Are you a rookie gardener looking for a few simple tips to get started? It’s not too late!
By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
As a rookie gardener myself, I know that a few simple tips can go a long way. If you’re anything like me, taking care of plants is not an easy feat. Add in typical homemaking and mothering responsibilities and it’s even more challenging!
Three years ago, after starting an adoption process, I decided I was finally going to give vegetable gardening a try. My husband built me a raised bed for our teeny-tiny side yard at our first home in western Pennsylvania. We didn’t get much sunshine there, but regardless, I still was able to grow a great variety of veggies and learned much more than I could have imagined.
I’m in my third season of gardening, and although still very much a rookie, I think I finally have a few valuable tips to pass on to those other “black thumbs” who may be too intimidated to try. It’s still not too late in the season to start!
1) Start Small
The best thing I did for my first garden was to keep it simple and small. I read up about square foot gardening and found it very easy to understand and execute. One variety of vegetable per square made it simple for this indecisive girl to decide what to grow.
Even smaller than a square foot garden would be a simple potted herb garden. I’ve cared for potted herbs before, and they are perfect for small spaces and balcony gardens. If your herbs succeed it may just give you the confidence to go a little bigger next season.
Raised beds are great way to start small.
Planting seeds in my very first garden in 2012.
2) Choose varieties specific to your region
I’ve had gardens in both western Pennsylvania (cold and not much sunshine) and now Connecticut (tons of sunshine, but a shorter growing season). For my first garden I chose a tomato variety that does really well in the Mediterranean, not gloomy western PA. Obviously, it didn’t go so well! Be sure to do a little research and choose plants that will thrive for your specific climate.
Last year I grew a ton of curly green kale and it lasted us from April through November! Kale is a great option for cooler climates, along with broccoli, and a number of herbs like oregano and rosemary. With a little knowledge about your climate your garden may yield you veggies for many months.
10 Food That Regrow with Water
If you really want to stretch the food budget, you can regrow these 10 common, useful foods with nothing but water.
3) Don’t start seeds indoors
I was a bit overly ambitious my first season and attempted to start a few plants from seed inside my home. Without any heat lamps and hardly any natural light available to me, it didn’t work out so great. For your first time, I would advise only starting plants from seed that can be directly sown outside. I’ve had wonderful success with radishes, carrots, beets, and green beans.
The rest of my garden I fill up with plants from local farms (like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, pumpkins, etc.). This ensures that particular variety will thrive in my region.
4) Sweat equity is a great investment
Gardening is dirty work. Every year my blood, sweat and tears are mixed in with the soil. We’re on a very tight budget, so I need to keep my garden as frugal as possible.
What I do have is a shovel, some muscles, and a few hours of my time broken up over a couple weeks. I dig up the dirt, weeds, rocks, and rake out a level bed in our backyard, leaving space to walk between for watering. When you do it this way, you can make it as small or large as you would like. Just be sure to choose a sunny spot and don’t forget to water regularly!
The area I dug out for my second garden in 2014.
5) Just plant it
In previous years I was so hesitant to even begin my garden for fear of failure. The most freeing piece of advice I’ve received about gardening is “just plant it.” It’s not too late to try!
When I stopped reading all the gardening forums about soil pH, fertilizer, composting, etc. (those are good things by the way, but for a rookie aren’t necessary yet) I felt immense freedom to “just plant it” and see what happens! With lots of sun, and some water, let me assure you that good things will happen in your garden as well.
Do you have any simple tips to share with rookie gardeners? I would love to read them in the comments!
Here are more gardening posts on The Humbled Homemaker:
- 5 Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbs
- Gardening Tips for People Who Can’t Garden
- Grow These 5 Expensive Foods to Save Money
- Simple Gardening on a Tight Budget
The Gardening Notebook by Angi Schneider is a custom printable e-book to help you keep track of everything that is important to you in your gardening. It also includes reference guides for growing various types of produce, and lots of resources for getting the most out of your garden!
I have been wanting to plant a garden for a few years now and have never done it. I’m definitely afraid to fail and I keep thinking it has to be so expensive. These are great tips! Maybe I’ll finally plant my garden. 🙂
Go for it, Alyssa! Start small, and with some easy-to-grow varieties from seed.That will help you experiment on a small budget. Let me know how it goes for you 🙂
Great advice! I would only add: Don’t Spray! Once you start spraying the bugs, you can’t stop. I learned pretty quick to just give my garden one season and the good and bad bugs will balance each other out. If there is a really persistent pest try switching veggies to those adapted to your area. Spray as a last resort!
Thank you for this post! This is my first year to try gardening, and well…I’ve had an unfilled bed for a couple of months now. I just didn’t know where to start and several weeks ago I gave up thinking I missed the boat this year. Thank you for all these tips, once my husband is done teaching for the school year, this will be a fun project to work on as a family! 🙂
Yay! That’s so fun, Cookie! Glad you’re going to give it a try this year. Let me know how it goes 🙂
I agree! I used to think I had a black thumb, but I just went ahead and started and now my garden is green and beautiful! I suggest adding any type of squash because of how easy it is to maintain and how easily it climbs it is a very satisfying. Start small and read up un that particular plant, also to remember to be gentle after all they are living things with likes and dislikes , don’t move them around too much (if you are doing pots) because they like to be stable. It is so worth trying even if you fail with some plants, you learn a lot.
This is really helpful! I am gathering information to start gardening for the first time ever! Fingers crossed that it goes well!
I hope it does!
I think the most important point is to plant what works in your region. So much of what you see on TV, Pinterest and national magazines might not work. So get advice and ideas from your neighbors and local greenhouse. Living in Minnesota I have a short growing season and do start a few variety of seeds indoors. I do mostly flowers. My first year of marriage my husband tilled a small plot and I tried sunflowers which got me hooked on gardening. I have started miniature sunflowers indoors for the last 35 years! They don’t get taller than 24 inches but still have a great seedhead. Children love them. Now I live on a 5 acre lot and have planted perennials for years (the plants that come back). It’s so rewarding!