Step by Step Garden Advice for New Gardeners
Where to Start
So you’ve decided to start gardening and you’re still unsure of where to start?
A good place to begin is understanding that an organic garden simply combines the use of organic gardening methods, conservation of resources, and methods of mimicking nature’s ecosystem right in your garden bed.
It is best to start small with a simple vegetable garden and build upon your accomplishments over time as you gain more experience and confidence in gardening.
On this page, we have accumulated different garden resources to help you prepare, plant, and maintain a sustainable garden that will continue to produce and thrive from year to year.
Find Your Planting Zone
Your geographic location and climate will affect how successful your garden is. In addition to identifying your planting zone (also known as a hardiness zone,) it can be helpful to reach out to your local nursery, garden center, or agricultural extension office for additional guidance. These community experts, along with your planting zone, can help you troubleshoot any further questions that you may have.
New Garden Planning
Planning is key to a successful garden, so before you plant, sketch out a blueprint of your space and think about the area’s functionality.
You can convert your patio, backyard, or front yard from a plain and ordinary space into a versatile area that is both visually appealing and productive. Look at sun exposure as well as any structures or large trees blocking your garden area. Will you be growing in the ground, in raised beds, in containers, or in a combination of growing mediums?
After you have a design and know what you will be growing your next step is to look at your soil needs. Do you need to amend your native soil or do you need to purchase soil for raised beds and containers?
New Garden Planting
After garden planning is complete, your next step is planting your garden! At this point, you should be familiar with your planting zone and have planned out your garden space then decided on what plants you are going to grow. There are different reasons that may have led you to garden and these aid in the decisions on the design of your garden. A garden planted for diversity and beauty will typically contain plants that exist all year long, which will provide beneficial opportunities for companion planting. A vegetable garden, on the other hand, that incorporates herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees doubles as both sustainable and yield-producing.
Using the fruits and vegetables you are most interested in growing as a base, try having fun in your garden by mixing in flowers and herbs that will offer benefits such as attracting pollinators, deterring pests, and creating optimal growing environments for your edible plants.
New Garden Growing
Now you’re knee-deep into your gardening and as your garden grows, you’re realizing your plants’ needs are changing. Your dedication to the organic gardening adventure may be wavering but fret not; the fun has only just begun.
Your plants are growing at this time, and while there is no single formula to growing your garden, you will want to keep a close eye on things such as nutrient, sun, or water deficiencies, and pest issues. A plant’s foliage is often one of the first ways we can tell if that plant is happy, healthy, and thriving. Successful gardens need to be adequately watered, fertilized, and nurtured. When caught early, plant health and pest issues can in most cases be reversed, but learning how to identify such issues early will be key.
Activities such as composting and mulching are beneficial and return essential nutrients into the soil, moderate soil temperature, and increase the water retention rate of the soil. Optimizing your garden design can be done in several ways such as growing certain crops vertically by using obelisks, cages, teepees, and trellises to help climbing plant varieties soar to great heights without consuming valuable garden space.
Garden Harvesting, Preserving, & Seed Saving
It’s Harvesting Time!
Finally – you get to enjoy the “fruits” of your labor. If you have been using succession planting in your garden then you may not have that sudden influx of tons of fruits and vegetables that you have to figure out how to eat. This is a good time to consider preserving some of the bounty harvested from your garden. Stock your pantry with preserved foods, fruit jams, jellies, pickled, dried, and frozen vegetables and fruits, soups, and much more.
Transitioning Your Garden
You should be very proud, you have reached the post-season activity section!
While you’re not actively planting, growing, maintaining, and harvesting at this time, there are some secondary (but equally important) fall and winter garden activities to stay on top of. Edible plants like vegetables and herbs use a lot of your soil’s nutrients as they grow, and it’s our job to add those nutrients back into the soil. We can do this through amending the soil, cover crops, and even by mulching our soil.
Fall and winter can be a great time to review your successes and missteps through the growing season and plan for next year. Cleaning and maintaining tools, building and repairing garden beds and trellises, planning your crop rotations, setting up a rainwater collection system, and starting a compost bin are all tasks you can do at this time that will make you even more successful in your garden next season.