The first step to becoming a better gardener is to have the desire to improve. Since you’re reading this article, you’ve already passed that marker.
However, there are lots of other things you can to do to become a better gardener, regardless of where you live, what you plant, or how bad your garden soil is.
So, how do you become a better gardener? At every opportunity, continue your gardening education and spend time with other gardeners you can learn from. Also, get organized and find ways to improve your soil, choose the right seeds, and form the right gardening habits. Finally, get out there and practice!
As with most skills, learning from others and practicing your craft are the most important things you can do to improve over time. Let’s take a closer look at how to be a better gardener.
How To Be A Better Gardener (7 Ways)
There are lots of ways to be a better gardener, and one of the most important ways is to constantly learn new things so that you can build your knowledge and improve your gardening techniques.
1. Continue Your Gardening Education
By continuing your gardening education, you can learn more about general ideas (such as improving soil health) or specific topics (such as how to prune blueberry bushes).
You can build your knowledge through various forms of study, including books, courses, seminars, and conferences. As with any education, the best way to really learn is to take the information you learn and put it into practice!
Be sure to take notes as you read during the winter so that you can apply your new-found knowledge in the spring to ensure a better growing season.
Books and E-Books
Books are my favorite way to learn about a new topic, or to dive deeper into one I am already familiar with. Books let you learn at your own pace, and they can fit into anyone’s schedule.
You can find gardening books at a library or bookstore, but many of these will tend to be of a more general nature. If you want more specific information, you may need to search online for e-books on Amazon or through individual websites and blogs.
You can find e-books that deal with a specific gardening topic, such as care for blueberry bushes or apple trees. You may even be able to find e-books as specific as how to prune or fertilize a certain plant, bush, or tree.
An in-person course at a college or university is a good choice for someone who learns better when working with other people. You also get the chance to network with instructors and other students who share an interest in gardening.
You might learn more from the other people in your class than you learn from the course itself!
Another learning option is to take online gardening courses. You can find courses on gardening through platforms such as udemy.com or coursera.org.
Often, these courses are quite affordable. They also feature videos, which is helpful if you are a visual learner.
One other source of online gardening courses is through personal websites and blogs of gardeners. Often, a gardener will offer a general gardening course, or a specific course based on his gardening specialty.
Seminars and Workshops
If you do not want to commit to taking an entire semester course, you can usually find day-long or half-day seminars and workshops in your area.
For example, many university extensions will offer single-day courses on topics such as pruning grape vines, grafting fruit trees, or pest management.
For an example of courses offered, check out this page on agricultural seminars offered by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Conferences are a great way to learn and to meet people who share a common interest. You can also learn about what is new in the industry.
Gardening conferences offer you the opportunity to absorb information about topics such as sustainability, weather, climate, public gardens, technology, and innovation.
Some conferences are one or two days long, while others will go for an entire week (Monday through Friday) in the spring. So, depending on how much time you have and how much you want to learn, you can learn a lot in a short time at a gardening conference!
2. Build Your Gardening Network
By building your gardening network, you can speed up your learning and pick up new information and techniques from a variety of people and sources.
Find Gardening Mentors
A mentor is someone with more knowledge and experience who teaches you about gardening. You can easily find gardening mentors from many online sources.
In addition to e-books and online courses mentioned earlier, you can also read blogs (like this one!) and watch YouTube videos from gardeners.
Often, if you ask questions in the comments, you will get a personal answer. The blogger or YouTuber might even create content to answer your specific question! You never know until you ask.
Join Gardening Groups
Another way to build your gardening network is to join groups in your local area. You can use meetup.com or eventbrite.com to search for gardening groups near you.
You can also join a garden club in your neighborhood. Long-time members of garden clubs have lots of experience with what works and what does not.
Many gardeners are happy to give back by sharing what they have learned.
You can also join a community garden in your area, and perhaps rent a plot of land from them if you don’t have enough space for a garden at home. You will meet others who share an interest in gardening, and you can trade ideas (and maybe plants!) with them.
3. Get Organized
When you are organized, you are more likely to succeed – in gardening or in any other area of life.
Organize Your Seeds
One benefit of organizing your seeds is that you know how old your seed packets are. That way, you know that you are always using seeds with a good germination rate.
For more information, check out my article on how long seeds last, and my article on how to test seed germination rates.
Another benefit of organizing your seeds is that you will know when to buy more and when to hold off, saving you money and avoiding wasted seeds.
Keep a Gardening Journal
Keeping a gardening journal has several benefits. For one thing, you can keep careful track of the plants that you liked (and which ones you didn’t).
You can also keep a record of which plants grew well in your garden, and which ones did not.
Another benefit of a gardening journal is that you can plan ahead of time for things like crop rotation and planting schedules, based on frost dates. You can find the frost dates for your area on the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.
Finally, a gardening journal is a great way to keep track details such as your preferred plant spacing and the fertilizer mix you like to use. This is also a great source of knowledge to pass on to future generations someday.
4. Improve Your Garden Soil
Your harvest can only be as good as the soil in your garden. The soil provides structure for roots and a place for water, air, nutrients, and beneficial bacteria that plants need.
Adding organic material (humus) and nutrients (necessary for plant growth) will help you to achieve a better harvest. A good gardener knows how to make good soil, which leads to healthy plants.
Add Organic Material to Your Garden Soil
One way to improve your soil is by adding organic material. This can be done by adding compost, manure, and mulch to your garden. All of these will add nutrients in addition to providing organic matter to your soil.
Compost is decomposed organic matter made from material such as food scraps (banana peels, orange rinds, etc.) and yard waste (grass clippings, fallen leaves). For more information, check out my article on how to make compost.
Manure is animal waste and bedding, and should be allowed to decompose before being placed in a garden. For more information, check out my article on where to find manure.
Mulch is ground cover such as wood chips, straw, or hay used to suppress weeds and trap moisture and heat in the ground. For more information, check out my article on mulch.
Add Nutrients to Your Garden Soil
In addition to compost, manure, and mulch, you can use other materials to supplement nutrients in your soil. You can use standard fertilizers, which are sold online or at any garden center.
However, there are other ways to add nutrients to your soil without using fertilizer that contains lots of salt. For example, you can add dolomitic lime to supplement calcium and magnesium, or you can add blood meal to supplement nitrogen.
For more information, check out my article on high-nitrogen fertilizers, my article on high-phosphorus fertilizers, and my article on high-potassium fertilizers.
One quick warning applies here: you should do a soil test before adding any nutrient-heavy supplements to your soil, to make sure that they are really necessary.
For more information, check out my article on soil testing.
5. Start Your Seeds the Right Way
When starting seeds for your garden, the way you do it will have a big impact on your success. As with many things in life, small changes in the beginning can lead to big changes later on!
First, you should know whether the plants should be grown directly from seed sown in the soil, or transplanted outdoors after starting seeds indoors.
For example, tomato and pepper plants are often started from seeds indoors, especially in northern regions with short growing seasons.
On the other hand, seeds for plants such as radishes, spinach, and lettuce should be sown directly in the soil outdoors, if possible.
When starting seeds indoors, you should make sure that you have a good light source available for your seedlings after they emerge. Without sufficient light, the plants will “stretch out” and become “leggy” as they reach up high for any available light.
When you transplant outdoors, make sure to “harden off” the plants to prevent environmental conditions from killing the plants due to sudden changes in temperature, wind, or moisture.
Finally, keep careful track of when to sow seeds and when to transplant outdoors (use your journal, as mentioned earlier!). This will depend on the plants you want to grow and on frost dates in your area, which will depend where you live.
6. Form Good Gardening Habits
They say that you are what you repeatedly do. If you have good habits, then you will have good outcomes, and the same is true for gardening.
If you form the right habits, you will get the results you want automatically – almost like gardening magic is at work to help you get a bountiful harvest!
It takes some willpower to get started, but once the habits are in place, it will be easy to stick to the same routine.
Form the Habit of Continuous Learning
First, make a habit of continuous learning. Learn from books, courses, mentors, and fellow gardeners, as mentioned earlier. Then, put what you learn into practice.
This approach is far better than never learning anything new, or learning a lot and never applying the information. A good place to start is getting to know your plants in terms of their need for space, soil, sunlight, water, and nutrients.
Form the Habit of a Gardening Schedule
Every year, you should stick to a gardening schedule. You might improve the schedule every year as you learn and become a better gardener, but you should have a plan in mind (and preferably on paper).
For instance, know when to start seeds and transplant plants into your garden. Also, know when to fertilize, water, and prune your plants.
Make time during each day (or at least each week) to walk through your garden to inspect your plants. That way, you will be more likely to notice problems such as weeds or plants infected with pests or diseases. Then, you can address the problems in a timely manner.
Get into the habit of watching the weather and preparing accordingly. That way, you won’t be surprised by heavy rain, dry spells, heat waves, or hard frosts.
Finally, make a habit of composting kitchen scraps and yard waste. The result will be a good soil addition that will provide a better medium for your plants to grow, while also reducing waste.
7. Get Out There and Practice!
No matter how much you learn about gardening, none of it will matter if you don’t get outside and practice what you learned!
Gather up all of your information in a journal, and decide what you want to implement, such as using a different pruning method, trying a new crop rotation schedule, planting a new tomato variety, etc.
Then, find a time during the season (or during each week) to try out that new information you learned. Keep track of your success and failure, and share what you learn with others.
Sometimes, you will realize what went right (or wrong) after explaining the situation in detail to other gardeners. Many times, reflecting on what went well and what could be improved is a valuable learning exercise, whether in gardening or in any other area of life.
By now, you should have some ideas on how to be a better gardener – all you have to do is put some of these ideas into action.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions on how to be a better gardener, please leave a comment below.