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by Sara Kalet-Schwartz
May 21, 2020
How to Start a Garden
As it starts to get warmer outside you may be thinking of ways to spend more time outdoors, while also social distancing. A great way is to start your own garden. Gardening is labour intensive and requires patience. However, it is one of the most rewarding activities because you participate in every step. It can be difficult for beginners to know where to start, so we outlined the steps to take in order to produce a beautiful garden.
Consider What to Plant
The first step is to figure out what you want in your garden. Are you the type of person who cooks with vegetables and herbs regularly and would like to grow your own? Would you prefer a variety of fragrant flowers or a combination of both? Do you want annuals, ones you plant every year that bloom most of the summer or perennials that have a shorter bloom time but return every year? These decisions are entirely up to you and your preferences, so choose plants that you would enjoy. We suggest picking two or three types of plants to start with so you can get a feel of the maintenance requirements of each. Remember this experience is supposed to be fun, so do not stress about crafting the perfect garden.
Choosing the best spot
Do some research about the needs of the plants you picked, for instance nearly all vegetables and flowers need 6-8 hours of full sun each day, so that will be a factor in choosing the best location for your garden. This step will take patience and observation skills, because you must monitor your yard or windows to figure out the spots that will receive enough sun in the day. You do not want to skip, or rush through this step as it will determine the success of your plants. A flat surface is easier to care for than a slope and try to pick a spot you are less likely to forget about. For instance, near the kitchen.
Clear ground and improve soil
You want to clear the grass on the surface of the ground (sod). If you are starting your garden now then you should dig the grass out and put it in your compost pile to decompose. Having a compost is an easy way to help improve the health and growth of your plants. You can recycle waste from your yard, such as dead leaves. When you compost the dead leaves, you return their nutrients to your garden. You can purchase worms or search for them outside, then place them in a dark box with air holes and some soil. Feed them banana peels, avocado pits or even leftovers from a salad you made. Using this compost in your garden will improve the soil and limit your waste.
Work the Soil
Working the soil will allow the roots of your plants to access water and nutrients more easily because you are loosening it. This is essential for baby roots because they can grow deeper faster. In the beginning plants grow down and up at similar rates, so creating an environment for them to increase the growth of their roots will also increase the plant growth. The two methods to accomplish this are tilling or digging. Tilling is a form of deep cultivation using a mechanical tool. This is good for larger gardens, but can also disturb microorganisms and earthworms, so limit the amount you do. Digging is better for smaller garden beds. Regardless, before you start this process add 2-3 inches of organic matter on the top. Examples of organic matter are compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings or even manure if you can stand the smell. You do this so that when you till or dig, you mix the organic, nutrient dense soil further down. However, if you add organic matter to an established garden bed, leaving it on the surface is just fine as it will turn into organic material and earthworms will mix it over time.
Deciding the right time to plant will depend on the seedlings you choose. Some plants such as kale can be planted in autumn or late winter. Tomatoes and a good amount of annual flowers prefer warm weather and mid spring or mid autumn are good times for perennials to be planted. One way to start your garden is by purchasing seeds and planting them. If you decide on that route, be sure to read the seed packets carefully and follow the instructions about planting time, depth and spacing. This is a bit time consuming and difficult because they need protection from birds and lots of watering, but if you have the time to plan ahead there is no reason you could not do this. Another way to start your garden is buying young plants and transferring them into your garden bed by digging holes and placing your young plants into their respective area. People refer to this as transplants. If you are a beginner or want to to have a flourishing garden immediately, then buying young plants is a good decision.
Watering your Plants
Similar to babies, seedlings require more attention and care, so water them daily until they become larger. The specific timing will depend on the plant. Transplants need water every other day until their roots become established, which you can tell because the plant will start to grow. Determining the amount of water your garden needs once they are established will depend on weather conditions and your environment. It also depends on the plants you choose along with the amount of rain water your plants receive.
A concern you may have is forgetting to water your plants and you are not alone. Due to this concern people install water systems from a DIY drip irrigation system to a high tech sprinkler. If you decide on using a water system, we recommend avoiding any kind that uses a massive amount of non-recycled water. Over watering your plants is not only harmful to your garden but also the environment, because of the waste of freshwater and the runoff that pollutes local waterways with fertilizer and pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends saving rain water, which can be as easy as putting a bucket or bowl outside during a rainfall, or diverting the rain water to your garden which can be more work and states have varying regulations about this. You can use the collected rainwater for your plants in the future. The EPA also recommends watering in the morning or night in order to avoid the sun evaporating the water before your plants can get any.
How to Maintain your Garden
Once your garden begins to grow, it is important to keep up with maintenance. The obvious is watering your plants. However you also need to pull out weeds, banish destructive insects or larger animals such as deer, squirrels or birds. There are endless ways to keep insects and animals away, so find the one that works for you. You also need to support tall plants with a fence or stake and harvest the vegetables when they are ready. Depending on the plants, additional fertilizer may be beneficial.
Lastly, enjoy your garden! If you are planting herbs and vegetables, it makes cooking and eating even more satisfying as you can become more connected with and appreciative of the foods you consume. With a floral garden, you have the opportunity to slow down and take the time to smell it or appreciate its beauty every now and then. Understand that this is a learning process, there will be a lot of trial and error, so ask as many questions as you need along with doing some research. Furthermore, remember that caring for the roots of a plant is just as important as the plant itself, so make sure you spend time on creating a good foundation to protect and provide nutrients for your garden.
BH&G Garden Editors Updated April 29, et al. “Follow These 10 Steps to Create a Magnificent First Garden.” Better Homes & Gardens,
“Watering Tips.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 9 Apr. 2020,
June 15, 2020
love this!!! just started a garden at home & this has been helpful :)
June 09, 2020
I am going to use these tips for my garden! Great info.
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