Getting Started With Gardening

This page has everything you need to get started with gardening, whether you are a complete beginner or an expert building a garden for a new home.

If you’re here, you’re probably already sold on starting a garden. If you’re still not sure, this article on the advantages of gardening might convince you.

Ready to begin? Let’s start with finding a place to grow your garden.

Finding A Garden Location

Choosing a good spot for your garden is one of the most important decisions you will make.

Get it right, and some other gardening sins can be forgiven. Get it wrong, and you will have to work extra hard to make up for it!

High Point Community Garden
Gardening will be much easier if you pick the right spot with good soil and plenty of sunlight.

You can learn the basics of choosing a good spot for your garden in this article.

Gardening With Limited Space

Even if you don’t have a huge yard, you can still find a place to grow, whether on a patio, balcony, in a kitchen, or even on rented land!

It’s true – you can rent garden space. You can learn all about how to rent garden space in my article here.

If you have a house with a garage but limited green space, check out this article on what to plant on the side of a garage.

garage
You can still use pots, grow bags, or raised beds to grow in small spaces or on the side of a garage.

Read this article for ideas on how to start a garden without a yard.

If you are stuck indoors, try this article for some ideas about what to grow in your kitchen.

If you are away at school, read up on how to grow a vegetable garden in a college dorm room.

basil in pot
Basil is just one plant you can grow in a small space.

Once you have a place to grow, it’s time to choose your seeds if you are starting from scratch.

Improving The Soil

Before you plant anything, it is important to improve the soil to get the best harvest possible from your garden.

This article gives a good overview of what to do to prepare soil for a garden.

Smooth It Out

It is harder to grow in rocky soil, so it might pay to do the work to sift some of the rocks out.

rocky soil
Get some rocks out of your soil now, and have a much easier time with gardening later!

After that, rototilling may be necessary to loosen up a new plot of land that has never been worked before.

Of course, no-till gardening is a growing movement, and for good reason. It is better for earthworms and for the soil, and it is less work for you.

If you want to skip the rototilling, don’t worry about it!

Soil Testing

A good place to start is to do a soil test to see if the pH or nutrient levels are way off. You can learn about what a soil test tells you in this article.

Soil Amendments

This just means things that you add to the soil to make it better. A good place to start is with compost or aged manure.

compost bin
Compost is a great way to improve your soil while adding nutrients.

Both add nutrients and organic material to the soil. They also make it harder to over water or under water (although both are still possible!)

You can learn the basics of making compost in this article.

If animal manure is available, it is another great source of nutrients for the garden. Just make sure to age it first to avoid burning plants!

Seeds & Germination

You can always buy plants from a garden center, but it is fun to sprout your own seeds at home. It is also more cost-effective, and the plants are more likely to be free of disease.

Once you pick up some clean potting soil or seed starting mix online or from the garden center, it will be time to start thinking about planting seeds.

soil
Potting soil is only the first step in starting seeds indoors!

However, first things first: we need to learn about frost dates and when to plant seeds.

Frost Dates

Last spring frost date is often used as a guide to help you decide when to plant seeds or transplant into the garden.

frost
Some plants can tolerate frost, but others cannot – know your frost dates!

You can learn about what last frost date means here.

Choosing Seeds

If you don’t know how to read a seed catalog, you will after reading this article.

Many seed companies sell hybrid seeds, and they have their advantages – you can learn more here.

You can also learn about the difference between organic and heirloom seeds here.

seed package
Hybrid and heirloom seeds both have their advantages.

There are lots of places you can get your seeds, but I think Johnny’s Selected Seeds is one of the best seed companies around.

Starting Seeds

If you are wondering when to plant your seeds, this resource from the Old Farmer’s Almanac will tell you when to plant each crop, depending on where you live.

If you are wondering how deep to plant seeds, this article will shed some light on the question.

Speaking of which, some seeds need light – or only a shallow layer of soil – in order to germinate. You can find out which ones here.

These tables from the University of California tell you the ideal temperature ranges for germinating seeds, along with how much time it will take for sprouts to emerge from the soil.

thermometer
The ideal temperature for seed germination depends on the crop.

In addition to warm temperatures, seeds need moist soil to germinate. A humidity dome can help you with that.

This article explains all about seed trays, in case you want to make it easy on yourself if you need to start lots of seeds at once.

seed tray
Use a seed tray to start lots of seedlings if you have a big garden.

If you get more seedlings that you can reasonably plant, you may have to thin them out – sad, but true.

Starting A Garden On A Budget

No money for seeds? No problem! You can still start a garden without much money.

Check out this article on how to start a garden with no money.

Transplanting

Once your seeds have sprouted into young plants (or after you have bought established plants), it is time to transplant into the garden!

This resource from the Old Farmer’s Almanac will tell you when to transplant each crop, depending on where you live.

tomato seedling
When plants get big enough, you will need to repot or transplant them outside.

Ideally, we could transplant into the garden and never worry about frost. However, don’t let cold weather put your gardening plans on ice.

Read this article to learn about cloches, which protect young plants from cold.

Read this article to learn about row covers, which protect more established plants from cold.

row cover
Row covers can protect an entire row of plants from cold and frost.

Finally, check out this resource page to find lots of ways to protect plants from cold.

Watering

Did you know that it is possible to over water plants? You can learn about it here.

watering can
It is possible to over water plants, so keep an eye on the soil to avoid this problem.

There is also a best time of day to water, which you can read about here.

Fertilizing

A bag of fertilizer has 3 numbers listed on it, such as 10-20-10. These numbers tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is in the bag.

To find out more about what these cryptic numbers mean, check out this article on NPK ratios.

You may wish to add nutrients to soil without artificial fertilizers – and this is certainly possible.

feather
Feathers are a natural source of nitrogen for a compost pile to feed your garden.

Of course, is also possible to over fertilize plants, which you can read about here.

Pollination

It would be a shame to do all of the work of gardening and then get a terrible harvest due to lack of pollination.

bumblebee
Without enough bees, you might need to use an electric toothbrush for pollination.

Unfortunately, low bee populations make this situation more likely. You can learn how to pollinate plants (like tomatoes) by hand in this article.

Extra Information

Here is some extra info that you might find helpful as you start your gardening journey:

ripe tomatoes on vine
Rotate your crops to prevent disease and nutrient deficiencies.

Well, there you have it. This page is a good place to start if you are just beginning your gardening journey.

I will update this page as I create new resources to make gardening a little easier.

I hope you find it helpful – enjoy your garden!

If you have any specific questions, click on the magnifying glass at the top right of the page and type in your topic. If there is anything on the site, it will show up!

~Jonathon