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Great Garden Advice From Experts

AAS judges in gray shirts

See that group of gray-clad professional horticulturists? They are experts in their field!

This is just a portion of the volunteers who act as All-America Selections Judges. Each one serves as an expert for their specific AAS Trial, be it vegetables, or annuals or perennials or other, they evaluate, judge, and report on the new AAS entries that show up every year in their trials. Only the best garden performers are granted the AAS award. So, these people know their stuff! And they are here to share their best gardening tips with you.

Note: All the photos below are of recent AAS winners.

Just Try It!

  • Spend the time. Learn by doing. Make mistakes. Take chances. ~Teresa Bunn
  • Grow what you enjoy. That may seem simplistic but I have many conversations with home gardeners about their frustrations and failures and not so much about their success. Gardening should be rewarding. I understand that many love the challenge of growing difficult crops, just don’t let it overwhelm you when they fail. ~Dennis Ferlito
  • I would encourage gardeners to be curious and try new things. There are so many creative ways to grow and to build a garden that is perfect for you, no matter the size or kind. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new methods, crops, or varieties, because you may discover a new favorite! ~Kristen Noble
  • Research and read! If you live in Georgia, don’t try to create an English Garden, lol. Learn your zone and climate and what things do well in your area; otherwise you set yourself up for failure and can get discouraged. ~Jenny Kuhn
  • Start Small. Anyone can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of work and dedication needed for home gardening. ~Cody Whynot
  • Choose easy to grow, hardy plants, start small, get your hands dirty, and watch them throughout the season. The best fertilizer is a gardener’s shadow. ~Jesse Dahl
  • You don’t need to try as hard as you think. If you start with good soil preparation and a little bit of fertilizer, you will be successful. You don’t need to helicopter parent your peppers. You don’t need to give them the same level of attention as a puppy or a baby. You just need to put them in a situation where they can thrive, and they will pretty much do all the work themselves. Sure, you may want to stake or cage some of the more unruly indeterminate beasties out there, but even if you don’t, they will still produce for you. ~Samuel J. Schmitz
  • Don’t be afraid. The most experienced gardeners strike out too, but they keep trying. Gardening is as much about the experience as the end result. ~Owen Vanstone

Don’t Fear Failure, Learn From It

  • I think fear keeps people from trying to garden. Start small and don’t be afraid to try something new. It can be ever so rewarding when you succeed. ~Barbara Park
  • So, when asked this, I always refer to Miss Frizzle from the PBS show The Magic School Bus. . . “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!” A good gardener has made many mistakes, killed many plants, and still keeps at it. ~Jessica Cloninger
  • Keep trying if you do not succeed the first time because gardening is a great mental relaxation and a very rewarding experience. ~James E. Klett
  • Don’t give up if a plant doesn’t do well. Often people blame themselves when it could be something outside their control. Plants get sick like people. ~Dr. Mark Yelanich
  • Experiment and never give up. There is so much to learn in this great big horticulture world. ~Pam Bennett
  • My mantra is “plants want to live!”, so I believe in experimenting at will. You’ll soon realize how easy it is to be successful. I recently had a call from someone who had been told that she should get rid of a velvetleaf plant (Abutilon theophrasti) in her container. But she was fascinated by it, so I told her to keep it and appreciate its furry leaves and watch the development of the “button” shaped seed pods toward summer’s end. I knew she would find it ugly at some point and then she’d be willing to toss it, but I thought that she shouldn’t stress about someone else’s opinion. ~C. Diane Anderson
  • Just keep trying! As a professional, I’ve likely killed more plants than you will ever even grow! It is always disheartening when something goes wrong, from a single houseplant taken over by insects to a complete crop loss in the greenhouse, but it’s an excellent opportunity to learn. After kicking myself (and then blaming everything from the greenhouse to the pH levels in our water), I try to search out the solutions to prevent the issue in the future. It’s also OK to be realistic about gardening. I am an excellent horticulturist who can grow an incredible range of plants, but I cannot make an orchid rebloom on purpose. I accept that I refuse to internalize it, and I treat the orchids I buy the same as I would a cut-flower bouquet; when it’s done blooming, it goes into the compost! ~ Jessie Liebenguth

Right Plant, Right Place

  • Select the right place and habitat for your plants. Be sure to plant sun-loving plants in the sun and shade-loving plants in the shade. This is often overlooked and is vitally important to the success of your garden. ~Sarah Barbour
  • Always look and plant AAS winners to grow in your garden, they are trialed to perform for you. Do not be afraid to try something new. Gardening is never a failure, it is a grand experiment. ~Patty Buskirk
  • Make sure the plant you have is in the right location for growing. ~Shelly Prescott
  • Keep trying! No one is successful all of the time and half of the fun of gardening is trying new plants and ideas and seeing what works. ~Penny Merritt-Price

Try Something New

  • Do not be afraid to try something different, some of my best plantings have been from mistakes. ~Ryan L. Doughty
  • Continually explore new varieties of all plants and new ways of growing them. As weather, climate, disease, and insects continue to challenge us, finding plants that survive and thrive is our future. ~Brian Minter
  • Keep trying. Keep trying in different ways, new methods, and new varieties. There are a thousand ways to do the same thing: find what suits your style of growing and your growing conditions. ~Alex Augustyniak
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things in your garden. You might find that you really like the variety. ~Courtney R. Buckley
  • Live outside the box! Just because you think you may not have a green thumb, practice and explore new plants. Some of my favorite varieties have come from just saying, “Hey, I think I’d like to try this!” ~Brett Owens
  • Don’t be afraid of the weird and unusual! Sometimes they are the best plants to have in your garden ? ~Denise Mullins
  • Experience no-till-gardening. ~Steve Poppe


  • Plants can’t do the backstroke! ? ~Denise Schreiber
  • I have learned that the less you fuss over a plant, the better it typically does. When the plant wilts, it’s probably telling you that it needs water. If it’s not wilting, it doesn’t need water. If you are watering something in a container, pick the container up to feel how much water you’re putting in the pot; don’t trust your eyes. ~Rose Oberholtzer
  • Learn proper watering methods and how to use them to encourage a vigorous root system better able to handle stress. It seems simple, but watering methods can be oversimplified and overlooked. ~Kelley Dunn
  • Make sure you really take into consideration the amount of water your plant needs with the amount of water you intend/will to provide it. ~David Czarnecki

Article derived from a press release by All-America Selections, an independent non-profit organization that tests new, never-before-sold varieties for the home gardener throughout North America. Many All-America Selections go on to become classics in their field, renowned for their productivity and vigor.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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