Beginner gardener? 10 tips to get you started
Looking for a new outdoor hobby? Try the age-old art of gardening. Not only will you get the satisfaction of watching something grow and knowing you made it happen — you can eat the fruits (or veggies) of your labors, too!
Whether you’re gardening in small spaces or plan to set aside a large space in your backyard, consider these tips for beginning gardener success.
When a green thumb turns into an itch you can’t scratch, take a step back and evaluate your capabilities. Do you always kill your houseplants? If so, start your garden with only a few plants. Overzealousness can quickly lead to failure for an inexperienced gardener.
Prepare the soil
Till and analyze your soil. Many gardening centers sell kits that test your soil’s nutrients to determine what might be missing. Consider using compost materials to give your garden a nutritional boost.
Follow planting instructions
While it may seem like a waste to spread seeds as far apart as the instructions indicate, the spacing is required for a reason. Plants need room for their roots to spread so they can grow properly.
Add plenty of sunshine
Different plants tolerate different amounts of sun. Some need to absorb any ray they can get, while others like to relax in the shade for a few hours each day. Know and plan for the different requirements for each seed you plant.
Water, water, water — but not too much
For seeds to germinate, they need water. But overwatering can lead to immature roots and drowning. Deeply water plants one to three times a week, depending on the weather. Plant roots naturally grow downward, so make sure to water enough so the wetness reaches beneath the roots.
Want to plant in a raised garden bed? This guide teaches you how to build your own.
Thin it out
Seeds usually come with instructions to plant thickly, thin later. While it’s great to plant plentifully, don’t forget that you actually need to weed out some of the sprouts later.
While planting more, in theory, means you’ll grow more fruits, vegetables or flowers, it doesn’t work that way. All those roots suck up nutrients, so having twice as many sharing the same food source often results in a bunch of half-fed, malnourished plants.
Don’t dig too deep (or shallow)
Planting too deep can exhaust a seed before it breaks through the surface to receive the sunlight it needs to continue growing. On the other hand, seeds planted too shallow can dry out or fall over because the roots can’t properly establish themselves. Planting depth varies depending on the type of seed, so consult your seed packet to find out how deep to plant.
Choke out weeds
Pull out weeds when you first notice them, before they have time to damage the plants. Weeds soak up the nutrients that plants need and they’ll stifle — if not stop — their growth.
Using mulch can help prevent weeds and keep in moisture, but be careful not to use too much. Spreading excess mulch can keep seedlings from sprouting to the soil’s surface.
Some plants take a long time to show any signs of progress. Don’t give up or get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. If you plant it, it will grow.