Getting Down And Dirty: Gardening Basics

By The Old House Web

by Kate McIntyre

In the course of restoring your old house, you've no doubt learned a lot. Perhaps you've found out the difference between a gambrel and a gable roof, or you've discovered that rewiring your ceiling fixtures is not nearly as daunting as you imagined. Take advantage of your forward momentum to tackle the jungle that lives just outside your front door. Brown thumb or not, you have already come awfully far. It's time to tackle the garden.

Plant Categories

If you're very new to gardening, it is useful to learn about plant categories. Plants are divided into categories based on how long they live. People also categorize plants by hardiness zones, which tell you if plants grow well in your climate, and height, which can help you to plan attractive planting arrangements.


Annual plants only live for one growing season, but they make up for their short lifespan with exuberant blossoms. They often are brightly colored, and livening up dull corners is their specialty. Some annuals can live for several years in warmer climates. Other annuals reseed themselves, saving you the work of planting year after year. Popular annuals include petunias, marigolds, zinnias, snapdragons, cosmos, geraniums, and impatiens.


While annuals give you instant gratification, perennials offer lasting rewards. They live on year after year with minimal maintenance. Every five to ten years some perennials lose their vigor and must be dug up, divided, and replanted. You can choose to share some shoots from your divided plants with gardening friends or keep them all for your own garden. Bleeding heart, columbine, hostas, and peonies are popular perennials.

When you're shopping for plants, make sure that you know whether the ones you select are annuals or perennials. If you buy all annuals, your garden will only last one year, and if you choose all perennials, your garden might take a few years to get well established. A mix of annuals and perennials offers a perfect compromise.

About the Author

Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

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