That headline says it all. Of the top gardening trends for the coming year — gardening itself heads the list. Imagine that! Those of us who have been gardening for years lead the trend list! But we’ve got more company now.

Of course, most of us knew how ahead of the curve we have always been, but it is nice to see the recognition. What’s even nicer is the experience and confidence and results we gain every year we participate in what is one of the fastest growing pastimes that is expanding in leaps and bounds.

But for the newbie gardeners, that process is just beginning. Today, we will address some of their concerns and interests and offer some advice on how to proceed.

A slew of new gardeners joined the regulars, and they are hungry for information on many gardening topics. Among the list of what they are interested in seeking advice on are:

1. Adding easy-to-grow flowers for brighter gardens or mood-boosting bouquets.

2. Tackling garden challenges, such as turning shady corners into lush areas with the right plants.

3. Learning more about vegetable and flower gardening basics, such as soil, fertilizer, pests and diseases.

4. Taking the guesswork out of designing with simple, pre-planned designs.

5. Pollinator gardens, design and plants.

For anyone, especially a new gardener, a trip to the garden center can be a sobering and overwhelming experience. There are simply too many choices these days. That’s why any new gardener needs to do a bit of research before stepping into that cacophony of color and variety.

There are plenty of sites online that describe plants and how to use them. A great first stop would be, which lists bedding plants, explaining their uses in the garden, sunlight requirements and size predictions.

This one-stop source gives the novice an encyclopedia of knowledge to employ when faced with a kaleidoscope of choices. Before even stepping out, the novice can plan their garden virtually with the plants they will encounter at the nursery. They can envision color combos, plant placements and match care requirements for gardening success. There’s no better encouragement to any gardener than success.

New gardeners should be aware that shade gardening is one of the most challenging ways to grow anything. Site preparation is important, as many shaded areas are underneath tree canopies where tree roots make cultivation and planting difficult.

Some gardeners make the mistake of adding layers of soil, but that can damage or kill trees by suffocating their roots. Plant selection is also critical to success in a shade garden. Even plants listed as “full shade” still require at least three hours of direct sunlight each day and then filtered sun the remainder of the day.

Vegetable gardening is often what attracts the greatest numbers of new gardeners, and they are hungry for advice that works. Growing vegetables is easy, but there are two principles that matter.

First rule for vegetable (or any type of gardening) is that plants are only as good as the soil in which they are grown. Compost, rotted manure and in some cases, sand and lime can be added to improve soils. But to know exactly what is needed, a soil test is one of the most critical steps when establishing a garden.

First-time gardeners may want to start out with bedding plants, instead of growing from seed, for best results. But starting from seed is hardly rocket science, and anyone with the will to do it can. Humans have been growing their food this way forever. It is mostly a matter of time the new gardener is willing to devote to the project.

Second principle is that the best “fertilizer” is the gardener’s shadow. That means frequent checks of the garden will enable the gardener to monitor water requirements, harvest at appropriate times and see problems early on and deal with them before they become disasters. Observing these two principles will result in healthier plants that thrive, produce and resist pests and diseases.

Garden design is in one sense, a matter of personal preference. But in general there are design principles to apply. Often our own eye will tell us what looks good and what does not.

For example, novice gardeners like to mix up ornamental bedding plants — a red one, a white one, a red one, a white one — you get the idea. But the problem with that approach is that confuses the eye, and results in a chaotic design mess. Instead group like colors of flowering plants together for greater impact and think in terms of odd-numbers of plants to group. Far better to group three plants together than two or four.

Consider mature size of plants and position the taller plants in the background. Or if it is to be a garden to be seen from all sides, put the tallest plants in the center. Good garden design considers colors, shapes, textures, growth habits, contrast, sizes and heights and bloom times for interest in all-seasons.

Popular gardens today are pollinator gardens, and these often rely on native plants and always on flowering plants, and that can include vegetables. In fact, planting flowering plants along with vegetables will result in better pollination. Pollinators include bees, wasps, butterflies, some birds and other insects and For design, consider the above advice.

For lists of plants to use, visit the Pollinator Partnership website ( where all you have to do is enter your zip code to get a plant list designed just for your project.

Here’s one last piece of advice for novice gardeners. Yes, you will have disasters, some plants will fail to thrive, others may die — but everyone will add to your gardening experience and knowledge.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are in Camden.