We get it — gardening can be intimidating. It’s easy to overwater (or forget to water) your plants, or to start a garden from scratch next to your neighbor’s thriving one. Fear not — with just a few simple tips and a little planning, you and your black thumb will be on your way to growing fresh vegetables and herbs in just a few weeks!
If you’re nervous about turning your yard into a garden without vetting your skills, start small, and start inside. Container plants that can grow foods such as herbs, mushrooms, and tomatoes can sit on your windowsill in your kitchen, where it’s easier to remember them. Plus, these can be grown all year, so you can practice in the “off seasons.” Indoor Tip: Not a lot of direct sunlight in your home or apartment? Add a simple grow bulb to one of your lamps to give your plants some extra rays!
Begin a Compost Pile:
Compost feeds your soil and helps provide nutrients to your plants. And luckily, compost is free if you make it yourself. (Plus, it helps reduce waste.) Start a small compost container in your kitchen next to your trash bin, and collect items such as banana peels, egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, and pulp. Learn more about composting here.
Be Realistic About Your Space:
If you have a small yard, you can’t grow the same amount as your friends who have farms. Determine how much space you have and do some research to see how much room the plants you want to grow need. Iowa State University has a great guide for planning your garden space. Tight on space? Container gardens or small aquaponic systems are a fun and easy alternative.
Know What You Can Actually Grow:
If you live in Maine, it’s going to be hard to grow mangoes. Weather patterns, seasons, and climates impact what grows where. It’s important to know what grows in your neck of the woods by doing some research before you plant. This regional gardening guide is a good start.
Pick the Right Spot:
This may sound obvious, but once you’ve planted it’s not easy to relocate so make sure to plant your garden in a place that gets lots of sun. Observe the sunlight in your desired planting area at different times of the day to make sure your spot will actually be getting the recommended number of hours of light. You should also have healthy, moist, rich soil (this can be aided by your compost or by adding nutrient-rich biochar). If your yard’s soil isn’t ideal for planting, container gardening or a building raised bed is a good idea. For ease of maintenance, make sure a hose or other water source is easily accessible.
Allow for Some Trial & Error:
Nature may throw some forces your way that you can’t control and may affect the success of your garden (think fruit flies, deer, or frost). Your first crop may not be as perfect as you’d dreamed, but remember that gardening, like many things in life, is a learning process and exercise in patience. (And actually reduces stress if you hang in there!) Enjoy the trials and stick with it—the satisfaction, taste, and health benefits of fresh, homegrown food is worth it!