Beginner Gardening Guide and Resources

Spring is in the air and a lot of people are preparing their gardens for planting! These days there’s been an influx of people wanting to start their own gardens, for good reason. It’s nice to know that you can put work into something and the reward is getting to feed your family from your own garden. There are so many benefits to gardening besides the food you get from it. One of the best things is getting to feel more connected to nature, which for many people can be a very healing thing mentally and emotionally. It also gets you away from the loud and busy pages of social media for a while. Things are hectic right now and having a project, especially one that will have far extending benefits, is a comforting thing for some people. However, having said that, wanting to throw together a garden seemingly overnight is not the easiest thing to jump into without dipping your toes in first. Although I have grown things before, I have never been quite as intentional as I have been this year, and while I am still very new in the game, I have found a lot of great resources that have helped me tremendously along my gardening journey. I’ve also picked up some personal tips along the way that I think are incredibly important for the success of your garden space, as well as how you approach it. Hopefully some of these things can help you and bring some reassurance if you are, like me, feeling a bit doubtful of your skills thus far or just wanting to get started. 

1. Have somewhat of a plan to start with. Before you start digging into research, it’s helpful to assess your environment and have a rough plan of your goals. Do you live in a small apartment and plan on indoor, container gardening? Do you have a plot of land or a yard for an outdoor grow? You don’t have to have a detailed plan, especially if you are new to gardening, but these are some things to start thinking about.

2. Research, research, research. This is the step that will go along with your initial goals. Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors it’s really important to understand the basics of gardening and choose the right location for your garden space, as well as the kinds of materials and amendments you will need to make to maximize success. You will learn the basics of gardening, your zone, frost dates, planting calendars, how to properly grow from seed, how to correctly transplant seedlings into your garden, how much watering and care each plant will need, how to prevent pests (very important), what kinds of things grow best in your area, how to build cheap DIY garden beds, tilling VS no dig gardening and which is best for you, soil amendments, planning for harvest, container gardening, and much much more. I have linked some of the most helpful beginners resources I have found at the bottom of this post.

3. Ok, so in researching you might start to realize that there is actually quite a lot that goes into gardening. Depending on the individual, it might be really easy to pick up on these things or it might be more difficult and overwhelming. There is so much information out there on gardening, it can be a lot to take in, especially if you’re anxiously trying to learn everything in a short period of time so that you can get started. Keep in mind that while it is important to have a healthy knowledge of gardening before you start, you don’t have to obtain a PhD in botany to do it. No matter how many hesitations or worries you have, you have to get started at some point. Trust yourself that failure isn’t an option. You might mess up, you might not get the best yield, you might even kill a few plants along the way, but at the end of the day that is the best thing you could do– learn! You have to try so that you can gain experience in order to keep improving! This is something I try to remind myself of when I’m feeling doubtful or overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. From the few things I have grown, I have learned so much valuable information and this information seeps into other areas of gardening and in life as well. Gardening is a science in a lot of ways, but it’s also important to make sure you are able to enjoy yourself in the process. There is so much joy that goes along with watching something grow, the process and the learning is all worth it.

4. Now you’ve done a decent amount of research, you are feeling more confident and ready to get things going. This is the time you’re probably wanting to get your materials: seeds, pots, soil, wood for garden beds (if that’s something you’re doing), or plants from your local nurseries to transplant into your garden. This is where I’d urge you to reach out to your local nurseries for help. I was nervous to call around because I had such little experience, but even in this extremely busy time for them, every person I spoke with was so kind and helpful. They answered all of my questions and guided me in choosing the right materials and plants for the needs of my garden and for my experience level. Also, the few places I bought from all had pickup options, so make sure you ask about that when you call. This is a really great way to support local business and also they will have knowledge specific to your local area. If you are going the seed route, I would check to see what your local nurseries have first, but if there are some things you can’t find, I’ve linked all the places I ordered from plus a couple popular options I found at the end of this post, but I recommend doing your own research as well, as there are many great online seed buying options. 

5. I’ve been dreaming of starting a garden for years now, and when I made the choice to do it this year I got so excited that I started planning things out in my head and ended up coming up with over a dozen different things I wanted to grow. I planned out a huge fairy garden space I’d always dreamt of and bought more than enough seeds to do it. However, the more I thought about it and the more I read, I decided starting small is really the best option long term. I would rather start with a few plants and be able to really learn and pay attention to them as they grow than to start big and not be able to keep up with it all. I was also thinking of planting things that I don’t actually eat much, so that is another tip: Only plant things you normally eat anyway. Start small and practical, knowing you can always build on and plant more later. Starting small is still something I’m trying to wrap my head around, but I know it is the best thing to do to have more of a chance to learn from each plant as I go and planting “easy” to grow plants that are more resilient to my mistakes and have a greater chance of success.

Quick mention: If you’re wanting to save money, just know that gardening doesn’t have to be a huge expense. There are a lot of ways to save money and I read some great tips along the way that will all be linked below. I’ve heard people mention that they got free or nearly free mulch from local lumber companies or making from making their own, as well as getting compost from local farms (trust me, they have plenty of it), finding cheap wood for garden beds by buying scraps (just make sure it’s untreated and/or garden safe), how to save money on soil, how to save on seeds or find your own, etc.

SEEDS:

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds 

High Mowing Organic Seeds 

Seeds of Change 

Clear Creek Seeds

Territorial Seed Company 

MIgardener 

Adaptive Seeds

Renee’s Garden Seeds

VIDEOS/POSTS THAT HELPED ME:

First time gardener guide

No dig gardening #1

No dig gardening #2

The video I used to build my garden beds

Another video I used to DIY my garden beds

Cool kiddie pool raised garden bed

Ways to save money

Choosing a location for garden beds

Planting calendar

Planting zones

BEGINNERS GARDENING RESOURCES:

MIgardener- blog 

MIgardener- youtube 

Charles Dowding- website 

Charles Dowding- youtube 

Old Farmers Almanac 

Roots and Refuge Farm- youtube 

The Spruce- blog

If you are a visual person, this is a really cool online garden planner (use the free 7 day trial)

I’m a long ways off from being a master gardener and I still have a lot of learning and growing to do (literally), but all of these tips and resources have offered me so much useful information and have given me the inspiration and push I needed to finally attempt my own garden, and I hope that they can help you as well.

*BONUS: Bethany’s Trial Run with DIY Weed Killer

Five years ago when we first moved into our house the yard was so overgrown with weeds we immediately started a lawn service. Within 18 months all the weeds were gone, and we had beautiful green grass. But then my dog started to get ear infections that I could not get to clear up; the poor thing was at the vet every month. After some process of elimination we wondered if it could be the chemicals that were being sprayed in our yard to kill the weeds that were causing the infections, so we decided to cancel the lawn service in hopes that her ear would get better. The good news is we did start to see an improvement in her ear, but the bad news is the weeds slowly started to creep back into our yard. We had put so much time and money into making our yard look nice that I hated the idea of all of it going away so quickly. I scoured the Internet trying to find a solution, an easy way to keep the ugly weeds out of our yard without using any chemicals that might be harmful to my dog. I found this recipe that sounded pretty simple and I already had the ingredients on hand (vinegar, salt, and dishwashing liquid) so I figured I would give it a try and pray for the best. First, I wanted to make a small batch so that I could test it to 1) make sure it actually did kill the weeds and 2) make sure it didn’t also kill the grass. I sprayed it on a small patch of grass in the backyard and waited a week to make sure the grass was still healthy before I proceeded on to spray the entire yard. When I went back a week later the weeds were still there so I sprayed them again, but this time instead of a light coating I soaked them, I would say I used about ¼ cup of the mixture on this dandelion.

I figured maybe when I sprayed them before it wasn’t enough to reach the root and actually kill the weed. After the second application the weeds did start to wilt a bit, but unfortunately I ended up having to hand pull them. If you only have a few weeds in your yard and really do not want to use any harmful chemicals then go ahead and try this. But if your yard is completely overgrown with weeds you will most likely have to use something that is a little more harsh to get the job done faster. In the meantime I will continue searching for a more effective way to eliminate the pesky weeds from my yard.

Happy planting, everyone! 

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