5 Tips for the Beginning Gardener

iStock_000023129011XSmallIf you want to improve your health and your sustainability, one of the best ways is to grow a garden. Caring for a garden offers opportunities for exercise outside, and it allows for you to ensure that the food you eat is responsibly grown. Plus, if you are interested in local food sources, it doesn’t get much more local than your own backyard.

For the beginner, though, gardening can present a number of challenges. If you are just starting out with your garden, here are 5 tips that can help you out:

Start Small

At the outset, keep your garden relatively small. You don’t know how much time you’ll have, or how large a plot you can handle. Starting small gives you the chance to get to know some of the best techniques for growing your garden, and it can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

As you become more experienced with gardening, and as your confidence improves, you can plant a bigger garden.

Grow Easy Items First

You want your first garden to be a success, so consider growing relatively easy items that you know you will eat. Check with a local master gardener, or with some other resource, to find out which items grow best in your climate. You won’t be able to grow everything in your garden, so choose items that have the best chance of survival — and that aren’t too finicky.

Some plants that are generally easy to grow for most people include tomatoes, green beans, various squash, peas, potatoes, and certain herbs. Raspberries and blackberries, and even strawberries, are also fairly low-maintenance.

As you learn the ropes of gardening, you can begin to add more challenging plants to the rotation.

Create a Schedule

A schedule can help you stay on track with caring for your garden. Set aside time each week to make sure that your garden is watered, weeded, and otherwise cared for. Scheduling this time ensures that your garden receives proper care, and it allows you to look for problems and address them.

Use Starts

One way to get your garden solidly underway is to use starts. Rather than planting your seeds outside, plant them inside. You can use empty egg cartons or other small containers for this job. Plant the seeds in a small amount of soil, and keep them in a sunny window. They’ll start to grow, and you can then transplant the sprouts, plus the soil, into your garden. Starts can be a way to avoid some of the hazards that come when you plant a seed in the soil. I like starts especially because there is usually a late cold snap in my area. I can keep the starts safely inside until the weather is mild enough to begin planting.

Make a Plan

Be sure to plan out where you will keep your plants. This is especially important if you have produce that requires a certain amount of sunlight or shade. Our backyard gets a lot of sun, so it isn’t a big deal for us. However, we planned it out so that our fruit trees are are in a position where they won’t cast shade on other plants. Think about how to situate your plants so that they don’t interfere with each other.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Here are a few other tips and tricks that the beginning gardener can use to increase the chances of success:

  • Don’t be too neat: You want loose soil so that the roots can easily get in there and grab hold. Avoid planting seeds and starts in neat, smooth holes. Instead, make sure you till up the soil (we use a shovel, since we have garden boxes) and make sure there is plenty of loose dirt. When covering the seed, or planting the start, don’t pack the dirt tightly.
  • Use beer: This is something we’ve used to great effect in our garden. Get a small container (tuna cans work great) and put them in so that the top is level with the soil. Add a small amount of beer and water to the can. Slugs like the smell — and they drown, rather than get into your plants.
  • Watch for signs of disease: Keep an eye on your plants, and removed leaves or other portions that look diseased.


What are some of your best tips for beginning gardeners?


5 Tips for the Beginning Gardener — 12 Comments

  1. Great tips! We love to garden ourselves an have done so for a number of years. I would second looking for easy things to start with. It’s really difficult to mess up a tomato plant. Start with something easy like that to build your confidence and go from there.

  2. Thank you for the tips! I have a real black thumb but have to agree that potatoes are easy, and so is garlic. Tomatoes, well, no luck so far but here is to hoping!

  3. I love growing herbs first! It gives you some of the best bang for your buck, and most of them are VERY easy to grow.

  4. I don’t have much in the way of room for a veggie garden but if I did I’m thinking I might try square foot gardening with 4X4 raised beds. The concept intrigues me for some reason. Any thoughts on this??

  5. Great tips! I seriously have a black thumb, but I’ve been looking at little succulents. I hear they are very hard to kill so I’m going to start with those before I try to plant some food! 🙂

  6. I like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses. Crocuses will pretty much grow where dropped. These plants come up by themselves every year.

  7. If you grow tomatoes, try planting a herb close to it — it will flavor them. I am a big fan of nasturtium and plant the climbing variety every year — the flowers taste like peppery radish and it’s a big hit with the kids. It’s also very easy to plant; get a handful of seeds and soak them in water for 20 minutes and then plant; they will come up within a few days and they flower all summer. I noticed that one of the food store sells these flowers in a small container for $3.99, I’ll just go to the garden and pick up a big bowl of them…

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