Problem Solving for New Gardeners

Ever wonder what you’d do if the opportunity to start over again came up? I mean, really start over again? Well, we had the chance for just that and we took full advantage of it, despite the anguish and heartache that started it all off.

At the start of 2016, both of our spouses were seriously ill, battling cancer with no real hope of remission or longevity. My late wife died after losing a nearly 20 year battle with various forms of cancer, and Sheila’s late husband died after a brief but aggressive period of pancreatic cancer. I was a Jersey boy, and Sheila a long time Georgia resident after growing up in California. We actually met in an online grieving support group, fell in love after several months of what we termed “phone dating”, and ultimately married. I relocated to the beautiful North Georgia region and moved into Sheila’s home on her 2 acre property.


We both recently retired and dove head first into our long-desired dream of establishing a garden. Sheila was fairly well versed in the gardening routine, her primary issue over the years was her insane travel schedule which simply did not allow her to really dig deep into the world of gardening. On the completely opposite side of the coin, I knew N-O-T-H-I-N-G about gardening, or horticulture, or growing anything at all!

Did I tell you about the soil here in North Georgia? Or more appropriately, the red clay masquerading as soil? Right off the bat, we had to condition all of the “soil” here and make it usable. We quickly learned that we needed to penetrate the hard pack clay layer (about 16” below grade) if we expected to get anything to grow at all. A serious aid was the purchase of a power auger system that punched through that hard pack and allowed us to commingle and blend the soils into something usable.

Sheila’s 1st bed was set up in the front of the house, just off our sidewalk and entry steps. As we worked our way through several areas on the property, it became quite apparent that even with our soil manipulation efforts there were certain locations that required us to consider the use of raised beds. Vego Gardens gear  gave us all of the options we could ever need to meet our soil-related planting challenges.

In that 1st bed area we had some really disappointing results with two of our dahlias and some other surrounding plants when we discovered excessive water retention was literally drowning the roots systems.  Turns out we had punctured some below grade corrugated drainage pipe for our gutter leaders, with the damage in a very hard to reach location. Vego’s raised L-shape bed  was the perfect solution for this spot, it looked great and gave us a wonderful new soil base.


Vego came to the rescue again when we had two trees removed to allow for more light in one of the newer garden beds we were developing. We were left with two good sized stumps that were difficult to access with standard stump removal equipment. It would have required some specialty gear to get to these two stumps, and at considerable expense. Perfect solution; two Vego 42” round beds, one 17” high and one 11” high. They completely hid the stumps from view, providing an excellent set of planting beds for literally 1/3rd the cost of the stump removal!  Filling the beds over the stumps will hasten decomposition, and we’ll top off the soil in the beds as needed.  And the beds will raise the flowers so they’re so much more visible from other areas.

garden bed


There were several tricks/tips/techniques that we found to be really useful and we began our garden development in earnest:

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed! Pick one area to start your garden, and choose plantings that will fit into that area. In our case, we started with camellias, gently caring for them in pots as they matured and finally planting them in a near perfect environment on our property (dappled sun/shade beneath an extended tree lined section). We have over 20 varieties of camellia on our property, all doing well … despite the extended deep freeze that hit North Georgia in the winter of 2022.
  2. Be prepared to change direction, frequently! We had many false starts and mistakes when we started. For example, we never considered the problems that Bambi & Thumper would create for us. As cute as they are, those little devils ate every single flower bloom and bud in sight. Solution? A motion-detected water spray system kept all of them away from a newly developed area.
  3. Modify, modify, modify! As stated above, finding Vego’s outstanding selection of products quickly resolved some pretty major problems.
  4. Take time to enjoy the results of your efforts! We stop, somewhat frequently, to sit back and look at our garden areas, loving the successes and planning ways to correct the “problem child” areas. When you take a moment to look over your work, as you relax with a cup of coffee or tea, you’ll be amazed at how quickly seemingly insurmountable problems reveal ways to resolve the troubles. 
  5. Turn to social media for new ideas! There is a fantastic community online, with many knowledgeable people and many great ideas. Sheila does the overwhelming majority of our garden planning and she has found a ton of wonderful advice online.

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