Without a set of guiding principles such as our list of gardening tips, beginners may find an overload of information available on the Internet. There’s so much that it’s sure to leave one with more questions than answers.
Who to trust? How much of this and how little of that? Which soil? Rotation? Composting worms? Climate zones?
As many questions as you have, there are countless answers with varying degrees of differentiators. Some tips, however, are tried and true, and that will be the focus of this article–to give some easy beginner gardening tips to get you started. If nothing else, it will at least be a stepping point.
Beginner Gardening Tips to Remember
Tip 1: Relax
Really, just sit back and enjoy the ride. It will be bumpy and there is surely going to be as many failures as there are successes, but that’s just part of the process. Unless you are getting into this as a source of income, understand that not everything will be perfect. You will learn from your mistakes, improve year after year, and that will be just fine.
There is so much to be said for taking time to just “sit”. Find a nice chair and sit in your garden. Listen to the insects and birds who will enrich your property. Find comfort in the first shoots that emerge in April (or whichever month they first poke through in your area). Take great joy the first time you pull a carrot and chop up that orange goodness into a salad. Find happiness the first time you grab some lavender and make a natural body scrub. You did it. It’s yours and it’s healthy for you and your family.
Beginner Tip 2: Observe
From my experience as a classroom teacher of 19 years, taking time to observe my classroom was always how I got to know the students best. You will need to start doing that from day one in your garden. And if your garden isn’t yet established, all the more reason to start now! No beginner gardening tips list can be complete without “observation”.
Pay attention to:
- how the sun hits each part of your yard
- how many hours of sunlight those areas receive per day
- where rain pools and which direction the water flows
- what type of soil you have — more on that soon
- which insects and birds find their way into your yard, if at all
I kept a small journal to keep some notes when I first started my garden. I wish I could go back and be more thorough so I could remember my mistakes. Had I done that, I could have avoided some repeat mistakes that did nothing for my stress levels.
Beginner Tip 3: Soil
I’m sure a biochemist or horticulturalist would give you a full lesson but sometimes having too much information at the outset isn’t a good thing. I appreciated starting simple. I found more success in learning from my mistakes rather than trying to emulate others I saw on YouTube — more on that momentarily.
Your soil needs to be rich in life. That is, “dead” soil would be soil void of life — obviously. So rich soil on the other hand would be packed-full of nutrients, food, decomposers, and a myriad of other things that will make or break your first year’s growth. Not every plant needs crazy amounts of composted manure. Not all plants do poorly in clay. You can have success in poor drainage areas. I made the mistake of trying to create “the perfect environment”, which, I’m here to tell you, does not exist. At least it doesn’t in the sense that there isn’t one environment that is perfect for everyone.
Without going into too much detail, what you grow will dictate the soil in which you should grow it. Do your research, by all means. Endeavour to find that perfect soil for each plant if that’s important to you. If you observe something growing poorly, the soil type is one possible reason, though far from the only one.
I had great success with a 3-in-one organic mix along with monthly amendments of compost I made in my worm composting bin. Find what works for you, but that might be a good starting point for many gardens. Also, and this is a slight tangent, but when you do put in your soil, consider a sub-layer of sticks and branches at the bottom which will give nutrients as they decompose. Again, that’s not perfect in every situation, but something to consider as a base.
Beginner Tip 4: Community
I mentioned YouTube beforehand as potentially not being ideal for the beginner gardener. But it depends how you are using it. See, when I first started, I turned to YouTube. The trouble I got into was trying to emulate the personalities I followed and their magnificent vegetable gardens. But in doing so, I missed the messages I should have been listening to which I’ve tried to explain in this post.
I didn’t relax. I didn’t observe. And I surely did not contemplate why I drove myself crazy trying to have the perfect soil.
But YouTube is fantastic in other ways. I no longer see it as me trying to emulate these gardening experts, but instead I look at it as a way to be engaging with others who share my passion. I comment on their videos and follow some on Instagram. I’m happy to say that some have followed back and are using my growing techniques in their gardens.
A few who I follow pretty closely:
Beginner Tip 5: Start Small
I get it, you want a massive garden that will surely impress anyone who steps foot on your property. I wanted that too. I wanted food abundance and went to great lengths to make it happen as soon as possible. The reason that’s not ideal is that it won’t happen. I mean, it could, but at what cost? Literally, how much will you spend to have it all right away? How many hours are you willing to dedicate knowing that you will likely make a ridiculous number of mistakes?
Start small instead. If I could do it again, I’d have made one garden bed, maybe 8′ x 4′, and get that running very well before introducing something else. The amount you can grow in that little area is staggering. When you start looking into growing philosophies such as permaculture (which inspires me, personally) or square-foot gardening (which I am testing right now), you can have a plethora of plants throughout the growing season.
I hope beginner gardening tips prove helpful in some small way for you. If they have, please drop a comment and I’ll surely get back to you.
For your house and earth…