Gardening for Beginners: 12 Tips for Growing Your Own Food
Growing your own food is both fulfilling and eco-friendly. If you're ready to get started, consider this gardening for beginners 101.
Gardening is one of the most sustainable ways to reduce your own food waste, take care of the planet, and nourish your family. It also gives you an opportunity to reduce trips to the grocery store, cut down on your grocery budget, and even support local businesses.
But if you've never gardened before, you might be unsure where to start. Below, we essentially give you gardening for beginners 101. With these tips and tricks, you'll be growing beautiful fruit and vegetables of your own in no time.
12 Gardening Tips for Beginners
1. Know Your Location
The most important thing to do before you start your garden is conduct a little research. Most vegetables and fruits have different zones where they're able to grow. For example, as much as you love lemons and limes, you might not have the right climate to grow a supply of your own.
Understanding which season to grow your crops is also important. Do a quick search for your zone and start making a list of what you want to plant, and when is the best time. Research the Farmers' Almanac for tips on when to expect the last frost, which can kill your plants early and unexpectedly.
2. Know Your Soil
Knowing which kind of soil you have is also important. If you have a lot of clay in your ground, you may have to add in topsoil, fertilizer, and plant food to help your seeds grow. Potted plants or raised garden beds are a great option, as you can control the type of soil you have.
Many plants grow easily in large pots or raised planters, such as tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, and other vine plants. Blueberries prefer more acidic soil than other plants, which makes large pots perfect for them. Research nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer, such as mushroom soil, manure sold from a local farm, or fertilizer.
Composting is a great organic alternative to all the various garden soils available, and again, cuts down on your food waste and is good for the environment. You can start with a simple countertop compost bin or, if you have a large garden, invest in a turning bin.
To begin, all you have to remember is “mix browns and greens.” This means brown things, like dead leaves and sticks, mixed with green things, like lawn clippings and newspaper. Add in your coffee grounds and loose-leaf tea. You can then add in eggshells, fruits, and vegetables. It's not recommended to put citrus, meat, dairy, or animal products (eggs, grease, etc.) into your compost.
Chop up banana peels and larger food waste to help it decompose faster. Add in some potting soil and water, then mix it up. Remember to turn it every so often, and in about six weeks you will have beautiful fresh compost. Make sure you have some earthworms in there, too; they help make it richer.
4. Find Your Seeds
Most hardware, grocery, and home improvement stores have relatively inexpensive seed packs to get your garden started. However, you can look online for organic or specialty seeds. On Etsy, you can find organic, rare, and even hand-grown seeds, and customize which seeds you want.
5. Learn the Best Time for Planting
Now that you've researched and prepped your soil, and know what you want to plant and when, it's time to get started. Early spring is often best to begin planting indoors to ensure your plants have warm temperatures and will thrive. Keep them properly watered and in a warm and sunny spot.
Look for biodegradable seed containers (like these newspaper seedling pots) that can be easily transferred to the ground when you're ready.
6. Transfer Plants Carefully
When it's time to transfer your baby plants into the ground, pick a time when the ground is moist and soft. When you take out your plants, be careful not to break any of the small roots. Gently place them in the ground or pot, cover with potting soil, and water them well so the plants can root down into the soil.
7. Try Hydroponic Gardening
Hydroponic gardening—aka swapping soil for nutrient-rich water to grow produce—is on the rise. Many people that want to garden don't have access to big backyards, and options like Gardyn and Lettuce Grow (get our comparison of the popular options here) make it easy to grow veggies in small spaces. You can even use them indoors!
8. Buy Starter Plants
If you don’t have time or think you won’t be successful with starting from seed, you can buy baby plants. Visit your local greenhouses or farmers' market, or look for local events from farmers in your area who may be selling baby plants.
This is a good idea if you're new to gardening or want to make sure you have healthy plants from the beginning. It's also a good opportunity to purchase harder-to-find varieties, as well as helps you easily buy plants that thrive in your zone.
9. Consider a Greenhouse
If you live in a colder climate or want to try your hand with plants outside your zone, consider buying a greenhouse or building one yourself.
There are many sizes available, from mini greenhouses for potted herbs and large coverings for long rows of plants to whole greenhouse systems. You can find the size perfect for your needs, whether you're looking at a local greenhouse or store, on Etsy, or other small businesses' websites.
10. Try Radishes and Mixed Greens
Looking for something that grows quickly and easily? Try radishes and mixed greens. They're a breeze to grow and sprout within 4 to 7 days.
Radishes are delicious raw, with a nice peppery taste that's a great addition to salads. Or they can be pickled or roasted. Greens can be used all summer for a healthy side dish for your meals
11. Start with Herbs
Starting with herbs is great when you're new at gardening. They're great plants that can be grown indoors or out, and once they start they'll usually thrive.
You can reduce wasting herbs by drying or freezing them. You can also chop them up and put them in ice cube trays with olive oil and freeze to create instant flavor boosts for any meal. Freshly-cut herbs mixed with garlic and olive oil also make a simple but delicious dipping sauce for bread.
12. Try a Grow Kit
Still not sure where to start or what to grow? Try a grow kit that makes the process effortless. You can even get pre-made garden kits that have everything you need to get started.
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