Gardening Tips for Beginners: Resources to Help You Dive Into Gardening With Courage!
By Beth Ricci, Contributing Writer
I am not a gardener.
I feel that in order to gain that title, one must successfully keep a plant alive for more than a month. Ahem. It’s, uh, on my bucket list…
If grocery stores all went away I’d probably starve to death.
I am NOT a gardener.
I stayed at my sister’s house while she was gone for six months and killed every one of her houseplants through either neglect or over-zealous watering. (I maintain that if the darn things would just whine like my toddlers then they’d still be alive, too.)
Gardening is intimidating! It’s complicated and scary! At least it sure does feel that way to me.
I am NOT a gardener.
The reason I am emphasizing this fact is because I need you to trust me when I say that I am a total gardening newbie. I have absolutely no sweet clue what I’m doing. I use phrases like “dirt-stuff” and “pokey-twisty tool thingie,” and “partially-shaded-full-sun-saywhat?!”
BUT! Oh friends, this is Big News. Breaking News! Wait for it…
This summer I have decided to become a gardener.
Believe me when I say this: if I can manage to take the plunge, anyone can.
Image by Moncton Gardener
It can be downright scary to think about putting all of that effort, time, and money into something with no guarantees, but fear was never really a great reason not to try something in life, AmIRight?
The very first step is literally to simply hack up that grass! Get yourself a big patch of dirt, and you’re well on your way. As with many learning curves in life – the first step is often the most difficult. Now that I have a big patch of dirt in my yard, it’s easier to imagine the next step (plants sprouting!).
So, I have the grass dug up and the soil tilled (<– Check it out, I used a gardening term. Yeah, baby!), and some fertilizer and stuff added in.
(The “and stuff” is one of those areas of learning for me. I just let my husband pick up a couple bags of dirt-stuff at the gardening centre because he acted like he knew what he was doing). He also built me an awesome compost pile so that I can make some nice rich soil of our own.
By the time this post goes live, the seeds will be in the ground, thanks to some help from my own veggie gardening guru – my mom. Then it’s up to me to tend for those little baby sprouts and help them grow strong and bear lots of yummy goodness!
How exactly I will accomplish that is mostly still a mystery to me, but I have been collecting tips and tricks for a while now, mostly on my gardening Pinterest board and from blog posts from fellow bloggers that also call themselves gardeners (ie. the non-plant-killers among us). I wanted to share those here for you, my fellow gardening newbies, for encouragement and instruction.
(I live in Toronto and we normally have a decent growing season but our June has been quite cold, hence the late planting. If you’re worried it’s too late to dive in now, check out this post here at Keeper of the Home, “It’s Not Too Late to Start a Garden.”)
Growing Herbs & Flowers: A Great Place to Start
If you just want to start really small this year by growing something without killing it (a worthy pursuit, I say), then check out this adorable idea for How to Teach Your Children Earth Stewardship by Planting a Miss Rumphius Garden. A simple packet of wildflowers might be the perfect way to dip your toes in to the water and gain confidence.
Another way to dive in to gardening is with growing herbs. Many say that growing herbs is one of the easiest gardening ventures because they are often such hardy and easy-to-grow plants, which is perfect for beginners!
Learn about growing and harvesting herbs in general, or in this multi-post series on popular individual herbs. You can grow them in your garden, or in containers, which makes it perfect even for balcony gardeners. I learned a ton from this post, and this one gives ideas for how to use the herbs you grow.
Image by Moncton Gardener
General Tips & Tricks
Before you start searching google, check out the wealth of information right here on Keeper of the Home! Tons of gardening help and advice, all listed here on a variety of topics and questions, such as how to choose which seeds to buy.
Then check out a few posts around the web from experienced gardeners about how what they’ve learned so far.
Rachel at Day2Day Joys shares some Simple Ways to Garden with Kids, which I loved reading because my kids are turning 1, 3, and 5 this summer. Any gardening I do is definitely going be with my kids!
Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS shares some beautiful photos of her extensive garden beds, which I find inspiring for my “one day” dreaming. She also talks about gardening with such confidence – something I hope to do too down the road.
Anne from Authentic Simplicity shares the wisdom she has gained as a relatively new gardener herself, and Andrea at Greenbacks Gal shares how to Kill Weeds Organically.
Gardening Resources on the Web
There are tons of popular gardening websites and blogs, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface on the great ones. Here are the ones I’ve found so far that I’m enjoying:
Treehugger’s list of 10 Great Gardening Websites
My Pinterest board with the coolest tricks that may or may not blow your mind (but probably only if you’re as new to all this as I am.)
Annnnnd, now we wait. There are apparently some other things involved, like weeding and watering. Lots of opportunity for plant killing is what it boils down to, really. Time shall tell. In the meantime I peruse Pinterest for more awesome tricks to try so that by next year, I can write a post all about my expertise 😉
If you are one of those fortunate enough to have a green thumb, please feel free to chime in in the comments with your best gardening advice. We want to hear your wisdom!
I plan to update you all when the summer is done. Hopefully I will have kept most things alive, and can report back on what I learned!
Great idea. Check out this documentary: http://www.backtoeden.com. You will def. enjoy it! Good luck.
Oops, that documentary is at: http://www.backtoedenfilm.com, you can also watch the film for free on Vimeo as well.
You’re not alone. A friend once gave me a plant, told me, “You cannot kill this one.” Yes. Yes, you can, if you forget it’s in your apartment and NEVER water it. I agree, plants should be able to whine. And, yet, like you, I still try a “garden” every summer. Not an in the ground garden. My current method is a patio garden and I tend to stick to easy things, like tomatoes and peppers. They’re doing well. And, my from seed three herb plants have sprouted. This year, we ventured into one cucumber plant. I think that one is already mostly dead.
I am SO a gardener. It comes right after being a wife and mom who homeschools. I guess if I were to give suggestions to non-gardeners and those with black thumbs….
1) Aloe is a very, very forgiving plant if you are one of those who forget to water. Seriously. Once a month is enough to keep it alive. Plus it is great if you are a klutz in the kitchen and burn yourself.
2) Only plant vegetables you like to eat. I live in north Texas. Okra grows absolutely phenomenally here, but I absolutely hate it. We don’t grow okra. Don’t plant veggies you think maybe you might enjoy learning to like. Start with the ones you DO like.
3) Most gardeners are more than happy to help a newbie. Just ask!
4) Tomatoes fresh from the garden do not taste anything at all like those from the store. Once you’ve tried your own tomatoes, you will never look back.
5) Start small. You can add more next year. But come August, with heat and humidity, you will be so thankful you have a small garden!
I’m no expert, but my best advice is keep trying! Every year, and every success and failure will teach you something new. Herbs are very easy. We ripped out some really ugly bushes and relocated a few rose bushes from along the back of the garage (which is in our backyard; the garage faces an alley) about 5 years ago, and planted herbs. We planted tarragon, thyme, and oregano that first year, and they are still there, coming back every year with no maintenance required (except occasionally digging some out to keep them from spreading out of their designated area). We’ve since added chives, parsley cilantro, sage, rosemary and rhubarb, which also come back every year. There is a trellis on each end, where the original rosebushes were, and I have a beautiful honeysuckle vine on one, and just a month ago, we planted a grape vine in front of the other one. I really, really hope the grape vine thrives and works in that location! All of this in one garden bed about 23 feet long, with approximately 2 to 2 1/2 feet depth. It’s really beautiful, especially when the honeysuckle, chives, sage and thyme are blooming like they are now, and it’s my favorite bed.
We also have 3 – 10×4 feet raised beds where we plant various vegetables. We’re still working on the soil, and some things grow and produce well, and some don’t. We just keep trying every year to get it right. We have a wildly successful 4×5 feet strawberry patch that my children love.
Sorry this is so long. 🙂 I love gardening, even when things fail. The small successes keep us plugging away year after year, and it’s so rewarding!
I have killed around 5 house plants that “cannot be killed”. Sometimes I even remember to water, but they still die. Maybe my idea of part sun, and the plants idea of part sun don’t agree? Haha. I have had better luck with plants in the ground. Had a lot of success with carrots, and zucchini last year for vegetables. My tulips come up each spring so that is working also. I didn’t realize how much zucchini one plant produces, and we had six plants! My suggestion is to know what kind of yeild to expect from your garden. Our neighbors are even sick of zucchini from last year’s harvest! This year we’re trying tomatoes, garlic, onion, broccoli and zucchini (only two plants this time – one for now and one for the freezer). We’ll see how it goes! Two of the tomato plants have been eaten alredy, currently the prime suspects are the baby bunnies. Fortunately my 3 yo said he would get our food back from the bunnies and tell them to go to the grocery store 🙂 Even if my plants don’t make it (again), gardening with my little boy is well worth all the effort!
I can’t say enough about Square Foot Gardening. I spent a couple of years frustrated by low production or no production from plants in the ground in my back yard when I realized that the soil was awful. A friend recommended the book the square foot garden and I’ve been getting vegetables ever since. Some things are worth buying as plants rather than trying to start your own seeds (tomatoes come to mind) unless you have a great place in your house to start seeds). I still have a lot to learn and I probably put about $50-$100 a year into my garden, but I’m growing more every year and now I usually break even if not save money at the end of the year. (Most of the money goes into adding more beds or buying fruit plants that will come back year after year.)
Anyone know how to keep the wildlife from eating and destroying everything? No one on my street has a successful garden because no one has figured out how to keep the critters away. The deer are so brave they jump 4ft fences and eat potted stuff on my patio! Squirrels and chipmunks don’t eat much, but they dig stuff up in search of other things, then the bunnies, raccoons, and bugs help themselves to the deliciousness. Arrgghhh.
I haven’t had a whole lot of gardening experience but can’t wait to start my own! I have recently learned a lot from Back to Eden, and permies.com. There is so much good stuff there!
Great Post.. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Loved your post 🙂