There are many reasons to plant a garden. Maybe you love cooking with fresh produce. Perhaps you’ve resolved to eat healthier. Or maybe you’re looking for an activity to engage kids in outdoor fun. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to take the plunge. But where do you begin? As a new gardener, learning how to plant a garden may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. Here are 7 easy steps to get you started.
1. Start small
One of the biggest mistakes a new gardener can make is to be overly ambitious when starting a garden. Set realistic goals for your first year — think one bed or a collection of containers. Give yourself a chance to learn how to keep your plants healthy and productive, then enjoy the harvest. There’s always next year to expand!
2. Select your site
Most vegetables need lots of sun to produce well, so look for a space that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. (If your site offers only limited light, you’ll simply need to grow herbs or veggies like lettuce or kale that thrive in part-shade.) Next, see if there’s a way to locate the garden near the entrance to your house so you’ll be more likely to notice if it needs water or pests invade. Finally, make sure there’s a water source nearby so it will be easy to give your plants the inch or more of water per week that most gardens require. Installing a rain gauge in the garden helps you know when you need to give Mother Nature a hand in hydrating.
3. Choose your garden type
How will your garden grow — in the ground, in raised beds, in containers, or a combination of styles? Here’s what to consider when deciding:
- If your selected site offers rich, well-draining soil free from trees and shrubs (which will compete for nutrients and water), planting an in-ground vegetable garden may be the way to go. You can improve the soil, too, by adding fertilizer or Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs, which contains lots of nutrients for your plants and will help protect against under- and over-watering.
- In less perfect soil conditions, raised beds offer a good solution for planting a garden, as you can control the components in the soil. A mix of compost, vermiculite, and garden soil works for filling raised beds, or make it easy by filling each bed with pre-mixed, nutrient-rich Bed Soil.
- Don’t have much room to grow? Containers are the best solution, as they can be placed anywhere you have sun (think decks, balconies, driveways). Just remember to add drainage holes if they aren’t there already, and choose a container that’s big enough for the plants you want to grow. No need to get fancy here if you don’t want to, either — 5-gallon buckets with holes poked through the bottom make excellent planters! Whatever containers you choose, fill them with premium quality potting soil, such as Potting Mix, as garden soil is too heavy.
4. Make a list
Now that you know where you’re going to plant, it’s time to decide what you’re going to plant. Make a list of the veggies and herbs you love to eat. Perhaps you adore peas but are emotionally traumatized by childhood memories of unadorned broccoli. Add peas to your list, but leave broccoli off. If your family loves cucumbers but you’re the only tomato eater, add extra cucumbers to the list—but include a tomato plant or two for yourself. Love making your own tabbouleh? Parsley should definitely be on your list.
5. Plan your planting
Those little plants are going to get bigger, so it’s important to give them enough space. If you crowd them, they’ll end up competing with one another for moisture and nutrients, plus be more susceptible to disease due to lack of air circulation — not to mention that pests hide more easily in tight spaces. Check plant tags to learn how much space they need, or download any number of free apps for spacing info, sunlight requirements, planting advice, and more. Then, sketch out where you plan to put your plants.
6. Get your plants
Consult your local nursery or locate a store nearest you, then grab your list and head on over there. Or, if you’d prefer to have your plants come to you, there are a number of online locations that deliver right to your door.
7. Plant ‘em!
Now comes the most fun part. Dig a hole in the soil, place the plant in the hole at the appropriate depth (check the plant tag), fill in soil around the plant, then gently pat it down. Note that you’ll want to plant tomatoes deep, burying ⅔ of the plant so additional roots can grow along the stem. Water well and be sure to feed your plants regularly with a good fertilizer like which is filled with micronutrients and extra calcium to help plants grow strong. (Don’t forget to follow the directions on the label.)