10 Gardening tips for beginners
09/21/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
10 Gardening tips for beginners

Gardening comes with a long list of benefits. For starters, you save money on fresh produce, which you can use to cook healthier meals. It’s also good for your physical health because it qualifies as exercise and your mental health because of how rewarding it is.

If you’re new to gardening, it can be difficult to know where or how to start. But gardening doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. When you break it down into manageable steps, you can ease into gardening at your own pace and reap the fruits of your labor – literally – in no time.

Here are 10 tips to help you get started if you’re new to gardening.


1. Consider what to plant

Before you start your garden, think about what you want to plant in it first. Do you want to start an herb garden? A vegetable garden? What about a flower garden? If you go for herbs and vegetables, make sure to choose those that you and your family will eat or be willing to try. If you want flowers, decide whether you want annuals that bloom only once and need to be replanted every spring or perennials that have a shorter bloom time but will return every year.

You should also consider the climate and soil type you have when choosing what plants to have in your garden. Naturally, heat-loving summer plants will almost always die in cold climates, while cold-loving plants won’t do well in a hot and dry region. Start small and grow only a few plants until you get the hang of gardening.

2. Pick the best spot

Many vegetables and flowering plants require six to eight hours of full sun per day. Before growing your plants, observe your yard throughout the day to figure out which spots receive full sun versus partial or full shade. Spots that get full sun are the best to utilize for gardening.

Take note that shade-loving plants should be grown in partially shaded areas. Do your research or ask the staff at your local garden center to help you understand how much sun a plant needs.

3. Plan your garden bed

Once you know where you want your garden to be, it’s time to decide on the type and size of your garden bed/s. Raised garden beds make it easier to work in your garden since you don’t have to stoop as much. However, they also dry out more quickly. In dry regions, sunken garden beds are better because they retain moisture.

A decent-sized garden bed should be about three to four feet across – big enough to grow several plants in but still narrow enough that you can comfortably reach the center from the sides.

4. Invest in gardening tools

Using the right tools can make working in the garden a pleasure instead of a chore.

At the very least, you should have the following basic gardening tools:

  • Gloves
  • Hand trowel
  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Spade
  • Hose
  • Pruning shears
  • Watering can

5. Test your soil

How acidic or alkaline the soil is affects how plants absorb nutrients. Different plants thrive at different pH levels, so testing your soil will help you decide what to plant and indicate how you should treat your soil.

Some characteristics, such as whether your soil has sand, clay, silt, rocks or a mix of all four can be determined just from looking at the soil. Others may require home or professional lab tests. To get an accurate reading of your soil’s pH levels, send a sample to your local nursery or buy an at-home testing kit at any gardening store.

Check soil texture as well. Good-quality soil should easily crumble in your hands. If the soil is too hard or clay-like, it will be difficult for most plants to grow roots.

6. Prepare your garden beds

Loosening the soil in your new garden beds before sowing helps roots to grow more easily and access the water and nutrients they need. You can do this either by hand or by using a mechanical device like a rototiller. Rototillers are good for when you need to mix in large amounts of soil amendments, such as compost or mulch. Digging by hand is more practical for preparing small beds.

Either way, only work the soil when it’s moist enough to form into a loose ball in your fist but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it. Working the soil when it’s too dry or too moist is harder work. Use a spade to gently turn the top six to eight inches of soil. You can then walk on the prepared beds to pack in the soil.

7. Decide whether to start from seeds or transplants

Some plants are best started indoors and then transplanted outdoors, while others are perfectly fine to start outdoors. To learn which plants grow best directly seeded in the garden and which plants are best transplanted, check seed starting calendars.

8. Give your plants enough space

Give your plants enough room to grow. If you put them too close together, not all will survive. Those that do will also need more frequent watering and fertilizer. Planting them too close together also makes them susceptible to disease.

Here are some other rules of thumb for planting:

  • Plant seeds as directed on the packets. Some seeds need to be planted deeply, while others need plenty of light for germination.
  • Most transplants are planted at the same depth they were growing in their pots.
  • Wait until the danger of frost is past to grow heat-loving plants.

9. Water regularly

Seedlings should never be allowed to dry out, so water them daily. You can taper off as they grow. On the other hand, transplants need frequent watering. Water them every other day or so until their roots become established. After that, how often you need to water depends on soil, humidity and rainfall.

That said, watering plants once a week is a good place to start. Take note that clay soil dries out more slowly than sandy soil, so you won’t need to water it as often. Sunny and windy conditions can also dry out soil quickly. If you’re not sure about when to water, feel the soil three to four inches below the surface. If it’s dry, then it’s time to water. Water slowly and deeply so that the water soaks into the soil.

To minimize evaporation, water your plants in the early morning.

10. Enjoy your harvest

Some crops need to be harvested as they grow, while others can be harvested repeatedly whenever you need to. For instance, green leafy vegetables like lettuce are “cut-and-come-again” plants, meaning you can harvest just the older outer leaves. These will regrow for another harvest. Meanwhile, beans and peas should be picked every two to three days.

Start your garden off right by following these 10 essential steps.




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