No matter where you live, you can start a garden. From indoors and hydroponics to outdoor permaculture, a garden is an enjoyable and fulfilling way to grow plants for food, medicine and/or beauty. Find out how you can start a simple garden today!
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There are many ways to get started with a garden. No matter where you live or what your situation is, you can generally garden even if it is just a little. Here we are going to go through a few things you need to get started.
What do plants needs
Plants are both surprisingly complex and relatively simple, at the same time! Let me explain. In a broad sense, all any living creature needs is fuel and sex. In an evolutionary way, this simple means that biologically all plants and animals are living to reproduce and they need lots of nutrients, support and structures to accomplish this drive. For plants, this can be stated as light, nutrients, water and propagation.
From there it gets a lot more complex. Some plants generally reproduce through sexual organs such as flower, which turn into the foods you eat fruits and some vegetables (that are secretly fruits!). Others can spread and make more of themselves through other networks such as a root system that spreads. This applies to plants like bamboo, tumeric and ginger. Some plants create their fruit underground (like tubers and rhizomes) while others hang from larger plants (plums, apples, grapes, etc.).
Most gardeners need to import some forms of assistant to their plants because usually the complete ecological cycle cannot be completed in a backyard. Though you can minimize imports by composting, vermicomposting and using animals and animal feces. Generally, you will likely need a little help. Some ways to increase fertility include fertilizers, there are lots of organic ones to choose from. Getting a soil test is your best bet to find out what you need to help your plants thrive.
What to grow
There are many factors that impact what you can or should grow. These include extreme temperatures, daylight hours, rainfall and humidity. Luckily there are many seed companies out there that provide specialized varieties suited for different USDA hardiness zones and growing situations, from containers to market gardens.
You can check out my article “How to choose seeds” for more information about what seeds you should consider and why. The concept also applies to selecting perrenials such as fruit trees, grape vines, asparagus and berry bushes. Definitely consider where you will be growing your garden and whether you plant to investigate interplanting and/or crop rotation. Depending on the size of your operation you may have a full raised bed of tomatoes followed up by arugula, say in the summer and then fall.
Definitely stick to what grows well in your area as well as what you will eat, use or enjoy. If you are planning for a gardening haven, where you sip lemonade under a pergola of hanging flowers versus growing a huge patch of paste tomatoes for making your famous spaghetti sauce (or both, you do you!). your goals for that garden, bed, container or area will certainly differ.
When to grow
Definitely the absolute BEST time to start a garden is the spring. As a novice gardening, all of the local nurseries will start to have lovely example of starts, seedlings, small trees, seeds, soil, containers, tools, tillers, fertilizers, and so on. This is when they stock up and ready for the country to get into their gardens. While it is nice to have a plan made during the winter, you can definitely dive right in during the spring and see what you can grow (and what you struggle with).
For me, I start seeds in the winter/spring. I have struggled with starting seeds so I began to invest in starting seeds indoors. Now I have a heat mat, seed tray with lid, grow light, organic seed starting medium and quality seeds. Even then, I still experience quite a bit of failure and that is ok! I learn what does or doesn’t work well for me, for my garden or for my family in that time.
Buy some quality starts from a local, reputable nursery, some good soil and have a good place to plant and you can start your spring garden immediately. Grow what looks pretty to you as well as what you might consume.
Final tips on your first garden
If you have never gardened before, the biggest tip I have is to not overdo it. Start with a reasonable amount of seeds or plants in a place you frequent and build from there. Try to position your garden to have three key elements to help you succeed:
- Sunlight, generally it has to be at least 6 hours of sunlight for most fruits and veggies
- Access to water, position it close to a hose or a way to get water to the plants easily
- Visible! Try to have your first garden, even if it is a balcony, windowsill or in just in pots on the porch in a place you regularly visit or see. A nice spot can be where you walk into the house every day.
If you can see, water and allow for sunlight to your plants then it will be simple to find the right nutrients, soil and containers you need to start gardening. If any one of these isn’t an option, that is ok, just knowing that going in will help you. For example, if the place where you get reasonable sun is in the very back of your backyard away from where you visit regularly and the water hose, start there. If you realize the plants aren’t doing well set some reminders and build a routine.
Healthy soil, healthy plants
Another big tip from many different gardeners is healthy soil, healthy plants. If your soil is doing well then not only will you hopefully be able to avoid plant disease but ALSO avoid some of the worst pests. Since this is your first garden, some pests will naturally be excited for the buffet you have just provided them. Eventually, their predators will also find and help control them. In addition, if plants are suffering, they are more likely to experience problems.
Finally, if you fail and have a total brown thumb, check out my article on what you can STILL try to grow. I for one have really struggled with seemingly easy basics like tomatoes and zucchinis. If you fail though, just take notes, that will help you with the next season!