How To Start A Garden – Gardening Basics
Most people don’t know this but I went to school for Greenhouse Management and Landscape design. Gardening is my passion and I hate to cook so it’s crazy that I run a website on saving money and that I wrote a frugal cookbook!
A lot of readers ask us how to start a garden so today I’m going to give you a few basic pointers.
- Put some soil in a cup or container with a clear lid (like a deli container). Then plant seeds in it and water them. If you are using cups, set them in a large clear container like the kind birthday cakes come in. Use potting soil from the store, NOT top soil, to start them.
- Place in a warm spot, like on top of the fridge, for a week or two. You don’t need to take the lid off and you don’t need to water them.
- When you see the seeds have sprouted, take off the lid and put it in a sunny spot. If you don’t have a sunny window, you can put them about 10 inches under fluorescent lights.
Design or Plan Your Garden Space
Even if you are starting with a container garden, think about how much room and what kind of space you have for a garden. The best book I have read on gardening is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. If you are new to gardening I would start with just that one book.
Square Foot Gardening tells you how to start a garden in a small area. You can grow a lot of things in just a few square feet of garden area without having to do all the weeding and watering that comes with a normal garden plot. As a side note, he does suggest a specific soil mix he puts in his raised beds when he starts a garden. I just use regular dirt and compost.
Here’s a photo of our square foot garden beds.
For the first year, start small. Plant no more than two or three 4×4 ft. plots.
Be sure to clean used pots with soapy Clorox water to make sure any bacteria and disease are killed.
What to Plant And Where
Most vegetables and herbs need to be planted in full sun. That means the area needs at least 6 hours of sun or more day.
To start, you may want to buy plants in flats from your garden centers which is perfectly fine. Here are some things to think about when buying your plants and when you’re deciding what you want and need:
- Start with easy plants. Herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, carrots, radishes, spinach are all very easy to grow.
- Read the information on the tags of the plants. Do they need to be planted twelve inches apart. If so and you have a ten foot row available to plant them, that means you can only put ten plants on that row.
- When buying flowers, remember to check and see if they need full shade, full sun, etc. and plant them in those areas. One of the biggest mistakes first time gardeners make is buying a plant because they like it and know where they want it, not realizing that, no matter what they do, a shade plant will die when planted in full sun and a full sun plant won’t grow in the shade.
- Make sure you plant the plants that need the same amount of water together. Different types of plants need different amounts of watering, so take that into consideration. It helps to locate the plants that need the most water closest to the water faucet so you don’t have to drag a hose a long way if you have a large yard.
- Less is best when you’re considering how to start a garden. Another mistake people make is buying and planting way more plants than they need. That cute little four inch tomato plant is going to produce more than a couple of tomatoes. I usually plant one plant for each person who eats tomatoes, plus two extra in case some of them die. I don’t can my extra produce. If you want to do that, you will need to plant more.
- Keep in mind as you are planning your garden, buying plants and plotting your garden spot that some plants need trellises to grow. Fences make great trellises for cucumbers and peas.
- Start with simple things at first. Cucumbers, radishes, lettuce and squash are some good ones to plant first. I started my first garden with corn. It was a mess and I got almost nothing for all of my work.