Have you always wanted your own garden? I know when I bought my first house I couldn’t wait to have a garden. Back then we didn’t have internet so researching on how to get started was a big chore. How to start a garden for beginners will give you some simple steps to take on initiating your first garden.
Whether it’s a vegetable garden or a floral garden now is the time to start planning out your ideas, buying seeds and other garden tools.
I’m writing this post based on my Northeast location so depending on where you live you would adjust your planting times. Click here for your map of the last frost in your area.
1. Decision – The first thing you need to do is decide whether you want a veggie or a floral garden?
If it’s a floral garden, are you thinking annuals (yearly planting) or perennial (plant once and done)? What kind of flowers do you like? Often times annuals are more colorful and are usually the first thing you notice at a garden nursery. Annuals are great for adding a pop of color here or there and for planters on your deck/patio.
If your thinking a vegetable/herb garden – I always say grow what you love. If you don’t love what you grow it tends to turn into a chore and that’s the last thing you want.
And if your feeling ambitious, grow both, it’s your garden you can grow what you want.
2. Space – Where will you put the garden? What kind of space do you have? Do you live in an urban area or is it more of a rural setting? Lots of yard or just a patio/deck?
I always suggest starting out small and you can always expand it later. Better to be too small and needing more space then starting out too big and realize you bit off more than you can chew.
Draw it out on paper if your ready to dig up some of your yard. Maybe you want to do raised beds, there are some great projects out there around these types of gardens depending on what you are trying to do. Often times we have an image in our head on how we want our garden to look, take note and follow your dreams. Maybe it’s a patio garden, many of us don’t have a lot of space, patio gardens are very successful.
A couple of things to remember when planning where to put your garden:
- Watering – Can you easily water the garden? Be sure you can get a hose to it.
- Sun – Gardens need lots of sun, at least 6 hours a day. Does your location have sun? You may have to do some observing on this one to be sure. There are shade options if this is the lane you must go down.
- Observation – I don’t want you to forget about your garden, can you see it every day? Is it outside a window that you can see daily or on your way to the car?
3. Education – Remember this is a learning year, yes you will make mistakes and that’s ok. You don’t have to start all your plants from seeds – buying starter plants from your local nursery is just fine.
Also, you don’t have to have your own compost pile – this too can be purchased at your local nursery.
Be prepared to have some dead plants – sometimes no matter what we do plants die, don’t take it personally and please don’t give up. This even happens to the pros, the seasoned gardeners.
Google and Youtube are your friend and you can always reach out to me with any questions you may have along the way.
I would like to suggest keeping a Garden Journal to keep track of what went well and what didn’t – what you will change next year etc. Types and Brands you did or didn’t like etc. It’s also a great way to track your plants needs, watering expectations etc. As you research you will find that some plants do better next to each other than others so tracking this type of information will be beneficial too.
4. Tools – There are some tools you will need to get started. Don’t go crazy here, the basics is all you really need.
- Seeds – Order your seeds, I use amazon but there are some great seed companies out there you can check out. You can also visit your local nursery, they will have seeds too.
- Grow Kit – Only if your going to start some of your plants by seed. This should include small planters, soil and a grow light.
- Pots/Planters – There are all kinds, shapes and sizes if you are starting a patio/deck garden or if you just want a few for added design/beauty.
- Soil – Depending if you are using pots/planters or raised beds. Also, depending on how much you will need may determine if you are just getting bags of soil or having your nursery delivery the soil by the yard.
- Compost – You can order this if you don’t have a compost pile and it’s certainly not needed. It’s also something you can add down the road.
- Gloves – A great idea to keep your hands clean and free of scrapes and scratches – these are especially helpful when weeding and yes you will need to do some weeding.
- Hoe – This is probably the most important tool you will have, trust me on this one. There are lots of varieties but this one is my favorite.
- Mulch – Your local nursery is a great spot and again if you need a large amount they can deliver it. You also need to determine the kind you want depending on your garden.
- Tiller – This isn’t a must but it certainly will help. You can do it all by hand as long as it’s not too big. You can also rent tillers if you look up your local tool rental place.
Some seeds can be started indoors and some will need to be sewed directly outside after your last frost so be sure and read the package direction.
5. Digging – When your ground is thawed you can start digging up the sod if you don’t already have an established garden.
You will want to spread 3 inches of compost (or a combination of potting soil and top soil). You can also add leaves, grass clippings or old manure – you will want to till this into your garden.
You can also have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Office. Be sure and reach out to them for their requirements and turn around times. I highly recommend this process to determine what your soil may need to have a healthy garden.
Dig only when the soil is moist enough to forma loose ball in your hand but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it.
In vegetable gardens and annual floral gardens you only turn the soil once a year in the spring before planting.
6. Plants – I wanted to give you a list of plants that have been easy to grow either by me or by the research information I have found online.
- Annual Flowers: *Marigolds (very easy from seed) *Impatients (shade loving) *Zinnias *Sunflowers (great with kids)
- Perennial Flowers: *Black Eyed Susans *Daisies *Day Lilies *Russian Sage *Lavender *Hosta (shade loving) *Alliums *Daffodils (the rabbits won’t eat them) *Tulips
- Vegetables: *Cucumbers *Zucchini *Lettuce *Tomatoes *Peppers
But you can’t just plant flowering bulbs in the spring, you may have to wait until the fall to start your perennial bulb garden. Also plant your bulbs in groups not in rows, it make a much bigger impact (plant them closer than the instructions recommend)
7. Watering Tips – Never let your seeds dry out so water daily when small and then taper off as they get bigger.
Always water slowly and deeply so the water soaks in instead of running off. To minimize evaporation, water in the early morning.
Pay attention to the weather so you can utilize the rain you get as much as possible – especially if water is at a premium.
8. Mulch – Very important in keeping weeds out and water in. Just be sure and get the appropriate kind for your plants.
Vegetable and Herbs will need a mulch with no added pesticides or other poisons and preferably one that will decompose in a few months. There are many different kinds from pine needles to bark chips. Remember if you need a lot you can have it delivered by your local nursery. Bark chips are long lasting and great for perennial gardens.
9. Fertilize – Your garden needs plenty of attention, about halfway through the garden season you will want to fertilize it with a dry fertilizer. If you would rather use a liquid fertilizer make sure you use it monthly. You can research the best fertilizers or ask your local nursery.
Plants need three main nutrients to thrive; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Research free ways to fertilize, there are definitely great ideas out there for the gardener on a budget and who isn’t on a budget these days! Ha!
Please remember Gardening is a Hobby and in order to keep it fun you have to keep up with it every day. Daily weeding, watering and observation are key. Keep a look out for bugs, caterpillars or beetles – watch your leaves and look for holes or browned leaves, these are all signs of distress and your plants may need some extra attention.
I would love to see your garden pictures, please email them to me at Beth@helpingthoughts.com – I will be sure and post them for all to see, please provide your location and anything else you want me to include with your pictures. Also do me a favor and comment below on your gardening experiences to help our newbies out.
Thanks all and Happy Gardening!!!