Starting a backyard garden can grant a sense of fulfillment that few other pastimes can. It's a great way to experience the outdoors, lets you reap the satisfaction that comes with nurturing a living thing, and beautifies your surroundings.
Not to mention all the delicious veggies a single, modest garden plot can produce!
And in theory, the process should be a calming one. The physical and mental health benefits of tending to plants are well-documented.
But the process can certainly feel daunting. Taking a cursory look at gardening blogs often raises more questions than it answers. Would-be landscapers who just want to know how to start a garden are bombarded with too many factors to grapple with all at once.
Well, worry not, future gardeners. Just follow these five gardening tips, and you can be sure you're starting off on the right foot.
1. Take Stock of Your Sunlight and Soil
Before anything else, you need to do an appraisal of what you have to work with.
While there are plants that do well in shady areas, the more sunlight you have the more options will be open to you. For the best results, you'll want to put your garden in a space that gets around six to eight hours of uninterrupted, direct sunlight per day.
After sunlight, the soil is the second most important factor. Different plants prefer variable pH levels, but a level close to neutral will go you the most flexibility. You can gauge your soil pH with a soil test kit from your local gardening supply store.
Fortunately, you have a lot more influence over soil quality than you do the amount of sunlight your plot gets. Adding compost or other amendments is an easy way to manipulate the soil's pH to your needs.
The other thing to look for in soil quality is potential contamination.
Many homes — older ones, in particular — were built using a litany of heavy metals and other toxic materials that may have seeped into the earth. If you sow a vegetable garden, those materials can be absorbed by your veggies and find their way onto your family's dinner plates.
So in addition to testing the pH, you'll want to test for toxic materials. If they turn up, the easiest way to deal with them is to avoid planting in the ground and instead opt for raised garden beds full of fresh soil.
2. Decide What You Want to Plant
Once you have your sun and soil situation sorted, it's time to start planning. This is the stage where many first-time gardeners make their first mistakes.
Often times beginners try to grow plants that aren't suited for their area, or they go into it with no plan at all, buying plants piecemeal from the local nursery with no rhyme or reason.
At best, this approach tends to lead to a cluttered, disorganized, and ill-optimized space. At worst, it sabotages your garden's health, leading to lots of failing plants and wasted time and money.
So when deciding what to plant, first look at the climate.
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones are the metric most nurseries use. Whether you're buying pre-grown plants from the nursery or planning on raising your own from seed, they'll usually be marked with a hardiness zone designating how well-suited they are to your region. If they're not, it should be simple enough to look it up.
3. Start Planning the Space
If you followed step one, you should already have a designated planting space in mind. And having made your planting selections in step two, you can now start determining exactly what will go where.
How you proceed here will depend on the type of garden you're pursuing.
A traditional garden is exactly what it sounds like; you dig a hole in the earth and plant your seed or sprout there. This is the simplest option, but its success relies on the earth being amenable to planting.
If the ground is too hard or the pH is off, then your seeds won't spout and seedlings will wither. Drainage is another important factor, as a planting bed with nowhere for excess water to go will flood, likely killing anything you plant there.
These are all reasons why raised planting beds have become increasingly popular. They give you the maximum amount of flexibility in all aspects of planning and planting. And if space is at a premium, container gardening is always a viable option as well.
4. Buy Your Tools and Get Planting
Now for the fun part — striking the earth and getting your garden going.
The exact tools that you need depend on the size of your plot. But at minimum, you'll need either a watering can or a hose with a watering attachment, a spade, and a garden fork. For larger gardens, a hoe, soaking hose, and wheelbarrow may also be required.
5. Make Your Garden Your Own
Having established your garden, the only thing to do now is to make the space your own.
A garden is like any room in your home, a reflection of who you are and how you live your life. And you express those qualities not only by what you choose to sow but by how you decorate all the non-planted space.
Perhaps you want to cultivate a community of songbirds to fill your garden with music. Or maybe you just want a few well-placed accent pieces to occupy any spaces that weren't suitable for planting.
Whatever the case, you'll want to customize the space to your liking. For a great selection of pieces to get you started, check out https://nature-niche.com/
Starting a Backyard Garden Made Simple
Gardening for beginners doesn't have to be an arduous venture. If anything, it should be a fun, relaxing activity that anyone can enjoy.
And if you take these steps, then you'll find that starting a backyard garden is just that: a soothing, rewarding activity that you find joy in for a lifetime.
Once you get your garden going, it's just a matter of enjoying it! And to see to it that you can do that in style and comfort, be sure to keep up with all of our latest design guides for ideas to shape the space to suit your tastes.