How to Start a Garden in 7 Steps

Starting a garden can be very exciting – and overwhelming! The good news is it is not hard to learn how to start a garden – and the rewards are definitely worth the effort!

gardening for beginners

Why start a garden? There are a number of reasons! Whether you want to learn how to start a vegetable garden or start a flower garden bed, there are a lot of benefits to gardening!

If you grow vegetables or herbs, you can have your very own supply of fresh organic food. If you grow flowers, you can make your backyard a beautiful space for relaxing.

How To Start a Garden as a Beginner

1: Do Your Research

Before you grab a shovel and start digging up your backyard, it is a very good idea to do some research before hand. Most of this information is easy to find, and a few hours of research before you start can save you a LOT of hassles down the road.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What is my USDA garden zone?
  • What types of plants will grow best where I live?
  • Which plants do I want to learn how to grow?
  • How do I care for these plants?
  • Where will I plant my garden? 

It’s important that you realize it takes time to build a garden. You are not going to be able to plant and grow an entire backyard garden in a day!

2: Make a Plan

Starting small is the best method. When you are planning your garden, think in terms of designing your garden in phases.

When we first started gardening at our house, we broke it up into different phases and sections. We knew we could not possibly fully grow an entire garden in one season, especially since we live on a large 2 acre lot.

When you are a beginner, it’s best to focus on only a small area at first. This will make sure that you are prepared for the time and effort it requires to grow something. It also ensures you do not get worn out too fast!

Tip: Try sketching your outdoor space and experiment with different garden design ideas. Think about different sections you can work on each season.

When we first started planning our outdoor space as a garden, we decided to focus on different sections of the yard. For example, we started with mulching and planting the flower bed in front of the house. Eventually we started working on the area near the street. We planted some fruits and vegetables.

Now we have a lot of garden patches and areas to grow in – but it is always a work in progress!

how to start a garden

As a beginner, you may also wish to start with plants that are ready to be planted instead of starting from seed.

Some plants are quite difficult to start from seed, and it takes a LOT of work to get them going!

While it can be more expensive upfront to start with young seedlings instead of seeds, being able to see the plants already growing in the ground can help you stay motivated and save you a lot of time as a beginner.

This makes it possible for you to focus on the other important aspects of a new garden.

3: Invest in Necessary Tools & Supplies

You do not need to spend a lot to get started in gardening, but the right tools sure can make a big difference! Some of the absolute necessary tools will be a garden shovel, a 3-in-1 soil testing meter, garden gloves and a good garden rake.

starting a garden

You can often make your own DIY tools at first as well. For example, I reused containers from gatorade to make my own DIY watering can that works great for watering plants.

Not sure what tools you need? See our post on the best garden tools for beginners for some of our favorite things to use.

4. Start Now, Even if it is Not Growing Season

The best time to start is now, because all things related to growing plants and gardening takes some time. It takes time to prepare the ground for planting. It takes time for plants to grow. Some plants, like garlic need to be started in the fall for the best results.

This is a good time to also consider building a raised garden bed. There are a number of raised garden bed designs to consider. These can be built easily from a kit or by reusing materials you have from around the house. Raised garden beds can save you a lot of frustration by providing good soil drainage conditions and minimizing weed invasion.

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If you are planting your garden in a place that is currently a patch of grass, you can also start by preparing the soil in that spot.

Grass can be removed easily by placing pieces of cardboard or layers of newspaper mulch on it for a few weeks. Be sure you anchor the cardboard down with dirt or rocks.

The grass will naturally turn into compost and you won’t have to spend hours digging it all up!

Note that some plants, such as lavender, which grows in an arid, dry climate actually does better with a rock based mulch. For these types of plants, you can use pea gravel or lava rock in place of mulch.

5: Aim for Healthy, Pest Free Soil

Plants grow best in healthy soil that has the necessary nutrients. While different plants will require different soil conditions, most plants will benefit from a healthy mixture of compost and well draining soil.

what garden soil for starting a garden

Make sure the area where you are gardening is clean. Many pests are attracted to damp areas and rotting wood. If the environment is clean, you can ensure that your plants will be safe from a number pests and detrimental insects.

If necessary, you may wish to explore organic methods of removing pests and insects. You should try to refrain from using harsh chemicals and pesticides whenever possible, as these are not good for you or the environment!

Also take into consideration if you have any pets such as a cat or dog – some of the commercially available pesticides are NOT pet safe!

Note that many insects are quite beneficial to have in the garden, such as bees, butterflies, and earthworms. If you see a bunch of earthworms in your garden, this is a very good thing! These worms help fertilize the soil and ensure the soil is healthy.

Some pests however are not good to have, as they can eat your plants or spread disease.

It is important that you keep the good bugs and get rid of the bad ones – like aphids, ick! Garden slugs and certain beetles can also be a big pest in some gardens!

It’s also a good idea to regularly check the soil condition. Often times, soil can be improved by mixing it with other components.

For example, if your soil is acidic but the plants you are growing require alkaline soil, you can mix in garden lime to reduce the acidity of the soil.

Again, a 3-in-1 soil testing meter can be your best friend!

6:  Protect Your Plants With Mulch and Reduce Weeds as Much as Possible!

It takes a lot of effort and time to remove weeds and plant your plants, so the best thing you can do is learn ways to protect them!

Mulch is something you must do in a garden! It serves three important purposes. Here is why you need mulch:

  • It allows for the area to retain moisture, reducing the need to water your plants and protecting them during droughts
  • It creates a barrier to prevent weeds from growing around the plant. Weeds can cause your plants to not get the nutrients they need!
  • It can protect the plant during the winter season if it is a bulb or perennial to ensure it grows back healthy next season.

Be sure that you check your plants often for weeds. If you put down a layer of newspaper mulch before you spread the regular mulch, it can be very helpful for preventing weeds from returning.

7: Join a Community & Tell Your Friends

Gardening is most fun when you share it with others! Let friends and family know you are starting a garden – they may offer to help if you are lucky!

Your friends and family can also be an excellent resource for information. If someone for example already grows their own vegetables or has a rose garden, they would be able to offer tips for growing these plants.

Many communities also have garden clubs you can join. These often host local seed exchanges and plant sales. You can often find much better deals at a local garden club plant sale than you would at a home improvement store.

Also, check your local community for gardening classes. Just this past weekend, various groups and organizations hosted 12 different gardening classes around town. There were classes on container gardening, vegetable gardening, organic gardening, and more!

You can often find these types of events online – search for “your city garden club” can bring many results. You can also look on Craigslist and in community Facebook groups. 

If there is not already a local gardening club where you live, why not start one? It can be a great way to make new friends and share resources and help – you do not need to be an expert gardener!

Starting a Garden is a Lot of Fun!

You can have a lot of fun when you are starting a garden. Learning how to grow a garden can give you many years of enjoyment and even help increase your property value.

By following these simple 7 steps, you will be ready to start exploring all sorts of gardening possibilities! We have many resources here on DirtHappy that are sure to help you get started in growing your new garden in no time!

Do you have any questions about how to start a new garden as a beginner? We are always happy to help answer any questions you might have! Ask your questions in the comments section below and we will answer them for you.

Seasoned gardeners: Do you have any tips for a gardening newbie you would like to share? What is something you wish you would have done when you first started learning how to garden? Share your experiences and tips on how to start a garden in the comments below!

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