTESY


  • You must balance plants according to structure, texture and colour.
  • Poor soil produces poor produce.

As a garden writer, I’ve visited many beautiful gardens. However, behind these gorgeous green spaces are trials and tribulations that accompany their gardeners.

Ruth Abir from Kisumu and Muchiri Mwangi from Kajiado talked to BDLife about the mistakes that almost made them want to give up.

Gardening without a plan

“Though I knew what I wanted, I didn't consider the terrain. So I bought seedlings and planted them haphazardly,” says Ruth, who owns Pamazar Gardens in Kisumu. Mwangi of Emanyatta Gardens, didn’t have a landscaping layout beforehand.

“All I knew was where I wanted the house. When I decided to create the garden, I found that the water was too far from the plants. I lost the plants and money on a piping system.”

Failure to balance plants

You must balance plants according to structure, texture and colour. “As a result of my haphazard planting, the only beauty there was in Pamazar garden was in its name. The plants brought about a lot confusion to the eye. A far cry from the healing and harmony I had sort to create,” Ruth says.

Through reading and watching gardening documentaries, she learnt the art of balancing plants. “My plants are now growing beautifully,” she says.

Mwangi planted based on what was available at the time. ‘‘I have too many pink Oleanders. Choose to plant what you want. If it's expensive, save up and buy it,” he says.

Over, under watering plants

“We planted vegetables without a continuous source of water. With the rains being unreliable, the plants died. We later installed a drip irrigation system which helped us get bumper harvest,” says Mwangi.

Ruth cringes when she remembers her watering errors. “I ended up with yellow leafed plants. It wasn't the best experience.”

Poor planting techniques, poor soils and reliance on pesticides

“We started with growing several types of plants simultaneously. It didn’t go as well as we hoped,” Mwangi says.

To correct this, they started practicing crop rotation, changing plants with every cycle.

“This is the best practice so as not to drain any one specific mineral from the soil,” he says.

Take care of the soil

Poor soil produces poor produce. Ruth loves organic farming. She says compost is the best for addition to the soil. She discourages the use of pesticides. For management of pests, she uses a concoction of Aloe Vera, Neem leaves and cow urine.

“Also, avoid clearing plants native to your garden when starting out. It's best to nurture native plants even as you introduce exotic ones. Native plants are adapted to the environment they're in and will survive the forces of nature within its region giving you an easy time.’’

To have a beautiful garden, Ruth says, incorporate water features. The sound of water has a healing effect, aesthetic value and serves as a bath and a drinking water source for birds and butterflies.

Second, no space is too small for a garden. Maximise on whatever space available. There are gardeners with balcony gardens more beautiful than gardens on acres of land.

Finally, be patient and creative. “Our place was bare when I began. Now it's teeming with life. It doesn't matter the mistakes you make.You learn and do better with time,” Mwangi says.