Are you looking to start your first garden this season? Have you been gardening for a while, but just can’t seem to get it right? I have been there! The journey to a productive garden isn’t always an easy one. I hope to straighten your learning curve a little with these beginner gardening tips!
What Should You Do for A Productive Garden as a Beginning Gardener?
Gardening is something that I have struggled with in previous years. I have even referred to myself as having a “wilted green thumb” on several occassions. This is because I didn’t take the proper steps to prepare myself and my garden for productive seasons. I didn’t even look to experienced friends for beginner gardening tips.
There were a few different mistakes that I made as a beginning gardener. #1 I tried to grow way too many varieties in our first garden
#2 We did not research enough
#3 We didn’t test or amend our soil
#4 I forgot to water (we will blame mommy brain)
Because of those things, everything died except the okra. I am convinced that okra is impossible to kill.
Looking back on my mistakes inspired me to share some tips with people who are just starting out on their gardening journey. After carefully reviewing my gardening mishaps and researching to get the best resources for you I came up with 20 beginner gardening tips to help you get started.
20 Beginner Gardening Tips
1. Find a Mentor
This is the first thing that I should have done as a beginning gardener, but I didn’t. If you can find someone locally who is a master gardener, call him or her and ask if you can call with questions and to ask for advice when you are planning your garden.
2. Research & Plan
Gardening isn’t as black and white as you might think. There are many variables that affect the viability & quality of your plants so you need to do your research ahead of time.
3. Test & Amend the Soil
Different regions have different soil types. My soil has a lot of clay, but yours may be sandy. You may need to amend your soil to grow quality vegetables or you might need to plant in containers and raised beds. Call your county extension office for a soil test kit. They can give you the instructions that you need to complete the test in your state.
4. Pick a Reputable Seed Company
You will want to purchase your seeds from a company you can trust. Research different companies and check out the reviews before making a purchase. Make sure that their growing standards match what you want in your garden.
I highly recommend using Seeds for Generations which is a family owned heirloom seed company.
5. Decide on Pest & Weed Control
Know what method you want to use for pest and weed control before you plant your first seed. Some of your methods might not work as expected in the first year and that is okay, trial and error, you know? BUT you do need to have a quality control plan in place ahead of time so that you aren’t scrambling and researching while the insects and weeds are taking over your tomatoes.
The Homemade Homestead: Barn + Garden has recipes for homemade garden products that you can make yourself!
6. Make Your Own Compost
Making your own compost is an excellent way to save a little cash AND add nutrient rich organic matter to your garden. You will want to use adequate amounts of green and brown materials to obtain a nitrogen level that is good for your soil. Add these materials to a pallet compost bin, bucket, or pile and let the heat and worms do their job.
You can even keep a Kitchen Compost Pail under your sink or in your fridge (this slows the growth of mold) to hold your kitchen scraps and coffee grounds until you are ready to take them outside.
7. Don’t Forget to Water!
This one sounds silly, but it is the one that killed my first garden. I was busy with my kiddos and totally neglected to water my veggies and they all died except the okra (you can’t kill that stuff, y’all). If you don’t listen to any other beginner gardening tip, listen to this one.
Additional information for these first 7 Beginning Gardening Tips post can be found as a guest post on Strong Country Living.
8. Use a Ground Cover
If you use the Back to Eden gardening method, you already utilize this beginner gardening tip with the wood chips that are placed on the top of your garden.
It is a good idea with any method to use some type of ground cover around the base of your plants. You can add extra compost, wood chips, mulch, or dried leaves. Using a ground cover protects roots from excess sunlight and it helps to hold in water.
9. Choose Location Wisely
One thing that is easy for a beginning gardener to overlook is that you can’t just plant a garden anywhere. Things to consider when choosing a location:
#1 Water Runoff– You don’t want you garden to be in an area that floods easily.
#2 Sunlight– Your garden needs to be open to plenty of sunlight. If you plant in the shade, the productivity of your garden will suffer.
#3 Water Source– Be sure to have a water source close by or you will be hauling buckets of water to your garden and no on wants to do that.
10. Choose Your Gardening Method
This beginner gardening tip is essential. You really have to look into what you want from your garden and what you resources are before you can get started.
Traditional In-Ground Gardening
Plant straight in the ground without layers. This is only suggested if you have great soil to begin with.
Raised Bed Gardening
Plant in raised beds or boxes that are filled with a soil & compost mix.
Back to Eden Gardening
This method uses layering to achieve optimal soil and minimal maintenance over time.
Square Foot Gardening
This method uses a raised bed with a grid of square foot sections in which you densely plant vegetables.
Plant in containers if you don’t have the much space or good soil. You can even make your own DIY containers with household items!
Straw Bale Gardening
Straw Bale Gardening is simply planting directly into straw bales. This is a good option for an organic garden if you have poor soil.
This method can be used vertically or horizontally. Weed fabric is used on the bottom to keep weeds out, then soil is added to the inside of the pallet. Plant seeds or transplants directly in between the slats.
11. Make Sure You Have the Essentials
To make your gardening journey the most productive and enjoyable, be sure that you have all of the beginning gardener essentials that you need! You will want lightweight & durable gardening gloves, tools, and plant markers.
Check out the Gardening Supply Shop to see all of the beginning gardener essentials that I recommend.
12. Be Earth Friendly
God called us to be good stewards of the land that he has given to us. When you make use of that land, you don’t want to destroy it and exploit it in the process. You can use Biodegradable Seed Starter Pots to reduce your plastic use, plant flowers with your veggies to attract honeybees, compost, don’t overwater (use a Drip Irrigation System for a large garden), and buy soil and amendments in bulk.
13. Label your seed packs
If you save seeds from your garden or if you keep you seeds in generic packs or bags, then you need to make sure to label each pack properly. You can just write the seed type on the bag or you can use a pretty laminated label for a longer lasting package. You can find these printable labels right here!
14. Learn how to companion plant
Companion planting has the potential to make or break your garden. Some plants work well together and encourage each other to grow (like tomato and basil) while other plants may steal water and other nutrients from their neighbors. Planting a flower like marigold can help to repel certain insects from your garden as well.
15. Rotate Plants Each Season
This is a beginner gardening tip that I really wish I had known when I started.
Try not to plant the same varieties in the same spots each season. Rotating the plants will help ensure that the soil isn’t drained of the same nutrients each year.
16. Use a cattle panel for vining plants
I didn’t know this little trick until about 2 months ago. Instead of buying individual stakes, poles, and trellises for your tomatoes and other vining plants, you can use a cattle panel or a long piece of Wire Fencing. Use a couple of T Posts and some baling twine to hold the panel down the middle of the row and train your plants to climb it!
17. Find out what zone your are in
This is probably the most important of these gardening tips.
Knowing your USDA Zone will make a huge difference when you are planning your garden. Each zone has a suggested date range to plant specific varieties according to weather patterns. You can find out what USZA Gardening Zone you live in by clicking this link. There is also a USDA Zone reference sheet in the Homestead Garden Planner. *The Garden Planner is also found within the Homestead Management Binder and the Homestead Mama Planning Pack.
18. Water properly to avoid scorching
I have found that it is best to water the garden in the morning before the day gets hot. This gives the soil time to absorb the water before the sun can evaporate it.
You will also want to water at the base of the plants instead of over the top. This is because water sitting on the leaves will get hot during the day and the leaves can scorch. If you have a large garden, I suggest using a drip-irrigation system with drip-tape or PVC to reduce your work load & your water usage. This online course can walk you through making your own PVC drip system if you are unsure of how to set it up properly.
19. Grow what you like
You wouldn’t go to the grocery store and purchase foods that you and your family don’t like, so why would you plant those types of veggies in your garden? Only choose vegetables that you and your family love to eat. After you have a few gardens under your belt, you might experiment with more unique plants or growing veggies for the farmer’s market, but skip these in your first year.
20. Start Small
It is way too easy to get carried away when shopping for seeds or transplants. Try to reign yourself back in and start out with 2-3 varieties in your first couple of years. Each type of plants requires different levels of water, sunlight, and soil pH. They also attract different insects and birds so the more varieties you have, the bigger the learning curve, work load, and potential for loss.
>>More Gardening Resources<<
- The Homestead Garden Planner contains record keeping & reference sheets that will help you to maximize your garden’s productivity and efficiency.
- Garden Planning Calculator from Seeds for Generations covers the information your need for optimal yields with 46 different crop types.
- SFG Garden Planning Webinar also offered by Seeds for Generations will help you to make the most out of your garden this year.
- Garden Compost Guide– This free printable composting guide gives you an at-a-glance reference for the best items to compost for your veggie garden as well as the materials that you should avoid composting altogether.
- The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil has great information on building healthy soil, a nutrient dense vegetable guide, and recipes to use the vegetables in!
- Our Stoney Acres– Gardening expert Rick Stone offers various courses in his Online Gardening School that is sure to increase your knowledge, efficiency, & yields!
- Seed Pack Labels– These watercolor designed seed pack labels will help you to keep your seed inventory neat and organized.
- 30 Spring Garden Planning Resources & Tools
- 31 FREE Garden Seed Pack Labels
- 6 Benefits of Gardening with Kids
- 10 of the Best Frugal Gardening Tips
- Gathering & Harvest Apron Tutorial
- How to Make DIY Planting Containers
- Make Your own DIY Compost Bin with a 5 Gallon Bucket
- What You Need to Know Before Starting a Personal Seed Bank
- Garden Planting Log– You can download this FREE Garden Planting Log in the Member Resource Library to help you ones keep track of the seeds that you sow.