It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, if you want to know how to start a garden, this post will help you do it, step by step.
The idea of planting a vegetable garden can be exciting. Most people dash off to the nearest garden center, load their carts up with plants, soil and a few hand tools, but the minute they return home, those items go straight into the garage… and possibly forgotten until the plants have withered and the urge to start a garden ceases.
Why does this happen? It happens because most people try to pack tasks that really take several days to complete all into one sunny Saturday afternoon that not how to start a garden. It also happens because people tend to do things out of order – they buy things without really considering where they are going to plant or how long it will take them to prepare that space.
How to start a garden off the right way
If this is your first time, these steps will give you some insight on how to start a garden that will bring you lots of produce.
1. Find out your Plant Hardiness Zone
Locate your region on this Plant Hardiness Zone Map or visit our Garden Tools & Resources page for a closer look to see which zone you live in.
This is important because it determines which plants you can grow and the best times to start them either indoors or out.
2. Find a sunny spot where you can start a garden
Before you start a garden, it’s important to consider where exactly you can plant it. A spot that seems perfect to you, might not receive enough hours of sunlight. If there are too many trees in your yard, you’ll need to find a place where there’s not too much shade.
3. Decide if you’ll plant in ground or in a raised bed
I’ve successfully grown vegetables in both of these places, so I don’t really have a favorite. But perhaps you don’t exactly enjoy bending over to prepare the soil, fertilize and weed your garden – then a raised bed would be the best option for you. Materials for building a raised bed can be expensive, so if you’re gardening to save money, then planting in ground is your best option.
Raised beds tend to range from six inches to two feet in depth. The deeper the raised bed, the less bending and easier it will be to maintain.
Determine which plants will need supporting structures and gather your materials that you will use as stakes or to make a trellis. For a short list of plants that require support, read To Stake or Not to Stake.
4. Prepare the soil
Before you can start a garden outdoors, you’ll also need to till or break up the ground. This process removes weeds, aerates the soil and distributes the nutrients. Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to go with a small hand tiller or a large gas powered tiller. I actually keep both on hand – I use a hand tiller for small jobs and the gas powered for larger areas.
You won’t have to till your raised bed, but you will need to purchase and add enough compost to fill the bed.
It’s a good idea to prepare by adding mushroom compost (or other types of compost) or leaves. If you want to sow your seeds directly into your garden, you’ll want to hold off on adding any fertilizer. If you’ll be planting plants that are already a few inches tall, you can go ahead and add the fertilize when you add the compost. You can also use organic fertilizers such as chicken poop, horse or cow manure, or fish emulsion.
5. Plan your garden
I’ve been guilty of just planting things without a plan – believe me, it often leads to regrets, transplants, or plant death. Some plants just don’t grow well with others and may choke out the other plants. If you’re a beginner and don’t really know how to make a plan, it’s best to use plans from a book or from the internet. Read, Gardening Tips: You don’t need a green thumb, to assist you with planning and for links that will teach you how to grow specific plants.
I found the following plan below on Vegetable Gardening Online. They also have great gardening tips for growing various fruits and vegetable that you may find helpful as well.
6. Sow some seeds
After you’ve decided on what you want to grow, the next step is to either purchase some seed packets or starter plants.