Thinking about starting a garden but aren’t sure where to begin? This post, all about gardening for beginners, is for you — with eight simple steps to help you start your garden.
Does this sound familiar? Looking around my yard, I see weeds, overgrown plants, and a few dried-out pots I tried to grow tomatoes in last year. I think to myself…. “How am I going to grow anything here?” “What do I do first?” “How will I know what to plant?” “If I put time and money into a garden, will it be worth it?”
Read through these steps, and don’t be afraid to start a garden. You can do this!
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Gardening for Beginners: How to Start a Garden in 8 Simple Steps
Step 1: Choose the best location to start your garden
The best spot is where it is convenient for you – someplace you will see and walk by often. The back of the yard behind the shed may get the most sun, but if you don’t see your garden regularly, you might forget about it.
- Ideally, this spot gets morning sun – look for a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of sun (more is ok). You might need to provide shade in the summer in hot areas like Arizona.
- Check sun exposure using the Sun Seeker app (or similar). It allows you to see the amount of sunlight each area receives.
- There should also be a water source nearby or within a hose distance.
Gardening for Beginners Step 2: Add a raised bed
Start small – you can always add more. A “4 foot by 8 foot” raised bed is a good starting point. Aim for a depth between 12 and 18 inches. It is easy to construct, and you can grow a lot of food in this size space. It is important that you can reach into the center of the bed without stepping on the soil. Add more raised beds later as your ability and experience grow. This article shares tips for designing raised bed gardens.
I recently added this metal garden bed from Garden in Minutes to my garden. It comes complete with watering grids. This bed is an excellent choice for a first garden or to add to an existing garden.
Alternatively, use several large pots or half wine barrels for container gardening.
Step 3: Set up a watering system
An automatic watering system and a hose for watering seedlings is best. Automatic watering can be simple, such as a battery-operated timer connected to your hose bib, with either a soaker hose or drip line going to the garden. Using a two-way splitter for a second hose is helpful for hand-watering new plantings and seeds.
Gardening for Beginners Step 4: Add soil to your raised bed
One advantage of raised beds is you do not use existing soil. Once you add the perfect mix of ingredients to your raised bed, you are ready to plant. This one-time cost will probably be the most expensive part of beginning a garden.
To fill the bed, mix equal parts of:
- Compost – use several different brands or make your own.
- Peat Moss or Coconut Coir – makes soil lighter; helps with water retention.
- Vermiculite – helps retain water and allows the soil to breathe.
How much soil will you need? The volume of your raised bed or containers determines this. A 4×4 bed that is 1 foot deep will require a total of 16 cubic feet of soil. Each time you plant, add fresh compost to your soil.
This article shares more information about the best soil for raised bed gardens.
After adding the soil, amend the beds with organic fertilizer.
In the future, it’s important to have your soil tested each year. A soil test can determine the health of your soil. This is the soil test kit I use. It’s very simple to use.
Step 5: Find a planting guide written for your area and follow it
Timing is crucial in gardening. Using a planting guide takes the guesswork out of what to plant and when to plant it. Local extension offices and locally-owned nurseries are a great place to begin your search for a planting guide. If you live in the low desert of Arizona, I recommend these planting guides.
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
Gardening for Beginners Step 6: Plant what you like to eat
Read about the vegetables you would like to grow on Growinginthegarden.com, so you understand growing requirements, when to plant, and when to harvest.
- Best from seed: root crops (carrots, turnips, radishes, etc.), peas, beans, corn, squash, melons, cucumbers, Swiss chard.
- Best from seedlings: peppers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts.
- Successful either way: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, spinach.
Check new seeds and seedlings often – water as necessary to keep the soil moist. If newly planted seeds and seedlings dry out, they will die.
Wondering how to start seeds indoors? This post explains how to start seeds inside.
Step 7: Spend time in your garden each day
Take a walk around your garden each morning – preferably while the watering system is running. Take note of what is growing well (yay!), and observe problems while they are young and easily corrected. When you catch problems (pest, disease, watering issues) while they are small, they are easily managed. Find joy in the successes and learn from the failures.
This post shares exactly what to do in your garden each day.
Step 8: Harvest and eat what you grow
Pick young and pick often – this encourages more production. Use the food you grow in the garden. Try new recipes and incorporate your garden harvest into your family’s food. Soups and smoothies are a great way to use vegetables from the garden.
Questions about how to start a garden? Ask me in the comments.
Not sure if you should start a garden? Here are ten reasons why you should!