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Sep 6, 2023

Gardening Tips From My Favorite Marathoners

A beautiful garden is a work of the heart.

Starting a garden with the end goal of having a colorful, bountiful yard is your desire.  But how do you do it?  And how do you do it successfully?

Below are some tips from two of my favorite marathoners who have beautiful yards. Now that they have turned in their running/walking shoes training for marathons, they devote most of their time to the care of their yards.

These tips can assist a beginner gardener with practical ways to care for your flower garden.

One of your first planting projects can be the hostas.  Hostas are a low-maintenance plant that is shade-tolerant.  They should not receive direct sun, and hostas multiply like crazy.  Starting out with one small hosta can lead to a plethora of hosta plants as they grow and grow.

Choose perennials. Perennials return each year.  Having perennials in your garden is a cost-effective way of maintaining a garden because you do not have to replace them every spring.  Some colorful perennials are:


Coral bells

Day lily

Pincushion Flower

Catmint – a perennial powerhouse.  It is versatile and easy to grow.  They are fast-growing and can withstand harsh winters.

D0n’t buy flowers just because they are pretty.  Know what type of care they need.  Do they need shade?  Do they thrive in full sun? What level of watering do they need during a typical summer day, along with what type of watering do they need in extremely hot and dry climates?

One of the most disappointing things you can do is purchase beautiful flowers, get them planted, and then the sun burns them and they die because the proper care was not given or not enough care was given.  Some flowers require more watering, pruning, and care than others.  If you know you will not be able to devote the amount of time to caring for certain plants and flowers, it is best to select the most low-maintenance flowers that can thrive on little attention.

Annuals are fun. Replacing them each spring and/or summer gives you some versatility in the look of your yard.  It is very wise to use annuals for fill-in color.  Placing annuals in pots is easier to water because you can move the pots around to a central location and water at the same time.   Placing annuals in pots also gives you the flexibility to move the pots around for a different display in your yard.  When using pots, fill or refill pots with healthy soil.  If the soil becomes low, refill to the top of the pots, because soil not only gives flowers oxygen, but the more soil helps flowers to grow.  Fertilizing is important, too.  Miracle-Gro is my mother’s brand favorite, and helps plants and flowers to flourish!

Vines are a great plant that provide privacy. You can grow vines along a fence, or lattice.  Directing the flow of the vine can be done by using clothes pins.  Pin the vine along the fence in the direction you want it to grow.  Once the vine intertwines with the fence or lattice, you can continue directing its path with the clothespins!

It is a good idea to have the soil in your yard tested.  Testing the soil will also help you determine which flowers and plants will perform best in your yard.  Testing for acidity and balance will determine if you should use flowers with a high acidic tolerance.

You can purchase a soil test kit in Lowe’s Garden Centers.  These kits will provide an immediate analysis of your soil’s pH and nutrient levels.

A do-it-yourself test kit will prove just as effective in testing your soil.

Follow these steps:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons of soil in a bowl and add ½ cup vinegar. If the mixture fizzles, you have alkaline soil.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of soil in a bowl and moisten it with distilled water. Add ½ cup baking soda.  If the mixture fizzes, you have acidic soil.

Flowers that grow well in acidic soil are azaleas, hydrangeas, magnolias, callunas, begonias, the iris flower and many others.  Knowing what type of soil you have gives you an edge when going to the nursery and making your selection of flowers.

The more knowledge you have before planting, the healthier your flower garden will be!

Happy planting! Happy growing!

By: Eden Barbee-Mabry / (@gardenonthegram – IG/ @EdenJBe – Twitter)
Eden Barbee-Mabry is an Education Support Analyst with the State of Georgia. Eden is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was led to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia after graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1988. Eden joined Black Girls Run! in the Spring of 2016 and graduated from the Walk B4 You Run program in June of 2016 and is currently Run Lead for the Fairburn, Georgia group. Eden is a purse lover and strives to inspire every woman because her belief is that although the circumstances may be different, every woman can extract strength from another woman’s story.