Starting a garden from scratch can be a daunting task for beginners, but it can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. In this guide, we will teach you the basics of both a vegetable and flower garden, including how to pick the right spot for your garden, how to select the plants to grow, among other vital aspects.
i. Determine your options
Consider your options; do you want to grow a flower garden, a vegetable garden or a herb garden? If you decide to go with a flower garden, determine whether you want perennials that’s return year after year or annuals that may need to be replanted each spring. If you wish to have a vegetable/herb garden, decide which vegetables you like, or you are willing to try. All options are valid, but each requires different care and maintenance. Always start small until you gain some experience and grow what you need only.
ii. Choose the correct spot
Once you have decided on the type of garden you want to grow, the next step is to pick the right spot for your garden. Most flowers and vegetables require about 6to 8 hours of sun every day, so you’ll need to observe the yard to determine which spots receive sun throughout the day and those that are partially or full shade. This is very important as it will ensure your plants will have adequate light for them to thrive. Ensure to check plant tags to help determine how much sun your specific plant requires.
Also, choose a place with a stable environment since you don’t want to grow a garden in an area that tends to dry out so fast or place prone to flooding during the heavy rains. You also don’t want to grow your plants in a place where winds could knock over the plants or blow away the pollinators. Also, consider how you will access your beds for watering, picking, caring for your seedlings.
iii. Prepare the soil
Preparing the soil is crucial for developing new beds for planting because it will allow the seedlings to penetrate the soil, thus enabling them to access water and nutrients more efficiently. Typically, this will involve tilling and digging.
Tilling involves using a mechanical tool such as rototiller to cultivate the soil. Tilling the soil is handy when you want to incorporate a substantial amount of soil amendments. However, it would be best if you were careful as not to disturb earthworms and helpful soil microorganisms. Also, excessive tilling or tilling the soil when it is too dry or wet can damage the soil structure and even plants roots.
Digging, on the other hand, is more appropriate when preparing small beds. You can use a sharp fork or spade to turn the soil while mixing the organic matter at the same time. Also, enrich your soil, preferably with organic matter to provide your plants with the required nutrients.
iv. Test and Build your soil
Before you planting anything, you’ll need to determine the type and composition of your soil. Do you have loam, sandy, clay or a combination of different types of soil? Is the soil acidic, neutral, or alkaline? Also, you’ll need to determine if your soil has the necessary nutrients and if there is any probability of soil contamination other sources. Some of these attributes may be determined by just observing the soil while others may require that you enlist the services of a professional.
Once you have tested the soil, it is now time to build the soil and decide on the type of garden beds. You can decide to go with raised beds which are easy to make and look attractive as well. However, they tend to dry out rather quickly. Thus, in arid places, sunken beds will be more appropriate since they will help gather and trap available moisture. Also, ensure that your soil is well-drained and rich in organic matter.
v. Pick your Plants
When choosing your plants, pick the ones that are adapted with your soil, climate, and sunlight. You can surf the internet, check catalogs, or consult your local garden center for plants to buy. When choosing your plants, check for signs of plant damage such as yellow leaves or insect damage. Also, enquire if the plants have been sprayed with harmful pesticides that might scare away potential pollinators.
vi. Plant your plants
One of the simplest methods to start the garden as a beginner is to get young plants, famously referred to as set plants/transplants. The transplants are especially important when it is tedious to grow from seed or if the growing season is considerably short. First, you’ll need to dig holes in your beds for transplanting your plants. The plants are then carefully removed from the container by pushing from the bottom.
If the plants’ roots have developed into some kind of a big ball, you can use your fingers or a fork to untangle the roots before setting the plants into the holes. Mold the soil into place all around the roots and soak it with water.
However, some plant such as sunflowers and lettuce are designed to grow from seed direct in your garden. Ensure to space your plants correctly so that they do not compete for sunlight, nutrients and water. Also, plants set too close together are more susceptible to pests and diseases, and they may fail to mature/flourish. Pay attention to the spacing guidance on individual seed packets.
vii. Consider the planting season
Most annual flowers and vegetables such tomatoes thrive in warm temperatures, so don’t risk planting them until you are sure that the risk of frost has passed your location. Perennials, on the other hand, should be planted in mid-spring and mid-autumn. Autumn and late winter is good times to grow plants such as pansies since they can tolerate cold temperatures.
It is always a good idea to sow seeds indoors ahead of the planting season. You can find containers designed for seedlings as well as already prepared seed-starting soil at most garden centers to start you off. Ensure to follow instructions about planting time, spacing and depth and consider your gardening zone and factor the estimated first and last frosts dates.
viii. Water your plants at the right time
Seedling requires adequate watering, so water them on a daily basis and reduce the frequency as they grow bigger. Transplants also need to be watered daily or so until their roots become more established. After that, you can choose to water once or twice per week, depending on the type of soil, amount of rainfall and humidity.
For example, sandy soil dries out faster than clay soil, so it requires frequent watering. Also, windy conditions tend to dry out soil more quickly, which means your plants need more watering. If you are still unsure if you should water the plants, you can dig the soil 4 inches below the surface, and if it feels dry, then it is time to water. Ensure to water slowly but deeply to soak the soil. As a general rule of thumb, water your plants early in the morning or late evenings.
Mulching your garden will help to trap the moisture in and help to keep the weeds in control. By covering the soil with the mulch, you will prevent the sunlight from hitting the ground directly, meaning you don’t need to water as often and also it will prevent weed from germinating.
You can choose from a variety of mulches, including bark chips, river rock, shredded bark, and more. Organic mulches such as compost will nourish your garden as they decompose. Vegetable gardens require mulches that decompose faster while for perennials you may need ones that will last longer.
x. Keep up with the garden chores
By now, your garden has started to grow. You should now concentrate your effort to help it reach its full potential by keeping up with crucial garden chores. Maintain a watering schedule, and ensure to control the weeds before they grow big. Remove dead and diseased plants to prevent the spread of the disease.
Also, get rid of the destructive insects by handpicking them or use your garden hose to spray them off. You can also spray them with an insecticide from your local garden center, but this should be your last resort. Ensure to support the tall plants such as tomatoes with a stake or a trellis and harvest your plants (vegetable garden) as soon as they are grown.
Additional tip; you may not need to fertilize your garden if you enriched it with compost when preparing the soil. However, some plants such as corn are heavy feeders and need fertilizing every three-four weeks. Thus, ensure to follow package directions or consult your local garden center for advice.
Now that you know about gardening basics, you should feel confident to start one soon. Gardens develop quickly, and they reward generously if they are taken care of consistently. There are a dozen ways to go about it, but you may not know what may work best for you until you try. And if you try a plant and it fails the first time you can try again before giving up since some varieties grow best under different conditions.