Thinking of gardening? Here’s some advice from the director of horticulture at San Antonio Botanical Garden

It’s National Gardening Day! ‘Don’t get discouraged,’ Andrew LaBay says

SAN ANTONIO – “I absolutely love to garden. I started gardening about three years ago at a local community garden called “Mahncke Park Community Garden. I had no clue what I was doing, and sometimes I still don’t. But it was there though, that my love for gardening grew,” KSAT12 reporter Sarah Acosta said.

Acosta said she learned to grow things like kale, brussel sprouts, herbs, summer flowers, beans and tomatoes while starting in a community garden. When she bought her first home, she used what she learned at Mahncke Park and has continued to garden, still with a lot of trial and error.

In honor of National Gardening Day, Acosta spoke with a horticulturist expert, Andrew Labay, who is the Director of Horticulture at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. He spoke about gardening and the benefits that come with it.

“There is a good body of research just on health benefits of getting out and interacting with nature,” Labay said. “In general, I would say two hours per week outside and you could see benefits of reduction of stress, anxiety, healing affects. Not to mention the exercise you get with it and vitamin D you get from being out in the sun.”

He said if you want to start a garden it all starts with the soil. Labay says to make sure you add about one inch of compost to any new area where you’ll be planting.

“We always put a lot of effort into working, tilling, and breaking up the soil here at the Botanical Garden -- and adding compost that adds fertility to the soil,” Labay said.

He said once you decide what you want to grow, whether that be flowers, produce, shrubs, or trees -- make sure you consider the location. Is what you are growing going to require a lot of sun? If it does, he says to make sure you plant it in a sunny spot. But if what you are growing can’t take a lot of sun, make sure you plant it in a shady spot or partial shade.

Labay says if you want to grow flowers, your best bet is to plant native flowering plants. Not only do native flowering plants help out our pollinators, but they can take the San Antonio heat and they are drought tolerant and can handle sporadic Texas winters.

Some of the native plants Labay mentioned include: Lantanas, Texas Sage Shrubs, salvias, Turk’s Cap, Esperanza’s, Greggs Mist Flower, Mexican Heather, Fire Bush, Shrimp Plant, Plumbago, Oxalia and Coreopsis.

And Labay’s best advice? It’s OK if your plants don’t make it because like gardening, gardeners are always growing as they learn.

“Don’t get discouraged, even the best horticulturist, they lose plants and there is a lot to learn.”

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