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  • Writer's pictureMaple Creek

Green Thumbs are learned.

Last year when I attended a few Farmer's Markets, I wished I had a dollar for every time someone walked past our booth to admire plants and then remark "I can't grow anything...I have a black thumb".

Of course, this green thumb / black thumb term describes someone's ability to revive, grow and keep plants alive. "Green thumbs" are people who know how to do this. Black / brown thumbs refer to those that do not.

Back in the summer of 2010 when I was freshly planted in Texas, and in a drought I was sure would last forever, I wanted to spruce up the front garden in the apartment complex we were living at the time. I bought a few annuals for our west-facing garden - Celosia, Dusty Miller and Impatiens. It was a disaster. I attempted to water them multiple times each day, but the heat was just too much - they were shriveled up to nothing by the end of June.

Here's the thing though, I was drawing on past experience, where these plants would have done just fine in the cooler Canadian summers. I realized I needed to relearn a lot of what I already knew to accommodate the unique challenges of a different climate.

Green Thumbs are learned; they're not born this way. Rather, they've had opportunities to watch other Green Thumbs work with plants, and over time, have come to understand their needs for water, sunlight and fertilizer.

I have memories of watching my Grandparents, and Mom tend to a garden for as far back as I can remember. My husband, Dave does as well. In this way, we've seen others model how to trim and care for plants, when to shower them with water - when to use a soaker hose, and how to select appropriate tools for the job.

In my journey of relearning gardening in the south, I've looked for plants driving down the highway and in neighborhood gardens that seem do well naturally (I now know they're called natives), asked other gardeners for advice, and added a few books to my library - my first and most favorite of which is Neil Sperry's Texas Gardening.

So don't worry if you buy a plant and it dies. Just chalk it up to a learning experience, and try again. Your thumb will start turning green before you know it.

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