Gardening can be incredibly rewarding. Even a flower garden can provide a peaceful sanctuary away from the troubles of the world. A vegetable garden can provide you with food that costs virtually nothing, plus a closer connection to the natural world, and an herb garden will offer delectable herbs, plus beautiful plants and flowers.
Of course, if you’re new to the world of gardening, it can all be a bit mystifying at first. I’ve compiled a few important tips on gardening for beginners to help you get started on the right foot.
1) Create a Herb Garden
A herb garden is often one of the best places to start for those new to gardening. Most herbs are surprisingly easy to grow, and you don’t need much space, either. I recommend that you start small, at least at first. If you have a small, sunny patch of your yard, or just a few pots or other containers, you can easily grow herbs like rosemary, thyme, mint, dill, chives and more.
One of the most important requirements here is sunlight. Most herbs really do best with full sunlight, so choose the right spot in the yard. If using containers, make sure they’re in an area with plenty of sunlight throughout the day. A south-facing window is best.
The next most important thing is space. You’ll need at least three feet of space between plants for herbs like rosemary, marjoram and mint. For thyme and tarragon, you’ll need two feet of space between plants. Dill, parsley and cilantro only need a single foot between plants.
Make sure that your herbs have well-aerated soil with plenty of nutrients. As a note, some herbs do better in nutrient-deficient soil, so read the instructions on the seed packet before planting.
2) Create a Vegetable Garden
Growing your own veggies can be incredibly rewarding, but it can be easy to get discouraged (or to take on too much at once). Again, I recommend starting small. Choose a 10 foot x 10 foot patch of your yard that gets a good amount of sunlight during the day and is not in the way of regular foot traffic. This will give you 100 square feet of gardening area, and allow you to test the waters, so to speak. If you cannot keep up with a 10 x 10 garden plot, you will definitely not be able to handle something larger.
With vegetable gardening, soil prep is the first step. You’ll need to “double dig” the garden plot. This means turning over the first couple of feet of dirt (vertically) and then digging down and digging the next foot to two feet. Your soil also needs to be well amended with organic matter, and should contain the right nutrients for your vegetables (most soil will be fine, but you might need to add lime, calcium or other nutrients).
Choose vegetables that you’ll actually want to eat for your first time gardening. This will help keep your interest up, and keep you engaged with caring for your garden. Some of the simplest vegetables to grow are tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and yellow squash. Carrots, turnips, radishes and other root crops can also be good places to start.
3) Get a Greenhouse
A greenhouse is an ideal solution for areas where you might not want to dig into the soil, or for growing in cooler climates. One of the most important gardening tips for beginners involving greenhouses is this: don’t start too large. You can purchase (or make!) your own small greenhouse for very little money, but larger structures increase the cost dramatically.
You’ll need a flat area of the yard for the greenhouse, and you’ll need to decide if you want to grow in the ground (the least expensive option) or if you want to build or buy tables and containers for the greenhouse (the more expensive option, but the easiest on your back).
4) Start Container Gardening
In many respects, container gardening might be one of the best options when it comes to gardening for beginners or gardening with kids. It allows you to grow your own vegetables and herbs, and can be done even if you have little or no outdoor space.
The most important things when it comes to container gardening are choosing the right size pots for your plants, and ensuring that they have plenty of sunlight, particularly if you’ll be growing them indoors, rather than on your deck or patio. A south-facing window is the best location for your indoor plants, but you might also need to invest in grow lights if there isn’t sufficient natural light to support healthy growth.
If you’re starting your plants from seed, use small containers (egg cartons work wonderfully well), and then transplant them to larger containers as they grow. You’ll also need to make sure that you’re not overcrowding your plants. A bucket with a capacity of 18.9 litres can only hold one mature tomato plant (and have enough nutrients in the soil for a healthy plant).
5) Read Up on Gardening
A great way to get into gardening for beginners is to read up on the topic. While you’ll find reams of advice online, there are many great gardening books for beginners. One good place to start is with the RHS How to Garden: A Practical Introduction to Gardening. From there, you can move up to the RHS Gardening Month by Month, or perhaps the RHS Gardening Through the Year, both of which offer a great deal of information about vegetable, herb and flower gardening for the beginning, intermediate and even advanced gardener.
Gardening for beginners does not need to be mystifying and difficult. It can be as simple as tucking a seed into rich earth, watering and then watching it grow. Ultimately, it can be incredibly rewarding. So, what are you waiting for?