20+ Helpful Beginner Gardening Tips & Resources

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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 occasions. 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.

okra in garden

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.

If you can’t find someone local, try finding a gardening course or mentorship online.

 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.

Find out what USDA Zone you are in, know your soil type, learn what plants grow well together, and research the pests that you will be dealing with.

Utilize garden planning resources and invest in a quality garden planner to keep track of this year’s production.

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. I also use Baker Creek Seeds for varieties that I can’t find elsewhere.

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.

Garden Pest Control

With pest control, you first need to understand that not all bugs are bad. For a healthy thriving ecosystem in your garden you want to keep some insects around. Ladybugs, wasps, and some spiders are beneficial because they kill the “bad” bugs. 

Options for ridding your garden of harmful insects includes:
  • Attract Beneficial Bugs: Attract ladybugs to reduce the aphid population, introduce parasitic wasps to take care of hornworms, etc.
  • Hand-picking: This is more labor intensive, but it’s honestly not that bad. Just check your plants once/day and pick off any hornworms, aphids, beetles, etc that you see. Place these bugs in a jar of water and/or feed them to your chickens. My kiddos LOVE picking hornworms off of the tomatoes and tossing them to our backyard flock.
  • Organic Pest Control Products: B.T,  Diatomaceous earth, Neem Oil, Pyrethrin, soap (Castile or insecticidal), sprays with insect repelling essential oils, Spinosad 
  • Companion Planting: Plan your garden layout with pest control in mind. Plant trap crops or varieties that attract beneficial insects or repel harmful ones. 
hornworm on tomato plant | beginner gardening tips

To keep other critters (like squirrels, deer, and rabbits) out of the garden I like to use a 7 ft. plastic netting (like a heavy-duty wildlife fence) around the garden. Squirrels don’t like to climb these because they are flimsy and deer can’t get through them. I also add a 2-3 foot section of chicken wire at the bottom with a skirt around it to keep animals from digging under and/or pushing through the bottom of the netting. 

Garden Weed Control

My favorite method for garden weed control is preventing them in the first place. I like to set up my garden using the Back to Eden sheet mulching method. This means that I lay down a thick layer of biodegradable weed barrier (cardboard and/or newspaper), cover that with 6 inches of compost, and then top it off with a thick layer of wood chips as mulch. This keeps weeding to a minimum and retains moisture very well so you don’t have to water as often. The few weeds that do grow in this type of garden can be pulled very easily.

back to eden garden | weed control

You can also spray a vinegar + salt mixture onto the weeds to kill them, but this will also kill your vegetables, fruits, and flowers so be careful. Obviously, you can spay weed control chemicals, but we try to avoid that at all costs over here. 

The Homemade Homestead: Barn + Garden has recipes for homemade garden products that you can make yourself!

6. Make Your Own Compost & Fertilizer

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 nature do its 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.

compost layers | beginner gardening tips
kitchen compost pail

An easy DIY garden fertilizer can be made by simply leaving banana peels in water for a few days. You can also make compost tea by soaking rabbit poo in water or apply rabbit waste directly to the garden. Chicken droppings can be used as well, but they need to compost first.

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.

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 gardening 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.

Be careful with the size of the material that you add, however. I used wood “chips” one year that were so small they were essential sawdust and it created a mat that would not allow water to penetrate to the roots. You live and you learn, right?

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 your 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 one 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 your resources are before you can get started. 

Traditional In-Ground Gardening

Plant straight in the ground without layers. You can till it up or dig a hole for each plant. This is only suggested if you have great soil to begin with. We have straight clay soils here which are not ideal. Many people use traditional gardening, but it requires heavy amending or the plants suffer. 

Raised Bed Gardening

Plant in raised beds or boxes that are filled with a soil & compost mix. This is an ergonomic option (less bending) that helps reduce weeds and allows you to control your soil content. 

Back to Eden Gardening

This method uses layering to achieve optimal soil and minimal maintenance over time. Back to Eden is my FAVORITE gardening method. As mentioned before, this method utilizes sheet mulching where you layer a biodegradable weed barrier, compost, and mulch to improve the soil, increase microbial activity, reduce weeds, and increase moisture retention. 

Square Foot Gardening

This method uses a raised bed with a grid of square foot sections in which you densely plant vegetables.

Container Gardening

Plant in containers if you don’t have much space or good soil. You can even make your own DIY containers with household items, feed bags, and buckets!

horseradish growing in buckets
potatoes growing in feed bag

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.

Pallet Gardening

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.

Tower Gardening

You can also plant vertically in a garden tower. Greenstalk has excellent garden tower options. If you need a budget tower, check out your local Dollar Tree! That’s where I got the one in this photo.

dollar tree garden tower with strawberries | beginner gardening tips

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 (or quality plastic trays that will last for years), avoid harsh chemicals, plant flowers with your veggies to attract honeybees, make your own 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 your 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!

seed pack labels | free garden resources
Garden Seed Pack Labels

Another cool idea I have recently found is to store your seeds in TicTac containers. If you do this, you can simply write the seed type with a sharpie.

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.

companion planting

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 and it can reduce harmful insects that target specific plants. 

16. Get Creative with Trellises

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! A cattle panel can be used as an arch to grow on as well.

I also use repurposed items like a baby crib spring and a random piece of lattice fencing to grow cucumbers and other vining plants on.

cattle panel trellis
crib spring trellis with cucumbers

17. Find out what zone you 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 USDA 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.

Check out these Monthly Gardening Guides based on last frost dates from Homesteaders of America.

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. Watering in the evening works as well. 

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 workload & 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? 

child with homegrown carrots

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 with 2-3 varieties in your first couple of years. Each type of plant 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, workload, and potential for loss.

>>More Beginner 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.
  • 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.
  • Seed Pack LabelsThese watercolor-designed seed pack labels will help you to keep your seed inventory neat and organized.

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  1. Hello
    Your gardening tips is very helpful and most important for beginner. I like your tips very much and like your blog. Your blog provide very helpful post. Thank you for this post.

  2. I remember spending hours and hours on researching and planning only to realize after a month or so that experimenting and doing trial and error were the best teachers. Funny how life always has a way of getting one over you.

  3. You are correct, watering plants in the morning helps it a lot to face the days’s challenges before the scorching sun show its ugly face to the plants and end up evaporating the surface water. Irrigation is the best bet but it might be expensive for beginners who are financially stable. Thanks for the info, it was helpful

  4. Hey dear, Thanks a lot for sharing such great stuff on gardening tips. I have got some fantastic tips and ideas in your post. You have just noted an essential point, “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.” Most of the gardener does not know how to choose the right soil for the garden properly. I do hope this post will be more useful for the new and old gardener.

  5. Hi,
    These are great tips! I’ve wanted to start a garden for a few years. This will definitely help me plan what and where we want it.
    Thankfully. GardenHubs

  6. Thinking about different things like weed control as early as possible makes a lot of sense. I can bet that this will be a big factor that will make things a lot easier for us if we have a plan for it in advance so we can have a safe weed-free garden. I’ll ask a garden supply expert for what they suggest in terms of preventive maintenance.

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