New to gardening? We have some simple tips that will help you succeed in your first garden adventure!
Why We Love to Garden
Gardening is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. There’s nothing like planting something into the ground, nurturing it and watching it grow. After all, you get to see all your hard work and dedication flourish right in front of your eyes! It’s even better when you’re able to harvest your plants and use them at your dinner table. Can you say, “YUM!?”
We’re sharing what we’ve learned with you today because want everyone to feel that sense of accomplishment you get when your plants do well. We hope that you find our tips both encouraging and helpful.
Our Tips for New Gardeners
1. You Win Some You Lose Some
This tip is definitely the most important for any new gardener. EVERYONE loses sometimes, no matter how good you are with your plants. Most backyard gardeners are not horticulturists and have learned our methods through trial and error. As with anything, you often learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. So, don’t be discouraged if something you put a lot of effort into growing dies.
We have encountered our fair share of failures in our vegetable and fruit garden. The key is not to allow those failures to define you as “Ye Old Killer of Innocent Plants.” You do not have the black thumb of death, as my husband would say :-). We’ve had plants wilt and die within the first week of planting them, no matter what we do to try and save them. Sometimes, it just happens and you have to try again. For example, we are still trying to figure out the secret to keeping dill and cilantro alive longer than 4 weeks. We’re finally getting there (please…can we be there already? :-D), but it took us 4-5 plants of each just to find the right spot in our yard for them.
2. Don’t Commit Too Soon
If you’re unsure about where to put a certain plant in your yard, leave it in its container for a few days (5 or so) in the spot you want to test. If it does well, then you have your answer. If it starts to look a little wilted or droopy, then move it to more sun. If it looks burnt, then move it to more shade. This is a method that we’ve tried to great success in our garden and when we re-landscaped our front yard.
This is especially helpful for more sensitive plants or locations that don’t have an ideal amount of sun. You’ll know it’s time to replant or re-pot your seedling once the root system starts to grow out of the drainage hole on the bottom of the pot. At that point, it’s time to give them more space to grow and flourish.
3. Sun, Soil, Water
This is your key to an awesome garden! Getting this right can take a little trial and error and we’ve found that the ideal combination is based on the climate where you are located. However, there are a few tried and true rules to follow that can help no matter where you’re located.
All plants need sun in order to grow, but this varies depending on the plant that you want to grow. Be sure to look at the instructions on the plant’s tag to determine the ideal sun/shade mix for it. Then do what you can to give it that ideal mix. It’s a simple task, but sometimes you have to move your plants around a little to find the best location for them. We pot most of our more sensitive plants, rather than plant them in our raised garden beds for this reason. It allows us to maneuver them around the yard to see where they do best.
Plants need good drainage and plenty of nutrients from their soil. If you buy a soil that doesn’t have mulch and/or sand in it, then you are going to run into draining issues which leads root rot. One of my favorite soils is Nature’s Care, which I normally get at Home Depot. It’s a good quality, rich, organic soil with plenty of drainage. However, if you have a Costco membership and it’s spring time, then I’d definitely recommend buying the Miracle Grow Organic soil instead. It comes in a bag 2xs the size of regular soil bags and is about the same price as regular soil from any garden center. HUGE money saver, especially if you’re filling garden beds or large pots for the first time.
This is probably the trickiest part for most gardeners because you don’t want to either over or under-do it. How often you water will also depend upon things like heat, humidity and sun exposure. The general rule of thumb is to water every other day and to give them a good drink, but not to drown them. It also helps to make sure, if your plant is in a pot, that there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Most come this way, but some don’t and it can cause moldy soil and root rot if you don’t drill holes into the bottom.
If I’m unsure whether or not a plan needs water, I usually do the poke test. It’s super scientific and rather resembles the poke test to check the done-ness of a good steak (I kid!). All I really do is press my finger into the soil about an inch deep and if moisture comes away on my fingers, I will let it go another day. If it’s dry, then I water it. Plants typically won’t die if you go a few hours longer than you should have without watering. So, don’t worry too much over it. As long as you’re watering at least every other day, you should be in good shape.
4. Prune Baby Prune
Google or Pinterest the pruning instructions for the plants that you are starting with in your garden. We used to be really bad about pruning, but then we discovered what a HUGE difference it makes. I have not met a plant that doesn’t like to be cut back a little or dead-headed. It will help keep your plants looking healthy and bushy, instead of woody and wilted. Pruning allows more sun to get to where it needs to go in plants like tomatoes and cuts away nutrient sucking limbs that don’t produce fruit. It’s definitely worth the time investment and will keep your garden looking beautiful.
5. Get Friendly with Liquid Fertilizer
Nothing makes plants grow better than poop! Kind of gross, but also true. So, grab a liquid fertilizer with chicken poop as a primary ingredient and follow the instructions on the bottle. We apply our liquid fertilizer at the recommended interval in the instructions and it seems like our plants double in size over the span of a few days. It’s amazing to watch!
We hope that you enjoyed our tips and found them helpful! If you’re curious about any more gardening tips, please check out our other posts: Growing Plants from Seed, Easiest Garden Beds EVER!, Square Foot Gardening, and Grow Your Own Pineapple Plant.