Tips and Tools for the Beginner Gardener
It seems that this spring, more than ever, people are interested in trying their hand at growing food and flowers for the first time. Between figuring out what you need to succeed and navigating how to best approach nurturing your plants, gardening for the first time can feel both overwhelming and exciting. Here are five recommendations that will help you start your growing season strong.
Do Some Research:There are many components to a successful growing season including planning and knowledge. Before jumping in and planting every square inch of your garden take some time to read up about the varieties you might be interested in planting. If you’re starting from seed, the planting information on a seed packet is a great place to start, but you can also check out KidsGardening’s Growing Guides for tips on how to care for various veggies, fruits, and flowers. In general, different plants will require different growing environments and management approaches, grow at different rates, and need to be harvested at different times—let your research, the space you have, and your reason for gardening inform your decision making process.
Know Your Soil: Whether you’re planting in a raised bed, in the ground, or a single pot that will go on your windowsill, healthy soil is one of the keys to growing healthy plants. If you are planting in the ground, a simple soil test can tell you what nutrients you might need to add to optimize plant growth and if your soil is free of harmful contaminants like lead. If you go the raised bed or container garden route you’ll likely be purchasing soil in bulk or in bags. Unfortunately, it’s not advisable to use the soil that will go in your raised bed for smaller potted plantings—garden soil is generally too heavy and will not drain adequately when used for container plants, so you’ll want to purchase a potting soil mix instead.
Invest in Irrigation: Just like good soil, proper watering will positively impact the growth of plants. There’s no simple answer to how frequently or how much you should water your garden—that will depend on a variety of factors including plant species, plant size, maturity level, and your environment—but at the very least you can start with the right tools. A good watering can or nozzle for your hose can make a world of difference. Watering cans with nozzle caps disperse and restrict water flow, so instead of a powerful stream of water that might knock over young plants or displace soil and expose roots, you get a more controlled and manageable flow. Additionally, hose nozzles that have a variety of spray options can be great for adjusting your watering techniques to fit any given circumstance.
Use the Right Tools: Your hands are one of the best gardening tools out there, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little backup, especially if you’re dealing with established weeds or hard compacted soil outside. Trowels, hand cultivators, and hori horis are great for small gardens and raised beds, but if you’re dealing with a bigger space having a shovel, digging fork, and any variety of hoe can make managing a larger area easier. Having a pair of sharp shears can be useful for pruning plants like tomatoes, though you can definitely get by with some household scissors, just be sure to sanitize the blades before pruning to prevent potential infection.
Make it Fun: Gardening is a great hobby for people of any age providing stress relief and time in nature along with the opportunity to add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. A great rule of thumb for new gardeners to make sure your garden is an enjoyable experience is to start small and grow over time. Another way to amplify the wonder of gardening is to involve children in your garden efforts. If you’re looking for additional kid-friendly ideas, KidsGardening has plenty of free online resources and activity books. Begin your youth gardening efforts by reading through KidsGardening’s age appropriate gardening activity tips for ideas for engaging the kids in your life.
About KidsGardening: We’ve asked KidsGardening, our partners for the Budding Botanist Grant program, to guest blog this week. We hope their insights will inspire kids to play, learn, and grow through gardening, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder. As a national nonprofit, they offer garden-based activities and lesson plans for children of all ages, as well as grant opportunities for youth gardens across the country.