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How To Grow A Garden If You Don't Have A Green Thumb

Intimidated by gardening? This plants expert will tell you how to start a container garden, and turn your black thumb green!

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Photography: Seong Kwon (Main Photo)

Whether you live in a house, a townhouse, or in a high-rise, having a garden is important for your wellbeing. Having live plants will not only beautify your space; these plants will also help purify the air, and help you calm down.

But not having a green thumb isn’t an excuse to not having your own garden—with the number of plant stores in the city and found online, it’s pretty easy getting all the plant babies and equipment. Here’s how to get started:

Choose your container


You can use almost anything you have lying around. Repurposing is the name of the game. Pots with broken handles or missing lids get second wind as an interesting vessel for your plants. Rummage for wooden crates, baskets, or milk cans. Feeling extra creative? Play with old appliances such as rice cookers or toasters, or even broken toilet fixtures and sinks. Even old books can be turned into little pocket gardens.

READ: A Small Space Turned Into An Artistic, Two-Storey Family Home


Some considerations: add drainage holes (especially for plants that are sensitive to overwatering), which you can easily drill into most containers, or waterproofing for wood and metal containers to avoid wood rot or rusting.

READ: 8 Unique Planters For Your Garden

Pick the right plants 

One of the most common concerns of gardening newbies is choosing which plants to begin with. If you think you are cursed with a black thumb, it’s best to start with indoor plants that are used to low light and moderate watering conditions. That way, they don’t wither away and die the minute you forget to expose them to sunlight or if you give them too much or too little water. Nothing boosts a gardener’s confidence more than seeing his or her plant thrive.

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Give them some TLC


Putting together your container garden is one thing, keeping the plants alive and happy is another. Like most living things, your plant babies will often tell you when they need some tender loving care.

Be sure to pay attention to details and familiarize yourself with the condition of your plants. Are the stems droopier than usual, are the leaves turning yellow or brown, or are they turning mushy in some places? These are usually indicators of too much water. If they start stretching and show spaces in between leaves, this means they are not getting enough light. So, while the frequency of water and sun matters, how much you give them also plays a part.

TIP: If you are unsure about how much to give, start with small doses. It’s usually easier to remedy an under-watered plant than to rescue an overwatered one.

Consider herbs

Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, herbs can be used in the kitchen for cooking or even aromatherapy (think the familiar scent of rosemary, mint, and oregano). Herb container gardens have to get a little more commitment, since they need as much sunlight as possible, which makes growing them indoors a challenge.

Watering can also get tricky as herbs have different requirements: Rosemary and thyme are sensitive to overwatering, which means you can’t combine them with basil, which needs more water. Mint is among the easiest to grow sometimes; it grows too much that you will need to trim and repot it every so often.

READ: 5 Reasons Why You Need To Grow Herbs At Home

Create an urban garden


Living in a condo or an apartment usually means limited space, but that shouldn’t mean limited options. Choose narrow pots or boxes to line your balcony, or hang baskets from the railing. Thinking of creating a vertical garden? Modular units are available for sale, but who says you cant DIY it?

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Wooden pallets can turn a plain wall into a vertical patch of green. An old chair with an interesting back (like the iconic batibot chair) can be turned into an interesting trellis. Indoors, group together terrariums to replicate a mini rainforest.

READ: Start Your Own Urban Garden Today

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine Philippines.

Jamie Lyn Arcega is a writer, strategic thinker, and mother who set up Smarty Plants PH, an online plants store for the modern urban dweller. To check out Jamie’s creations, follow her on Instagram @smartyplantsph

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