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How to start a garden: Tips for Beginners

Mon Jul 12

If you like being outside or eating fresh fruits and vegetables, chances are that you considered starting a garden at some point or other. 

For those of you who have acted on that impulse, we’d like to offer a big round of applause. For those who are having a bit more difficulty, don’t worry. Every day is a new day… and we’re here to help.

There’s a lot of hard work and consideration that goes into planting a garden. To set you on the right track, we’ve prepared this list of tips.

Plan it out

It may seem a bit counterintuitive that a guide to gardening tells you to do further research, but there’s a reason we’re saying it.

Contrary to whatever my seven-year-old self may have thought, planting a garden isn’t as simple as tossing a few seeds into the ground and pouring some water on them. It requires some actual planning. 

And, to effectively do said planning, a bit of extra research is required. 

One good thing to find out is what veggies grow in what conditions. There is a list as long as your arm of factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning your garden. Just to name a few, some plants are more heat resistant while others require more space. By knowing what makes a particular plant thrive, you can adjust the conditions in your garden to match that or, when that’s not possible, opt to not plant that particular veggie. 

It is also a good idea to know your hardiness zone. 

The USDA plant hardiness zone map divides the U.S. into different zones based on climate. The higher the number that a zone is assigned, the warmer temperatures. This is helpful because it serves as a general guide to what climates a crop can survive in.  

You can also look up other useful information such as how to arrange your plants and the best time of year to plant them. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also has a handy guide on the requirements of specific vegetables here.

Start small

While a good many of us have doubtlessly nursed daydreams of large gardens brimming with fresh produce, it’s ok to start small. Try starting with a few easy-to-grow vegetables to help you get your feet under you. Potatoes, beans, and strawberries might be a good place to start.

Choose a good location

When you’re starting out with your garden, remember this: location, location, location!

Most vegetable plants need at least six hours of sunshine so make sure that you choose a sunny spot (also be careful that any tall plants don’t overshade the little ones). 

You’ll also want a place that drains well and isn’t too windy. 

 

Spruce up the soil

It’s more than just dirt. To get the garden you want, soil plays a huge role (bear with us, this is going to get dirty).

Distinguishing between soils is very important to know what type of soil you have. Is it sandy? Is it clay? Also, how’s the PH? Does it have the right amount of nutrients?

The ideal garden soil should have the right nutrient content, structure, PH, and texture. All of these factors are essential to ensuring that your hard work turns into hardy plants.

How? Well, for example, let’s look at some different types of soil. You want your soil to have water (source of life and all that) but not be saturated with it. Sandy soil leads to the first problem because it lets all the water run out. On the opposite end, clay soil will trap all the water in, leading to saturation.

You can find out what you need to know about your soil by testing it.

Once you know what you’re working with, you can go about fixing things. You can make improvements to your soil by adding certain materials. It’s widely recommended to add organic matter such as grass clippings, dead leaves, coffee grounds, and aged manure.

I suddenly understand why my mom had me help haul manure to her garden one summer. That was an interesting experience. If you want to do likewise, though, make sure the manure is old. And that’s not just because of the smell. 

Also, remember to clear out things like rocks, grass, and weeds from your garden and to loosen up the dirt. You can read more specifics about getting the perfect soil here.  

Boxes/containers

If space isn’t exactly something you have handy, an alternative is planting your veggies in containers. Most vegetables will actually do pretty well in them. You can find a more complete guide here.