6 Tips for Beginning Gardeners
New to gardening? Learn simple tricks that will make the most of your efforts.
My favorite gardening quote is from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” I’ve been seriously gardening for the last three decades, and I agree with Jefferson’s thought.
In gardening, there’s always something new to learn. It’s a journey of discovery that never grows dull. That being said, it can also be an overwhelming hobby to embrace. Which brings me to my first tip for beginning gardeners.
Garden Tip No. 1: Start Small
Tackle only what you can maintain. Gardening takes time, and if your schedule is already jammed (whose isn’t?), guarantee success by planting a small garden. Start with containers or a modest raised bed. Master growing just a few crops this year, and slowly expand your repertoire over time.
Garden Tip No. 2: Invest in Quality Tools
Choose a hose that won’t kink, and pair it with a hose end watering wand that delivers a gentle shower. Save up for stainless steel tools—they never rust. Consider multi-purpose tools like a Korean hand plow. Invest in a wheelbarrow or garden cart. Talk to folks with gardens you admire and find out what their must-have tools are.
Garden Tip No. 3: Plan Views
Design your garden—even if it’s just a cluster of containers—so that it creates a view from inside your home. If possible, design the view around your favorite chair or most frequented spot. I always design my prettiest view to coincide with the kitchen sink. Kitchen chores improve when the view is beautiful.
Garden Tip No. 4: Use Mulch
Mulch is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your garden. It’s a secret weapon for reducing time spent watering. If you use triple ground bark or compost, mulch improves soil as it breaks down, adding invaluable organic matter. Aim to add 2 to 4 inches on top of beds annually.
Garden Tip No. 5: Make Compost
Great soil is the true secret to a successful garden, and it begins with compost. The easiest way to ensure you have a steady supply of compost is to make your own. Start in autumn with fall leaves layered in with grass clippings, spent flowers and/or kitchen waste. Composting isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be ugly or time-consuming. It’s the best skill you can learn to improve your garden.
Garden Tip No. 6: Look and Listen
Observe your garden at least a few times a week—daily is even better. With just a quick garden walk-through, you’ll spot harvest that’s ready, potential pest or disease problems and visitors like this parsley worm, the precursor to a black swallowtail butterfly. This is what makes gardening such a joy—the daily discoveries of unfolding life.