Five Actionable Gardening Tips for Beginners
If you’ve never grown a garden of your own before, you probably fall on one of two sides: thinking it will be less work than it is or feel overwhelmed by how much there is to know about gardening. Growing a garden does take some energy for successful harvests or, for some people, even just keeping plants alive.
The good news is that there is a lot to learn about growing plants, but you don’t have to know everything to have a fantastic garden. With some rudimentary knowledge, you can have a lush, beautiful, thriving garden in very little time.
1. Pick the Right Location and Prep
Before you run to the store and buy plants without a prepared place to put them, spend a little time with the foundation of your garden. If you are going to stay in your home for a while, you will probably be setting up a garden that will remain in that location for years to come.
Much like you want to pick the best fertilizers for green grass, you want to select the best location to grow your fruits, vegetables, or roses. The same way it applies to a house, the right foundation is crucial for a garden, as well.
If possible, you will likely enjoy the location of your garden more if you have it close to a water supply. If you have to spend ten minutes dragging out a hose every day or every other day to water, gardening can become a frustration.
You can set up slow drip irrigation hoses or a soaker hose in some types of gardens if it makes life easier for you. If you’re not using a soaker hose, test out carrying a watering bucket or hose to the area you are contemplating planting and see if it feels doable as a routine every couple of days.
You should, at the very least, spend a day glancing at the location of your potential garden throughout both the morning and afternoon hours. You want to monitor the daylight and make sure any garden spot receives at least six hours of direct light throughout the day.
If you are planting a shade garden, of course, you don’t need six hours of sunlight. However, if you want to grow flowers like roses or plant a vegetable garden, sunlight is crucial. You can water and use the best fertilizers for plants all you want, but if they don’t get enough sun, they won’t thrive.
Getting a foundation of quality soil is crucial if you are starting a garden. Prepping the dirt your plants will grow in is one of the top gardening tips for beginners or anyone starting a newly planted area. Make sure you aren’t planting over any notable roots, pipes, or underground electrical.
Then turn the soil over and loosen it up with a shovel. If your soil is too compacted, the roots of plants will have a harder time growing and absorbing nutrients. Once you’ve loosened up the dirt, mix in some finished compost, worm castings, and even a little rock dust if your ground isn’t the most fertile.
These are, in my opinion, some of the best fertilizers for plants and set an excellent foundation for growth. Better yet, they are non-toxic, natural (not synthetic formulas), pet safe, and help strengthen the root system of plants instead of dosing them with chemical fertilizers that wash away.
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is often used for a reason. Habits, including gardening, are so much easier to keep up on when they are right in front of you. If you are passionate about tending your garden, walking around the corner of your house might work fine for you.
For most people, they will be more successful with their fruits and veggies if they can see them regularly. If you look out your window and can see weeds popping up, you’re probably going to get yourself out there much more often than if your garden is hidden somewhere out of sight. You will also be more likely to pick the harvests instead of forgetting and letting them die on the vine.
The one exception to this idea, of course, is if you must plant your garden somewhere else to get sunlight. The effort will all be in vain without proper light, so select that as a priority first. If you can get quality daylight hours and keep your garden in view, the spot is ideal.
2. Plant for Your Zone
Most people know the general concept of planting for their region—you’re not going to plant cacti outdoors in Michigan, and some northern pines won’t survive in Miami. However, there is more nuance to planting than pines and palms.
At least take a glance at any potential plants, fruit, or vegetables you’re thinking of planting and check if they are suitable for your area. If you don’t know which planting zone you’re in, check the USDA zone map and look for flowers or veggies that will thrive in your area.
You might be able to eke out some vegetables that are not best for your growing zone, but those that are ideal for your region and weather patterns will produce the most significant harvest and survive your cold winters, scorching summers, or temperate climate best. Keep an eye on zones, as they are changing a bit and getting more accurate.
You also need to know the frost dates for where you live. Planting too early, before the last frost in spring, can quickly kill any new plants you spend money on and try to grow from seeds.
Conversely, waiting too long to pick fruits and vegetables at the end of the season can have the same effect on potential harvests. If you have produce sitting out in frigid weather, you could lose all those gardening efforts.
3. Water and Weed
It should go without saying that you need to water and weed your garden, but you might not realize how often you need to water. In dry weather, you may need to water specific plants everyday or every other day.
Weeding is crucial not only for the appearance of your garden but because weeds can steal nutrients from the soil, especially if they grow right next to a plant you are trying to get to be substantial. Applying a layer or two of mulch or putting down a fabric weed barrier can help minimize this chore. Some ground covers even come with pre-cut holes for gardening.
Pruning is another necessary part of gardening that many people neglect. Just as weeds suck up nutrients, dead or dying leaves on your plants steal nutrients and water away from the rest of the foliage. That nourishment could instead direct to growing plump fruits and veggies.
So, check your garden every few days for leaves that are starting to brown or yellow. Some plants, like tomato plants, have special pruning techniques to enhance the fruit.
I am an advocate for using natural fertilizers as much as possible in your garden. Natural fertilizers are better for the environment, sure. Using organic blends will benefit your garden to thrive more in the long-run, too.
Synthetic formulas not only douse your fruits and vegetables with chemicals, but these blends wash away with rain rather quickly. Continuously applying products like finished compost, humisoil, worm castings, and even some rock dust for nutrient-poor soil will build and better and more nutritious ground for your plants. (One of my picks for the best fertilizers for tomatoes is here.)
These organic fertilizers also build stronger roots, making your plants better able to absorb nutrition from the ground. Think of genuinely enriching your soil like eating healthy food. Junk food might feed you, but it won’t make you thrive from the inside out the way you do when you get the nutrition you were designed to consume.
There are endless tips and tricks for gardening out there, and you can hone your skills as you go. Now you have the basics, though. So, pick the plants for your area, scout your location, and start growing! You might be surprised