2 Before you buy Make sure you know how much space you're working with so you're not tempted to overbuy. As beautiful and varied as they are, too many flowers and you'll end up overcrowding them when you plant.
3 Buying on a budget If you're on a tight budget, here are some tips from You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening by Gayla Trail (Fireside, 2005): Buy off season, keep your eyes open for sales, online auctions can be a gold mine, or simply trade cuttings with friends and neighbours.
4 Hardiness zones Many garden books and websites have Hardiness Zone maps for North America. The continent is divided into regions based on minimum and maximum temperatures. This kind of information can help you pick plants with the greatest survivability for your area.
5 Choosing your plants Short and stocky plants are hardier and more stable than tall, thin ones. Turn the container over to make sure the roots aren't too compacted and twisted. Check for insects or disease. And avoid the allure of plants already in bloom. Plants that haven't flowered yet will have more stamina to survive transplanting.
6 Maximizing light exposure If your garden isn't so lucky as to have a southern exposure (which gets most of the day's light) look at ways to trim back taller plants or tree branches to let in more light where you need it. (Click here for tips to keep those garden tools tip-top!)
7 Group plants that require lots of water together.
8 Don't water plants in the scorching heat of the middle of the day. They'll absorb more, if you water in the morning or early evening.
9 To serve and protect Find plants that will work in tandem to thrive. For example, marigolds keeps pests away from tomatoes, peppermint repels white cabbage moth and perennial chives discourage aphids. Other pairings like these can confuse pests, enhance soil quality, provide shelter from the wind - even enhance flavours amongst edible plants.
10 Milk mate Milk can be an effective fungicide when sprayed on leaves. Dilute it as much as you like or use it at full strength. Lower fat milks are less likely to clog your spray nozzle.
11 Prosperous perennials To ensure your perennials thrive and to promote healthy roots, make sure the soil has good drainage. On his website markcullen.com, garden expert Mark Cullen suggests combining mineral conditioner with organic matter like peat moss, compost or grass clippings to provide your plants with a nutrient-rich soil.
12 Mulches Woodchips, leaves, even newspaper can be used as mulch. Orgarnic materials like these laid on top of the soil helps water absorption and prevents weed growth.
13 Deadheading keeps new blooms coming.
14 Most gardening experts recommend cleaning your garden tools. Doing so preserves them longer, prevents rust and also stops you from spreading disease from plant to plant. For the most part, soapy water is sufficient. But a little bleach will kill off any spores or diseases that may be clinging to the tools.
15 Container gardening Don't use soil from your garden or yard. Regular soil in containers will compact and harden, often resulting in dead plants. Container soils are special blends that don't actually contain soil. Typically they're blends of peat and perlite or vermiculite, which promote good drainage and air circulation, but require frequent watering to keep from drying out.