I was a beginner gardener and could not wait to start my first vegetable garden. As a first-time homeowner with a long-awaited dream of setting up my garden, I went on this crazy journey of tearing up my lawn.
I spent hundreds of dollars on soil, raised beds, seeds, etc only to have a garden that could have done much better ( and inexpensively at that ). Over the past year, I learned a few things that would be helpful to a beginner gardener.
Here are my ten tips for new and beginner gardeners
Find the right resources( for you) – For me, it was books. I always turn to books whenever I need to learn, relax or imagine a parallel universe.
2. DO IT, GET DIRTY
Do, don’t just research it. get your hands dirty. Now that you found the most awesome podcast or the youtube channel you love, stop binge-watching. Get up and go do it. Start small and start now.
I spent hours learning about tomatoes, different types, the pests it attracts and of course — recipes on tomato-based dishes.
Hello, Rabbithole. It was certainly fun but I ended up not doing much gardening of tomatoes! I planted late, harvested late and ended up with a looottt of green tomatoes I had to take off the vine as the weather cooled down considerably.
3. SCALE BACK
Scale back on any gardening purchases until you know what you will actually use. All tools were shiny and all seeds were glorious for me as I went into my local nursery. I invariably came home with many seed packets and tools that would make gardening easier.
However, I hadn’t used 75% of the seeds by the year-end. Remember to start small.
4. DREAM BIG BUT HAVE A PLAN
Dream big but park it in Year 2 goals – Be mindful of how much you can get done in a year. Yes, having a meadow garden with wildflowers would be ah-mazing but is that more important for you than growing those tomatoes if you have the space for only one of them to go into the ground. Dream on and put it in a paper for Year 2 goals. Maybe just maybe you will be as excited about it in Year 2 and would make garden space for it.
5. USE COMPOST AND LEAF MOLD
Build your soil. Know what is lacking in it. Get a soil test done. Please please use compost and leaf mold. They build up your soil naturally.
The yield may not be astounding the first year but have you heard of this principle – Compounding? Soon you will be swimming in harvested produce.
6. REALITY CHECK
Garden for reality, rather than how you think it should be. Forever, I had this vision of how I would be watering my plants early in the morning and enjoy communing with nature.
Cue, in reality-it never happened.
Forget early morning, some days my plants went without water and were parched. Plan for life to happen and let go of the perfect way to do things. In my case, I plan to set up an irrigation system so my plants would not hate me.
If you do not want to mess with trellis, plant other types during the first year. Not every garden has to have a trellis. Or it could be something else. You know you.
7. PLAN FOR SUCCESS
Set your environment up for success. Remember my watering struggle? I have this door that opens onto the deck which gets piled with our coats, shoes, etc. Many days, I would hate to move all that aside and get out into the garden to water my plants.
It was only when I realized how that simple thing became an obstacle. I cleared out a pathway and my plants were happy to see me. It could be different for each of us.
Maybe an organized tool rack, a place to wash your used tools, a garden cart, a kneeling pad or that cute hat. Set yourself with whatever you need to make your gardening experience fun and go be successful.
Keeping your tools organized is half the battle.
8. CHECK OUT YOUR NEIGHBORS GARDEN
See what is thriving in the garden next door, next street, or two streets over. Drive-by on a beautiful day and feel free to stop by any house with a garden that catches your eye and heart.
Go knock on their door and ask for tips (at a reasonable time). I have found people to be incredibly warm and helpful. You may be surprised to even get a cutting or a plant to get started.
9. EXPERIMENT AND LEARN
Educate yourself on the plant spacing. You can get away with more plants closely spaced together than what the seed packets say. In many cases, it is beneficial for the plants as they do not let weeds grow between them.
Experiment with companion planting. Plant flowers next to vegetables and see those beneficial insects come visit your garden. Avoid pesticides and use Organic pesticides only sparingly. I once filled my raised bed with hundreds of dollars of specially marketed raised bed soil that came with fertilizer additives and everything I grew in there was stunted.
It convinced me that organic gardening practices are best. I planted nasturtium because it was pretty and ended up having a good tomato harvest while my neighbor was surprised at not having any harvest. I firmly believe the companion planting helped in every way.
10. SHARE WITH A FRIEND
After the fifteenth photo I shared with (this time 2 beans) my near and dear ones, they got less exuberant about the harvest. I was happy to share it with someone I found in a local group. You can find groups through local nurseries, garden clubs or join a Facebook group.
My new friend is so passionate about gardening and thankfully for me, a generous soul who was so forthcoming with her advice and actual planting tips. It made some of the bleak days of “what did I think I was doing”, “I kill everything” to “Maybe I can do this” days in my garden.