A Way To Determine Your Level of Gardening Expertise

Over the long weekend, I put up my outdoor Christmas lights. I want it to be festive and bright for the holidays here at May Dreams Gardens, even though we don’t get a lot of traffic on my street.

Without going in to all the gory details, I’ll tell you it took me no less than three, maybe four trips back to various stores to pick up extra light bulbs, another extension cord, and more strings of lights. Putting up Christmas lights outdoors is something I do once a year, so I’m just now getting to the “intermediate” stage of expertise in doing it, as measured by the number of repeat visits to the store to get everything I need.

For any kind of project of this sort, can you determine someone’s skill level, from novice to expert and beyond, based on the number of trips they take to the store to get all the supplies?

I think you can!

So how do you measure up as a gardener when it comes to repeat trips to the garden center every time you do a little gardening?

Novice – You are a novice gardener if you get the urge to pot up a nice container of plants and realize you have neither a container nor potting soil on hand and no plants. After a trip to the garden center, you get home and realize you have no trowels and not enough plants, so you go back to the garden center for these items. You return home, start to plant up the container, and realize you didn’t get enough potting soil. You go back to the garden center again, and in addition to the potting soil, realize you also need a garden hose or watering can, so you buy these, too. At this point, you are seeking out sales help to find out if there is anything else you’ll need to plant up the container.

Intermediate – You’ve reached the intermediate level of gardening expertise when you have the basic tools (trowel, hoe, watering cans, etc.) for gardening and some containers used in previous years. When you decide to plant up a new container of plants, you still have to get some potting soil at the garden center and the plants, and may need an extra trip back because you underestimated how much potting soil you needed or how many plants it would take to fill the container. You seek out a sales person to help you figure out how much potting soil you really need.

Expert – You are an expert gardener when you have all the tools and containers to plant something up, plus you keep a supply of potting soil on hand for whenever you get the urge to pot up a new plant or two. Your trips to the garden center are to get the plants and to stock up on supplies in anticipation of future planting projects. You rarely need a trip back for anything you forgot but on occasion you might invent a reason to go back, just to have an excuse to buy more plants. You primarily need sales help to load those big bags onto our truck.

Obsessed – You’ve reached the obsessed level of gardening when you not only have all the tools and containers, but also all the amendments necessary to mix up your potting soil using your own potting soil recipe. You may not even need any plants from the garden center because you’ve been starting plants from seeds and dividing up plants you have on hand. In addition, you probably also bought a bunch of plants via mail order to get special new varieties not yet in the garden centers. When you do go to the garden center, the sales help greets you like a good friend and directs you toward the newest or unusual plants that they think you might like.

Based on your shopping habits, what level of gardener are you?


Crafty Gardener said…
I'm probably the expert/obsessed gardener. I'm already thinking spring and what seeds I'll be starting.
Gina said…
I'm intermediate for all the reasons you have already told us. In my defense I'm a pretty good cook but I'm a bad shopper - I frequently forget things and need to go back to the store in the middle of the recipe. So who knows. Maybe 10 years from now when I have a mature beautiful garden, I'll still never have enough potting soil on hand. I sure hope I'm better at it by then.
jodi said…
Giggle. I'm obsessed, but we all know that. Someone asked if I was going to count up all my plants...and I said I didn't dare! The nursery people--they don't only greet me like friends, they send emails and call me! (some of them, anyway...)
Christine said…
I'm in the obsessed catagory! I have already ordered and received my first selection of seeds for next year. When I relax, I'm either reading a garden book or a searching through a garden catalog.
vonlafin said…
I didn't know that there were other categories besides obsessed! :)
Mary said…
I guess I'd fall somewhere between intermediate and expert - not always 100% prepared for a potting project and usually need more plants.

As far as outdoor Christmas lights, I could tell stories similar to what we see on National Lampoons Christmas Vacation! Obsessed!
Well, I would qualify as obsessed. At least you didn't base your descriptions on knowing all the names, especially all the Latin names, of the plants I plunk into the ground and into pots. I would fail that one.

--Robin (Bumblebee)
Colleen said…
Definitely obsessed. What a surprise, eh? :-)
Carolyn gail said…
Although I don't meet all the criteria you listed in obsessed ( indoor gardening due to lack of space and light to grow seeds ) you know that I am.

Working at the local garden center gives me first dibs on the new and unusual and getting a deep discount also helps. My regular customers give me their phone numbers and ask me to call them if a plant they're looking for comes in.
It seems that I am the only one on expert level. Maybe I'm a Vulcan, who knows? ;-)

Fun post Carol!
I believe I am of the obsessed level. I even have a couple of nursery workers trained to call me when they get something new in. :) I love getting that call.
verobirdie said…
I seem to be an expert, but I would say it has more to do with organization than with gardening. I could apply the same criteria to fabrics, for example. And yes, given that, I need an excuse to go back to the nursery :-)
Benjamin Vogt said…
I only started gardening full steam this year, but I think it's clear I'm at Expert on the way to Obsessed. You learn fast when you spend all summer doing just one thing and your spouse knows where you are both at 10 am and 10pm.
Heather said…
I'm with verobirdie, an expert, but only because I'm uber-organized. Should success of plantings be factored in?
Eleanor said…
Anyone who gives a recipe for potting soil to an 'almost married' at a bridal shower, has to be at least obsessed or beyond (what's greater than obsessed?). People were supposed to bring their favorite recipe for a cook book for a bride. I hope she didn't taste the potting soil. Of course, for someone who rarely cooks, I suppose it's OK
Carol said…
Hi, all. Now who would give out a potting soil recipe when someone asked for everyone to bring their favorite recipe? I would! No one said it had to be for food!

And how did I know you all would be mostly obsessed or well on your way to be obsessed gardeners?

Thanks all for the fun and nice comments,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
Carol, I love all of the fun topics you come up with. On this one I'm Expert/Obsessed. For several years I've kept a mixture of potting soil, (that I mixed) in a plastic large garbage with a sturdy lid, handle and wheels. I also grew my own purple wave petunias from seed last year. I also bought quite a few plants for planters though.
I'm kind of a weird mix of obsessed and novice. I have all the pots and tools I need, but I never keep soil on hand (when I did, I kept the parts to mix my own). Instead, I usually grab soil from a garden bed. Isn't that terrible? Party that's been a lack of convenient storage space, but I'm hoping I can rectify that in the new place (after which I will mix my own).
~Angela :-)
Obsessed, naturally. I had lots of little seed-grown plants in tiny pots that needed to be put into the garden. Because I didn't have enough room, I put them in planters instead. (Who said planters were only for annuals?)