Magical Gardening Tips for Complete Beginners

Witches and plants go hand in hand. (Generally, of course. I’m not the boss of your craft, but, you know, it’s generally a thing.)

But gardening is expensive. So expensive. You wouldn’t think nature, the thing we live on, in, around, and with would be difficult to acquire, but it is. You can easily drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on gardening – just indoor gardening. Never mind external gardens.

And witchy plants? SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. Either you need to safely wildcraft them (and some of those plants shouldn’t be removed from their environment if you aren’t 1000% sure you can handle them, because the plants need all the propagation opportunities possible) or you buy those plants. Buying seeds can be a few bucks here and a few bucks there, but there’s always a good chance that your plant won’t grow. Then you’re out a few bucks and all you have is a jar of failed dirt. Buying live plants is a better middle ground, but plants do experience trauma so you still have a risk of them dying.

Aside from the expense of the actual plants, you may need to purchase soil, soil additives (because soil is not the same everywhere and some plants are unhappy without certain soil), pots and planters, plant trays and moving wheeled platforms for larger pots, plant food, and possibly plant lights or a water system. That’s for indoor plants. Outdoors? That’s a whole different expensive level. 

So, here’s some witchy truths and tips for indoor gardens.

True Facts

  • You will fail. Plants will die. You may feel like a murderer. It happens to us all.
  • Google plant care for your plant. It may just save your plant’s life.
  • Ask fellow gardeners and witches for advice. This is something all of us do in regards to plants so many are quite happy to talk about it.
  • It’s better to have one healthy plant than six unhealthy plants.
  • Plants do not always smell good. Some plants smell like ass and others will smell like death, piss, or onions. The prize may outweigh the cost, but not always. 
  • You will have bugs. Even indoors, there will be bugs.
  • Sometimes the organic or better quality stuff isn’t best. Think before you buy stuff for your garden. You organic soil may sprout mushrooms that kill your plants (true story) and you may find that a clear vase of water with a handful of rocks is better for a plant than a specific growing pot. Trial and error helps here, but don’t sink a ton of money on something without trying to more common stuff first.
  • Many, many, many plants are invasive. Mugwort, mullein, chamomile, and mint are common invasive plants used in witchcraft. I recommend googling before purchasing or at least googling before planting in the ground for all plants. Some plants spread like crazy and will destroy your garden if giving the chance. 
  • Annual means that it grows for less than two years and will need to be replaced, most lasting a single season. Perennial means it comes back again and again. Some perennials self-sow so you may get a perennial plant to come back, just not the same plant as before.
  • Keep an eye on how warm your plants can get. Too much heat will kill them, but so will too much cold. It may be best to put a plant on a table near a window than in a cold window sill, even if the window gets better light. 
  • Not all plants are pet-friendly. Google may tell you if a plant is toxic to animals, but a better bet is to just keep them out of a pet’s range.
  • Plants do weird shit. Expect to be surprised.

Where to get your plants

  • Grow from seeds
  • Get a cutting or live plant from a friend
  • Grow them from kitchen scraps
  • Buy a live plant at a store or nursery (online or local)
  • Wildcraft one (so long as the population of said plant is super stable)
  • Check the clearance section of a store or nursery 

I’ll be honest. I normally search the clearance section of stores first for plants to rescue. Normally these are plants that are growing weirdly, need transplanting desperately, or simply look unhealthy. And they may be all of that! But they’re usually really cheap so I tend to rescue them first and foremost.

I can, have, and do grow plants from seeds. I usually keep my plant purchases to a minimum from seeds, merely because I don’t have space to give lots of plants a head-start indoors. (Most of my growing space is a single large window where all the indoor plants live during the cooler months). I normally harvest seeds from foods I’ve consumed (like avocado or lemons), but I also buy seeds from Baker’s Creek (rareseeds.com). They sell heirloom vegetables seeds as well as flower and herb seeds.

My favorite (and cheapest) suggestion is to grow plants from fruits and vegetables you already have purchased. I’ve gotten ginger, scallions (green onions), potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, garlic, and pineapples from kitchen scraps. Root vegetables and plants with bases like celery are easier to re-grow, in my opinion. A quick google search of ‘food you can re-grow from kitchen scraps’ will yield good results. 

Some of my best plants I get from nurseries. Yup, they’re more expensive (but not much more, to be honest, then home improvement stores), but they’re way happier plants. And you can get some beautiful selections you might not get elsewhere. Plus, you’re supporting a local small business, which is always a good thing to do. Two years ago, my household scored black petunias (actually a very dark purple) at a nursery whereas we had never seen them before. My preferred nursery is owned and operated by a single woman and conveniently is a few houses down from my preferred farmer’s market. I just have to remember to grab some bug spray before going and I’m a happy witch.

I rarely get plants in other ways. I sometimes will transplant a wild plant to save it from becoming someone’s lawn clippings (like I did with my bittersweet nightshade) and I’ve gotten plants from other people, but largely, I acquire my plants in the above ways right now.

Planting and grow your plants

Following your plant’s care recommendations, provided by google, is best. Seriously. Each plant will require a learning curve. 

My favorite pots for growing are a large clear glass jar and some cheap clay pots. I do have plastic ones, but I tend to only use them for very, very large plants. Ceramic pots are great too and I use them often. I skip concrete planters – they’re very heavy and I’ve had them crack in the New England cold winters. Who knew? Most of the time though, you’ll find a lot of my water-based plants growing in recycled olive or jam jars. I love the eclectic look of the different pots and jars, but if you like things more streamline and uniform, pick something that’s netural and available widely in a variety of sizes.

You can also use a double pot system. Plant your plant in something that might not be pretty, but you can place inside something that is pretty. I do this with plants that haven’t outgrown the pots they come in. Grow pots are cheap plastic and aren’t great, but sometimes moving a plant isn’t the best idea. I often just leave plants alone until they need some attention. I’ve done best at keeping things alive when I work in this manner.

I use decent but not stellar soil for my indoor plants (and I skip the organic stuff after a mushroom episode). I use dollar stone china plates for the bottom of my planters when I can’t find a real one to fit. Driveway gravel is great for draining rocks for the bottom of my planters, but it can be a bit sharp for some delicate rooted plants.. I dig using my hands and end up with dirt everywhere. I water as needed (unless the plants are liars) and feed them as often as I dare.

Working outdoors is a whole different game. There I have shovels, trowels, work gloves, clippers, shears, scissors, ladders, and every other thing under the sun. I use decent soil to bolster the land as needed or dive for gardening tomes to help balance the PH in the soil. I use mulch and large brim hats and consider the merits of growing compost and curse my yard’s poor dirt.

How I set up my pots generally follows like this:

  1. I pick a pot about slightly less than twice the size of the pot the plant currently is in. If it’s a seed, then I use a very small pot about six inches tall and three inches wide. If the plant is very root bound (as in the roots are all tangled together inside the pot), I’ll upgrade to a larger pot.
  2. I put a small layer of driveway gravel at the bottom of the pot. This is so the water doesn’t sit on the roots or soak the soil too much. If your pot has holes at the bottom (and you have a plant liner tray) then you can skip this step, but I generally always use the gravel. The gravel is somewhat pointy so be aware that it may damage very tender roots, so handle with care. I add more gravel if I’m planting something that needs drier soil, like a succulent or cactus. Some water plants are anchored by gravel and use smaller rocks for additional root assistance.
  3. Then I put a little soil in, just enough to cover the rocks (or more if the plant is short but deep roots or it’s a seed)
  4. I pull the plant out of the pot it’s already in, shaking some of the soil from the roots. If the plant is a seed, just plop it in the soil and plant according to recommendations. If it’s very root bound, you may end up spending several minutes loosening up the soil between the roots so the plant can have more room to grow. Be careful not to break the roots or any stems when handling the plant. Be gentle.
  5. Then I pad the sides of the plant with soil, layering on more and more until the roots are completely covered and the plant is well secured.
  6. Sometimes I add rocks at the top, but that’s largely depending on how much I want or need to protect the plant from soil erosion by water. 
  7. Then I drizzle water on the plant until the soil is wet. Finally, the plant can be placed happily in where I want it to go. I’ll add watering and feeding times to my calendar, as suggested by plant growing guides, and call it a day. 

Planting Outside

I won’t cover planting outside right now, because it’s a super large topic and the advice will vary depending on soil type, weather, climate, sun/shade ratios, wind, what’s already growing, wildlife, and how much time you have to devote to it all.

My general advice for outdoor gardeners is to do a soil test, then you’ll have a general idea how much work you’ll need to do to adjust to plants. That being said, it may be easier for you to simply grow in containers than in the ground, especially if there’s a lot of trees, roots, shade, or something buried in the ground, like a septic tank.

Take photos and notes of the areas you want to grow in for at least a week at various times of the day. I just leave a little notebook in the window closest to that area and take notes and a photo every time I walk by. This will help you determine how much sun, wind, and shade that area gets at various times of the day. It also may tell you what wildlife is nearby.

Armed with that information, you can start planning a garden. Again, this is a huge topic, but I typically suggest raised beds, because they’re just so much easier to take care of and work with.

Now, if you have specific plants you want to grow in a specific area, then do a test. I plant my desired plant in a container and place it in a spot where I’d like to plant it in the ground in the future. It helps determine whether or not the plant will survive there. There’s no guarantee even if all this is done. Some plants just don’t do well in certain soils. You’ll have to risk failure to succeed.

You’ll also want to keep in mind how much a plant will grow and how invasive it’ll be. Mint, for example, grows easily in containers, but shouldn’t be planted in the ground or it’ll take over the whole yard. Ground cover can be useful, but sometimes it’s impossible to get rid of later and becomes a nightmare. Do your research before you plant something with a reputation of being invasive in this manner.

Adding some magic

Magic can be added to any part of the routine.

When selecting plants, I seek out the ones that are calling for help or seem to want me specifically. I listen to what the plant wants and that’s how I get many of my plants to do well. This is an animist’s point of view, of course, but I find that it really works well.

You can plant by the phases of the moon and some people do really well with it. I have a theory that if you have a lot of water on the property, planting by the moon works better, but I don’t have near enough data to really propose this seriously right now.

Water can be enchanted with the power of the sun or moon. You can also used infused water, like a tea or water from making pasta to water plants with. This will largely depend on the plant itself. For example, I use nothing but clear, clean filtered or purified water for my indoor bamboo. If I use anything else at all, it dies rapidly and it very difficult to save. Google will, yet again, be your friend.

What you fertilize your plants with can also be enchanted. Rose, according to some gardeners, like calcium so planting a hank of your hair alongside your roses is good for them. I’ve tried eggshells, but I didn’t notice any changes with my rose bush, but I think that’s largely due to the location rather than the plant itself. Once you figure out what weird things you can fertilize your plants with, the magical connections should come quickly after that.

Of course, you can additionally enchant the soil you plant in with enchanted water, carefully made compost, or enchanted draining rocks with sigils painted on them in environmentally friendly paint.

Pots are probably the easiest to enchant. You can draw or paint with environmentally safe paint on the outside and inside of the plant to encourage grow and health in the plant. This can be as simple as a sigil or written word or as complicated as an intricate painting. The choice is yours.

Placing decorations inside the pot is also useful. This can be done by placing a tiny statue in the pot with the plant in a manner where the plant won’t be crowded. I’m plotting to turn the soil around my palm plant into a tiny fairy cottage, lacing each item I acquire or make with spells for prosperity, abundance, and household happiness and health.

There are many other ways to enchant your gardening too. Garden tools can be enchanted for strength and to be rust-proof. Gloves can be enchanting to keep the hands safe. Support for plants can be soaked in enchanted water.

Don’t forget that you can simply verbalize spells by talking to your plants. There’s some research to support that plants like being talked to nicely and sweetly and that backs up my experience nicely. (The only plant I ever struggle with is a climbing rose I’ve named Diva and she’s the most prickly thing I’ve ever met. She gets me every time, no matter what I’m doing.) I like to hum or sing-song to my plants as I work on them, if I’m not just straight-out having a one-sided conversation with them. I get some strange looks, especially from my brother, but I don’t mind.

Those are some basic tips! Hope it helps!


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