If you enjoy learning, playing in the dirt, being outside, or watching things grow, then it’s time you give gardening a try. Not only is it relaxing, but you’ll also end up with beautiful flowers or delicious vegetables at the end of the season!
You don’t need any experience (or even a particularly green thumb) to begin planting your own garden. All you need is a small plot of land or some pots, gardening tools, dirt, seeds, and a go-getter attitude.
Ready to start enjoying America’s number one hobby? Grab a shovel and give these five beginner gardening tips a try.
1. Understand Your Environment
It may go without saying, but some plants grow much better in certain climates than in others. Before you buy any seeds or seedlings, make sure to examine the area you’ll be placing your garden. Ask yourself these questions:
- What climate zone do I live in? (Temperate, tropical, desert, etc.)
- How much sun will my garden plot get, and at what times of the day?
- How much rain is expected to fall?
- How early in the year does winter come?
- Will my garden be outdoors, indoors, or in a greenhouse?
The answers to these questions will help you decide which types of plants can thrive in your garden. If you have any questions, write out your answers and bring them with you to your local garden store or nursery. They’ll be able to help you find the perfect plants and seeds to start with.
Also, make note of whether you’ll be planting in a plot of land or in containers, like pots and windowboxes. If you decide to go with the latter, be sure to buy containers that are large enough for the plants you hope to put in them. Planting your seedlings in pots that are initially too large will save you a lot of time repotting as they grow up.
2. Get Dirty
Plants get many of their important nutrients from minerals found in soil, and they’re a bit picky about what kind of dirt they live in. If you’re planting a garden directly in the ground, run a soil test before you begin. Most hardware or gardening stores have at-home test kits, or you might be able to find a plant nursery to test a sample of soil for you.
Look for factors like the pH (how acidic the soil is), nutrient levels, and the type of dirt (rocky, clay, sandy, or fertile). All of these will impact which plants can grow in your garden. You may be able to treat the soil to change its pH or put down a layer of topsoil and compost to compensate for sandy ground.
If you’re gardening in an area of your lawn that’s never been planted before, check to see if the soil is loose or packed down. You may need to till the soil in order to aerate it and allow small plant roots to find their way through.
Finally, if you’re planting in containers, talk to someone at your local gardening store to find out what kind of dirt your desired plants prefer. Succulents, for example, like very loose soil that drains quickly.
3. Gather the Right Equipment
Stocking up your first gardening shed (or toolbox) doesn’t have to break the bank. All you need are a few basic tools to get started.
- Hand spade or trowel – a sharp shovel that slices easily through dirt and roots
- Hand rake – breaks up dirt and weeds for planting
- Watering can or spray nozzle for a hose – you can make one out of a milk jug
- Kneeling pad or kneepads – trust us, don’t skip this one!
- Gloves – thick enough to protect your hands from sharp objects
- 5-gallon bucket – to carry tools, dirt, and plants
Unless you’re planting a large plot of land right from the start, these tools should be all you need to grow your first garden. Here’s a tip from the pros: spray your metal gardening tools, like rakes or spades, with a bit of silicone lubricant before you start gardening. Then you won’t have to worry about clumps of dirt sticking to your shovel—it’ll fall right off!
4. Choose Easy Plants
Gardening isn’t fun when you can’t get anything to grow, so try starting with some easy plants. Flowers, vegetables, and herbs are all great ways to see success early on. Here are a few of the best no-fail beginner plants:
- Lettuce and spinach
- Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.)
- Nasturtiums (beautiful flowers and a tasty snack, all in one)
- Shasta daisies
All of these plants can fill out a beautiful garden without much maintenance required. Just be sure to read up on how much sun and water they like ahead of time. If you end up with a wildly successful flowerbed, it might be time to open up the little tulip shop or vegetable stand you’ve always dreamed of!
5. Have Fun and Stick With It!
The biggest key to gardening well is sticking with it for the long haul. If you have fun with it, you’re less likely to forget to water your plants or pull weeds.
If your garden ever starts to feel like a chore, get your friends in on it! You can host a gardening party with fresh lemonade and send your guests home with a sample of the fruits of their labor. And remember, even if digging out dandelions isn’t fun, gathering your homegrown veggies and gorgeous flowers sure are!
These Gardening Tips Will Turn Your Thumbs Green in No Time
Even if you’ve never kept a plant alive for more than a week, following these gardening tips can have you smelling the roses before you can say “marigolds.”
If you’re ready for some floral inspiration, head over to our archives and check out our post on the 10 amazing benefits of having flowers in your office.