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Cultivating intentionally is key to being successful in your garden

DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor
DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor

By Marianne Taylor

In all honesty, throughout the years I have unintentionally abused my plants through lack of water or too much water, poor soil conditions or planting the wrong plant in the wrong place, which also negatively impacted my checkbook.

Becoming an intentional gardener takes time and patience.

The key to any successful garden is navigation—planning, budgeting, observation, reading garden articles and books, taking garden classes and asking lots of questions when visiting garden centers and plant nurseries.

For those of you saying, “I hate gardening,” or “It’s dirty work,” or “I don’t have the time or energy to plant a garden,” think twice. By creating a green space to meditate in and care for on a daily basis, you’re doing far more for yourself and the environment than you think.

Gardeners are smart and wise; they are lifelong learners and have learned through trial and error. They have the patience of Job, don’t take failures personally and persevere and plan through each season. Gardeners by trait never give up and are often found in the garden beginning at sunrise and past sunset.

Current medical studies suggest gardeners live longer due to better circulation in the body, reduced blood pressure, increased endorphins to the brain, better sleep, less stress and anxiety, reduced depression, and the list goes on. Gardening practices are used to help calm behaviors of children with autism and individuals suffering from anxiety and PTSD. Connecting people to nature it gives them a sense of purpose.

OK, so sign me up, right? Where do I apply?

Let’s simply begin by starting small. Get a garden journal. By journaling information, you are setting up the stage for success by planning, calculating and creating your own farmers’ almanac. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. It goes for any goal you want to achieve. You have to write it down.

Indicate an area you’d like to change or improve in your yard. Next, sit outside and observe the lighting, the direction of the sun and how many hours of sun or shade it gets. Knowing how much lighting a plant needs is critical.

Soil is the next culprit that will make or break your garden success or failure. Take a handful of the soil and get it tested. The best soil to grow vegetables has a pH 6.5 to 7.

The right soil with the right pH makes all the difference in growing healthy plants that will thrive. PH-balanced soil has beneficial microbes and insects that protect your plant from disease.

Californians will be facing another drought season this year, so we must continue to be diligent in saving water. Incorporate a rain barrel to capture rainfall and change out your sprinkler system with efficient irrigation heads.

Hand watering is another calming way to observe your garden on a daily basis for growth and needs. This is my preferred practice when it comes to caring for my garden.

Choosing the right plant for the right place is the most important selection in your final step for a successful garden. What do you want to see? California natives, California-friendly plants, succulents, edible landscape, dwarf fruit trees, gardens for children, butterflies and hummingbirds, or all of the above?

To help with your selection, visit specialized nurseries such as Tree of Life on Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano, the largest wholesale and retail supplier of California native plants since 1976. Talk to the experts about your design plan, irrigation and implementing native plants in your garden.

For the best selection of succulents and garden containers, I recommend visiting Stevens Gardens on Ortega Highway in San Juan. Their containers will be your best friend when it comes to growing tomatoes and other vegetables in small places.

For ongoing free gardening classes taught by the UCCE Master gardeners of Orange County, visit Reata Park in San Juan Capistrano. The summer series is heating up on June 25 with an introduction class on raising backyard chickens. Following each class, garden walks and talks are given by Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens.

This Saturday, May 28, Goin Native is hosting a huge plant sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at GTNG headquarters, located on Los Rios Street. We’ll help you find the plants you need to get started in the garden or to continue your garden journey with plants that will benefit the environment and your wellbeing. What are you waiting for? Get moving and in the dirt this weekend!

Proceeds from GNTG’s plant sale help support the nonprofit’s ongoing garden efforts and programs offered at Los Rios Park, Reata Park and at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley. For more information go to

Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.

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