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When we moved into our house I dreamed of having luscious garden beds and growing my own fruits, vegetables and beautiful cut flowers but had no idea where to start. Does this sound familiar? Are you wondering how to start a garden? The really cool thing about gardening is that it doesn’t need to be complicated and you’re always learning and experimenting as you go.
Scroll down to read my tips on how to start a garden for beginners and be on your way to one of the most rewarding hobbies this spring.
How to start a garden for beginners.
1.) Determine your zone.
The first thing you need to know before you can plant your garden is what zone you live in. This will help you know when to to start seeds, what plants will do well, when to transplant into the ground, etc. Where I am in Upstate New York, we are Zone 5B. The climate is very different here than you would find out in California. So while someone in Calfornia may be able to start growing various melons in January for example, our climate won’t allow that here.
2.) Determine what you want to plant in your garden
This is my favorite part. I love to go through the seed catalogs and circle the different plant varieties that I want to plant. I usually will do alot of the vegetables that we enjoy like lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, snap peas and zucchini. The kids love to go out to the garden and just eat right as they pick.
For cut flowers I love to do zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, and sunflowers. I find that those are really easy flowers to start with.
And then I usually will pick a few new things to try. This year we’re going to try growing some pumpkins, flowers.
3.) Start seeds
If you’re starting from seeds, I have found this to be a really helpful resource. You basically plug in your zip code and it tells you when to start your seeds indoors, outdoors, our set your plants starts out.
Now you may be asking what’s the difference between starting seeds indoors or outdoors?
If you live in a zone with a shorter growing season (such as Upstate New York), it is helpful to get a jump start on starting some seeds indoors. Using seed starting trays are really helpful. Be sure to keep next to a sunny window indoors and keep the soil moist. This year I’m also going to try a small greenhouse.
4.) Prepping the beds and soil
Clear any of the leaves, branches and brush that accumulated over the winter. If you plan to get into composting, save these for your compost.
Having your soil tested is probably one of the easiest things to do and it will tell you what nutrients it may be lacking. To check your soil:
- With a clean shovel, dig a hole about 6 inches deep, cutting that section of soil out of the ground.
- Place the soil into a clean bucket or clean container.
- Bring to your local garden center and they can test it for you.
Prior to planting, make the sure the soil isn’t too wet. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze into a ball. Open your hand and touch the ball of dirt. If it crumbles, the soil is perfect conditions to work. If it’s breaks into large clumps, it’s still too wet and you will need to a wait a few days for it to dry out. To work the soil, rake and turn over, breaking up any big clumps and removing rocks. Rake until the dirt is soft and level.
5.) Now you’re ready to plant
Most seeds you can direct sow right into the ground. Be sure to pay attention to the back of your seed packet as it will give you direction on when to plant, how deep, how far apart, etc.
If you are transplanting your plants that you started indoors, I like to harden them off first. All this means is bring them outside for a few hours daily before planting them into the ground. This just helps them withstand the weather and develop stronger stems.
This is the absolute best part about gardening and the most rewarding. Whether you are cutting your own flowers or harvesting fruits and vegetables, this is the part you’ve been waiting for. This is also the part where the kids love to help out! I like to use a basket like this one to collect all of our veggies. They also have these garden aprons too!
I love to experiment and make different recipes with our fresh vegetables. We typically get an abundance of zucchini. Here are some of my favorite zucchini recipes below:
A few helpful tips to remember when starting your garden:
- When it comes to watering, there is such a thing as over-watering. I know I am guilty of that too and I like to think it’s because we just love our plants so much. But I have found that every few days is best depending on how rainy of a season it is.
- Get the kids involved. My boys have loved being out in the garden, seeing how we can grow our own food and of course eating it!
- Be patient – some years will be better than others. But that’s the cool thing about gardening, you will learn something new every year!
- Here are some tools that I find helpful to have on hand – click here.
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