Start a vegetable garden

How to Start a Vegetable Garden

Sheet Composting to Start New Garden Beds

Plants live on light, so covering them with any material that deprives them of light will cause them to die. When you cover the ground with a thick, light-blocking layer of cardboard or newspapers, and then add a second dense layer of grass clippings, straw, wood chips or another organic mulch, whatever was growing in the site is doomed. Sheet composting is slower than cutting and moving sod, but it requires much less work, and cardboard mulch in particular may offer special benefits to soil.

The last time I moved, I used alternate layers of cardboard and clumps of pulled weeds to reclaim some garden space gone wild, and I grew a decent crop of tomatoes in holes I dug into the compost layers. In other areas, I had to commit to dedicated digging to push back weeds and nettles, and then I piled on cardboard and held it in place with bricks and more clumps of pulled weeds. In my climate, three layers easily decomposed in one season. Plus, besides blocking light, I found that the cardboard invited activity from beneficial garden critters, such as night crawlers, crickets and salamanders.

The use of cardboard mulch is permitted by National Organic Program (NOP) standards. Brown cardboard with minimal printing is preferable because it has undergone less processing and bleaching compared with white or glossy cardboard. Thick folds of newspaper are also an option, but cardboard is easier to work with and quicker to lay down, especially when it’s wet.

At Wahatoya Community Farm in southern Colorado, farmers layer cardboard with compost and straw to build organic matter in newly cultivated space. At Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Massachusetts, farmers recently evaluated the effects of beds mulched with cardboard or newspaper. The cardboard-mulched beds stayed weed-free longer and showed more positive changes in soil chemistry compared with beds mulched with hay. According to project coordinator and farmer Rachel Scherer, the cardboard system allows the farm to run without machinery and with the labor of only one full-time farmer.

To create garden beds with this method, first mow the lawn as short as possible over the entire area where you want the beds. Then, that same day, completely cover the space with cardboard and cover the cardboard with a thick layer of an organic mulch, such as straw. After the sod is dead, you can uncover bed-sized sections and start working and amending the soil.

Creating Working Garden Beds

Now it’s time for the fun part: bringing the site to life with permanent garden beds. When deciding how to size your beds, keep in mind that 3-foot-wide beds are easiest to outfit with row covers or other accessories.

At the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation’s farm in Ardmore, Oklahoma, researchers have found that beds 40 inches wide or less are easiest to equip with black plastic mulch as well as row covers and other season-extension devices. In the interest of efficiency, they settled on 40-inch-wide beds with 20-inch-wide pathways between them for both raised and in-ground beds. The 20-inch-wide pathways provide ample room for a gardener carrying a bucket or tools, but aren’t wide enough for carts or other wheeled equipment. If you plan to use a wheelbarrow or cart as you garden, perhaps you’ll want wider paths for maneuverability. When deciding on dimensions for your setup, keep in mind that all of your beds and paths need not be the same size.

You’ll need to do some digging in your new garden beds to aerate the soil and improve drainage, and I recommend starting the process by hand with a digging fork. When the soil is moist but not wet, dig through the first bed you want to make, loosening but not turning the soil, and pull out any remaining weeds and grasses by hand.

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Add Enriching Soil Amendments

After digging, spread on compost, which will bulk up the soil with organic matter and energize the thousands of life-forms that make up what’s known as the “soil food web.” If possible, you’ll want to cover your new beds 4 inches deep with compost. That may sound like a lot, but a big infusion is the best way to wake up sleepy soil and prepare it for active duty growing a garden. You can use bagged or homemade compost if you’re digging only one or two small beds. If you need more, ask around. Local organic farmers know where to buy the best locally made compost, which often comes from sustainably managed dairy or poultry farms.

At this point, you can dig in other soil amendments, too, keeping in mind that some soils in some climates have special requirements. For example, most soils in Alaska are low in available phosphorus and potassium, so bone meal and greensand are recommended amendments. In most areas, though, simply adding plenty of compost and perhaps some kelp meal (for micronutrients) should get your new garden off to a balanced start.

A soil test may be a good idea in helping you determine which amendments to add. About two weeks after you dig a new bed and amend it with compost would be a good time to take a soil test and have it analyzed through your local extension service. The numbers from this test can also give you important information about your soil’s pH, which may require a little tweaking. (See Why and How to Test Soil for more on testing your soil.)

Don’t worry if your soil still needs work. Experts say building truly rich, resilient soil often takes five to 10 years, and the process can vary depending on your climate. But even after one season of working and enriching your soil with organic matter, you’ll see a huge change for the better, and you’ll still be able to grow food in the meantime. Each year you’ll learn more about caring for your soil and crops, and your harvests will follow suit.

Quick Tips for Starting a Garden

• Use sharp tools when digging out tough weeds and grasses.
• Work your soil when it’s moist but not sopping wet. If necessary, water the spot well and then wait a bit for dry, hard soil to soften and become workable.
• Mow low before smothering vegetation with sheet composting.
• Dampen cardboard or newspapers before spreading them over the ground, and then layer on thick organic mulch.

Grow On!

After you’ve settled on your garden site, map out your beds and the crops you want to grow with our popular Vegetable Garden Planner. It will even give you planting times for your exact location!

Contributing Editor Barbara Pleasant has been growing food and sharing her gardening wisdom with others for 30 years through articles, books, workshops and lectures. She currently tends her garden beds in Floyd, Virginia.

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Vegetable Garden

By Linda Ly

Vegetable gardens are no longer just a thing for farmers and big backyards – these days, even an urbanite can grow food on a balcony or roof. In many locales, a front yard is fair game for an edible landscape.

Learning how to start a vegetable garden is probably easier than you might have imagined. In fact, with the right prep and knowhow, you can have a beautiful edible bounty that will be the envy of the neighborhood. If the thought of healthy, homegrown food has you yearning for your own vegetable bed, here’s an ultimate guide for vegetable gardening success.

Pick the Perfect Vegetable Garden Spot

Vegetable gardens thrive in a space where there’s ample sun for at least eight hours per day and a water source nearby. But if all you can spare is a spot with less light, you can still grow leafy greens, which are happy with partial shade or only six hours of sun per day.

Pick an area close to your house (ideally the kitchen), as you’re more likely to utilize a vegetable garden that you walk past every day. If your garden is relegated to a corner of the yard you can’t see easily and daily, you’re more likely to neglect it. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” definitely applies to gardens!

If you’re a beginner at growing vegetables, garden size matters! It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a vegetable garden and go big. But this often leads to an abandoned garden in August. Even seasoned gardeners can misjudge how much garden they can care for throughout an entire garden season. When it comes to garden size, start small and grow as you have time and confidence.

Don’t be afraid of starting a vegetable garden in an unusual location. Many garden vegetables can be grown in containers or raised beds. You can even tuck tomatoes in with your marigolds or grow cucumbers on your patio in interesting containers.

How to Start Your Vegetable Garden

  1. Get Down to the Soil
  2. Before you garden, you must reach the soil. If you’re planting a new garden on a grassy area, simply use a spade to cut the grass in your garden area into small squares. Use the end of the spade to lift the squares up and discard. Remove the grass from your entire garden area.

  3. Loosen It Up
  4. Grab a garden fork and get to digging. You’ll want to loosen the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. You can save your back and let a power tiller do most of the work for you. This is the perfect time to remove rocks and other debris from your vegetable garden.

  5. Amend the Soil
  6. Few people are fortunate enough to have the loamy soil – 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay – most vegetables grow best in. Native soil is often hard, compacted clay or loose, fast-draining sand. If you find yourself with less than ideal soil, it will need a little love before you can plant in it.

    Use a garden fork or tiller to work several inches of organic compost into your garden soil. Incorporating organic matter into the soil helps improve drainage and hold nutrients. Amending your garden soil at the beginning of each growing season will help improve your soil over time and replenish its needs.

  7. Choose Your Vegetables

It’s easy to decide what vegetable garden plants you want to grow. Just ask yourself: What do I like to eat? While some garden vegetables are harder to grow than others, there’s no better way to learn than by just doing. Start with a small list of your favorites. But be careful – it’s easy to plant too much and become overwhelmed. Many new gardeners have a hard time envisioning just how big that little seedling will get.

When choosing what to plant, consider the vegetable garden size you have planned. Larger plants (like tomatoes and squash) require at least two to three feet of space per plant. Small vegetables (like carrots and greens) can be planted very closely together. Vining plants (like peas and cucumbers) need a trellis to climb on, while melons and pumpkins like to sprawl out all over your garden. The number of plants you will be able to grow depends on your garden size. Pay close attention to the planting and spacing guidelines for each plant.

Visit your local garden store and choose a few packets of seeds and some flats of young plants. The easiest plants to grow from seed are:

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Pumpkins
  • Sunflowers

You can buy six packs or entire flats of young garden vegetable plants. These plants are often harder to start from seed, so it makes sense to just buy them already started. Young plants to purchase can include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Melons
  • Lettuce
  • Herbs

Follow the planting directions on the seed packet, plant tag or container. The planting directions will give you the sunlight needs, moisture requirements, when to plant, spacing between plants and other helpful information. It can be so tempting to jump right in and start planting. But if you can resist temptation and spend a little time preparing, your garden will reward you with a bountiful harvest.

Watering Your Vegetables

Underwatering and overwatering are often the causes of stunted or distressed plants when vegetable gardening. If you’re starting plants from seed or transplanting starter plants, keep the soil evenly moist until roots are established.

Gilmour’s rectangular sprinklers are ideal for covering a wide area of seeds in the beginning of your vegetable gardening journey. Because of the unique spray pattern, you can be sure that your plants are receiving the amount of irrigation they need while conserving water at the same time.

As your garden vegetables continue to grow and plants become more established, you can stretch out watering sessions to less frequent, but longer. This encourages roots to reach deeper into the soil. A soaker hose makes this easy by delivering water right where it’s needed–at the base of your established plants. No need to drag a traditional hose around your garden beds! Just lay the soaker hose beside your plants, cover with mulch and leave it in place for trouble-free, consistent watering.

Once you have mature plants, you should diligently water less frequently, but more thoroughly. An inch per week through rainfall or irrigation is the usual advice, but how do you know when enough is enough? Simple – just play in the soil. When the first 4 inches of soil feel dry, it’s time to water.

Harvest Frequently to Encourage Regular Growth

Nature designed plants to produce as many seeds as possible. If you leave a pepper on the stem too long, allowing the seeds inside to mature, the plant will think its job is done and gradually reduce (or even stop) producing more peppers. If you leave a head of kale untouched for half the season, prompting the plant to send up a flower stalk, its leaves will eventually turn too tough and bitter to be palatable.

Make it a habit to check on your garden at least twice per week, and be sure to harvest any vegetables that are ripe or ready. Doing so will encourage plants to continue producing until the end of the growing season.

Now that you know how to grow a vegetable garden, your plants will produce all season long. If you can’t keep up with the bounty, consider sharing with a friend or neighbor!

Photo: Stella de Smit (Unsplash)

When it comes to veggies, freshness is key, and what’s more fresh than growing your own? Fortunately, you don’t need a green thumb to grow a bounty of fresh vegetables right in your backyard or balcony. Whether you’re a gardening novice or just want to start a vegetable garden with the least amount of time and effort, here are the top almost-foolproof vegetables to grow.

Most of the gardening sites around the web agree on which vegetables are best for beginner gardeners. Several of the ones listed here are also ones that I, notorious plant murderer, have also managed to grow, despite my inconsistent care and not-so-sunny plot of land.

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You can’t just dump these plants in the ground and walk away hoping they’ll flourish, but, depending on your space, these are the most likely to thrive plants for your edible garden. (I highly recommend Smart Gardener for choosing the best locations for these vegetables, getting gardening reminders, and more.)

Grow a Simple Salad

Good news! Some of the least fussy vegetables are ones that are perfect for an instant salad.

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Lettuce and other salad greens

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Lettuce grows quickly, is really easy to harvest (just snip the tops off the plants or pick leaves as needed), and takes up very little space. It can even be grown in containers, perhaps accompanied by flowers or tucked under taller plants. I’ve had success directly seeding them even in partly shady areas. Here’s more information from Gardener’s Path.

Tomatoes

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Possibly the most popular vegetable for any size garden, you can grow tomatoes in hanging baskets or other containers or anywhere they’ll get lots of sun and have support for their stalks. Starter plants from a garden center at your local hardware store or a dedicated plant nursery are the easiest to grow. The Spruce has a great step-by-step tomato growing guide for beginners.

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If you plant basil next to the tomato plants, you’ll naturally repel pests and even improve the flavor of the tomatoes—and, luckily enough, like other herbs, basil is simple to grow as well.

Cucumbers

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Cucumbers like sunlight and warm temperatures, as well as support for climbing. (Thanks to their vertical growth, cukes do well in containers.) Once you give them these and water them regularly, they grow almost like weeds. You’ll probably have enough cucumbers to donate to your neighbors. The National Gardening Association says bush (rather than vine) cucumbers are best for containers or small spaces and have good disease resistance.

More easy vegetables to grow

Most root vegetables like carrots, turnips and radishes are hardy and can be planted directly in the garden early in the spring and left until fall. The tops can be harvested too as these plants grow. Green beans, pumpkins and zucchini are also a cinch to grow and quite prolific producers.

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Carrots

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Remember those projects from grade school where you grew carrot greens from their tops? Whole carrots are pretty easy to grow in the ground as well. The only thing about carrots is they might not grow very large, especially if you have rocky soil. Deep, well-drained soil is preferable—a raised bed is a good idea. Nevertheless, carrots are simple and fun to grow (your kids might even want to help). They tolerate light shade too, although, like most plants, they prefer full sun. Here’s growing advice from Cornell.

Radishes

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You can slice radishes into a salad, but they’re also much more versatile than that, as appetizers, snacks and side dishes. Even though not everyone loves them, once you see how easy they are to grow, you might add them to your garden. They take just 20 days to reach full size! Harvest to Table has some great tips for growing these little red babies, too.

Green beans

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All sorts of green beans, from snap beans (or string beans) to shell or whole beans are ideal for home gardens. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, and snapping beans to harvest them is kind of entertaining. I’ve had better luck with the vine type compared to the self-support bush types of snap peas, but the bush types require less space. Both types grow easily from seeds. Most beans prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Harvest to Table has a list of the 25 best bean varieties to grow.

Pumpkins

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Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow and are great to have around during the autumn season. As you probably know from baking and carving, there are different types of pumpkins and some are simpler to grow than others. For a complete guide, take a look at the information on Harvest to Table.

Zucchini

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Finally, there’s zucchini and other summer squashes. Serious Eats says:

Zucchini grow so prolifically that they’re the butt of many a gardener’s joke. (“The only time we lock our doors around these parts is during zucchini season.”) One or two plants should cut it for most people. The blossoms are as delicious as the squash.

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Like beans and cucumbers, zucchini plants are prolific, whether they are grown in containers or directly in mounded soil. Like beans and radishes, they grow easily from seeds. They need good moisture, though, and prefer warm soil, so it’s best to sow seeds later in the warm season (a good plant for gardening procrastinators!). Here’s more information from Cornell University.

With the seven vegetables above (or even just a few of them), you’ll have the freshest possible produce this growing season—without too much trouble. Hey, the more you garden, the more you grow.

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This story was originally published on 4/11/14 and was updated on 6/20/19 to provide more thorough and current information.

Gardening is not an exact science. Even experienced gardeners make mistakes, so novice gardeners shouldn’t be the least bit intimidated. Follow this advice to arm yourself with the basics

1. Choose the right plants for your soil

Before you buy any plants, check your soil type: is it light and sandy, or heavy and clay? Many plants thrive better in one type than the other. If you’re not sure, take a look at what plants are growing in your neighbour’s garden.

Credit: Jupiter

2. Give plants enough space

Don’t be tempted by the displays at the garden centre and buy too many plants for the size of your bed. If you place young plants too close together, not all will survive or, if they do, they will need more frequent watering and fertiliser. Crowded plants are also more susceptible to disease. Plant labels tell you how much room they need.

Credit: Jupiter

3. Be gentle with new plants

If you remove new plants from their pots by pulling their stems, you’re likely to break or bruise them. Instead, gently squeeze the pot sides and turn it upside-down, using your other hand to catch the plant as it slides out. Or place the pot on a hard surface and press the sides as you rotate it. Again, the plant should slip out when you upturn the pot.

Credit: Dougal Waters

4. Plan ahead with your design

Before you do any digging, have a think about the big picture of your garden. Place all of your bulbs and young plants on the soil surface first and move them around until you’re happy with the arrangement. Then plant them.

Credit: Dougal Waters

5. Soak your roots

The last thing you want is dry root balls. Thoroughly soak the roots of a new plant before you put it in the soil. And make sure the hole is bigger than the root ball before you attempt to put it in. A plant’s roots need to be able to spread to get the best chance of tapping moisture and absorbing the soil’s nutrients.

Credit: Elena Leonova

6. Label, label, label

For first-time gardeners, it can be easy to forget what you’ve planted and where. Take an extra minute to write a plant label (most plants you buy from a garden centre come with one) and pop it in the ground next to the seeds, bulbs or plants you’ve planted.

Credit: Richard Clark

7. Water mindfully

Plants are designed to live outside and to draw natural moisture from the earth without the need for daily artificial irrigation (unless we’re experiencing a drought). As a rough guide, poke your fingers about two inches into the soil around the plant; if it’s very dry, add some water. The exceptions are container plants which, because there are a lot of them in a finite amount of soil, will need regular watering.

Credit: Richard Clark

8. Be brutal with weeds

It’s important to learn early on that weeds are a gardener’s worst enemy. Weed regularly and make sure you remove all their roots. If there are seeds clinging to the weeds, don’t put them in the compost heap; you’ll end up re-seeding your weeds when you spread the compost.

Credit: Francesca Yorke

9. Give shrubs some breathing room

Resist the temptation to plant your shrubs near a fence or wall. They grow outwards (in all directions) as well as upwards, so plan accordingly.

Credit: David Malan

10. Have fun with it

Allow yourself to experiment and try new things. If you realise you’ve planted something in the wrong place – either because it’s the wrong height or colour, or because it’s not growing well – you can move it. Most plants and shrubs, even young trees, can be uprooted and replanted.

Credit: Philip J Brittan

Check out B&Q Gardening and Outdoor section here “

Planting tips for beginners can be a lot of help specially for beginners who loves plants and gardens. Plants have always been a part of everyone’s lives. Planting looks easy. Yet, not many people know where to begin with planting. Planting is more than just placing seeds on the soil and waiting for something to happen. People have an active role in the whole planting business. We are not passive participants.Planting is no rocket science. Yet, it must still be done with care and done right in order for the plants to grow beautifully, healthy and well. A lot of people often invest money, time and effort into planting and beautifying their gardens.

A good start for the plants often leads to healthy plants. You have to make everything right so that your plants will grow right from the very start otherwise all that you have invested will go down the drain because your plant has not grown the right way. It’s just like planting roses carelessly. You spent on the seeds and fertilizer. Yet you were not religious enough in growing it well. When it comes to blooming time, you discover that it does not bloom any flowers at all.

Here are some tips for beginners:

Make sure the soil is rich

One significant step considered on planting tips for beginners is before you even start planting, the soil should have been prepared already. Till the soil and add compost to it so that it will be rich and ready for planting. Preparing the soils should be done as early as 6 weeks before planting. So if you are planning to plant annuals that grow best under the heat of the summer, start preparing the soil as early as the last sign of frost is gone.

Prepare and loosen the soil

The soil on which you will be planting should be loose. Not as loose enough as sand but just right so that the roots will be able to grown and penetrate further than the topsoil.

In most farms, the soil is ploughed but in the garden you can loosen the topsoil by tilling it. It is also a good way to aerate the soil. It is easier to plant when the ground is not impacted. Plants will have difficulty growing when they still have to penetrate through impacted ground.

Plant in warm soil but avoid the direct heat of the sun

A lot of plants do not tolerate the cold. Even seeds are not yet ready to grow until they have dried up. Planting should be started when the environment is warm. It may be sunny out, but still the ground is cold so you should really check on the ground temperature first before planting.

Another thing considered on planting tips for beginners is to make sure that the soil is warm when you do so, however, do not plant under the scorching heat of the sun. Seedlings are very delicate and they could easily die before even beginning to take hold of the ground and grow. It is recommended to plant on a cloudy day or under a slight drizzle or during the evening.

Spray, dig and plant

Even if the soil has already been prepared for several weeks, it should be a bit damped. So spray the ground with water using a garden hose before putting in the seeds or seedlings. One important aspects of planting tips for beginners is to remember that the hole wherein you are going to plant your seedlings should be as deep as its original container so that the plant will not have a hard time adjusting in its new environment.

Mulch

As part of the planting tips for beginners, after planting, protect your plant by mulching its surrounding area with dried leaves to prevent the soil from drying up under the heat of the sun. This is very important since your seedling is still adjusting to its new environment. Some types of mulch also give nutrient to the plants.

Keep away from pests and disease

New plants are vulnerable to attacks by insects and pest. The most cost-effective of warding them off is by wiping the leaves with vinegar. It drives away insects and it makes the plant more resistant to fungi too. This is very crucial because at this point the energy of the plant must be focused on growing instead of fighting off plant diseases.

Don’t drown the plant

A lot of us are guilty of flooding our plants with too much water. This is actually the most common cause of plant mortality. Planting tips for beginners teaches you to always use sprinkler when watering your plants. Spray but do not pour. Just make the soil damp so that your plant will not drown.

Basic Gardening Tips for Beginners

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Gardening has long been a quintessential British past-time. The popularity of television programmes, such as Ground Force (for those that remember the glory of this show) and Gardener’s World, are a testament to our gardening heritage.

With the rise in popularity of talent shows and minor celebrities ballroom dancing, we started to forget our love of gardening. But there has been a surge of interest and a desire to return to our gardens again in recent years. Regardless of the size of your garden, it can be a daunting task for a gardening beginner due to the commitment and time involved. However, with a little bit of planning, patience and this basic gardening guide for dummies, you will be able to enjoy a flourishing garden of your own creation.

Choose an idea for your gardening

The first step in starting your journey to gardening godhood is choosing what type of garden you want. Will it be a beautiful sea of colourful flowers, a glorious herb garden for the budding chef, a nutritious vegetable garden, or just hanging baskets? No matter what you choose, a good gardening tip for beginners is to always start small and slowly create your garden oasis.

Hanging baskets, in this case, is the ideal way to start your gardening journey. All you need to do is:

  • Find a basket and sturdy hooks and wires. When you add all the ingredients it will start to weigh a lot, so you want to use strong materials.
  • Line the basket with a liner made from cardboard or with fresh moss.
  • Place a saucer at the bottom of the basket or container of your choosing in order to stop water drainage.
  • Chose compatible plants. If you plan to hang your basket on a sunny place, pick only sun-loving flowers to plant together.
  • Feed the soil within the basket with nutrients every week as they will be absorbed by the plant quite quickly. Consider using moisture-controlling compost containing slow release plant foods.
  • This method would last you up to six months.

Get basic gardening tools

Once you have a plan, you’ll need some basic gardening tools unless you intend on digging with your hands. Thankfully, gardening only requires a handful of tools. To get started, you will need:

  • The must-haves. An essential tool for every gardener is a pair of pruning scissors. You will use these to cut back plants and bushes, as well as maintain their health by cutting off dead flower heads and branches. Another useful tool to own, especially if you have larger plants, is a pair of lopping pruners. With their long handles and large blades, you will make short work of larger, well-established plants.
  • Tools for digging and raking. In order to start planting, you will need a series of tools for digging and preparing the soil. For this, you should have at least one spade, a trowel, and a garden fork. The spade and trowel will be used to dig the holes for your plants, whereas the garden fork is incredibly useful for breaking up large clumps of soil or for removing the roots of old plants and weeds. You will also need one or two rakes – one with metal prongs and another with softer, plastic prongs. Metal rakes are great for levelling the soil and removing stones in plant beds. Plastic rakes are better suited for basic garden maintenance, such as clearing your lawn of leaves.
  • Tools for watering. Although the UK is quite a rainy place, you will still need to water your plants. The best tools for this job are a garden hose and a watering can. Garden hoses are perfect for large tasks, such as watering trees and established plants, but the high pressure is not suitable for smaller plants and seedlings. For these more delicate plants, a watering can with a rose attachment is preferred. Your young plants will thank you for the gentle sprinkling.
  • Tools for weeding. Since you are putting so much effort into creating your garden, the last thing you want is to allow weeds to gain a foothold. To tackle the weed menace, you will need a forked trowel and a gardening knife. These two tools will allow you to uproot any invading plants with ease.

Check also:

Your Guide to Successful Container Gardening
How to Grow a Herb Garden: The Insider’s Guide

Pick the right plants

So, you’ve chosen the type of garden you’d like to grow and bought some tools. Now comes the exciting part – choosing the plants. Before you rush off to the garden centre to buy everything in sight like a complete beginner gardener, take some time to check the soil in your garden as plants can be picky about the type of soil they grow in. There are a few ways to find out what type of soil you have. You can either dig some out yourself to see if it has a sandy or clay-like texture. You could also take a peek at your neighbours’ garden to see what plants are growing well, or you can perform a soil test to find out the levels of nutrients in the soil, as well as its Ph level.

Using any of the methods mentioned will give you a good idea of what plants will thrive in your garden and inform your decision of whether or not you should improve the soil.

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Improve the soil

Plants will always benefit from nutrient-packed soil, even if a test has declared your soil to be perfect. Improving the quality of the soil is not as difficult as you may think. The best advice for beginner gardeners is to work compost into the top 8-12 inches (20-30cm) of soil with a spade or fork. The compost will be broken down over the course of a few months, so the best time to do this is either during winter or in the beginning of spring.

Another method of improving soil quality does not require any digging but it takes longer. If time is not an issue for you and you don’t like the idea of turning a lot of soil in order to mix it with the compost, this is the option for you. First, you should mark out the area of the plant-bed and cover it in five layers of newspaper. Following this, cover the area with 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) of compost and allow it to sit for at least 4 months. During this time, the newspaper will decompose and the nutrients from the compost will mingle with the soil below.

Plan, label, organise

We are almost ready to start planting! This is the final tip for novice gardeners before getting your hands dirty and it’s quite an important one to follow if you want your garden to be successful.

  • Plan. Figure out where each plant will go, paying particular attention to spacing. Plants need their own space (just like moody teenagers). If you place young plants too close together, their growth will be stunted, they will be more prone to diseases, or may simply die out.
  • Label. We all have our forgetful moments. To ensure that you always know what is planted where and to be able to tell people which plant is which, take a few minutes to make some small labels and place them alongside your plants.
  • Organise. Another great piece of garden advice for beginners is to chart the progress of your garden and keep track of where everything is planted is to start a garden scrapbook. By adding sketches, pictures, labels, and notes you can make future improvements easily as you will have a reference of how each type of plant fared in different areas of your garden.

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Taking it a couple of steps further

Plant young plants

It should go without saying that young plants are delicate and easily damaged, so here is another tip for gardening novices – you should be extra careful when removing them from their tiny plant pots. Do not be tempted to grasp them by the stem and pull them out of the pot as this will only damage the plant. Instead:

  • Turn the plant upside down.
  • Press the underside of the pot until the plant and the soil slide out.
  • Once you have freed the plant from its pot, dig a hole in your chosen plant bed deep and wide enough to hold the roots.
  • Place the plant in the hole and fill it in with the soil you removed earlier.
  • Do this for all of your plants and then water them thoroughly to encourage the roots to spread out.

Water plants correctly

The aim of watering plants is to provide them with enough water to survive but not so much that the soil becomes waterlogged. The best way to achieve this is to water your plants slowly to allow the water to reach deep into the soil. Ideally, the soil should feel moist at about 2-3 inches (5-6.5cm) beneath the surface.

Plants at different stages of development also require different amounts of water. Young plants will need to be watered daily to encourage growth and healthy roots, whereas established plants will generally only need to be watered once every 2-3 days, depending on the weather.

Gotchas and Takeaways

So, there we have it, starting a garden is not as scary as a lot of people think. Even if you are a gardening novice, you will be able to enjoy a thriving garden year after year as long as you plan ahead, choose your plants carefully, and give your soil a nutritious boost.

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Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips or advice for beginner gardeners? Let us know in the comments below or give us a shout on social media!

Looking for more gardening hacks? Take a look at this blog by Access Self Storage!

Image sources:

Icons designed by Freepik, Roundicons and Madebyoliver at Flaticon;

Header photo: / ajlatan

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