Gardening may not always be an easy hobby, but it can be a very rewarding and productive one. It’s also a versatile pastime; you can start small and work your way up if things go right. A gardener can select their favorite plants for their fragrance, produce, appearance, or a combination of factors. There are several benefits to gardening too, such as having fresh ingredients for your kitchen.
However, getting started with this hobby can be quite challenging. There are so many seeds, seedlings, soil types, and other things to choose. The equipment you need for gardening is a whole other matter.
If these issues sound familiar, it may help to break down the tasks of starting into manageable steps. Different approaches might work for different individuals, but aspiring gardeners can benefit from checking out the basic steps below
1. Decide what You Want to Plant
Deciding what to plant in a garden is a major decision. You may want to plant what your friend or neighbor is planting because of its usefulness or pretty appearance. Before making a final decision, though, do consider the following factors which can influence your gardening decisions:
- The type of garden: you may want to go with a vegetable garden, herb garden, or a flower garden depending on your interests and skill level. Take a look at what plants seem to be the easiest and choose combinations that go well together
- Something that will be used: if you’re growing ingredients for your kitchen, do consider the staples that your family will at least try out.
- The type of effort: perennials can save a lot of effort but don’t usually bloom for a long time. You can plant annuals that will require the complete planting effort each year, but they will bloom for most of the season.
- Considering the combination: Some plants might not work too well alongside each other, so you may have to consider keeping them separate or eliminating one altogether. If you’re growing something for the overall visual effect, consider the expected colors and textures in any garden bed.
- Consult your local garden center or any experienced gardener in your social circle; this advice should help in choosing plants that are suitable for your soil, climate, and expected sunlight.
2. Selecting the Best Spot for Planting
Whether you have a proper outdoor garden for gardening or plan on creating a window sill herb garden, placement is an important step. Here are some points to consider beforehand:
- For flowers and vegetables, you’ll need to have a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of sun daily.
- First observe your intended spot for a few days and figure out whether it receives enough sun for your desired plants.
- If your areas are mostly shady, you might have to compromise on certain plants like tomatoes. Houseplants, outdoor ferns, and hostas do fine in the shade. Ask the staff at the garden center or conduct your own research about which plants to choose depending on how much sun your yard/garden/window sill gets.
- Choose as flat a spot as possible in order to make the process easier, quicker, and more cost-effective.
3. Make Sure of a Nearby Water Source
If you’re gardening outdoors, ensure a good source of water. Here’s what to make sure of:
- You should be able to easily run your hose to the garden site.
- Lugging water buckets to and fro might quickly make you get tired of the whole thing
- Know how to check if any plants require watering. For most, the method is to push one finger into the soil, going about an inch deep. If the soil is dry until that level, you should probably water your plants.
4. Clear the Chosen Spot
Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot (or as near to perfect as possible), start clearing away the sod and weeds. Here are some tips to get you started:
- The quickest process is to cut out the sod
- Use a spade to cut the sod into manageable sections
- Put the sections on the compost pile for decomposing
- If you have a long term project in mind and have a lot of time, consider the lasagna technique; this consists of covering the chosen spot with five newspaper layers. Make it ten layers if you have St Augustine or Bermuda grass. Put a layer of compost (around 3 inches) on top and wait four months. The newspaper and sod will decompose together. If you do this during fall, you’ll have a proper garden bed without grass, weeds, or other bothersome things. Plus, the decomposing will make sure there’s plenty of rich soil.
5. Test the Soil
Planning to start gardening right away? See if you can make do with the soil already present in your garden. Consider testing your soil in the following way
- Send samples of the soil to a garden center or county cooperative extension office.
- Make sure to follow the right procedure: you will have to send a certain amount of soil from various areas of the garden at a specific time.
- There might be a two-week period to wait out before getting the results.
- The findings will tell you about your soil type and what deficiencies it contains; follow the recommended methods in order to make up any lacking areas
- A DIY soil testing kit may also do the job; it might not give a detailed result but just an estimate of the current soil nutrient levels.
- Residential soil will usually require a boost of sorts.
- Be aware of whether your soil is well-drained and not too compacted
- The solution to deficient soil is usually to add a 2 or 3 inches layer of organic compost matter on top of the bed. These could also include dry grass clippings, decayed leaves, manure, etc.
6. Prepare the Garden Beds
The garden beds or planting beds need preparing before you can start your gardening journey. Here’s what to keep in mind
- Before you sow or plat any seeds/seedlings, loosen up the soil in any new beds. This will help the roots to develop relatively easily and gain access to both water as well as essential soil nutrients
- Decide between using a mechanical device or digging the bed by hand. Hint: if the bed is small, it’s usually best to stick to the old school method of tilling by hand to avoid damage to the soil structure.
- Ensure that the soil is damp enough so that you can make a loose ball with it. However, it could still be dry enough to break apart when dropped.
- Take a spade or garden fork and turn the top 6 to 8 inches of the soil. Mix the organic matter inside.
- No one should be walking on your prepared garden beds, as this could compact the soil. After preparing, lay down some plywood so that any pressure may be distributed away from the bed.
7. Begin Planting at the Right Time
Not every plant will have the same planting time. Consider the following factors before you put in that first seed:
- If your plants can tolerate the cold, like kale or pansies, you might want to start planting in late winter or autumn
- For most flower annuals and the ever-favorite tomato, a warm temperature is best. Plant them after there’s no more danger of frost in your part of the world.
- For perennials, the best times are usually mid-autumn and mid-spring.
- Always read the seed packets or look up instructions for planting times, spacing, and the recommended depth.
- If you want to get started sooner, you may plant seeds indoors some weeks before the last frost of the winter.
- Check out your local garden center for seedlings or soil mixes especially for seed-starting.
- When growing indoors, you can use grow lights or a sunny windowsill.
Many beginner gardeners start with containers or flats to make things easier. Check out what you need to start container gardening.
8. A Proper Watering Schedule
Properly watering your plants should be a priority. Keep the following points in mind:
- Never let your seedlings dry out; most need daily watering at the very least
- Taper off the waterings as the plants mature and follow the specific instructions for that particular species
- Transplants will also require frequent and regular waterings until they establish their roots
- The frequency of watering will depend on the rainfall, humidity level, and soil type as well as the plant type
- Clay soil won’t dry out as quickly as a sandy type will, so make sure you know what soil is in your garden
9. Use Mulch for a Great Garden
Mulch is the same as the organic matter you use for preparing your garden beds. Here’s why mulching your garden is a logical step:
- It helps to keep the moisture in and prevent weeds
- With just two inches of mulch, you also won’t have to water the plants too much
- The mulch will also prevent direct sunlight from getting to the soil; this presents the germination of any weed seeds
- There are various kinds of mulches with specific benefits; you can use whatever kind is most convenient–shredded bark, river rock, straw, cocoa bean shells, etc.
- Annuals or vegetables should have mulch that will decompose in some months. Perennials should have bark chips or some other study mulch that will stay on for the long term
10. Be Careful About Regular Maintenance
You will have to keep paying attention to your garden so that it reaches its potential productivity. Here are some garden chores to do on a regular basis:
- Water the plants before they have a chance to wilt
- Pull up any weeds before they can mature and go to seed
- Clear away any diseased, damaged, dead, or dying foliage or other vegetation
- Stay alert about any destructive pests like tomato hornworms
- Use a trellis to lend support to tall plants
- Once the vegetables are ready, harvest them immediately.
Time constraints or health issues might prevent you from giving enough time to your garden. In such cases, you may have to make some investments in order to maintain the plants. For example, there’s the option of specific garden tools for gardeners with back problems.
Gardening might require you to make an almost-constant effort in order to gain decent results. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s all work and no relaxation. Once you get the hang of things, these tasks might become instinctual. After that, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fragrances, colors, and other experiences that come with having a lovely garden of your own!