Growing up, my grandmother always had a garden. Whether it was a small patch of herbs or a full plot of land, bursting with vegetables, she tended a garden every year. As a young child, I learned where to start gardening, from watching my grandmother work in the yard.
I have such fond memories of following her around in our garden, learning the ways to care for the plants. We put plastic shopping bags over our shoes so they wouldn’t be stained by the red clay soil in the garden bed.
Each summer, I looked forward to creeping among the bean vines and tomato plants, looking for the precious beginnings of a baby vegetable. The bright, unexpected blossoms of zucchini were the sign that we had coaxed a new plant to gift us with its fruits.
My grandmother taught me about how important it was to know about plants, teaching me the Latin name for each we came across. She taught me about how to take care of the earth, and how it can take care of us as well. The gardens we planted together grew beautifully as I grew in my knowledge of nature.
Starting Your Garden
I still have a love for the earth, plants and gardening today. I am always seeking new knowledge about gardening and love to pass on what I know to you. Planting a garden can welcome joy and the peace of hard work prospering into a beautiful harvest.
So you too want to start a garden, the yearning to tend the land calls you. But perhaps your green-thumb knowledge is a bit lacking. That is perfectly fine! Everyone needs a guide on their path to understanding. Just like my grandmother helped teach me about gardening, let me help you with 10 easy steps to get started.
A garden is an excellent addition to both your yard and personal life, but you don’t want to worry about killing all your plants. Follow these 10 tips and tricks to know where to start gardening to turn a gardening newbie into a seasoned expert. Plan your garden layout before you plant in the ground.
Step 1: Where Do You Live?
The first thing you need to determine is what hardiness zone you live in. This is important to keep in mind when planting both vegetable and flower gardens for factors of rainfall, temperature, and sunlight. The map is based on winter weather temperatures. Zones are divided into 10 degrees Fahrenheit averages throughout the United States. Determining what zone you live in will assure that you know when to plant certain vegetables and which will thrive best in specific locations. Find your hardiness zone here and learn where to start gardening.
Step 2: Pick Your Plants
Plants can be tricky. With so many species of plants comes a variety of different care requirements. This can make it challenging to choose which plants you want to start your garden with. Consider a few things. What do you want to eat? Think about what you and your family will want to eat from your harvest. There’s no need to grow cilantro if no one is going to touch it in a salad.
Here are some easy growing veggies. Lettuce proliferates and is easy to harvest (just pluck the leaves and wash them off, and they’re ready for a salad). Zucchinis are a great vegetable for salads, stir-fry, and bread. They also grow abundantly, so one or two plants should be enough for a small group of hungry mouths. Beans have a great variety and are easy to grow with plenty of sunlight. Carrots should be planted in deep, well-drained soil. Make sure it isn’t rocky, so they grow bigger. Tomatoes are great and popular. They will require full sun and support. I recommend using a pre-made wire tomato cage.
Step 3: Plan Your Garden
The planning process is one of the most essential parts of having a healthy garden when you’re not sure where to start gardening. Placement will determine the amount of sunlight plants receive throughout the day, as well as the water their roots absorb. Find a sunny place in your yard, plants need 6-8 hours of full sun for the best growing conditions. Make sure to research each plant’s sun requirement, which usually is listed on the container or seed packet. Each plant is different.
Most vegetables require a lot of sun, but other plants like herbs and root vegetables can grow in partial shade. Draw out your garden layout on paper to plan the spacing of individual plants. Remember to account for their growth to full maturity, leaving space in between each.
Step 4: Get Your Tools
Next thing you want to do is assess what tools you have and which you’ll need to acquire. What level of intensity will you start? This will determine whether you need heavy-duty tools or just the basics.
For starters, here are some suggestions:
- Get some good gloves. Gardening can get prickly, sticky and muddy, so some protection could do you well. Make sure they fit well with high wrist protection.
- Pruning shears will help you manage unruly plants and branches in the garden. A hand trowel will probably be the tool you will use most often. This is what you will use for digging holes, planting seedlings and removing deep-rooted weeds.
- A garden hose is very helpful when it comes to garden maintenance and care. Before you buy, make sure you get the right length suited for your yard’s spacing. Hoses with adjustable nozzles are especially great for watering plants, as you can adjust the intensity of the water stream so you don’t spray away the seedlings.
A rake can help you clean up debris piles, turn over new soil, or spread fresh fertilizer. Look for one with wide tines to catch all debris. Choose between plastic or metal depending on the sturdiness you require.
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary… How Does Your Garden Grow?
Step 5: Prep the Soil
You want to start with healthy soil, so your plants have all the nutrients they need from seedling to maturity. Mix a fresh blend of dirt into the top 6 to 8 inches of ground soil. You can also enrich your soil with homemade compost, an environmentally friendly way of managing your food waste. Also, make sure that you start with a clean slate for your garden bed. Remove any rocks, debris, and weeds from the area you intend to plant.
Start with healthy soil for a healthy garden.
Step 6: Plant Your Plants
Place the seeds about three times as deep in the ground as the size of the seed. Use a trowel or your thumb, so make a small hole in the ground. Cover the seed back with a layer of soil, patting it down with a firm hand. Don’t pack the soil too tightly though, make sure that water drains well through it to the seed. Give the freshly planted seeds a drink of water right after you plant them to start the germination process.
Step 7: Protect Your Plants
If there is any wildlife in your surrounding area, they are sure to notice your garden. Deer and rabbits take a lot of interest in freshly sprouted lettuce and tomatoes. To avoid munch marks on your garden, try these methods to deter the critters. Place a fence around your garden perimeter. For easy fences, use chicken wire or mesh and a few wooden stakes.
Use scented sprays to deter animals from entering the garden area. Predator scented sprays will trick animals into thinking that the predator is nearby, so they will stay away. You can also make a spray at home involving spicy or unappealing scents. Remember to re-apply the spray often, as rain and absorption into the soil can cause the smell to fade.
Keep them Fed! (Your Food Needs Food too)
Step 8: Set a Watering Schedule
Next, set a watering schedule. Water is so vital for your new garden. The natural moisture of the ground and rain will assist the seedlings to grow. Still, it is important to help them along with regular watering. During the growing season, your plants will need about one inch of water per week. Make a schedule for your watering routine, so the garden doesn’t get too thirsty in the sun. Before you water the garden, check the soil for moisture to avoid over-watering the plants, which can cause root rot.
Step 9: Fertilize
Make sure the soil maintains its nutrients by fertilizing. My grandmother always swears by banana peels. It is an easy form of composting, especially if you don’t want to have a whole composting container. Just leave your used banana peels on the soil near the plants, as they break down, the nutrients will absorb into the soil. If you would rather pick up something from the store, plant food is mixed specifically for different plants. These mixes contain the exact mineral mixtures needed for your garden’s health.
Step 10: Enjoy Your Yield!
Finally, you can dig in to some fresh veggies, grown as a result of your hard work. I know it must seem obvious, but remember to harvest your vegetables when they are ripe. You don’t want all your hard work to go to waste. Look for the correct color of the vegetable, often this will be listed on the seed packet. Most vegetables can be harvested when they are only half-grown, as they are at the height of their flavor and crispness. Now you know where to start gardening and can enjoy your bounty by cooking those vegetables for family and friends to enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions: Where to Start Gardening
Is gardening good for me?
Yes! Gardening improves both body and mind. It is a gentle form of exercise and helps increase endorphins, making you feel better. Growing a vegetable garden boosts your health by eating things you grew right from the ground, cutting down on additives and chemicals in your diet.
What Should I Cook With my new Vegetable Harvest?
Now that you have a harvest of beautiful, home-grown veggies, it’s time to cook! Roast them, put them in a salad, blend them into a healthy smoothie. The options are never ending. Check out some healthy cooking recipes (add amazon link to cookbooks)
Need help starting your seeds?
To make sure your seeds get the right start, look into germination starter kits. The process of germination is often a bit more difficult than planned due to differences in sunlight and watering routines. Here’s a controlled environment for your seedlings that you might find helpful.