Gardening is something that I have struggled with in previous years. I have even referred to myself as having a “wilted green thumb” on several occassions. This is because I didn’t take the proper steps to prepare myself and my garden for productive seasons. I didn’t even look to experienced friends for beginner gardening tips.
My husband & I tried to grow way too many varieties in our first garden… we did not research enough, we didn’t amend our soil, I forgot to water (we will blame mommy brain), and everything died except the okra…I am convinced that okra is impossible to kill.
Looking back on my mistakes inspired me to share some tips with people who are just starting out on their gardening journey. After carefully reviewing my gardening mishaps & researching to get the best resources for you I came up with 15 things that beginning gardeners should do before getting started.
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15 Beginner Gardening Tips
1. Find a Mentor
This is the first thing that I should have done as a beginning gardener, but I didn’t. If you can find someone locally who is a master gardener, call him or her and ask if you can call with questions and to ask for advice when you are planning your garden.
2. Research & Plan
Gardening isn’t as black and white as you might think. There are many variables that affect the viability & quality of your plants so you need to do your research ahead of time. Find out what USDA Zone you are in, know your soil type, learn what plants grow well together, and research the pests that you will be dealing with. Invest in a quality garden planner to keep track of this year’s production.
3. Test & Amend the Soil
Different regions have different soil types. My soil has a lot of clay, but yours may be sandy. You may need to amend your soil to grow quality vegetables or you might need to plant in containers and raised beds. Call your county extension office for a soil test kit. They can give you the instructions that you need to complete the test in your state.
4. Pick a Reputable Seed Company
You will want to purchase your seeds from a company you can trust. Research different companies and check out the reviews before making a purchase. Make sure that their growing standards match what you want in your garden. I highly recommend using Seeds for Generations which is a family owned heirloom seed company.
5. Decide on Pest & Weed Control
Know what method you want to use for pest and weed control before you plant your first seed. Some of your methods might not work as expected in the first year and that is okay, trial & error, you know? BUT you do need to have a quality control plan in place ahead of time so that you aren’t scrambling and researching while the insects and weeds are taking over your tomatoes.
6. Make Your Own Compost
Making your own compost is an excellent way to save a little cash AND add nutrient rich organic matter to your garden. You will want to use adequate amounts of green and brown materials to obtain a nitrogen level that is good for your soil. Add these materials to a large compost bin, bucket, or pile and let the heat and worms do their job. You can even keep a small kitchen compost pail under your sink or in your fridge (this slows the growth of mold) to hold your kitchen scraps and coffee grounds until you are ready to take them outside. You can download my free compost guide in the Member Resource Library!
7. Don’t Forget to Water!
This one sounds silly, but it is the one that killed my first garden. I was busy with my kiddos and totally neglected to water my veggies and they all died except the okra (you can’t kill that stuff, y’all).
Additional information for these first 7 Beginning Gardener Tips post can be found as a guest post on Strong Country Living.
8. Be Earth Friendly
God called us to be good stewards of the land that he has given to us. When you make use of that land, you don’t want to destroy it and exploit it in the process. You can use Biodegradable Seed Starter Pots to reduce your plastic use, plant flowers with your veggies to attract honeybees, compost, don’t overwater (use a Drip Irrigation System for a large garden), and buy soil and amendments in bulk.
9. Label your seed packs
If you save seeds from your garden or if you keep you seeds in generic packs or bags, then you need to make sure to label each pack properly. You can just write the seed type on the bag or you can use a pretty laminated label for a longer lasting package. You can find these printable labels right here!
10. Learn how to companion plant
Companion planting has the potential to make or break your garden. Some plants work well together and encourage each other to grow (like tomato and basil) while other plants may steal water and other nutrients from their neighbors. Planting a flower like marigold can help to repel certain insects from your garden as well.
11. Use a cattle panel for vining plants
I didn’t know this little trick until about 2 months ago. Instead of buying individual stakes, poles, and trellises for your tomatoes and other vining plants, you can use a cattle panel or a long piece of Wire Fencing. Use a couple of T Posts and some baling twine to hold the panel down the middle of the row and train your plants to climb it!
12. Find out what zone your are in
Knowing your USDA Zone will make a huge difference when you are planning your garden. Each zone has a suggested date range to plant specific varieties according to weather patterns. You can find out what USZA Gardening Zone you live in by clicking this link. There is also a USDA Zone reference sheet in the Homestead Garden Planner. *The Garden Planner is also found within the Homestead Management Binder and the Homestead Mama Planning Pack.
13. Water properly to avoid scorching
I have found that it is best to water the garden in the morning before the day gets hot. This gives the soil time to absorb the water before the sun can evaporate it. You will also want to water at the base of the plants instead of over the top. This is because water sitting on the leaves will get hot during the day and the leaves can scorch. If you have a large garden, I suggest using a drip-irrigation system with drip-tape or PVC to reduce your work load & your water usage. This online course can walk you through making your own PVC drip system if you are unsure of how to set it up properly.
14. Grow what you like
You wouldn’t go to the grocery store and purchase foods that you and your family don’t like, so why would you plant those types of veggies in your garden? Only choose vegetables that you and your family love to eat. After you have a few gardens under your belt, you might experiment with more unique plants or growing veggies for the farmer’s market, but skip these in your first year.
15. Start Small
It is way too easy to get carried away when shopping for seeds or transplants. Try to reign yourself back in and start out with 2-3 varieties in your first couple of years. Each type of plants requires different levels of water, sunlight, and soil pH. They also attract different insects and birds so the more varieties you have, the bigger the learning curve, work load, and potential for loss.
Are you a seasoned gardener with beginner gardening tips or resources that you would like to see added to my list?
Are you a beginning gardener with more questions & concerns? Leave a comment or send me a message so we can chat about it!
Check out these great garden planning resources!
- The Homestead Garden Planner contains record keeping & reference sheets that will help you to maximize your garden’s productivity & efficiency.
- Garden Planning Calculator from Seeds for Generations covers the information your need for optimal yields with 46 different crop types.
- Garden Planning Webinar also offered by Seeds for Generations will help you to make the most out of your garden this year.
- Garden Compost Guide– This free printable composting guide gives you an at-a-glance reference for the best items to compost for your veggie garden as well as the materials that you should avoid composting altogether.
- The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil has great information on building healthy soil, a nutrient dense vegetable guide, and recipes to use the vegetables in!
- Our Stoney Acres– Gardening expert Rick Stone offers various courses in his Online Gardening School that is sure to increase your knowledge, efficiency, & yields!
- Seed Pack Labels– These watercolor designed seed pack labels will help you to keep your seed inventory neat & organized.
- Garden Planting Log– You can download this FREE Garden Planting Log in the Member Resource Library to help you ones keep track of the seeds that you sow!
- Homestead Management Binder– The Homestead Management Binder contains the entire Homestead Garden Planner as well as the Livestock Management Notebook, the Farm & Homestead Finance Tracker, AND the Homestead Goal & Project Planner.
- The Homestead Mama’s Planning Pack– This pack has record-keeping sheets (over 80 of them!) for you home, farm, and homeschool. It includes the entire Homestead Management Binder (that includes the Garden Planner) as well as the Household Management Notebook & The All-In-One Homeschool Planner.
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