Any other black thumbs teach themselves to garden?

(Note - I think I see gardening threads in CS more than, say, IMHO, but if this ought to be moved that’s fine by me.)

So, I bought a house, and in all the time between contract and closing I developed a little garden fetish. Currently my greatest plantlife feat is in keeping an African violet alive for a year in my office (although it has not bloomed), but I’ve got big dreams indeed. I’ve been looking into native plant gardening, spent a lot of time shopping around online for plants, read all about lasagna beds, etc. I even, and I’m so profoundly embrassed by this evidence of geekdome, started a blog on my learning how to garden (

Anybody else teach themselves how to grow things? Anybody else be successful at it? I’d really like to hear some great success stories, because putting together the lasagna beds by my front walkway has been a lot more work than I really thought it was going to be - I have the left one half-constructed and that’s it. Those bags of peat that are so heavy and look so big at Lowe’s, they don’t cover squat! I have managed to be successful in my old-fashioned lawn mowing (with a reel mower, to my dad’s great hilarity) but I want plants! Lots of plants!

I was planning on doing those kinds of beds all around the front foundation at least this season so as to get some perennials in in the fall and really go to town next year, but now it looks like I’ll count myself lucky if I can get something planted by the walkway. I admit I’m feeling a little discouraged, particularly since I’m scared of planting things that just die and die and die. Or don’t bloom. Or get eaten.

Sometimes I’m really excited about it all, and sometimes it’s kind of overwhelming. I’m very consciously doing it in stages to avoid getting discouraged, but I think I’d really like somebody else to tell me “Yeah, I started not being able to keep a weed alive but you should see my prize rose garden now!”

Even good gardeners have their successes and failures – even good gardeners run out of steam and leave projects half-completed. In general, plants want to grow, and if you don’t ask too much of them (wrong climate, not enough light, no water), they’ll do okay.

A book I recommend to every gardening newbie: Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer

I’m not a very active gardener. I water things every week or so and occasionally throw some fertilizer or compost on the ground. I sort of consider my garden beds (when I have them) an open-air laboratory testing Darwin’s theories on evolution…if it survives the summer, it has a place. If it dies, oh well! Try again next year with a different kind of plant! If it thrives and seeds itself into naturalization, I do backflips, because that means it doesn’t need me to hold its hand 24/7, worrying over every dry spell and new bug. I’ve had lots of things die on me and none of my gardens has ever looked anything like a spread in BH&G, but I managed to plant a nice bed at my mother’s house which is only looking better and better every year, and that woman doesn’t even own a watering can, let alone a soaker hose. So I think I’m doing pretty good.

I got the Garden Primer about a month ago, actually, from reading a recommendation on this board. Of course it’s packed away in a box now and I can’t review it, but I was really impressed when I read it.

Does anybody do drip irrigation? I only have two spigots, none of them in a terribly useful position, but the drip thing seems to be the way to go. Should I do that, or should I just set out soaker hoses?

(And why, if I’m only doing the blog for my own reference and so I remember where I planted what, and if I know I’ve only been doing it for a few days, does it really bother me that nobody reads it at all and I have not become an overnight blog sensation?)