It’s funny how your interests change as you grow older.
I remember doing everything I could to get out of helping my parents plant, weed, and harvest our garden each year. But now, decades later, I cannot wait for spring to warm the earth enough to get the seeds planted and my hands dirty for a new season of planting.
If you’ve never planted a garden before, I cannot recommend it enough. You don’t need a big space. In fact, if you’re just getting started, I suggest a few large pots on a patio or deck, as opposed to having to till up a patch of yard and fighting off rabbits, deer, and weeds.
I will share some ideas to get you up and running with as little work, and as much success as possible.
Here are 5 Essential Gardening Tips for Beginners:
Know your Growing Season.
Luckily seed packages have made this much easier for the novice gardener. As you look to purchase seeds for the year, make sure you’re checking the back of the package to confirm your growing region as well as how long it takes each particular type of seed to mature. Tomatoes and corn take longer than peas and lettuce, for example.
If you live in the northern regions you obviously have a much colder, shorter growing season and won’t be able to have the same types of plants as the warmer southern regions.
Plan your Space.
As you’re looking at the back of those seed packets, take note of the amount of space each plant will need once it shoots out of the soil. I remember years when pumpkins took over the garden strangling any hope of cucumbers and tomatoes making it out alive. Each plant grows to a different height and width. Paying attention to these space requirements will help you out in the long run. Once you have a better idea of how your space holds certain types of plants you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.
Nature can Help, and Nature can Hurt.
Maybe it should go without saying, but your plants need sunlight, water, and protection from predators. Plant your garden in a space that gives your seedlings the best chance at survival. Take into consideration the sunny and shady spots of your yard or patio.
Wind can knock over young seedlings with very little effort. So can rabbits, squirrels, snakes, and dogs. Sometimes a fence, wall, or other barrier is needed until they are strong enough to support themselves.
Water is a necessity and not always provided. Make sure you have a water source nearby so you don’t have to haul watering can after watering can to the back of an acre lot. (Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience with this one too.)
Use the Proper Tools.
Depending on the amount of earth you are turning over for your new garden, you may decide to rent or borrow a tiller. But if you already have a garden space, are building a raised bed, or are opting for the potted plant patio garden, your garden tool investment will be substantially smaller.
No matter what your garden size, you’ll want to invest in a pair or two of good gloves. Gardening is hard on your muscles and skin no matter how old you are. You’ll also want something to kneel on. Every gardening and home improvement store sells a variety of cushioned kneelers, but a few old newspapers also work just fine. And sunscreen is a must! I cannot tell you how many times the back of my neck and shoulders have been deeply reddened by the sun unexpectedly because I forgot to apply sunscreen.
A small collection of hand tools also comes in handy; a trowel, clippers, a three-claw cultivator, and a weeding knife are my go-to tools.
Choose your Mulch.
Once your seeds are in the ground, it’s not as easy as walking away and waiting for a salad to sprout. Check on your little plot every couple of days. Not only is it fun to watch the tiny changes happening in front of your eyes, but it gives you a chance to stay ahead of the weeds. And believe me, you want to stay ahead of the weeds!
There are several types of mulch you can spread around your seedlings as they start to reveal themselves. Leaves from the previous fall act as a great ground cover to keep the weeds at bay. As do grass clippings, assuming they are completely dead grass seeds. There’s nothing worse than putting grass clippings on your garden to keep the weeds down and then ending up with a garden full of grass!
Wood chips work well but are tough to clean up at the end of the year. And while there are various fabrics to lay under a layer of soil, they tend to prove difficult to clean up and often don’t compost into the soil. In the end, it comes down to personal preference and the number of weeds you are trying to fight off based on your yard.
As an added bonus, having a garden creates a great reason to compost. But that’s a topic for an article all its own!
In the end, the best advice I can give is to just dig in and try it. It might take a few years to figure out how much water to use and which varieties of seeds grow best in your region. But every year you’re guaranteed to learn something new. After all, you can learn a lot from a garden. Constant action yields high results. Patience is key. Getting dirty is sometimes the best way to accomplish things in life. And there’s no better family activity than creating something together.
I’d love to hear what you’re planting this year. Do you have any gardening tips that were not mentioned above? Drop me a note in the comments section below and share!