Tips for New Gardener Success – believe it or not, I wasn’t always a successful gardener; I have fought my black thumb and won. There was a time when I killed more veggies than we ate! But that was a long time and many gardens ago. Now I feel like I can share my tips for new gardener success; maybe I can spare you some pitfalls I encountered.
Tips for New Gardener Success
New Gardener Tip #1 – Get Educated
Go to the library or the bookstore and read up on gardening. Look for books that are specific to your zone or region. I am in southern Arizona – the general gardening book didn’t deal with our weather! So a side tip here is know your gardening zone – the USDA Map will help you determine that. Check out your local extension office for planting calendars and gardening help for your area.
New Gardener Tip #2 – Find a Local Mentor
Find someone who is gardening successfully in your area. This could be a group of gardeners on a forum or someone you can meet with face to face. This was a huge help to me when I was getting started. Offer to help a mentor in their garden so you can learn along side them; or share a gift that you have with them in exchange. A mentor, that you can walk you through gardening in your specific area, is better than any book you’ll buy!
New Gardener Tip #3 – Determine Your Goals
What makes you want to garden? I wanted access to the freshest, non-gmo / organic produce around. I also wanted our family to learn self-sufficiency; and to change our thinking to being producers rather than consumers. I didn’t know how much I was going to love it. I didn’t know I was going to find it so relaxing (even when I wasn’t super successful). I didn’t know how much pride I would take in the veggies that I fed my family from the garden.
Find your why and you won’t want to give up when you have a garden hiccup…or disaster.
New Gardener Tip #4 – Know Your Soil
Whether you plan to plant directly into your dirt or build a raised garden – you need to understand soil. Soil is the spine of your garden – without the right support it won’t grow. If you’re going to plant directly into your ground, have your soil tested first. Not only will this tell you if there is anything bad in the soil, it will tell you what amendments your soil will need for success. In a raised bed garden you have even more control over your soil.
Compost is going to be the best way for you to nourish your soil and it is practically free to make!
See my articles on composting and soil
- The Best DIY Soil Mix
- Composting 101
- 10 Things You Never Want to Compost
- Cheap & Easy DIY Compost Bin
- Troubleshooting Your Compost
New Gardener Tip #5 – Start Small
This really could be my number 1 tip; start small and build up. I started with 1 4×4 foot garden box. Now that was mostly because that was all we could afford to build and fill (compost was still cooking) at the time. But now I realize that it was perfect. I learned how to garden in that little box and as my confidence grew, and the budget allowed, we built more. Keeping it small at the start will keep YOU from being overwhelmed by it all. As your knowledge and comfort grows then you can add on; not to mention you’ll find out if you enjoy gardening. Gardening it an all hands in project, not a set it and forget it thing.
New Gardener Tip #6 – Choose a Good Seed Company
I prefer to grow from seeds because this allows for the most control over what you’re growing. Many of the seedlings or transplants you’ll buy at big box stores have been giving chemical fertilizers; which I don’t want in my organic garden. I order my seeds from catalogs or online from companies that are committed to non-gmo and organic practices.
New Gardener Tip #7 – Have a Plan for Pests
There are a lot of things you can do to lessen your chances of pests. I suggest practicing both companion gardening and crop rotation for the healthiest garden; but that’s something to work on when you’re more comfortable. But do know your garden’s common enemies like aphids, horn worms, etc and have a plan to deal with them naturally.
New Gardener Tip #8 – Plant What You Like to Eat
When starting your little 4×4 garden, plant what you know you like to eat already. This isn’t the time for experimenting with new veggies. You’ll feel more successful when you EAT what you grow!
New Gardener Tip #9 – Keep Good Records
I was so excited about my new garden that I often pulled things before it was time. I suggest keeping a log book of where and when you planted seeds. Then using the seed’s packet mark down when you should expect them to sprout and the approximate time to harvest. Beneath that write the actual days that they did sprout and the time to harvest. This will help you in the future for growing those vegetables. Your record book will also help you if you should forget what you planted. I am not a big user of plant markers because they always seem to get uprooted.
New Gardener Tip #10 – Be Patient, Allow for Mistakes & Have Fun
A garden will teach you patience but you have let it too. This is a project that doesn’t give you immediate results. Allow yourself to make mistakes, but don’t give up! No matter how much your study, you will make mistakes. You’ll learn a lot from your gardening mistakes! Most of all enjoy your garden. I garden in the mornings, when the weather is nice and the garden is just waking up. I love the quiet, but sometimes I’ll listen to a little music too. I bet it will quickly become your favorite “room” in your house.
I hope these tips for new gardener success have helped you feel more confident in starting your own garden. YOU CAN DO IT!