So, you want to start a garden from scratch? Maybe you want to grow delicious vegetables to cook and eat. Or, maybe your vision consists of fruit trees and flowers. You may not have a garden vision yet, and that’s okay. We’re going to talk all about starting a garden from scratch – for beginners!
Light, Water, Soil – The Essentials Of Gardening
Light: What is the most important thing to consider when starting your garden? The answer is light. It is very important that you have adequate light to grow your vegetables and plants. When deciding where to start your garden, you should choose a spot that has plenty of sunlight.
Take a walk outside your house in the early afternoon. Pay attention to the areas of your yard that receive the most light. You’ll also want to choose a flat piece of ground that is easily accessible.
Water: You always want to make sure you have easy access to a water source for irrigating your garden. You can attach a hose to your faucet, or use a rain bucket, which is a bit more tedious.
When we first started gardening in a garden plot, we walked down to the river and filled 5 gallon buckets with water. We definitely do not recommend this! It’s easy to neglect your plants when an adequate water source is not available, so plan accordingly.
Soil: When deciding which soil to purchase for your new garden, your best bet is to search for a soil supplier in your area. A nursery or garden center is a great place to start. You will want to choose a quality topsoil, or triple-mix which is rich in organic matter.
Some garden centers will charge a fee to truck the soil to your home for you. You could purchase individual bags of soil, but this can be very costly depending on the size of your garden bed.
If you are only growing a few small plants in containers, using bagged potting soil is perfectly fine. When it comes to soil amendments, compost is king. Compost will add nutrients and good bacteria to your soil, promoting healthy growth.
Raised bed vs. In-Ground vs. Containers
Raised beds offer a neat and aesthetically pleasing garden. You can start off with a smaller raised bed that is about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide, or go with the standard 4×8.
They’re very manageable and great for beginners, as they have great drainage by design and are easy to access. However, you will need to fill the raised bed with quality soil. This is important to remember when factoring in your overall cost.
You can also start your garden directly in the ground. If you live in a place with quality soil, this is a great option and it can be very cheap to get started. We do recommend an at-home soil test to learn what your soil has, as well as what it needs.
When planning your in-ground garden, you will want to account for how much space you will need to walk through it. Don’t forget, you will need a nice walking path for harvesting all your fresh produce! Make sure you decide in advance where your walking paths will be. The less soil you walk on and compact, the healthier your garden will be.
Lastly, you can choose to grow all your plants in containers. This is a great option for people who may not have a yard to work with. When we lived in an apartment, we had plenty of thriving vegetables and flowers on our East-facing balcony.
Container gardening is also very convenient. The pots can be moved around your yard to sunnier locations throughout the season. If you are landscaping your yard and you are unsure of where to place your permanent garden, container gardening is a great temporary solution.
If you choose to garden in containers, you’ll want to use potting soil. However, if you are going to be gardening with a lot of containers or large plants, you may want to order triple-mix from a gardening center or soil supplier. The cost of bagged potting soil adds up quickly!
I decided I wanted to garden in-ground. Now what?
If you have an existing lawn, sheet mulching is a great way to get started with your garden. Sheet mulching is the process of adding layers of wet newspaper or cardboard over your lawn, with an additional layer of soil over the newspaper. Without sunlight, the grass dies as the newspaper decomposes.
You can also till your lawn to start your garden, but this is not recommended. While you will eliminate the grass this way, you run the risk of it growing back and making a mess of your garden. Tilling is also incredibly disruptive and simply is not good for your soil. You want to disturb the soil the least amount possible.
Seeds and Seedlings
If you’re a beginner gardener, you may choose to buy seedlings and plants at a garden center. This cuts out a bit of work. Starting seeds indoors is not complicated, but for your first garden, you may choose to keep things simple.
However, there are some vegetables where this is not an option. We like to grow lots of unique varieties in our garden. We start our plants from seed because we could never find these seedlings in the store.
However, you will have no problem finding delicious tomatoes and peppers already started at your nursery. After purchasing your seedlings, you can transplant them into your new garden when the temperatures are right for each specific plant. It’s that simple! If you want to start seeds indoors yourself, we have a helpful guide here.
Deciding What To Grow
If you’re a beginner gardener, you want to grow vegetables that are easy to grow and produce high yields. You also want to consider how much space you have in your garden.
Some vegetables, such as cucumbers, take up more space than lettuce or carrots. It’s also important to grow vegetables that you actually enjoy eating!
Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and carrots are all great options.
Other Things To Consider
Weeding: Controlling weeds in the garden doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Of course, the bigger the garden you create, the more weeds you will have. We use straw and grass clippings as mulch in our garden to keep weeds at bay.
A thick layer of mulch will keep the sun from reaching the soil. This prevents weed growth, while also keeping the soil moist. Be sure to use a straw that does not contain grass seed!
For stubborn weeds that still make it through the mulch, you can either hand pick them or use an action hoe. The best way to weed is to prevent them from growing in the first place.
Fencing: We may love wildlife, but not when they eat our precious vegetables. You’ll want to use a fence that is tall enough to keep out rabbits, deer, and any wildlife that frequent your area. A 4-foot fence is a good place to start. A low fence can also help protect young seedlings from wind.
Staking: Many vegetables benefit from some form of vertical support. Without staking, tomatoes and peppers may become top heavy with fruits later in the season.
There’s nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. Hopefully, this article inspired you to get started with your own garden. Gardening at home can be complex and everyone does things a little differently.
There really is no “right way” or “wrong way.” You will learn your own unique style along the way. Whether you decide to start your garden in a few containers on your balcony, or go all out and design a masterpiece in your backyard, we’re sure you will fall in love with your new hobby!