Gardening is one of the best pastime activities you can choose. It’s not only very rewarding, but gardening is also physically tasking, which comes in handy if you are trying to get into better shape. Fresh vegetables from your garden are also very delicious and healthy. According to the former U.S. first lady Mitchell Obama, food deserts are one of the major causes of childhood obesity. One way to deal with the impact of deserts is by creating your garden. This ensures you have a supply of fresh vegetables. Gardening can be hard for beginners but it doesn’t have to be.
If all this sounds good, but you don’t know where to start, then I’ll be telling you all you need to know to get started.
Gardening Steps for Beginners
If you are new to gardening, it might seem like a lot of work, especially if you don’t know where to start. Here are steps to follow to get your garden started.
1. Choose a location for your garden
The first thing you need to get right when you decide to start a garden is where to start your little plot. You need to choose an ideal location in your yard. Regardless of the kind of garden you want to start (raised bed, container garden, or the traditional garden), you need to pick a location with the most amount of sunlight.
Most plants, especially vegetables do best with full sun. When you are picking a location for your garden, make sure that the plants can get at least six hours of sunlight. Pay attention to your yard and monitor the sun movement so that you can get this right. There are apps you can install on your phone that can help you track the sun as well.
Another thing you ought to keep in mind when you are picking the location is to look for an area with the least amount of disruptions. Pick a spot where plants will not be destroyed by playing children, pets, or even wildlife.
Think of access too. You need to pick a location that you can access when you want to tend to the garden. If you plan to water the garden, make sure you can get water to the garden easily.
Soil drainage is also another important factor to consider, especially if you plan to have a traditional garden as opposed to raised beds. If you have no other option, it’s good to construct raised beds if the soil drainage is not so good.
2. What will you grow in the garden?
When it comes to gardening, you want to grow things you use in your household. Most people make the mistake of wanting to try out everything. The best thing to do is grow what your family uses regularly.
You also need to decide whether you want to use transplants or you want to plant your seeds from scratch. While transplants are easier to use, they are expensive. Seeds, on the other hand, are a lot cheaper. When you are shopping for seeds, however, ensure you get high-quality seeds with high germination rate.
The quantity to plant is also another thing to keep in mind when you are deciding what to plant. You don’t want to plant more of a certain vegetable than you can use, for instance. Vegetables are highly perishable, and you might end up wasting most of the produce.
Consider staggering planting. Instead of planting everything at once, plant weeks apart so that instead of having one huge harvest, you can harvest it bit by bit. This way, you have a continuous supply of fresh produce for your family.
When choosing what to grow in your garden, you might want to consider growing what is not readily available to you. If you can get some veggies at a cheap price in your local grocery store, you might want to skip those and grow what you can’t easily get.
A great place to start to decide what to grow is to read something a little more in-depth, check out our list of the best books on gardening.
3. Get the seeds started
While you can plant some seeds directly in the ground, you might need to plant others in a tray beforehand.
Another reason you might want to get your seeds started earlier is if you live in an area with a short winter. The more northern you are the shorter the time. In this case, you need to start your seeds earlier. A good rule of thumb when deciding which seeds to start indoors is anything that requires 90 days and above to mature.
If you don’t get such seeds started early enough you will not have a bountiful harvest as you should.
4. Prepare your garden
Before you plant, you have to prepare your plot of land for the plants. When it comes to this soil preparation, you have two options. You can either go with the traditional method of farming or you can also choose to prepare raised beds for your garden.
Traditional gardening involves just tilling the garden and planting the seeds. You can use anything you choose to turn the soul, and you are good to go. It’s easy to do and inexpensive. If you are just starting and you don’t have a lot of money to spend in the garden, this might be the best way to go.
Raised beds, on the other hand, are a little bit expensive and tedious to prepare and will take up a lot of time. You need to buy some wood for the beds as well. You may not have a lot of money to spend on the garden, but if you can afford it, raised beds have their advantages. They make the garden easy to tender to, and it’s also a lot easier to access the garden without having to step into it too.
You, however, need to get the right measurements for the bed. Make sure you can access every part of the bed to tender for the garden without stepping into it.
It’s also okay to mix both raised bed gardening and traditional gardening in the same plot of land.
Once you have turned the soil, it’s time to prepare the soil, some people go as far as buying some garden soil for their garden, but unless your soil is very poor quality, the soil in your garden should do with a little modification.
You crumbly texture in your garden soil, plants thrive best in loam soil which is neither too sandy nor too much of clay. Sandy soil is good at water drainage and also aerates the plant roots, but you don’t want the soil that is too sandy. Water retention is going to be almost impossible.
Clay soil, on the other hand, retains so much water, and you might end up with a waterlogged garden, which is not good for the plants either. The solution to this is adding organic matter to the soil and gypsum. It may take up some time to break up the soil, but you will achieve it with consistency.
Loam soil, on the other hand, is a great balance between the two and the best for gardening.
Generally, the more organic matter you have in your soil, the better. Plants thrive on soil that’s teaming with life. You want to have as many healthy microorganisms in your soil as possible.
Once you have prepared your soil and you have your seeds ready, it’s time to plant. Different plants have different planting requirements in terms of spacing and how deep in the ground you should bury the seeds. Look out for the instructions on the packaging of the seeds.
Generally, when you plant, make sure you don’t have the tall plants obscuring sunlight from the shorter plants.
6. Caring for the garden
After you have planted, your work is far from over. You need to constantly tender to the garden and make sure everything is going well. Weeding will need to be done as often as needed to keep the weeds from suppressing the plants.
As soon as two weeks after planting, go through the garden and pick out all the weeds. This reduces competition between plants and weeds for the nutrients in the soil. Another benefit of getting the weeds early is that you uproot them before they mature and disperse their seeds in the garden. This, with time, will significantly suppress the weeds if you are consistent, and you may not have to weed as often.
Watering your plants should be done as often as needed to keep the soil moist, especially when the plants are still very young. When the plants have been established, you may not need to water them as often. Two to three times a week will suffice. Get a sprinkler system in place. This makes watering a lot easier for you. Just remember, the hotter the weather, the more often you have to water.
This is the reward after all the hard work you have put into the garden. Plan before the harvest on how you are going to preserve the harvest if you need to. It’s disheartening having to do all that work, then lose most of the garden produce because you don’t have a preservation plan at hand.
You can freeze, can, make fruit jams, or just store the food you harvest in a cool corner of the house depending on what you harvest.
Find out beforehand the best way to preserve the produce you are anticipating from your garden. This way, you do not waste any of your produce.
With some leafy veggies, you might consider growing just enough to eat fresh off the garden because some of those are hard to preserve.
When it comes to harvesting, some produce is best harvested at certain times of the day if you want to preserve the flavor. Strawberries, for instance, are best picked in the morning when the fruit is still cool while tomatoes are most flavorful picked after the morning dew clears.
Extra Gardening Tips
How to make compost manure
When you start gardening, compost manure should be your best friend. It’s been dubbed the black gold in the farming community. This is because this stuff is very beneficial to the plants and costs nothing apart from your time. The materials you need to make compost are readily available to you.
It’s estimated that up to 40% of food produced in the US is wasted annually. This makes up to 22% of all the waste produced in the country.
This impacts the environment negatively as all these organic waste rots in landfills and produces methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas. Composting is one way to reduce this problem. So, how do you make compost manure? Here are a series of steps to guide you.
- Dig out a compost pit- usually; the size of the pit will depend on the amount of compost manure you intend to make. You can also build a wooden box or use a container. It will depend on what you have available to you.
- Get the raw materials for making the compost- generally, you will need carbon-rich material and nitrogen-rich material for the compost. Carbon-rich materials are like dry leaves, waste paper materials like egg cartons or cardboard. For the nitrogen-rich material, you will need green material like fresh grass and leaves of vegetable peelings. You will also need a little finished compost of animal manure to speed things up a little.
- Put the material in the pit and mix- dump the carbon-rich material and the nitrogen-rich material into the pit and give them a thorough mix with a farm fork. Don’t add the finished compost or manure into the mix. This helps add microbes that speed up the decomposition of the materials. This way, the finished compost acts as a catalyst for the process.
- Add some water if the pile is too dry-for the decomposition to take place; the pile needs to be moist. Add sprinkle some water and make sure the heap is thoroughly moist.
- Cover the heap with a plastic paper-you can leave the heap uncovered, as well but covering it makes the heap bake faster and also retains the moisture which is necessary for the process.
- Turn the heap occasionally-turn the pile at least once a week to keep everything going. Make sure to bring the materials in the center of the pile to the outside of the pile and the materials on the outside to the center of the pile. You might have to keep doing this for somewhere from 2 months to 3 months. How long it takes depends on the size of the heap. Remember to keep the heap wet all through.
- When the compost is ready, allow it to cool down and mix it with your garden soil to provide nutrients to your plants.
One of the most time-consuming things you will be doing when gardening is plucking out the weeds and making sure you keep up with the weeding. If you will be using animal manure, you will be getting a lot of weeds in the garden. This can be draining and exhausting, and sometimes the weeds can get out of control.
You can make this a lot easier with a proper weed control system in place. There are a lot of options available from organic herbicides to landscaping fabrics out there, but these can be tedious to maintain or expensive.
I prefer something cheaper and easy to use instead especially if you are just starting on gardening.
Mulching is one of the best methods of weed control. It has its other benefits too like water retention and soil insulation. The materials used in mulching are also organic, and this helps enrich the soil in the long run.
Depending on what is available to you, there are a few mulching materials you can utilize like wood chips, grass clippings, and shredded leaves. Applying these materials on the soil will help suppress the weeds in your garden and significantly reduce the time you use to weed the garden. The soil will also retain moisture for longer, which will mean you water the plants less frequently. How thick the mulch should be will be determined by the kind of plants in your garden.
It goes without saying that if you are starting a garden, you will need some tools to do all the handy work in the garden. If you are new to gardening, deciding what to buy if you don’t know what you need can be a bit overwhelming. Here is a list of five basic tools that you will need to do virtually everything in the garden.
- A soil turning tool- depending on your preference, get a soil turning tool you are comfortable with. Most people prefer a shovel. Apart from soil turning, a sharp shovel is very versatile in gardening as it can be used to chop pant materials for compost manure.
- A garden fork- this is also another handy tool when it comes to gardening. You can use it to turn the compost. You can also use it to loosen the soil before planting. If you don’t have a rake, you can use a garden fork to level the beds by dragging it back and forth over the beds. Digging out tubers and root vegetables will also be a lot easier with a garden fork.
- A rake- a rake is useful in leveling the beds. You can use one to turn the compost and gathering materials for making the compost as well.
- An oscillating hoe- this is another handy tool you will need to get rid of weeds in your garden. Get yourself one.
- Watering- you will need some tools for watering your plants. You can either install a sprinkler system or use a garden hose. Whatever you decide to use, make sure its convenient for you and also allows you to access the entire garden easily.
When you are starting on gardening, you don’t need a myriad of tools to start. The secret is getting the most versatile tools for your garden. This way, you can minimize the amount of money you use on the tools by getting one with multiple uses.
Frequently asked questions about gardening
Buying plants vs starting your seeds, what’s better?
Buying seeds is a lot cheaper than buying plants. This is one of the reasons why I recommend starting your seeds instead of buying plants, which costs more. When buying seeds for planting, however, buy high-quality seeds. This is the only way you get a high germination rate. You can also buy plants if you prefer.
How long will it take for the plants in my garden to mature?
Different plants take different times to fully mature. Check on the seed packaging. This way, you can plan and decide when to plant, and you also know when to anticipate the harvest.
What are the best plants to grow in my garden?
Different plants require different climatic conditions to thrive. This is why some plants will do so well in your area while others don’t. To make sure you get the most garden produce, consult a few gardeners in your area, so you know what does best in your area.
Gardening is a fun hobby once you get the hang of it. In a world where commercial farmers are obsessed with the quantity of the garden produce and running the farms at the least possible cost, a lot of harmful chemicals make their way to our plates more often nowadays.
Growing your food gives you peace of mind, and there is no better reward than witnessing the entire process from planting to the food ending up on your plate.
You don’t have to pump a lot of money into your garden to get started. I hope this guide will help make the process less mysterious as well as help you get everything you need to get started.