A Guide for Aspiring and Beginning Gardeners
It’s no secret that gardening is a great way to enhance the beauty and even practicality of your property. It’s a great hobby that gets you outside in the sunshine, gets you exercising, and can produce really rewarding results!
Maybe you’ve always wanted a beautiful flower garden to add color and curb appeal to the front of your home. Or maybe you’re thinking of growing some veggies or herbs to save some money and assist your culinary exploits. (Plus, everyone knows there’s nothing like a fresh, home-ground tomato!)
Regardless of whether you garden for beauty, for food, or just for fun, you might need a few tips on how to get started. Here are some pointers to get aspiring, beginning gardeners pointed in the right direction!
Establish Your Goals
As we said, people get into gardening for different reasons. Some people like to build dazzling displays of seasonal flowers that turn heads throughout the neighborhood. Others might just be looking for a cheap, renewable source of oregano for their pasta dishes.
Either way, it’s good to know going in what your goals are. What do you expect to get out of your garden? How big do you want it to be? How much time do you want to spend on a weekly basis tending it?
The answers to these questions help determine the scope of your project, the size of the plot you want to work with, and the amount and type of plants you purchase.
Pro tip: If this is your first garden, start small. First-timers often get overwhelmed, and that can lead to dying plants and a fear of trying again. As you gain confidence and find you have extra time to spend in the yard, you can always add more.
Pick the Site Carefully
Beginning gardeners may be surprised to learn that the same plant that thrives in one spot in your yard might struggle in a plot just a few feet away!
Although many plants tend to be pretty hardy and can deal with changing conditions to a certain extent, you’ll want to carefully consider the space, as well as research what each individual plant needs to grow best.
Once you have a pretty good idea of what type of plants you want to grow, some additional important things to consider include:
- Some plants fare better in shade, others in direct light, and there are also ones that need both. So pay close attention to how many rays your plot will be soaking up. A spot along the south side of the home with no tree cover, for example, is probably going to get a ton of light and heat—great for those tomato plants! A shady spot along the north end, under a tree? Not so great for tomatoes, but a fern would love it!
- Water access. Depending on the slope and drainage of your yard, as well as the sun conditions, certain spots might be naturally wetter or drier than others. Either way, though, you’ll probably want to plant somewhere with easy access to a hose for manual watering. (You could use a watering can if you have to, but the less hassle it is, the more likely you’re going to water your garden sufficiently!)
- Avoid “out of sight, out of mind” locations. It’s just basic human psychology. Plant your garden somewhere you’re likely to see it regularly—as you look out the kitchen window, as you roll into your driveway, etc. You’re more likely to remember to care for it!
You should also avoid slopes, low areas (more likely to frost on unseasonably cold mornings), and places where there are lots of wind.
Prepare the Ground and Soil
Another important consideration for your new garden is making sure you have good soil and, if using a container of some sort, effective drainage. When water doesn’t drain properly, it can lead to rot – the enemy of healthy vegetation.
To help on the soil front, you need to give some serious thought to compositing. This process uses organic materials (like coffee grinds, apple cores, and egg shells) to provide essential nutrients to your soil. It is important to know exactly what should and shouldn’t be composted, so make sure you take the time to research before starting!
You might also consider applying a layer of mulch on the top of your planting beds as well. Mulch helps lock in moisture (so you don’t have to water as often) and blocks rogue plants from germinating (so you don’t have to weed as often). Choose your mulch based on your garden’s needs—for example, woodchips are great for perennials, while veggies and annuals generally prefer mulches that will decompose within a few months.
Plan Your Planting
So you’ve got your plants and plot (or pots) picked out. So far, so good. But do you know how to properly plant and care for them?
One common rookie mistake is planting individual specimens too close together. We know you want to make the absolute most out of your garden, but planting too close together leads to a couple of significant problems. One, your plants end up competing with one another for limited nutrients, and two, they make a more tempting target for pests.
You should also consider seed depth. The basic rule of thumb is to plant any seed three times as deep as the diameter of the seed itself, though this definitely varies from plant to plant. Read the package carefully and do your homework.
You’re also going to want to make sure you have the right tools to tend your garden properly. Depending on the size and location of your plot, you might only need small metal hand tools. In other cases, you’ll want at least a garden hoe, dirt rake, leaf rake, and shovel, among others. Trust us—the right tools make everything much easier.
Let’s also talk a bit about watering. Everyone knows a garden needs water to thrive. Less well-known, however, is the fact that you should avoid wetting the leaves as much as possible. Wet leaves can easily result in mold and rot, both of which are detrimental to the health of your plants.
Overwatering the soil can also cause roots to rot, too, so check the soil with your fingers to determine how moist it is before adding more water. If your leaves start yellowing, it’s a sign of too much water.
Keep a Journal
Writing everything down is an easy and effective way to stay on track and retain what you’ve learned.
The maintenance required for each type of plant you grow may be different, so make sure you have everything labeled somewhere and have the instructions written down!
You can also journal about your experience, including how often you had to weed, what types of pests you dealt with (and how), where certain plants grew really well versus really slowly … you get the idea. You may find that the experience of journaling makes gardening more fun—and it’ll definitely prepare you to be even better at it the following year!
Don’t Be Afraid to Call Bosch’s
If you want help creating a plan for your garden—where it will go, how it will look—you may want to consider enlisting the help of professionals. (It’s worth noting that Bosch’s does have a sterling reputation here in West Michigan for our landscaping services…)
In addition to landscape design, our professionals are also happy to help with all manner of care an maintenance tasks, including spring and fall cleanup, fertilizing, pruning, and even rebarking your mulch.
We’ve helped countless West Michigan homeowners and businesses beautify their properties, and we’ll do the same for you! Call us today at (616) 399-6861 so we can discuss your project and provide you with a free estimate.