One of every three households now participates in gardening. However, if you have no idea where to begin, getting started gerdening can seem overwhelming. But the right information will help you learn how to garden, and you'll have a green thumb in no time.
With just a few tips, you can join the millions of gardeners that experience the benefits of growing various types of plants.
According to the National Garden Center, 36 percent of gardeners grow food and 34 percent focus on flowers. More people are waking up to the health and economic benefits of digging the soil. DIY gardening has boomed, with households spending a whopping 3.6 billion dollars on growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables alone. An additional 2.7 billion was spent on flowers, according to the Garden Research report.
How to Garden Steps
Before you ask how to garden, you must ask yourself how much time you’re willing to dedicate to this project. Different gardens have different requirements. And time is an important consideration.
How much time can you spend per week digging, watering and planting? Time will dictate what type of garden you can plant. Once you know this, it’s easier to delve into the following steps on how to garden -- especially for beginners.
Also, consider the space you have. How many plants are there room for in your garden? Will you be starting one on your patio or will you simply line a few plants along the driveway? What about a color scheme? Is there a design? Do you favor geometric patterns? Create a vision in your mind but don’t start on it all at once. Follow the steps outlined below to learn the basics of how to garden.
Choosing the Type of Garden
The first thing you’ll have to do is choose what type of garden you want to grow and why. Will this be a herb garden, a vegetable garden, a fruit garden or a flower garden? Will you eat the crop you plant? For vegetables and herbs, don’t plant crops you will not consume.
If you’re planting flowers, are you happy with annuals that need replanting every year but bloom all through summer? Or do you want perennials that bloom year after year and have a shorter bloom time? Or do you want a mix of flowers and vegetables?
If you’re planning to plant fruits, will they survive in your local area? Look at the microclimate chart. Every region is partial to certain fruits and veggies. Ask a local gardener at a nursery what plants are most suitable for your area. You may want to grow pears down in the south, but the temperatures, humidity, and soil don’t make the fruit very hardy there, and it may be a struggle to grow them.
Decide what you will do with the harvest. Yes, even before you plant. There’s only so much jam you can make. Create a list of what you can do with any food you aren't able to eat yourself. Think of a few charities or soup kitchens where you can donate your excess harvest.
Location Is Key
Now that you have a general idea of what you will plant, it's important to choose the location. Where will you plant?
Most plants require an average of five to six hours of daily sunlight. When you pick a spot, spend the day watching the sunlight track across it. How much shade does it receive? For people in warmer climes, the plants may get too hot in the sunlight all day.
Is this spot prone to animal invasion from a neighbor's dog or other fauna? This is important as new seedlings are severely affected by animals. Does this spot get high gusting winds or is it prone to frost?
Also, when following our steps on how to garden, locate your water spigot first. How far will you have to haul the water for your garden? Will a hose reach all areas? One simple rule is that you should be able to see your entire garden in one glance. The areas that remain unwatered and uncared for tend to be the ones you cannot see.
Dig and Study the Soil
The next step in learning how to garden is digging the soil. Yes, digging. When you dig the soil, you’ll know how much “work” the soil will need. Is it hard and dehydrated? For optimum results, plants need to be loose and free for the roots to take up. Rock hard soil will need to be plowed.
Also, test and study the soil. Is it acidic or alkaline? Gardeners mostly prefer neutral soil at a pH of 7. You can use a home soil test kit. If the soil is too acidic, you can add lime, which is alkaline. This process is called liming. Wood ash is another alternative.
Conversely, if you’re soil is too alkaline you can lower the pH by adding organic mulch, peat, aluminum sulfate, or elemental sulfur. Modifying soil pH takes time and may require repeated treatments.
Additionally, it’s important to find out the composition of your soil. Is it made of sand or silt, clay or rock, or maybe all of the above? A simple way to find out is the Mason Jar soil test. Clay soils hold moisture while sandy soils drain faster.
Now that you know what the soil is composed of, you have to prepare it. Most plants require fertile, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If the soil is too chunky, plow and till it to make it looser. Alternatively, you can use five layers of newspapers to smooth it out.
What organic matter will you add to make the soil nutrient rich? Compost, whether homemade or purchased is an option. Similarly, earthworm castings, aged manure, wood chips, fall leaves, and straw are also great nutritional additions to the topsoil.
During this step, you can strip the soil of weeds. Certain weeds are hard to deal with later, so it is better to root them out now. An example of this is creeping Charlie. It’s the hardest to get rid of. Oxalis and white clover are some other weeds that look pretty but can be devastating to your new plants.
Containers, Pots or Direct Planting
Once you’ve decided about the soil, the next one of our how to garden steps is to plan the beds. For direct planting, what sort of beds will you use? Raised bed, vertical beds, herb spirals, keyhole beds or a free-form design?
Try to plant blocks instead of single rows with beds about three feet wide. Minimize the walking space here so that you can use maximum space for growing. Plats get huge as they put out roots and grow, so make sure each plant has enough space.
Vertical gardens can grow more crops in less space while keyhole beds allow water and nutrients to flow down to the rest of the bed. If you don’t have garden space or a yard, fret not. You can start a garden on your patio or in self-watering containers.
Depending on where you live, you can pot too. There are a variety of pots including terracotta, wood, and sleek stainless steel. Stainless steel pots tend to retain heat, so they can’t be used in warm places unless you have the time to shift them into the shade. Wooden pots can’t be reused after a year or two as the soil causes them to disintegrate. If you’re frugal, you can even use a bucket, or a plastic grow bag.
Gardening requires some basic gardening tools. This is an essential requirement of learning how to garden. Gardening is physically taxing. With the right tools, it won’t be so cumbersome. Rakes, shovels, hoes, pruners, and gardening gloves are some basic gardening tools you will need.
Hand tools like a transplantor, trowel, and cultivator are also great. But don’t go crazy buying things you don’t need. Start with the gloves and pruners, then as your needs change, buy other tools. Soon, you’ll be able to see what your garden requires and buy accordingly.
When it comes to choosing plants, there are lots of choices based on what you eat, colors, soil type, and availability of space. Study each plant and the species you want to plant. Do the species you plan to plant require special conditions? Read the tag requirements or speak to a local gardener. If you’re following a color scheme or design, make sure you see what the final plant looks like before you plant.
This is another major decision. Do you plan to start with seeds or would you rather transplant your plants? If you’re choosing seeds, will they be GMO or non-GMO? Will they be treated, heirloom seeds, or organic? These are important questions for any serious gardener. Treated seeds could harm pollinators like bees and butterflies. Organic seeds are more expensive and require strict conditions. Not all non-GMO seeds are organic.
If you’re transplanting cuttings or grafting, make sure your pots are big enough. Small pots tend to cause the roots to choke up the plant as they get entangled. Transplanting is easier than seed planting, especially when you are first learning how to garden. All you have to do is dig a hole and drop them in the ground.
There’s a season for planting. Spring is a good time for planting. Summers are mainly for growing. During the fall you can still plant bulbs, shrubs, and perennials. Some plants like kale will tolerate the cold and can even be planted in winter. The ideal time is after the frost has melted.
Additionally, seed packets and transplant containers will also have instructions on them. If you’ve followed the above steps to learn how to garden, all you need to do is follow the basic planting instructions, and you’re good to go.
A few things to remember: Plant the seeds roughly three times as deep as the diameter of the seed. Transplant depths should be the same as that of their original location. Don’t plant seeds close to the topsoil where birds can burrow and eat them. Rows and geometric patterns use space effectively and allow each plant to have uniform light and water. Once you’ve planted, gently pack the loose soil around it.
Water, Temperature, and Sunlight
New seedlings and transplants require daily watering. Certain regions have wet soil, especially those in valleys or along slopes. However, water requirements are important for new plants. If you’re in a sunny area, then the plants may require water more than once a day.
On the other hand, over-watering can also cause roots to rot in the waterlogged soil. If it rains in your area, then you may not need to water it so much. Plants that are thirsty tend to wilt in the sunlight. To prevent water from evaporating, water in the early morning hours.
Different plant species have specific temperature requirements. If you’ve seen the micro-climate chart, you will notice different zones. Plants that are zone compatible will flourish if it's in a zone compatible region. You can’t grow strawberries down south; it's too hot there. Certain plants are suitable for tropical climates while others for temperate climates. Make sure your plants are suitable to the temperature of your zone.
If you’ve planted partial shade plants like asparagus, kale, and beans, they will require less than four hours of sunlight. For the northern hemisphere, experts suggest planting in rows from north to south. As a result, the sun will strike the entire length of the garden as it treks across the sky.
Maintain the Garden
Gardens require regular attention. Once you plant, you the work is just beginning. It’s a never-ending exercise. You have to tend to your garden. Watch the leaves for rot or blight, see if they’re doing well. You must take care of the pruning, raking, weeding, dividing, watering, and so on. The work never ends. However, it is very rewarding to watch the changes in your garden.
You will also learn what the plants require and whether you can continue planting more of the same plants or if you need to make changes. If the garden is maintained well, you can identify problems before they happen and stave off any major infestations or problems. Add fertilizer to the soil. Put mulch down to protect the topsoil cover. At the first sign of leaf damage, investigate the critters, insects, or cause of the plant illness. Play some music. There’s evidence to suggest plants respond to music.
Garden Ready Harvest
Irrespective of what you’ve planted, enjoy the fruits of your labor come harvest time. Harvesting time is different for different plants. Beans are picked every three days. Lettuce leaves can be cut, and soon a new plant will regrow. You can harvest tomatoes once they are green, or you can wait till they’re fully mature.
If it is an annual harvest, then make sure to turn the soil and replenish it with nutrients before you plant the next year's crops.
Learning how to garden isn't as hard as you might think. These tips can help you to begin your own gardening adventure. Start small and grow from there. Even if you make a mistake, you can always start again next year.
Gardening is labor intensive, but the rewards are worth it. So why not take the plunge and join the millions of Americans who already have. Happy gardening to you!