The most common mistake a gardener can make? Skipping their homework

Minnesota's growing season has begun, but before you start planting, stop and ask yourself these key questions:

What kind of soil does your garden space have?

How much sunlight does it get?

Julie Weisenhorn, an extension educator and horticulturist at the University of Minnesota, said that not knowing the conditions of the garden before purchasing materials can lead to a "short lived plant."

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It's easy to know about the sun, but what about soil?

Weisenhorn said you can mail away your soil to be tested by the University and elsewhere. However, there's an easier solution. Take some soil and make a ball, then poke it. If the ball forms and crumbles, it's "good soil."

"Lots of loam in there," said Weisenhorn. Loam is soil that's an ideal balance of clay, sand, and organic material. If a ball forms but doesn't crumble, the soil is clay. If a ball won't form, it's sand. Clay and sandy soil can be remedied with compost. Adding compost to sandy soil helps it retain moisture. Adding compost to clay creates air pockets so it doesn't retain too much moisture.

"Drainage is important," she said. "It's difficult to screw it up. You'd have to add a lot of compost to get it wrong."

Soil is also the one thing about a garden that planters can control.

Other tips about soil health can be found on the Extension's website.

Catherine Grant, horticulturist and greenhouse manager at the University of St. Thomas, said that the most important thing is to be creative and explore what interests you.

"You're going to kill plants and spend some money on things that die," she said. "You don't have to be fearful."

Grant encouraged new gardeners to take classes at a garden center or spend some time on YouTube.

Grant and Weisenhorn joined host Angela Davis to answer questions from callers about yards and gardens.

Use the audio player above to listen to the show.