If you want to start your own garden, it might feel a bit overwhelming.
But gardening doesn’t have to be high-maintenance or difficult to do. After all, gardening should be a relaxing and therapeutic hobby.
What are the benefits of gardening?
There are tons of benefits associated with gardening, like exercise, healthy sun exposure, and getting back in tune with nature.
With that in mind, let’s look at how to start your gardening journey so that it’s fun instead of stressful. We’ll start with the best low-maintenance plants that even beginners can grow.
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Gardening 101: The Easiest Plants To Grow
To help you start out in gardening, it’s good to focus on plants that are easy to grow and maintain.
This is not just important so that you can create a beautiful garden but also so that you can boost your confidence, which will make you want to plant more things, some of which are more difficult.
The easiest plants to grow that don’t require a lot of maintenance include the following:
Pansies are pretty flowers but they’re also really hardy so they can handle a lot of different conditions. Plant them early in the spring, and make sure that they’re in direct sunlight if you live in a cold region.
This plant has climbing varieties that will give your home a beautiful burst of greenery.
Philodendron is so easy to look after because it will survive in little or lots of light, and you only have to remember to water it when the plant’s leaves start to become a bit limp. But good news: it can survive for a month with no water at all.
This is another plant that can handle most situations, but you just have to make sure that its soil remains moist. Other than that, it will grow well whether you put it in a dark area or in direct sunlight.
If you have areas in your home that receive tons of sunlight, you will be able to make a yucca plant thrive. When it comes to the water that it needs, make sure you water it sparingly.
Once you ensure you’ve put it in a deep container so that its top-heavy stems will be supported well, you don’t have to worry about it much.
If you want to bring plants with lively colors into your home, you can’t go wrong with begonia. This plant blooms in beautiful colors and patterns, and it’s really easy to look after. It only needs water occasionally and you can water it much less in the winter.
Just make sure its soil is kept moist. Begonias are really beginner-friendly because you don’t have to worry about how much light they get – most begonias will be able to handle full shade with no direct sunlight.
How To Choose What To Plant In Your Garden
One of the biggest concerns you might have when you start a gardening hobby is what you should plant and where in order to ensure the success of your plants. Follow these tips to get it right the first time around.
Choose hardy perennials for colder weather. If you live in a cool region, you should choose hardy flowers and shrubs as these will be able to handle lots of different temperatures and won’t die off when the weather gets too cold.
Here’s a tip to help you single out the hardy plants: they’re usually woody and have little colourful foliage. Examples of hardy perennials include sedum and peonies.
Grow veggies that make sense. It’s pointless to grow lots of vegetables if you won’t eat them. Preferences aside, it’s also a good idea to grow produce according to the size of your garden.
For example, if you have a smaller space, opt for smaller crops such as spinach, herbs, and lettuce, which don’t require lots of space. If you have a larger garden, you can choose to plant produce such as cucumbers, watermelons, and cabbage.
Fill areas where there’s shade. You don’t want to have bare spots in the garden, such as those shady areas where nothing seems to grow.
A good tip is to fill these with flowering plants that thrive in the shade, such as heuchera (also known as coral bells), caladium, and tiarella (foamflower).
Don’t forget about vertical gardening! You can easily make use of vertical gardening ideas to bring more color and greenery to your garden, especially if you don’t have a lot of space on the ground.
This is also a fantastic place to start as a beginner because it will motivate you to want to do more. Consider putting hanging baskets with pretty flowers on the patio, or fill shelves on the wall with potted cacti.
Get some raised beds. Raised beds are perfect for beginner gardeners because they’re easier to tend to than planting things in the ground and you can put them wherever your plants will benefit the most, such as in sunny spots if you’re planting sun-worshipping flowers.
You can make use of various containers for your beds, such as crates, boxes, and even kiddie pools that aren’t being used anymore. Don’t be afraid to think creatively!
What Tools Do You Need To Start Gardening?
Gardening definitely doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby. You can make use of many low-cost alternatives, such as when it comes to containers in which to grow plants. Instead of purchasing them, for example, you could repurpose old items to use.
That said, you will need to have some essential gardening tools that will help you complete your gardening tasks. These include:
This is an essential tool you’ll need when gardening, such as to dig up stubborn weeds. It has to be strong enough to handle such tasks so you don’t have to use your hands.
This is similar to a hand trowel, but it’s mainly used to break hard soil so that you can aerate it properly for your plants. You can also use this fork to mix in compost so that you achieve the correct blend for your plants.
This is a valuable tool that you might not think you’ll use often, but it can help you complete various gardening tasks.
These include the obvious – clearing away fallen leaves – but rakes can also help you smooth out your raised beds and even break up compacted soil. After cultivating or tilling your garden, you can use a rake to even out the ground as well as pick up debris.
When you need to prune your plants and trees, you’ll need pruning shears. Make sure you invest in ones that are sharp and can handle cutting through twigs, stems, and branches up to about three-quarters of an inch.
What should you prune, and when?
You should aim to prune different plants at different times, basically when they will benefit from being trimmed. Here are some rules to follow.
- Woody and ornamental plants, such as trees and shrubs, should be pruned in their dormant season. If they flower in spring, you should prune them when they start losing their flowers.
- Herbaceous plants, which include perennials and almost all biennials and annuals, should be pruned at the end of their growing season.
These are a must because you’ll be using your hands so much and you don’t want them to become injured.
Gloves can also help to reduce strain, such as from digging. Find a pair that’s strong but also breathable and water-resistant. Gloves with longer sleeves are also a good idea to protect your wrists and lower arms against scratches.
You’ll need a hoe when you prepare your garden and flower beds for the planting season.
They can also help you cut away weeds. When choosing the right hoe, make sure it has a comfortable handle so you won’t get aches and pains from using it. It should also have a sharp blade.
There are different hoes depending on what you’ll need them for.
Weeding hoes have a push-pull action. They basically move back and forth underneath the surface of the soil so you can cut down the top growth, while flat hoes will be useful for turning and breaking soil when you want to plant flowers and vegetables.
To water your garden, you’ll need a garden hose. Later, as you advance in your gardening hobby, you’ll probably want to consider sprinklers, especially if your garden is large.
However, to get started with the right garden hose, make sure it’s of the right length before you purchase one.
Your hose length is important because it will have an influence on the water pressure you can get with it – basically, the longer the garden hose, the less pressure it will be able to give you.
This is another gardening basic you need. Even if you’ll mainly be using your garden hose, you’ll need a watering can to water plants, especially if you want to have plants in hanging baskets or other containers.
You should choose a watering can that’s metal so that it won’t rust, and make sure you opt for a can that won’t be difficult to carry.
The handle of the watering can needs to enable you to carry a full load while also pouring it easily, and you can find two-handled designs if you need the extra support. These are also great for children who will be helping you in the garden.
Consider The Design Of Your Garden
You want your garden to look beautiful, so you have to spend some time thinking about where to place your plants. Here are some tips to consider:
- Start with eye-catching points of interest. These are things in your garden that will be the statement pieces. So, it might be a gorgeous cherry tree or a fountain. Whatever the case, focus on that and then think about how you can use it to enhance the appearance of your garden. For example, what about growing a circular bed of flowers around the fountain?
- Don’t be afraid to group plants together, especially when it comes to flowering plants so that you get lots of color. A good tip is to group potted plants in odd numbers or have tall and short plants in the same flower bed. Fill the gaps that appear in beds so that you not only have lots of color but also plants and flowers of different heights to create visual impact.
- Focus on what you want to use the garden for. Is there a seating area in one part and then rows of a vegetable garden in the next? This will help you to figure out where things should go. You can also divide up the space in interesting ways, such as with the use of cobblestones or beautiful hedges that will give extra dimensions to your garden.
The Basic Tasks You’ll Need To Do As A Beginner Gardener
Now that you have the right tools at your disposal, you need to know how to plant and care for your garden.
Make Tidying Up Your First Task
If you’re not sure where to start with your garden, taking a bit of time to clean it up will help you see it clearly. So, mow the lawn and dig up weeds.
Then, consider what you want in your garden. Do you want to have flower beds or rows of vegetables?
That will give you a clearer goal of what you want to achieve so you can move on to other gardening tasks.
Start Growing Vegetables
You don’t need to spend a lot of time in the garden in order to reap the benefits of having a veggie garden, but you do need to set up your veggie patch so that it will thrive. Here’s how.
- With a rake, smooth the surface of the soil so that it’s level and the same height all over to prevent water runoff. Make sure you remove any weeds, debris, and rocks.
- Take a stake and put it at the end of the row in which you want to plant veggies, then put another one on the opposite end. This will show you how much space you have so you can organize where you’ll plant your vegetables and the spaces you should ensure you keep between them so they have enough room to grow.
- Put a string from one stake to the other so that you will be able to plant your veggies in a straight line.
- With your hoe, create a shallow trench for the seeds that need to be planted in shallow soil. Then, create a deeper trench for seeds that want to go deeper into the ground.
- Use your hoe between the trenches you’ve made so that you can make another trench that’s approximately three or four inches deep. This is useful to catch irrigation water and it also helps that water to penetrate the soil and water the plants’ roots.
- Now you can plant your seeds. When you’re done, cover them with soil and water them thoroughly.
Growing your own vegetables is a fantastic gardening task that will enable you to enjoy healthy, cleaner vegetables your family will love. Even if you start small, perhaps with a few types of produce, you can easily work your way up to trying other, more exotic types.
How Big Should Your Veggie Garden Be?
One of the things you might wonder about when starting your own veggie garden is how big it should be. Generally, a good size for a vegetable garden when you’re starting out is 100 square feet, as Insteading reports.
However, if you have a family you want to feed with the vegetables you grow, you could do with a larger garden. For example, if you have a partner, a 200-square feet garden could be enough, while a 300- or 400- square feet garden is good for the average family.
Will Growing Your Own Vegetables Save You Money?
While you certainly can take advantage of the fact that vegetable seeds you purchase don’t cost a lot and can yield lots of produce, it’s important to realize that there are gardening costs involved.
These can include the cost to purchase plants, fertilizer, tools you’ll need (although those can last you a long time), as well as any extra items you’ll need, such as fences or covers to protect your plants from the harsh weather.
That said, the Journal of Extension (via Investopedia) has found that home vegetable gardens can produce around $677 worth of produce (fruits and vegetables), which is a lot when compared to paying $238 for all the supplies you need. That’s a real profit just waiting to be made!
When it comes to growing your own veggies instead of buying them, you can also increase the benefit of doing so by focusing on veggies you love to eat and eat often, as this means you won’t be spending money for those at the supermarket.
It’s also a good idea to try to grow produce that’s expensive to buy because that will certainly save you money.
How To Create A Flower Bed
If you have any bald patches in your garden, those are the perfect places in which to grow some annual flowers – as long as they get lots of sun. Here’s how to prep the ground or flower beds.
- Use your rake to smooth down the surface of the soil. Remove any stones or sticks.
- Carefully scatter your flower seeds on the soil surface.
- Gently rake the soil again.
- Apply some water with your watering can.
Know Your Zone!
The Plant Hardiness Zones guide is something that every gardener should know about.
This is basically a system that was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people know what plants can grow in various zones of the country, according to how cold their temperatures get.
You’ve probably seen that these zone numbers (1 – 13) are marked on seed packets or plants that you purchase from the nursery. They are a useful guide for you. They can help you to choose the right plants and vegetables to grow – and increase their chances of success.
Here’s a rundown of the 13 zones and what temperatures plants can withstand in them.
- Zone 1: This zone is really cold. Plants that are suitable for these areas of the country can handle temperatures that are below -60 degrees Fahrenheit to -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Examples include Columbine, False Spirea, and Lily of the Valley.
- Zone 2: This is also very cold. Plants will be able to withstand temperatures of between -50 and -40 degrees Fahrenheit here, and types of plants include okra, floss flower, and purple amaranth.
- Zone 3: Zone 3 plants can tolerate temperatures of -40 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants include yarrow and maple.
- Zone 4: Plants in this zone can handle temperatures of -30 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 4 plants include white fir, fragrant sand verbena, and okra.
- Zone 5: Here, plants will be able to survive temperatures of between -20 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Some examples include Japanese maple.
- Zone 6: This zone experiences temperatures of between -10 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Here you can grow plants such as glossy abelia, coral bells, and daisies.
- Zone 7: From Zone 7, the temperature gets warmer. Zone 7 plants can deal with temperatures of between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Here you can grow apples, bee balm, and black-eyed Susans well.
- Zone 8: Plants in this zone can handle temperatures of between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants that thrive in Zone 8 include berries and Mediterranean herbs such as parsley, oregano, and rosemary.
- Zone 9: These plants can handle temperatures of 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Examples include spider Lily, scarlet sage, and passion flower vine.
- Zone 10: Plants in this zone can handle temperatures of between 30 and 40 degrees. They include aloe vera, bell peppers, and Birds of Paradise.
- Zone 11: If plants are Zone-11 friendly, this means they’ll be able to handle temperatures of between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Some excellent plants to grow in Zone 11 include marigolds, jade plants, and watermelons.
- Zone 12: Here, temperatures can hit 50 to 60 degrees, and plants that will thrive in them include bush beans, papaya, aloe, and oleander.
- Zone 13: With high temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees, plants that will survive them and flourish include avocado, sacred lotus, and red mint.
How To Look After Your New Garden
Plants need a lot of essentials in order to be healthy: enough light, water (not too much or too little!), and the correct soil.
Naturally, these requirements will differ from one plant to the next, so it’s important to know what your plant’s specific requirements are otherwise it could die. For example, while the Ponytail Palm only needs to be watered once every few weeks, the canna plant craves soggy soil all the time.
That said, there are some general tips you should know about caring for your garden when it comes to natural light, water, and fertilizer.
Sunlight And Your Plants
You know that different plants have different amounts of sun that they need on a daily basis. But how much is “a lot” or “a bit.” Here’s a guide to help you ensure your plants get the UV rays they need.
- If plants are said to need full sun, this means that they will need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight every day.
- If plants need “partly sunny” conditions, this means they will do well with between three and six hours of direct sunlight every day.
- Plants that need “partly shady” conditions will thrive with three to six hours of sun daily, but ensure that they don’t get harsh midday sun as that can be too much for them.
- Plants that require full shade want less than three hours of direct sunlight every day.
What About “Dappled Sun?”
This term can sometimes be confusing, but what dappled sun means is that the plant will want to have a bit of sun but will do well when shaded by other plants or trees.
This is because the sunlight will filter through the leaves of the larger shrub or tree and then touch the plant in a gentle way. The light creates a dappled pattern on the plant, hence the term “dappled sun.” Ideally, morning sunshine is best for these plants.
What Are The Watering Rules To Know?
When it comes to watering your plants, they will have different requirements so it’s good to do your research ahead of time. But when it comes to general watering, a rule to follow that’s easy to remember is the 1-2-3 rule.
- This rule states that smaller plants (such as annuals and groundcovers) only need to be watered at a depth of one foot.
- Larger plants, such as shrubs, need to be watered at a depth of two feet.
- Finally, trees need to be watered to a depth of three feet.
You can also conduct a test to see if your plant has enough water. Take a screwdriver and push it into the ground. If you can move it easily through the soil, your plant has enough water. If you can’t, then you’re not watering your plants enough.
What To Know About Fertilizer
Fertilizer is an important ingredient that will contribute to making your plants healthy, but if you’re a beginner you might not know how much to use or when to use it on your plants.
It’s important to realize that fertilizer isn’t essential to keep your plants alive but it can boost their health, so it’s something to seriously consider using in your garden.
Now the question is: when should you apply fertilizer to your plants?
- Trees should be fertilized in February or March before they start growing in the springtime.
- On the other hand, most shrubs will be growing during spring and summer so you want to give them fertilizer around March or April in time for this growth spurt.
- As for landscape plants, wait for when they are showing signs of growth and then give them fertilizer, as Nola reports.
When you set up a new flower bed, it’s a good idea to fertilize it. This prepares the soil so that when you plant in it, the flowers and plants will get everything they need to start growing.
Before you go ahead with fertilizer, you should always do a soil test. These are available (via The Old Farmer’s Almanac) and don’t have to cost a lot of money.
A soil test will tell you if your soil has nutrients plants need to grow or if it could benefit from some, and it’s important to do because if you just go ahead and give your soil lots of nutrients it could actually cause your plants to fail instead of thrive.
Growing your own veggies can be healthier because produce you buy goes through the process of being harvested then shipped to stores, where it can remain on the shelves (or in fridges) for a long period of time during which it starts to lose nutritional value.
The first number is the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer, the second one is the amount of phosphate, and the third is the amount of potash. All three represent the main nutrients for plants: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Starting your own garden is an exciting prospect, but it can also be a bit overwhelming if you’re a complete beginner. You might fear that whatever you try to grow will fail.
But as you can see from this article, once you have the basics of gardening covered, you will be able to set yourself up for success and, best of all, you’ll be able to enjoy your time out in the sun tending to your new garden.