Gardening 101: A Guide For Growing & Caring For Plants | Geraldine Lavin | Skillshare

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Gardening 101: A Guide For Growing & Caring For Plants

teacher avatar Geraldine Lavin, Herbalist & Farmer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class & Project Overview


    • 3.

      Propagation: Seed Starting


    • 4.

      Propagation: Divisions


    • 5.

      Propagation: Cuttings


    • 6.

      Garden Planning


    • 7.

      Maintaining Your Garden


    • 8.

      Harvesting & Storage


    • 9.

      Bonus: Suntrap Garden Walk


    • 10.

      Thank You!


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About This Class

A gardening class for everyone! No prior experience necessary - all you need is a desire to grow something useful, edible, beautiful, or for the birds. 

I’m excited to share some tips I’ve picked up from a lifetime of earth tending. Whether you live in an apartment in the city, have a small suburban lawn, or live in a rural landscape - you can take notes from this class and apply them to growing flourishing plants in any scenario.

In “Gardening 101" you will learn:

  • Basic gardening concepts
  • Plant propagation techniques: Seed Starting, Divisions, & Cuttings
  • Garden planning & maintenance
  • Plant harvesting & storage
  • Suggested herbs for the home garden

For your class project, you'll take an herbaceous cutting which will allow you to quickly double the size of your house plant or herb garden collection!

Materials you'll need:

  • Notepad
  • Sharp pair of scissors or pruners
  • Glass of water
  • A plant you would like to take a cutting of
  • A pot of soil or a place outdoors where you can plant your rooted cutting

My gardening journey started in my mother’s rock garden, led me to start more gardens than I care to count, landed me a job as greenhouse technician at the University of Pennsylvania, and finally brought me to managing a garden of my own for my business. I wonder where earth tending will take you!

Special thanks to:

  • Zoë Miller for all plant illustrations
  • Hugo Genes for Cinematography
  • Sarah Elizabeth Buckner for Styling

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Geraldine Lavin

Herbalist & Farmer


Hi! Geraldine Lavin here. I’m the bioregional herbalist and regenerative farmer behind Suntrap Botanical, a company I founded in 2015 to share my herbal practice with the world. A “Sun trap” is a concept I read about in my permaculture studies - a large rock or body of water that absorbs and reflects warmth and light, creating a micro-climate of abundant growth around it. That is what I aim to do with my company, absorb the lessons and harvests from my relationship with the natural world and share them with people to create a better world.

I have taught classes on herbal medicine making and theory as well as gardening at Yale University, Bard College, conferences, retreats, food coops, lifestyle stores, many farms, and even at a music festival. This y... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: There you have two spider plants. I'm sorry. Damn it. Hi, I'm Geraldine Lavin, an herbalist, herb farmer, and lifelong gardener. We're here at Suntrap Farm where I grow most of the herbs for my company, Suntrap Botanical. I've been gardening my whole life. It all started in my mom's rock garden when I was probably three or four. After high school, I got involved in some community gardens in Philadelphia. After that, I was ready to study herbs full-time at a clinical program in North Carolina. I absolutely fell in love with living in the country and I knew I had to move out to start my herb farm. We focused on growing native plants, medicinal plants, edible, as well as just beautiful. This class is for anyone who has ever wanted to start a garden in a container on your balcony, in a vacant lot in the city, or in your backyard. In this class, I will cover plant propagation, some basic gardening concepts, garden planning, planting, maintenance, as well as harvest and storage. As an herbalist, I tend to focus on medicinal herbs, but you can take the information from this class and apply it to growing houseplants, food, flower, herbs, whatever you desire. If you don't think you have a green thumb, I have news for you, everyone has a green thumb. All it takes is giving yourself permission to get a little dirty, make some mistakes, and learn. One of my favorite things about being a farmer, the thing that really keeps me going is walking the field in the morning with soft eyes and a warm beverage. To be able to plan out a field and watch your creative project come to life, it's something so beautiful. I hope that with this class, I can pass that practice onto you. 2. Class & Project Overview: Hey. Welcome back to Gardening 101. In this video, I'm going to give you an overview of the syllabus, and introduce you to the group projects. Every good farmer I know says farming is experiential. You can research the techniques and read about the plants all you want. But taking a crack at it yourself is the quickest path to a green thumb. Take note and get ready to get dirty. In this class, I will cover plant propagation, some basic gardening concepts, garden planning, planting, maintenance, as well as harvest, and storage. We will follow the life cycle of a plant from starting a plant from scratch, all the way through its life cycle, and then your stewardship journey with that plant. Plant propagation, our group projects, includes seed starting, making divisions, and taking herbaceous cuttings. Together, I'll walk you through all of these processes, and then we'll make an herbaceous cutting together. You can make an herbaceous cutting of any plant in your garden or house plant collection, or even just a plant you walk by on the road. This may sound intimidating, but with the proper technique and tools, it's actually pretty simple. All you'll need are sharp scissors, a glass of water, a pot of soil, or a place to plant it in your garden, and an herbaceous plant to take a cutting of. Some of my favorites are rosemary, any species of the willow tree, pothos houseplant, just to name a few. With a few basic rules, you will learn to use this technique on a wide variety of plants, resulting in fast-growing, healthy clones of the original plants. Plant propagation is useful to learn because it's the way that you start plants from scratch. If you wanted to start a new garden or to grow a bigger garden, you have to understand plant propagation. It's important for us to learn about plant propagation before we dive into all of the other concepts we'll talk about in this video. Because you can start a plant and it can go through it's slow life cycle of getting started while you plan out your garden and where you intend to grow the plants. Although we are focusing on plant propagation in this video, you will want to be sure to watch all the videos so you know what to do with your plant once it starts growing. Let's get started. 3. Propagation: Seed Starting: Hi. Here we are at the propagation station. This is where we grow all of the herbs that we plant out on the farm at Sandron Farm. I was a greenhouse technician at the University of Pennsylvania in the Biology Department for four years, and that's where I learned most of my propagation skill set. In this video, I will walk you through three easy and fun ways to multiply the plants in your garden or house plant collection. First, seed starting. A friend once told me, "You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a seed." I love how that quote illustrates the infinite possibilities in a seed. One tiny apple seed could produce hundreds of apples every year for many years. Amazing. When starting a seed, you have a few options. You can start your seeds in a pot and transplant them out or you can direct sow into their final place. Direct sowing is the typical image you probably have of a farmer reaching into a bag and sowing seeds in the field. That's more appropriate for people who are planting out acres. For you growing a small garden or a house plant collection, transplanting is what we need to focus on. The benefit of transplanting is you can monitor the seeds growth and wait until it's sturdy enough to plant out in the garden on its own. A 4-6 week old plant will be strong enough to hold its own against birds and slugs who would otherwise eat it. Some seeds need to be stratified or scarified before they can be planted. To stratify a seed, you put it in the moist conditions it needs to germinate and then keep it cold for 30-120 days. The seeds that need to be stratified are those ones that in their native environment fall to the ground in autumn, go through a cold winter, and then break dormancy in the spring. We like to stratify Blue vervain, Skullcap, Lobelia, lots of the native plants that we grow on the farm. In order to stratify them, I'll either take the seed, mix it with moist sand and put it in the fridge for 30-120 days, depending on what that plant needs. Another way I do it is I mix it right up into a tray or a pot, and then I put it in an unheated greenhouse for all of winter. Scarification simply means a plant needs to be roughed up a little in order to germinate. Evolution has given plants like marshmallow a hard little shell that needs to be scraped before it can germinate. I do those with a fine grit sandpaper and can do about 30 seeds at a time. However, many of the seeds we work with are not that fuzzy. The general rule of thumb for planting a seed is to plant it as deep as it is wide. So for a fairly large seed, you would make a hole about a half inch deep, put the seed in and cover it with soil. For a tiny seed like Chamomile, you sprinkle it on top and simply press it in. I'll do a demo of a big seed like Calendula and a tiny seed like Chamomile. First, I put soil in the pot and bring that soil right up to the top of the pot. Then I press it down just a little bit. To plant my Calendula seed, which is a large seed, it looks like a sea creature, I will take two seeds, one just in case the other doesn't germinate, dig a little hole about half an inch with my finger in the center of the pot, drop the seeds in and cover it up with soil. It is nice to fill the pot up with soil all the way, so that I can then press it down in this stage. Pressing it down about an inch allows the pot to fill with water and that water can then trickle down to the bottom. So we have our Calendula seed planted here and then for our tiny seed, I have Chamomile right here. This seed is so fine that sometimes I'll even mix it with sand to stretch it further. I have about 20 seeds in my hand and I'll just sprinkle them on top and press them in. Now these pots are ready to be watered and the seeds will probably sprout in about 5-7 days. When I'm transplanting in a pot, I always plant at least one more seed than I need. So with the Calendula, I planted two, assuming that at least one will sprout and if both sprout, I'll just clip one at the top. I would only want one to grow because this pot can only support one plant. When I'm directly sowing outside, I sow one to grow, one for the bird and one to not sprout. You always want to just be careful and give yourself a little backup. The Chamomile I planted, I'll probably get 10 plant sprouting and move it down to about three before I separate them out. All seeds need moisture to germinate. Some seeds need sunlight as well. Those are typically are tiny seeds that are surface sown. Some seeds need warmth to germinate. These are seeds like tomatoes, peppers, Bacopa, Ashwagandha and in order to give them the warmth they need to germinate, we put heat mats under them and humidity domes on top of them. That might sound like a lot of specialized equipment, but you can get both of those things pretty cheap at your local hardware store. Another factor to consider when planting a seed is what to plant it in. I have an affinity for terracotta pots because they're beautiful and I love natural materials. However, plastic is the industry standard. It makes sense, I hate to say it, but plastic really does help keep moisture in, which makes plants grow quicker. I've done side-by-side comparisons using the pot as the control, same seeds, same seed mix, and the plants in the plastic grow a lot faster. That's one thing to consider when choosing what you plant your seed in. Either way works. When I do use plastic, I'm sure to take good care of it and use it season after season to avoid being wasteful. Clay does last a long time and when it breaks, you can just add it to the compost pile. A newer technology for starting seeds is soil blocking. You use the soil blocker tool to punch out little dirt brownies, little squares of soil that you can plant seeds directly into. This is the method I use for the herb farm and it is true that they don't work quite as well as clay or plastic because they don't hold as much moister, but to me, it's worth it to use it to have the lightest carbon footprint possible. Because it's a little bit less efficient, I just start the seeds a little earlier and transplant them out as soon as I can, so they can take off once they're transplanted into the soil. The last factor to take into consideration when planting a seed is what to fill the pot with. You can choose between a soilless seed starting mix or nutrient rich compost. Both work great. Soilless seed mix works the most efficiently because it has ample drainage and everything your seed needs for its first 4-6 weeks of life. After that, you really need to transplant it out because there's no nutrition in there for the plants. Compost, on the other hand, can support your plant for a lot longer. The problem is it doesn't have as good drainage, so your plant won't grow as quickly and it also usually contains lots of weed seeds. For finding your seed starter mix, you can go to any hardware store and they'll have it for you. Oftentimes in spring, grocery stores even have it. But in my opinion, the best thing to do is to support a local nursery. They usually make lots of beautiful seed starting mixes and can also advise you on which ones would be better for your situation. If you're using compost, you can make that yourself in your garden or sometimes the city has municipal services where you can get compost for free. Making compost can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. I've made it in three bins systems in the country, flipping it everyday to get quick nutrient rich soil or I've done it in the city, in my backyard, barely thinking about it, just putting vegetable scraps in a tumbler and rotating it every time I thought about it. Both ways will give you beautiful black goal to plant in. If you don't want to make compost yourself, no problem. Basically, all townships have a service of free municipal compost for their residents. They make it with the leaf litter that falls every autumn. Typically, we start our seeds in late winter or early spring. It really depends on where you live for when you're going to start your seeds. For the first part of your propagation class project, I want you to pick three seeds you'd like to grow and find out what you need to do to make them germinate. Now that we've learned all about seed starting, let's move on to the next method of propagation, making a division. 4. Propagation: Divisions: Divisions are a great way to propagate perennial plants that are already established. We'll talk about what perennial means in the next video. You can also make divisions of house plans that have gotten too big for their pots. You can also divide plants in your garden, such as lemon balm, Manada, American Elder, and any plant that comes back season after season and eventually gets too big for where it is planted. Dividing a plant invigorates it and encourages fresh growth on the original plant, as well as a whole new plant that you can plant somewhere else in your garden or give to a neighbor. The best time to take a division is in early spring or late autumn. Basically, anytime the ground is not frozen and the plant is not growing vigorously. To take a division of a garden plant, I typically take a sharp shovel and look for a natural separating place in the plant. Then I dig that half of the plant up, being careful to keep the roots as intact and undisturbed as possible. As soon as I take that division, I quickly fill the soil back into the hole where the original plant is, top dress it with compost and water it in. I also quickly plant the division in another part of my garden or give it to a neighbor and water that in well too. After you take the division, makes sure you tend to the original plant by filling in the hole with soil, top dressing with compost and watering it in well. Also, you'll need to plant that division asap. Dig a hole, plant your new plant, top trust with some compost and give it a nice long water. Dividing a house plant is a similar process. This spider plant is starting to suffer because it's way too big for it's pot. I'm going to divide it into two plants. Plant one back into the original pot with some fresh soil, and plant the other one in a whole new pot and give it to a friend. I'm actually just going to show you how to make a division with this house plant that desperately need some love form me. Now one spider plant has become two. You might have noticed I was doing a little bit of trimming, and that's because when you make a division, if there's any leaves that are looking a little sick or yellow or cud up, it's best to just cut them off at the base, and that way the plant won't spend it's energy trying to repair those leaves, and instead it will send it's energy down into the roots to create new roots. You might have noticed when I was making the division, I gave each plant a nice long drink of water. That is super important. Plants really need not just a shallow watering. If you only water for a moment, the water will stay at the top of the pot. If you give it a nice long water and wait till you hear the water dripping out of the bottom of the pot. You can ensure that you're watering is reaching the bottom of the pot, which those roots need in order to encourage root growth downwards, instead of just shallowly at the top. If you or any of your friends have a large plant that appears to be struggling, maybe it's time to try your division skill set. Now we've covered divisions and it's time to move onto our major class project, propagation, skill set, cuttings. 5. Propagation: Cuttings: The last propagation method we will discuss is the one that you and I are doing together, taking an herbaceous cutting. An herbaceous cutting is the last 4-6 inches of the newest vigorous growth of a plant. You can take cuttings of vegetables, herbs, house plants, flowers, food, so many plants. It works better for some plants than others, but it is always worth a try. A successful cutting will give you a genetic clone of the original plants. The best time to take a herbaceous cutting is in late spring or early summer when plants have lots of new, vigorous, fresh growth. Let's take one together. All you need are a sharp pair of scissors, a glass of water, a pot with some soil, and a house plant to take a cutting of, or really any plant. You can use Rosemary a house plant like Pothos, any species of Willow tree. You really can get creative with this one. So to take an herbaceous cutting, you want to find about 4-6 inches down the stem of a plant. Here I found one and I'm going to cut at the leaf node. This is very important. This will encourage new roots to grow quickly. It's also healthier for the original plant. I have my scissors, I have the plant about six inches from the tip, and I'm going to make a diagonal cut at the leaf node. A diagonal cut will allow as much surface area as possible to sit in the water. You can see, I made a nice diagonal cut there, and now I'm going to trim one of the leaves bark. I think I'll actually take two. This way, the plant can focus all of its energy on growing new roots instead of getting food to the leaf. I put it right in the water. Then it will probably take about two weeks for this plant to sprout roots. In preparation for this class, I took these cuttings about one week ago. You can see how these house plants have already started to grow nice long roots. The Spider plant is just starting. I can show you how I would plant them. Just like when we were making the seed starting mix for planting a seed, I'll fill this pot with some nice soil but I'll leave more space than I did when I was starting the seed. I'll take this house plant with its nice long roots, put it in the pot and fill up the soil around it. I like to center my house plants, so they have lots of room to grow and they can choose which direction they want to grow in. It might seem counter-intuitive to cut leaves off of your cutting. You might think that they want to photosynthesize to help the plant create energy to make new roots, but the fact is when you take a cutting, you're removing the plant from its mother root source. It no longer has lots of roots to get water and bring nutrients up to that plant and help it photosynthesize and make new roots. By removing the leaves, you're helping that plant focus all of its energy on just growing new roots. Without all of the leaves on the stem, the plant won't have to worry about feeding those leaves lots of sugar and nutrients. Another point I want to emphasize is exactly where we make the cutting. You don't make it in the middle of the stem. You make it down where there's a leaf node. This is a natural place for a plant to root. You can look on the pothos, there's these little root nodules. That's the plant actually wanting to root out. So when we make a diagonal cutting right at the leaf node, you're not only creating a natural space where the plant wants to root, but you're also ending this stem at a beautiful place where it can create a new leaf. This is the main part of your class project and I really want you to make your own cutting so you can look at the plants around you growing on your road, in your house, or at your friend's house and decide which one you want to take a cutting of. Maybe you can take one or two just for good measure. I want you to take a photo on day 1, the first day you make the cutting, on day 7 and day 14. Upload those pictures to the class project and show us what you're growing. Now that you have your own plant clone brewing, it's time to learn some basic gardening concepts in the next video to further you on your journey to having the coveted green thumb. 6. Garden Planning: Now that you are a regular gardener, a plant person, it's important for you to understand some basic gardening lingo. Allow me to introduce some terms, annual, biennial, perennial, and self-sowing annual. An annual is a plant that lives out its entire life cycle in one season. The seed is started in late winter or early spring, grows vigorously all summer, produces a flower which turns into a seed or a fruit containing a seed. That seed contains genetics for a new generation. The plant dies either after setting seed or when the first frost of the season happens. Some of my favorite garden annuals are lobelia, tulsi, California poppy, calendula, and oats. A biennial is a plant that takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first year it produces a mound of lush green leaves, and that's pretty much all it does. In the winter, it goes dormant and then in the second year of its life it grows much taller, produces flowers, and set seed. Some of my favorite biennials of the herb garden are mullein, elecampane, and angelica. A perennial is a plant that lives for many many years. It flowers and set seed every season and comes back a little bigger every spring. These are the plants we like to take divisions of, which can be as refreshing as a haircut for them. Some of my favorite perennials in the herb garden are motherwort, lemon balm, horseradish, monarda, and many others. Some plants that behave as annuals in temperate climates, like up here in Upstate New York, behave as perennials in tropical climates, so cool. A self-sowing annual is a plant that dies back in the winter, but set seed before it does that. Those seed contained the genetics for the next generation. It feels like a perennial when it comes back first thing the next spring, but unlike perennials or biennials, it's a totally different plant. As I was defining those terms, you may have noticed I said first frost and last frost, this is another important gardening concept. Understanding when the last frost is helps you know when to get your seeds started and plant them out. People generally start their seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost of the year, and then plant out those sturdy little plants around that date. If you're direct sowing your seeds, you can just sow them at that time. Where we live in Upstate New York, that date is May 15th. The first frost tells you when the first frost of the year will be, also known as the killing frost. Ours is October 15th. I make sure I harvest all of my tender annuals before this date, and if I have any house plants sitting outside, I bring them inside. Otherwise, the water in their cells will freeze and burst, resulting in death or at least severe tissue damage. A growing season of May 15th through October 15th, like we have here in Upstate New York, is considered a short growing season. There are some plants I can't grow here because they simply need a longer season to go through their life cycle; okra is one example, mimosa tree is another. Other plants love the short growing season like lupins. You can find out your first and last frost date by finding out what USDA zone you live in. You can do that easily by just typing in the city that you live in or the town you live in, plus USDA zone into a quick internet search. You can also check out the Farmers' Almanac. This is crucial information to take into consideration as you get started planning your garden. When I lived in Philadelphia, I was a zone 7b, that meant I could easily grow fig trees, mimosa trees. Now I live in a zone 5a, so much shorter season and I can't grow figs or mimosa trees, unless I have them in a greenhouse. When you find out the number of your USDA zone, that will tell you a lot of information. There are loads of lists out there that you can read, you can check out to learn what plants grow well in your USDA zone. Once you know your USDA zone, it's time to think about planting your garden. It may sound obvious, but don't plant cucumbers if you don't love cucumbers. Think about planting things that you will love having a huge yield of, that you will like giving to your friends and your neighbors, because you'll likely have more than you think you will. Now let's talk about site evaluation. In the best-case scenario, you can observe the land for a whole year before you ever get planting. This way, you can observe the flow of light and water through the garden, and you can also see if there's any unwanted animals that like to visit or plants that show up, and plan accordingly. I understand this is a luxury, so if they can't wait that long, you can just observe as you go along. If you're lucky enough to be planting into a plot that's already dug up and ready to be planted, or you're working with containers on your balcony, the main things you want to look at are the sun moving over your balcony or your garden, the type of soil that's in the garden or in the pots, and the cardinal directions of how you're arranging these plants. For the soil, you want to determine if it's poor or rich, wet or arid. You can do that simply by holding the soil or by looking at it. If it's dark and moist, you're probably dealing with rich soil that's full of organic matter, this is what most plants like to grow in. Poor soil on the other hand, is usually light-colored and dry, and high in clay content. Some wild flowers and lots of herbs actually loved growing in poor soil. If you want to turn poor soil into rich soil, you can just get some compost and fold it into it over time. If you're working with containers, you can buy organic potting mix from your local nursery or take it from your compost pile. Like I said, some plants love growing in drier soils, especially our native prickly pear cactus and those Mediterranean herbs we love; oregano, sage, thyme, and lavender. On the other hand, some plants like growing straight in the mark, as if they were almost on the edge of a pond. These ones are more like blue vervain, motherwort, skullcap. Figure out what you are working with and plant what likes to grow there, rather than breaking your back trying to change it. Observe how many hours of sunlight your garden gets per day and plan accordingly. Most plants like to grow in full sun to partial sun, some like to grow in full shade, but it's a totally different ball game. Creating a woodland garden would be a whole different class. Once you know what you are going to grow, it's time to take the cardinal directions into consideration. Plant your tall plants on the North side of the garden and your short plants on the South side of the garden, so the tall plants don't shade out the shorter plans. Ideally, we love our gardens to be south-facing with the tall plants on the North side and the short plants on the South side. One thing I'm famous for doing is making extremely intricate Excel spreadsheets when I'm garden planning. In January, when I'm beginning to get that winter low and I'm fantasizing about the beautiful garden I'll have that year, I make a list that I can show you guys. It has the Latin name of the plant, the common name, when I should start it inside if it's a transplant, or when I should sow it outside if it prefers that, along with all the details I might need to know about that plant. That way, I don't have to go look in a book every time I want to know some information about that plant, I can just look at my Excel spreadsheet and all the information is compiled there, when I'm bored in the winter versus when I'm extremely busy in the spring. The first book that really touched my soul about gardening and got me started on the journey I'm currently on is Sepp Holzer's guide to Permaculture. I recommend it for everyone trying to understand the more complicated concepts that we talked about in this video. If you're eager to get started, just type in wherever you live plus USDA zone and check out all of the lists at your fingertips. From those lists, make a list of your favorite plants on that list. Now that you have some terms down and your garden planned, let's talk about planting and maintaining that garden in the next video. 7. Maintaining Your Garden: It is very tempting to plant your little seedlings close together, but I promise you will regret it. Plants generally need 1-3 feet spacing to grow to their full capacity. You can easily look up what the plants you're growing need. If you give your plants space, you ensure they have room to grow and the roots won't be in constant competition with one another. It's very important to read about each plant you're growing, and understand the specific requirements for that plant. Eventually, you'll just know. Each plant in my garden is like an old friend. I know who I can plant next to whom, who's a little persnickety, how much space they need, and who will do well with anybody. You'll learn this too. Look up the plant you like most and search companion plant to find out who likes growing around it. Like us, plants like living in diverse communities, not boring monocultures. This is a great survival strategy too. If a basil plant gets a fungal disease and is surrounded by marigolds, that fungal disease can't hop to the next basal plant, which is planted a few feet away. Plants in different botanical families have different pests and problems, so they can be allies to one another when you companion plant them together. I always let a carrot plant over winter in my garden because as a biennial in its second year, it produces a gorgeous flower which attracts beneficial insects that eat up the bugs that like to eat my plants. When planting out a garden, you should be sure to imagine the flow. Think about where you want to walk through and what plants you'll be harvesting everyday versus once a year. The most important thing for garden maintenance, besides keeping your garden well-watered is weeding and mulching. A weed can be defined as any plant you don't want growing in your garden. Mulching will help cut down on the amount of weeding you have to do, and will also help keep your soil from drying out too much. Mulching results in stronger, healthier plants that are less susceptible to pests and diseases. I like to mulch with straw. You can mulch the rows of your garden or your containers. One thing you should be absolutely sure to do is visit your garden at night with a headlamp or a flashlight. It's like stepping into a whole another world. Even if you're just stepping out onto your balcony, you are sure to meet a whole host of night time garden residence. If you love this lunar aspect, you can plant night blooming flowers as well, like night blooming Nicotiana or moonflower. Whatever you do, make sure you visit your garden as often as possible. Don't feel guilty if you don't have time to do a big project or even to weed, just going there to sit and observe your garden is an important part of the process. It goes back to what I said in the intro video, the best part of the whole endeavor of growing plants for me is walking through the garden at 6:00 AM with soft eyes, and a warm beverage saying hello to everybody. Observation is the key to any good garden, and if you spend enough time with your garden, you are sure to yield a harvest. But wait, how do you harvest, and where would you store your herbs? Watch the next video to find out. 8. Harvesting & Storage: When I tell people I am a farmer, I see them get that look in their eyes. I know they're picturing me milking the cows or toiling out in the field. But the lifestyle of a small-scale herb farmer is actually pretty different. I do wake up early, but just because I'm a morning person and I like to weed in the garden before the sun is high in the sky. As for harvesting herbs, unlike vegetable farmers who do the bulk of their harvesting first thing in the morning, we herbalists wait till the sun is high in the sky and the morning dew has evaporated off of all of the leaves and flowers before we make our harvest. When a plant is in full bloom and nice and dry, that is the perfect time to harvest the plants. You do have to check in with the exact plant you're growing to make sure that's the right time. But generally, at full flower, peak bloom just before or just after is the right time to plant. If you are harvesting a root, you have to wait until the aerial parts of a plant, the leaves and flowers die back. This can be in autumn or very early spring, and that way the energy of the plant is fully in the root, it's not shooting up into the leaves and flowers. In either case, the way that you dry herbs is the same. You'll need a dark, well ventilated, hot, but not too hot place. A well ventilated attic with a fan is perfect. Herbs typically take about 48 hours to dry in the right conditions. Properly dried herbs should be brittle to the touch and vibrant in color and smell. Any water content left in the herb could cause the whole batch to go bad when you store them in a jar. So take care that the herb is truly brittle, and dry before you put it away. Store your dried herbs in a jar somewhere cool and dark like a cupboard. The shelf life of a dried herb is about 1-2 years. But personally, I've had well stored herbs last for much longer. The way that you can tell if an herb is beginning to lose potency is if the color changes, the smell changes, or the way the herb taste changes. Some herbs are best worked with fresh, others are best dry, some it really doesn't matter. I always work with my skullcap fresh. It's most potent that way. I always work with calendula flowers, on the other hand, dry. I like them to be condensed and ready to go into my oil infusions. There are some plants that I take as tea, fresh or dried, like lemon balm, motherwort, and catnip. If you're finding that you have lots of herbs yielding and you want to dry those herbs for later, find the plans for a solar dehydrator online, they're free. Let's check out what's inside the solar dehydrator. Looks like we have some lemon balm. Looks to be dry, and some chamomile. Nice and dry. I'll put a link for how to create your own solar dehydrator in the class resource list. If you only want to dry a small amount of herbs, you can simply get some twine, and after cutting your herbs, bundle them as if you were making a bouquet, and then you can hang that bundle in a dark, well ventilated room. Basically just turn the ceiling fan on, hang them in the corner, and they'll be dry in a couple of days. Well, this has been fun. Maybe I will come back soon to teach you how to turn those dried and fresh herbs into infused oils and vinegars for the home, body, and kitchen. 9. Bonus: Suntrap Garden Walk: Now that you've completed the class, I would love to show you how I've applied all of those concepts to my garden. I grow most of the herbs for my apothecary business, Soundtrap Botanical in this garden. On the north side of this south-facing garden, I have all of my tall plants. This is Angelica and Elecampane, two of the biennials we learned about. Elecampane will get taller than I am by late August. I also have Motherwort growing on the north side of the bed, that's a perennial, that is, it will get about a foot taller. This whole row is Chamomile. I like to have it altogether because they're all annuals. You can see the annuals that I planted this year are still really small. Some of the Chamomile that came back from last year as a self seeding annual is already really tall. This is the Valerian plant, another biennial. It smells incredible right now. This is Catnip, this is another one of the perennials that I love to divide. I've actually taken divisions and put them all over the farm. Here on the south side of the garden, we have our shorter plants. I have some time and sage in the last row, and right here, I have a wonderful native plant called Sweet Sicily, has a really gorgeous sweet aroma. Next to it, we have lemon balm, who will become a bushy plant, maybe about two feet high. It's also incredibly aromatic. Here we have some Chamomile, which came up this year as a self-sown annual. The seed was already in the ground this spring, so it was able to get really big, really fast. This is Echinacea to the right, will probably become about 2.5 feet, and then we have some Wood Betony that just got planted. On the left, we have some lemon balm from last year coming back as a perennial, and there's also some lemon balm that I just planted this year. I'm spacing them about two feet apart in the row and one foot apart in the bed. I'm plugging in Calendulas here as I find them in the garden. I have some Catnips that came up from last year as volunteers, some volunteer Chamomile on the right, super aromatic. This is Catnip, a gorgeous perennial that will start flowering in about a month and flower for the rest of the season. It's a pollinator favorite for sure. This is Valerian, which is in the peak of its bloom. It won't be blooming for much longer. It has a bit of an ephemeral bloom. It smells really unique, unlike most flowers. We have some Calendula growing to the left, that's a really beautiful flower that will bloom in about three weeks and bloom until the last frost. On my right, this huge plants is Elecampane. In its first year, last year, it was just a mound of small leaves and this year, it's shooting up a huge stock and will grow about eight feet tall and produce big, gorgeous, yellow daisy like flowers. The last plant I have growing in the row is California Poppy, and it should bloom in about a week. It will be a little sea of orange California Poppies. This tall plant right in front of me is a Motherwort, it's a perennial that I love to take divisions of. Now that you've had a tour of my garden, I hope it inspires you to use the techniques you learned to make a garden of your own. 10. Thank You!: Thanks for joining us at Suntrap Farm for gardening 101. We discussed plant propagation, some basic gardening concepts, garden planning, planting, maintenance, as well as a harvest, and storage. Together, we followed the life cycle of a plant from propagating a new plant all the way through your stewardship journey with that plant. Please take pictures of your plant cutting and post them to the group project. I'm so excited to see your gardens grow. If you're interested in keeping up with the work we're doing at Suntrap Farm, you can follow us on Instagram or visit our website. Suntrap Botanical is an herb farm and apothecary based in Brooklyn down in New York. We focus on the link between ecological and human health. We wonder, how can we provide for human needs while regenerating a thriving ecology. With that, I hope this course inspires you to grow your relationship with the earth around you with the practice of gardening.