This is it! This is the year that you start gardening! Maybe you've been dreaming about it for years, or maybe the inspiration just came to you this morning. Either way, you're ready to garden, but you have some questions. Gardening for beginners doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are ten questions that every beginner gardener has (and, of course, the answers):
1. What supplies do I need?
The minimum requirements for gardening for beginners are a place to garden (either a patch of land or a container), compost, seeds or seedlings, a watering can, and a small spade.
If you choose to garden in a container, then you'll need potting soil to fill it. Whether gardening in the ground or in a container, you'll need compost to provide your plants with vital nutrition. You can buy compost at the garden center or make your own.
2. What should I grow?
Salad greens are a great choice because they grow reliably and early. If you live in an area of the country that experiences winter, you can plant them as soon as the soil thaws in early spring.
Peas are another easy spring plant. The seeds can go directly in the ground (no need to start indoors) at the same time you plant the salad greens.
Later in the season, zucchini and other summer squash, green beans, and cucumbers are easy to grow and care for.
Tomatoes are always tempting to any gardener, but they can be a bit fussy. Even experienced gardeners sometimes struggle with tomatoes. If you want to give them a try as a beginner gardener, start small with just a few plants and buy seedlings at a nursery.
3. When should I start my garden?
Start any time after the ground is thaws. Some plants (i.e. Swiss chard, spinach) like chillier soil, and others (i.e. tomatoes, basil) need warmer temps. Check out this guide to know when to plant what.
4. Um, remind me again, what exactly's going on here....
A refresher is always useful. So let's review some basic plant biology.
Plant your seed in the ground and within about a week it will germinate. You will see a seedling sprout above ground, but underground the plant's root system is as big as what you see above ground. It's that root system that absorbs nutrition and moisture from the soil (and this is why compost is so important).
Still have questions? Check out this web site.
5. When should I water?
As a general rule, your garden needs an inch of water every week of the growing season. How will you know how much water it gets? A simple rain gauge will let you know.
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Of course there are some plants--cucumbers, asparagus, celery--that will appreciate a bit more water.
6. What about weeds?
Weeds are bad because they steal valuable nutrients from the plants you're trying to cultivate. However, very few weeds actually choke and kill the plant. So, that's how I justify being a very lazy weeder. In truth, I only weed my garden about 3-4 times each growing season.
You will have to weed eventually. Use this guide to know how to identify a weed.
7. Ick! How do I get rid of bugs, slugs, and other creepy crawlies?
Gardening for beginners tip: Don't panic! Many bugs in your garden are beneficial, so put down that pesticide. When you spot a bug check out this guide to tell whether its a true pest or a harmless interloper. If it is indeed a pest, remove it by hand or use an eco-friendly option for eradication.
8. Does it need more compost?
If you live in an area that has a specific growing season (i.e. spring through fall), then apply compost at the beginning of each growing season and again at the height of the season (i.e. late July-August).
If you live in an area that has a year round growing season, then apply compost each time you start new seeds/seedlings. Add more as the plants start producing veggies.
How much compost should you apply? As much as you have! A few (3-5) inches is a good rule of thumb. Bear this in mind: You run a greater risk of not applying enough compost versus applying too much.
9. When is it time to harvest?
Harvest when you have a mature plant. Your seed pack will tell you the size to expect (i.e. 6-10 inches for a mature zucchini). If it's later in the season and temperatures are nearing freezing, then you may need to harvest some smaller sized veggies in order to keep them from being damaged by frost.
10. I think I like this, where do I go from here?
Congratulations you're a gardener! Now aim to expand your growing options. Try some plants that are a bit more challenging or broaden your options by trying heirloom varieties. Gardening for beginners is just that--the beginning!
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photo of gardener with tools via Shutterstock