Gardening for Beginners

How Do You Start a Garden?

Evernon wood framed sectional with gray cushions

Starting a garden can seem like a challenging task, but with the right information and basic skills, you can achieve the flowerbed or vegetable patch of your dreams. All you need is some guidance and a little hard work. Whether you’re growing healthy veggies or fragrant, colorful blooms, our tips can help you get familiar with your yard, design your garden and hone your plant care skills for a bumper crop.

Here’s a quick rundown of the garden tips for beginners in this article:

What Does a Beginner Gardener Need to Know?

When beginning your first garden, understand that growth takes time. This is true for yourself as well as your plants. While you may not become an expert overnight, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor later. Use helpful resources, such as the professionals at your local plant nursery, and pay attention to the weather so you can tend to your garden promptly.

11 Garden Tips for Beginners

These home garden tips for beginners can guide you through the basics. From soil types to garden and patio layouts, a wealth of knowledge is available for those ready to develop their green thumbs. Whether you’re starting from scratch or revitalizing an existing plot, the following tips on gardening for beginners will help you get underway.

Gray wicker 3 piece seating set on grass

Patio furniture allows you and your guests to fully enjoy your hard work in the garden.

1. Know Your Yard

Sunlight, shade and soil determine the plants you can grow and where to put them. It’s important to first understand the layout of your yard or garden plot before deciding where and what to plant. Pay attention to the amount of sunlight in your yard and which areas get full sun or partial shade.

Plants such as herbs and vegetables typically need at least six hours of light daily. Large, leafy plants and some flowers tolerate indirect sunlight and shadier terrain better than plants with smaller, narrower leaves that need more light.

Soil is perhaps the most important aspect of gardening for a beginner, and it comes in different types. Your yard’s soil and pH level determine which flowers or veggies will thrive there once planted. Soil tests let you assess pH levels to help you choose the right plants. Soil that lacks nutrients can also be prepared for planting with compost and potting soils.

Along with sunlight and soil, your garden needs sufficient watering. To make your job easier, plant your garden near a water source to avoid toting a heavy watering can around. Invest in a lengthy garden hose with a spray nozzle to control the water pressure and avoid damaging delicate blooms.

White outdoor lounge chair next to green bushes

Place plants in the sun and consider designating shady patio areas for your furniture.

2. Plant by Climate

Climate conditions determine which plants will thrive in your garden. Choose plants and flowers that grow well where you live. Look at the flowers in your neighbors’ yards and other landscaped properties. Succulents and cacti are drought-tolerant plants, for example, while hydrangea and roses need more water and less heat.

You can find out how well a plant will do in your climate by using the plant hardiness scale, which consists of 13 separate zones on a map of the United States. Each zone has an average minimum temperature. For example, a plant with a hardiness zone of 7 is unlikely to thrive in areas that get colder than the lowest temperature of that zone.

Nassau Outdoor Dining Set w Blue Chairs

When planted outdoors, succulents and cacti fare better in warm, dry climates.

More locally, you should also note the average frost times where you live. Monitoring forecasts keeps you from planting too early, losing your buds to the last frost of spring or missing out on harvesting your vegetables due to the first frost of fall. Use a local weather source to find your area’s last average spring frost date and the first average fall frost date.

3. Lay It All Out

Another important garden design tip for beginners is to create a layout before purchasing any plants. Decide where you want to place each plant according to size, color or sunlight requirements. For example, perhaps you want to line your patio with ornamental thyme or prefer to separate lounge areas from dining spaces with flower boxes.

5 pc gray rectangle dining set

Tall grasses give this dining set plenty of privacy for family dinners.

Choose the color of your plants wisely to help coordinate with patio decor like cushions, toss pillows and wall art. You can also consider different designs, such as a cottage flower garden, a whimsical fairy garden or a carefully curated minimalist garden. Choose and place your plants accordingly to help unify the theme of your patio and your landscape.

Red patio hanging chair

Scarlet red and brilliant orange flowers complement a red hanging chair.

4. Gather the Right Tools

Like any hobby or task, you need the right tools to get the job done. Luckily, gardening tools are rather affordable. Plus, if you need to store your tools to prevent rust during the off-season, there are plenty of outdoor storage options for your garage or shed. A list of the tools every beginner gardener needs includes:

  • Durable gloves to keep your hands clean and safe from sticky weeds or thorns.
  • A trowel to remove individual weeds and dig small holes before planting.
  • A wheelbarrow to haul soil or a bar cart for toting starter plants and supplies.
  • Pruning tools to clip plant stems or branches and keep them tidy and flourishing.
  • A shovel for digging holes as well as breaking up and transferring large amounts of soil and cutting through weeds.
  • A rake to loosen soil and create finer seed beds for planting.
  • A garden hoe to help cultivate the soil and remove weeds.

Gray Outdoor Bar Cart

Outdoor bar carts are practical both for entertaining and toting supplies.

5. Decide on Seed vs. Starter Plant

For your first garden, consider using starter plants over seeds. Growing a plant from seed to sprout and then watching it mature is satisfying; however, it requires a lot of patience and several weeks of care before planting. Starter plants are ready to place in the ground as soon as your soil is ready. They’re easier to tend and produce more predictable growing results.

If you want to try sowing seeds, the easiest plants to grow by seed for a beginner gardener are radishes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. For flowers, the most durable and easy-to-care-for blooms include marigolds, pansies, sunflowers and weather-friendly begonias.

6. Plant by Size

When designing your garden, figure out where you want the largest plants to live. Shrubs, trees and tall grasses take up a lot of space both in width and height, making them harder to fit in a planted garden. For smaller patios or balconies, you can plant anything from herbs and flowers to fruit trees in planters.

4 piece outdoor seating set

This balcony features plenty of potted ferns and trees.

Start small with a vegetable garden by planting one area at a time, especially if you’re designing a large plot and multiple crops. Keep the untouched patches of soil covered to avoid weed growth while you tend to the rest, so you can work your way through the entire garden.

7. Plant the Right Way

Wait to plant until your soil is ready. First, you must weed and prep the soil. After planting, you may want to mulch or add fertilizer to increase nutrients in the soil. You’ll want to avoid planting too shallow by ensuring the roots are below the ground’s surface. For starters, this is equal to the depth of the soil in the starter pot.

When transferring a large potted plant into the ground or moving it to a larger pot, it may be root-bound. When roots run out of room, they often grow together in a tightly packed mass, inhibiting water and nutrients from reaching the rest of the plant. Guide these roots outward gently and avoid breaking them before transplanting them in a larger area.

Wood loveseat

You can also create a full-size garden with planters and transfer them to larger pots as needed.

8. Know When to Water

Watering your plants boosts your chances of having a successful first garden. For most plants, it’s important to water the roots and not the leaves. It’s also best to water in the mornings while temperatures are cool so the plants have time to soak in the moisture before it can evaporate.

For plants that need a lot of water, give them a good soak once a week and water them lightly after a few days. To tell if a plant needs watering, stick a finger knuckle-deep into the soil (about an inch.) If the soil is dry, then it’s time to water. You can also feed plants every two weeks to encourage growth and nutrient absorption.

9. Prune as Needed

For many first-time gardeners, cutting pieces off their hard-earned work is intimidating. However, pruning is essential to the continued growth of many plants. Pruning roses and other flowers keeps excessive moisture out, allows the flower to fully open and prevents various blights. Snip off herb stems rather than pulling off leaves and trim dead blooms from wildflowers so more can grow.

10. Use Compost & Mulch

Composting is wonderful for the environment, and it can save you money and benefit your garden. After a year, you can use broken-down kitchen and garden waste as mulch around the base of your plants. When mulching, even with standard wood varieties, apply a two to three-inch deep layer around the base of the plants to reduce weeds and retain moisture.

11. Enjoy your Garden with Patio Furniture

Make the most of your beautiful new garden with patio furniture for lounging, dining and entertainment. Impress guests with your gardening skills by placing a large sectional beside your raised beds and well-trimmed hedges. A bistro set on the front porch is perfect for overlooking your front yard flowerbeds. Garden benches are also a must in butterfly gardens.

Gray Patio Accent Bench

A bench is a simple seating solution for your garden.

Arrange potted plants around your patio chat set for a fresh, natural border that accentuates colorful seat cushions, rugs, accent stools and more. You can also decorate your garden by hanging lights from trees, placing floor lanterns around walkways or setting statues inside your flower beds to fit your theme.

Catalina Natural Outdoor Chair

Make sure your favorite blooms are center stage with a garden conversation set or lounge area.

Starting Your First Garden

These gardening tips for beginners can help you get a handle on growing your first flower garden or vegetable patch. Once you get started, conduct your own research regarding intermediate gardening hacks and stay informed about the different types of plants you can grow to fill out your yard.