6 Tips for New Gardeners
Spring is here and that means it’s time to plant a garden. If you love the idea of gardening, but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in luck. We have six tips for new gardeners that will help you get your garden off to a good start, regardless of whether or not you were born with a green thumb.
1. Start with a small garden
Like any new hobby, when you’re first getting into gardening you’ll want to start small. While growing enough food to feed your family all summer long may sound like a good idea in theory, if you start out with a huge garden, odds are you’ll quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Instead, it’s a better idea to take baby steps and let your garden grow alongside your level of knowledge and experience.
To that end, think about starting with an herb garden or a single type of seed. You might even consider indoor gardening. Also, it may sound simple, but start with growing what you like — your favorite flowers, herbs, or vegetables. If all goes well, you’ll have the opportunity to expand next season.
2. Do your gardening research
Put simply, not all plants are well-suited for the same climates. In order to give yourself the best chances of success, you’re going to want to do some research as to which types of plants and vegetation grow well in your area. You can start by looking up where your area falls on the USDA hardiness zone map, which will give you some suggestions.
Once you’ve decided what types of plants will fill in your garden, you’ll also want to do some research into the specific needs of each plant. Most gardening centers keep this information on the tags attached to the plant, so be sure to read those thoroughly. If you have friends or neighbors who garden, there’s no shame in asking for some advice as well.
3. Remember that location is everything
After you’ve done your research, the next step is to decide where your garden will go. Pay attention to how the sun moves around your property throughout the day. If you’re planning on planting vegetables, fruit, or herbs, those will likely need the maximum possible amount of sunlight. Flowers, on the other hand, can be selected based on whether they require sun or shade.
Additionally, you should consider how you plan to water your plants. Ideally, you’ll put the garden within a close distance of a spigot for easy watering. Lastly, your best bet is to pick a spot that you walk by regularly. Often, new gardeners who aren’t yet used to caring for plants have a tendency to forget about regular upkeep. By keeping your garden in your line of sight, you’ll also keep it in the forefront of your mind.
4. Prepare your soil
Many gardeners feel that creating good soil is an integral part of having a successful garden. After all, plants grow by their roots and their roots live in the soil. With that in mind, adding organic matter to your soil — like shredded leaves and composted manure — will help create a more hospitable environment for your plants.
Organic matter assists plant growth in a variety of ways. For one, it helps break up dense soil, which gives your plants’ roots more room to grow. It also holds water for the plants to use during dry times and makes the soil more nutrient-rich.
5. Consider using seedlings
Some plants, particularly tomatoes, peppers, and petunias, are very hard to grow from seeds and often need to be started indoors. If it’s your first year gardening, you may want to skip the hard part and just buy seedlings — sometimes called “starter plants” or “starts” — from your local gardening center.
Be aware that seedlings are a little more expensive than just buying seeds. However, what you’re paying for is the convenience of not only saving time, but also skipping over the many missteps that can take place when you try to grow these plants from seeds.
6. Keep a gardening journal
No matter what you choose to grow, your first year of gardening is bound to be full of plenty of ups and downs. If you plan on making gardening a habit, you may want to keep a record of them all in a gardening journal. It can be hard to remember what works for your garden and what doesn’t from year-to-year, but if you keep a journal, you’ll have all of that information right at your fingertips.
Keep in mind that your journal doesn’t have to be lengthy or wordy. It can simply be a record of your successes and failures, along with any notes about why you think you had that result. Feel free to experiment until you find a method that works for you.