Many people think that skill in gardening is an inherent biological trait, but this is just a silly myth. The art and science of gardening can be learned, practiced, and developed over time. You can start a garden without years of expertise. With a little consistent effort over time, you can maintain a thriving garden. Here are some tips for starting a garden as a beginner.
Start with the Right Plants
Not all plants are created equal. Some plants will require more intensive and delicate care than others. Some plants will be more suited for your particular climate than others. You can increase your chances of gardening success by starting with the right plants.
Most beginning gardeners have great success with planting pansies and marigolds. Both these flowers are hardy, easy to grow, and thrive in the hot sun. If you’re more interested in growing an herb garden, you could try basil and mint. Mint grows especially quickly. It requires damp soil with good drainage and a moderate amount of shade. This herb is great for beginners because it is versatile and tastes great in many recipes. Hardy vegetable plants include tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, and spinach.
Understand Hardiness Zones
Hardiness zones—also known as gardening or planting zones—are geographical zones that are best suited for certain plants that thrive in that specific climate. Understanding these hardiness zones will help beginning gardeners find the best places to plant their desired plants. There several hardiness zone maps available online, and many local nurseries or home improvement stores sell plants labeled with hardiness zone suggestions based on these maps.
These hardiness zone maps are a good place to start, but it’s important to also recognize that there will always be inconsistencies and exceptions, especially in highly variable climates. You should do your best to understand and be aware of your own garden’s orientation to the sun and shade. This knowledge in conjunction with your understanding of hardiness zones will help you make the best choices for your plants.
Use Quality Soil
One of the most important elements in the success of a garden is quality soil. Your plants need the nutrients within their soil. Without quality soil, your plants will be smaller, weaker, and more likely to be misshapen or discolored. You can confirm that your soil is of good quality by first identifying your soil type, and then mixing it with the appropriate fertilizer and compost. Adding fertilizer and compost will ensure your soil has enough nutrients to keep your plants healthy.
The amount of water your plants will need will vary depending on your plants’ species, location, and size. Each plant will have a different tolerance to heat and water. When you water your plants, you should completely wet their entire root zone. A large tree will have a larger root zone than a small groundcover or flower patch. You can use the 1-2-3 rule to know how deep to water your plants. Small plants less than one foot high should be watered up to a depth of one foot. Medium size plants should be watered up to two feet, and large plants like trees can be watered up to a depth of three feet.
Plants need sunlight to fully thrive and complete the process of photosynthesis. As a beginning gardener, you might consider starting a garden journal. Observe your garden throughout the day, and take note of times when it is in full sun, partial shade/partial sun, and full shade. This information can help you know which plants to buy and where to plant them. A full sun plant needs six hours of sunlight every day. Other plants will need less sun. Your local nursery can help you find plants that would be best suited for the growing conditions of your yard.
Pests are one of the biggest dangers to gardens. There are different pests which hurt different types of plants. Aphids are among the worst (and most common) plant pests. These are tiny, pear-shaped insects. They can be green, yellow, brown, red, grey, or black. Depending on their species and life-stage, they can have wings.
Aphids feed on many vegetable plants including tomatoes, lettuce, kale and cabbage. They suck on plant juices and will deform your plants’ growth. You can remove aphids by spraying them with a sharp stream of water from a hose, squishing them by hand, or covering your plants. You could also use a variety of organic products like insecticidal soap to get rid of an aphid infestation.
Many beginning gardeners are tempted to solve their weed problems with weed spray or weed killer. While these can be effective in removing some weeds, it’s also important to know how to properly remove weeds by hand. You can weed your garden more effectively by: 1) never leaving the root of the weed, 2) weeding when your soil is dry, 3), mulching immediately after you weed, 4) pulling weeds before they go to seed, and 5) understanding the rooting problems of your most common weeds.
Try Raised Beds
Many beginning gardeners find success with raised beds or planter boxes. Starting a garden in raised beds will allow you to control your soil quality better, as well as give you more control over weeds and pests. Building or buying raised beds may present you with extra work and investment up front, but in the long run, using raised beds is a great way to set yourself up for success.
Control What You Can
Even if you plant the right plants in the correct zones with quality soil, even if you water them correctly and give them the right amount of sunlight, there will always be things you cannot control in terms of your garden. It’s important to recognize this fact and just do your best to control what you can. Keeping a garden log will help you collect the necessary information about your plants and be aware of their needs every day. Arming yourself with this knowledge will help you can adapt to inclement weather and keep your plants safe and healthy.
Keeping a garden can be incredibly therapeutic. It will make your yard look beautiful and provide you with delicious fresh food. It’s okay if your garden isn’t perfect—just do your best, and be ready to learn and improve every day.
If you need help maintaining your yard once you start your garden, contact us to get a quote!