26 Seriously Useful Gardening Tips Every Beginner Needs To Know


Gardening Tips

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1. The right time to start planting varies depending on which hardiness zone you live — use this chart to figure out the right time to begin (and the specific plants that will actually flourish).

The USDA determines hardiness zones every year and lists them on their website; it also lets you zoom in on your state. Your local garden center will be able to help you choose the right plants for you, and the information's often on the back of seed packets. From Avant Garden Decor.
avantgardendecor.com

The USDA determines hardiness zones every year and lists them on their website; it also lets you zoom in on your state. Your local garden center will be able to help you choose the right plants for you, and the information’s often on the back of seed packets.

From Avant Garden Decor.

2. Get to know the type of soil you have, and how you might want to improve it.

From Schultz.

3. When you start to get serious, try a simple soil test, then figure out what you need to mix in based on those results.

In general, you probably want to test before you plant in the spring, and after you finish harvesting in the fall. But if you've never tested before, there's no time like the present! You can also send your soil to a lab for more thorough results, but unless you try this first and still have trouble, or are an experienced gardener who's obsessive about your soil, you probably don't need to go that far. Get this pack of 40 tests, which covers pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, on Amazon for $13.30.

In general, you probably want to test before you plant in the spring, and after you finish harvesting in the fall. But if you’ve never tested before, there’s no time like the present! You can also send your soil to a lab for more thorough results, but unless you try this first and still have trouble, or are an experienced gardener who’s obsessive about your soil, you probably don’t need to go that far.

Get this pack of 40 tests, which covers pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, on Amazon for $13.30.

4. You may even want to consider mixing in compost or (erm) well-rotted manure to boost your rows or beds.

Those are things you’ll probably want to ask around for at your local garden store at first; but eventually you might want to set up your own compost tumbler. This one’s $79 on Amazon.

Read more about soil on Better Homes and Gardens.

5. Keep track of what you planted where year to year, when specific vegetables were ready to harvest, and more with the help of a gardening journal.

You can start with a simple spiral notebook, of course. Or get one specifically designed for tracking gardens, $20.99 on Amazon.

You can start with a simple spiral notebook, of course. Or get one specifically designed for tracking gardens, $20.99 on Amazon.

6. And an old-school photo album is the perfect way to keep track of your seed packets.

If you grow from seeds and not seedlings, that is. From One Hundred Dollars A Month. Get a small album on Amazon for $10.99.

If you grow from seeds and not seedlings, that is. From One Hundred Dollars A Month. Get a small album on Amazon for $10.99.

7. Try out a system like Square Foot Gardening to help you get the hang of how to actually grow veggies you can eat, and to grow more in less space.

It’s very straightforward, where you grow in several square-foot-divided areas, instead of in traditional rows. It won’t feed a family of six, but it’s an easy way to get started! Get the paperback on Amazon for $15.89.

8. Never grow the same type of veggies in the same plot of soil two or more years in a row — instead, rotate them so your soil stays rich with the nutrients each specific type of plants needs.

Read more about it from Bonnie Plants.

Read more about it from Bonnie Plants.

9. Consider ~companion planting~ as you plan: particular plants may help keep another’s pests under control, and others just naturally grow well together.

For example, corn makes good climbing material for peas and beans, while the wide leaves of squash hide all of the roots from getting too much sun. This graphic's from Anglian Home.

For example, corn makes good climbing material for peas and beans, while the wide leaves of squash hide all of the roots from getting too much sun. This graphic’s from Anglian Home.

10. If you’re planting flowers, consider a mix of annuals (which last just for a year) and perennials (which grow over many years).

11. Pick up a few basic tools if you don’t have ’em already, and a pair of durable protective gloves.

The trowel will be your main workhorse, but the transplanter (the one with the measuring marks on it) will make all the difference when you need to measure the right size holes for different plants, and the cultivator will loosen soils that end up packed over time. And gloves, of course, keep your hands clean and protect them from spiky thorns. (These are just starters of course; if you’re looking at a big project, you’ll definitely need more/different tools!)

Get the set of three tools for $15.77 and the gloves for $9.97, both on Amazon.

12. And store them in a self-sharpening, self-cleaning solution of mineral oil and sand.

You’ll still want to wipe them down and make sure they’re dry to avoid rust, of course. From One Good Thing By Jillee.

13. You can start seeds in eggshells or citrus rinds…

14. …or, of course, seed starter trays made exactly for that purpose.

They'll definitely give your seedlings a little more room to grow than an eggshell, but either way works. Get a pack with 144 cells (24 trays with six cells each) on Amazon for $7.14.

They’ll definitely give your seedlings a little more room to grow than an eggshell, but either way works. Get a pack with 144 cells (24 trays with six cells each) on Amazon for $7.14.

15. Always snip your herbs with clean, sharp garden shears — never just pluck off their leaves.

Always snip them between two sets of leaves, as close as possible to the bottom set. Make sure to leave at least two or three layers of leaves on your plant, though! This encourages your plant to send out more leaves. Read more on The Thrifty Groove and Martha Stewart.

Get a highly-rated set of garden shears on Amazon for $9.98.

16. If you want to eat your herbs, don’t let them flower — it can change their flavor, and might prevent your plant from growing more tasty leaves.

This goes especially for basil and mint! If they put their plant energy into flowers and seeds, they’ll have less of it to make leaves. Read more on Gardening Know How, Chokri Home and Garden, and Preparedness Mama.

17. Always water a vegetable garden in the morning before the hottest part of the day, so the water doesn’t evaporate before it soaks into the soil.

Plants like a good breakfast, too! You can also water in the late afternoon, but that's second-best. From Country Living and Gardening Know How.

Disney

Plants like a good breakfast, too! You can also water in the late afternoon, but that’s second-best. From Country Living and Gardening Know How.

18. Morning’s also the best time to water gardens in general, and it’s ideal to water both deeply (about 2 inches) and less frequently (like, once a week or so) so the plant roots can grow nice and deep.

In your dream garden, you’d get almost two inches of rain in weekly afternoon showers, but we know that never happens. Read more on Gardening Know How, because it’s a little more complicated than that; containers may even need daily waterings, depending on where you live.

Get a highly-rated heavy-duty watering nozzle on Amazon for $15.99; it’ll attach to your hose for easy watering.

19. Trim or pinch off the dead blooms from certain flowering plants to help encourage even more blooms.

Always clip or trim back to where there’s still green growth happening. Read more on Savvy Gardening here and here.

20. You can also cut flowers while they’re fresh to display in vases, of course; here’s everything you need to know.

21. Help attract gentle mason bees to pollinate all of your fruit and vegetable plants (so they actually produce a crop) with a bee house.

The Honeybee Conservancy has everything you need to know about mason bees. Then you can get a little house for them (each individual tube could be the home of one bee!) on Amazon for $23.91.

22. And you can take care of any slug problems by putting out a dish of beer.

Apparently it really does work.

Flickr: SteveR- / Creative Commons / Flickr: git

Apparently it really does work.

23. Mulching your garden can keep the weeds at bay and water in the soil.

From Fix. Different types of mulch work for different types of gardens of course; read more about what you might need here. You can get mulch at your local garden store, or even use the ChipDrop website/app to bid on mulch cut from local trees.

24. Although you’ll still probably have to do some weeding; to make it easier on your back, you can always try a stand-up weeder.

Weeding’s annoying, but if you devote a few minutes a day to it, or try to do it at least once a week, you can catch the weeds when they’re young, and it’ll be easier to pull them up.

But if you’re too busy for that (or TBH just lazy), this weeder pulls even the toughest weeds out by the root, and has five-star reviews from over 2,600 people; get it on Amazon for $39.15.

25. You can make a homemade ~fertilizer tea~ out of weeds and grass clippings to help return some of the nutrients they absorbed to your soil (and the plants you *want* to grow).

You literally tear them up into a bucket filled with non-chlorinated water, cover to keep mosquitos out, and let it steep! Get the full directions from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

26. But do your research before you decide to apply any other chemical fertilizers — you want to make sure you use the right ones at the right times for your particular plants.

This’ll sound familiar, because fertilizers also generally give an “NPK” number — nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium — the same info you’re looking at in a soil test. But this is all about getting even more of those important nutrients to your platns.

Unfortunately there’s not an easy “tip” for this one; you just have to do your research and pay attention to the information about your seeds or plants when you buy ’em. There are several types of fertilizers out there; read more about it on Fine Gardening, Bonnie Plants, and Zone 9 Garden.

Enjoy your new garden, and good luck!

Fox / giphy.com

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