Gardening is a wonderful hobby! It gets you outside, your hands in the dirt and can provide relaxation and food. Gardening as a beginner can feel very intimidating, where do you start? I’ve broken things down below to help you get off on the right foot. Below you will find my tips for the beginner gardener.
Like I mention in experimenting in the garden, you don’t need to be afraid to try new things in the garden. You never know how it will turn out, but you will definitely learn something and be even more prepared for next season.
Follow the steps below, dig in, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the process. There is a large learning curve, but so many resources are available to help you get started, including all of my tips on this site!
Location, location, location!
The most important thing to do is pick the right location for your garden. Generally, you will want a location that receives full sun. This would mean that it receives approximately 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Most perennial flower gardens will thrive with this amount of sunlight.
It is okay if you have an area that mostly receives the 6 to 8 hours of sun, and part of it has less sun as this will allow you the opportunity to plant an area with shade loving plants like hostas and bleeding heart.
When choosing location, you don’t want to only consider the sun. Other important things to consider are exposure to wind and proximity to watering. Ideally your garden will be sheltered from the wind and you will be able to easily get water to it from a hose or other water area nearby. In your first year with your garden you will need to provide it with plenty of water so it is very important to be close to an easy to use water source.
Once you have chosen a location, you should mark out the space you wish to plant in. You can use string and pins or an edger to cut into the grass (if there is any). It is important to pull up any grass and weeds and prepare the area to put down fresh soil.
Choosing the right plants
Now that you have your garden area planned and set up, you need to chose some plants! This is definitely my favorite part of gardening! I break down how to choose the best plants from the garden center in this post.
You want to ensure that the plants you are choosing are appropriate for the amount of sun and moisture that you can provide. There is always room to experiment a little bit, but you should try to stick to what the plant tag indicates for required sun level. If you are choosing perennials, you should stick to your zone or maybe one zone warmer.
An easy to way to figure out what will grow well in your area is to reach out to a neighbor and ask for a tour of their garden. I have yet to meet a gardener who isn’t happy to show off their hard work and chat about plants. You may even walk away with a plant to start off with!
Generally speaking you want to plant the taller, bushier plants near the back of your garden bed, and get smaller as you move towards the front. The good thing about perennials is that you can move them a round or split them next year if you are not happy with the location that you chose for them originally.
Try to choose plants in a variety of colors, ensuring you don’t have all one color will make it more fun to look at. Additionally, it is helpful to find varieties that flower during different parts of the summer so you constantly have something in bloom. Your local garden center is also a great resource for choosing plants that are best suited to your area.
Preparing the Soil
Your existing garden soil probably isn’t rich enough to do a really good job of growing your plants for years to come. You will want to amend your soil and make it rich in compost and organic matter to start strong!
You can purchase bags of soil from a garden center or supply store or order in bulk from a local landscape company. Make sure you aren’t just buying topsoil, you want to ensure that you are adding plenty of organic matter in the form of animal compost or worm castings.
If you are ordering in bulk, always order from a reputable garden soil provider. Often bulk top soil can contain weeds that will make you crazy for the entire season. We don’t need to make gardening more frustrating!
Check out this article from The Almanac for more tips on how to prepare the best garden soil.
Planting and Maintenance
You’ve dug out your garden area, chosen your plants, amended the soil so it is rich and ready to support plant life. Now, it is time to put your plants in the ground.
You should dig a hole twice the size of the plants current root ball and ensure the soil is up to the same height as the base of the plant in its previous pot. After you have planted your new addition, make sure to fertilize and then water right away. Plants are most susceptible to drying out in the couple of weeks after planting, so make sure you water thoroughly to ensure good root growth and help the plants get established.
Once your plants are in, you should consider some type of mulch to help conserve water and keep weeds away. If you have planted a vegetable garden, you could consider a straw or shavings mulch since you may not be as worried about appearance. If you have planted a decorative perennial garden, choosing a nice cedar mulch in black, red or natural color will do an excellent job of keeping moisture in and weeds down. Be sure to keep the mulch away from the base of the plant, leave a few inches of space from the stalk to the start of your mulch area.
Now that you have your garden started, it is time to enjoy it with family and friends.
What was the hardest part of starting out in the garden for you? Let me know below!