Home Gardening for Beginners In Ten Easy Steps
Every human being has a need to create. We feel fulfilled when we have made something ourselves. Gardening is creation in its primal form.
I know a lot of people who would love to own a small house or balcony garden, but they never even try because they think it would be too hard or too complicated. They think home gardening is for someone with more experience, more money, a bigger house, or they have some other excuse.
This is a place for people who have no knowledge and no previous experience, people who want to start a small house garden but don’t know how. The problem with most websites about gardening is that they assume that their readers already have a knowledgebase. It’s as if a complete cooking beginner was reading a cake recipe with a lot of ingredients, a complicated five step baking process and complex terminology.
It probably wouldn’t turn out that well. I once made a cake without flour because it wasn’t specifically written in the recipe.
10 Things Every Home Gardening Beginner Should Know
Determine Your Motivation & Aim
Believe it or not, once you know why you want a garden and what you want to plant – you are half way done! You may want to have a flower garden rich in colors and smell, or to grow Mediterranean herbs, or, maybe, you would like to provide a healthy and fresh food source for your family. Your idea will dictate what sort of plants you wish to have, the type of pots you’ll use, the kind of soil, planting on the sunny or the shady part of your garden, balcony or terrace, etc. The most important thing to remember when it comes to home gardening is: there is nothing that can’t be done, and there are millions and millions of combinations you could go for. Never limit your gardening desires!
Evidently, the climate you live in – temperature, the number of rainy days or sunny hours can narrow down the sort of plants you can grow. For instance, if you live in a temperate climate, you will not grow lemons, but you will be successful in growing strawberries. Naturally, most plants need a few hours of direct sun during the day, as well as plenty of water. But, remember again: there are many possibilities for any type of climate.
Type of soil
The sort of plants and the type of climate defines the type of soil you will need to provide. If you intend to grow vegetables and fruits, you will choose organic soil treated with organic nutrients, such as compost, vegetable soups, egg shells, zeolite etc. If you are starting your balcony garden, you can choose either to buy soil, or to dig it in the woods, for instance. Generally, the soil should be easily shoveled and crumble in your hands, fed and aerated, fertilized with natural fertilizers, if possible, and – as most plants prefer PH neutral. There are some simple and quite accurate methods for testing soil acidity at home.
Pots and Tools
You may get easily confused with the vast choice of garden pots and tools. The things you need to know before buying any of it is what plants you plan to grow. Obviously, the long stem plants need a deeper pot; the plants that spread horizontally, like some types of strawberries, for instance, will need pots with larger surfaces, etc. If you are starting a balcony or a terrace garden, as opposed to a regular one, you will need specific tools (which we will cover in a separate article) for several reasons:
- Soil behaves differently in pots than in normal conditions: it hardens and gets thick easily
- The plant stems and roots are often closer together and many species require specific tools such as a hoe or a dibber
Home gardening often requires more time, care, tools and resources than regular gardens. Even though everything is downscaled, it can be much more complicated.
Before planning your garden, learn what the best season is for each of the species you intend to grow. Home gardens are usually not very large and every inch of space, as well as every part of the year must be optimally used. Crop rotation is also sine qua non in a home garden, because different plants „eat“ different nutrients from the soil, hence if you’d constantly grow the same plant in the same soil it would soon run out of required nutrients. Remember: your aim is to maximally utilize your space, therefore you should organize your garden in a way that you never have unused soil or pots, and that you have a smartly organized planting rotation.
If you are a beginner, it might be smart to limit yourself to a smaller number of different plant species, because that will give you time to get to know every one of them. You will learn their habits, the way they grow, which type of soil they like, how much water or sun, PH, which plants should be planted next to each other etc. If you are growing flowers, you will find out if you’ve accomplished the color harmony you were aiming for. If you are planting vegetables, you will determine which species your family needs most, and which you should be adding more of (for example, you can determine that potatoes are not a good choice for small gardens, since they are cheap and take up a lot of space). In time you can add more and more species to you home garden without overwhelming yourself. Vegetables are a good choice for beginners because it generally needs less attention and because almost anyone can tell a healthy looking piece of vegetable from a sick one that’s lacking food or water. One lucky coincidence is that vegetables that are easiest to grow are the ones we most commonly eat – lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots etc. If you don’t have a lot of time to attend to your garden, or you are not home every day, you should choose species that can survive without your attention longer.
Plants are like people: some like to grow together, and some not. For inexperienced gardener the safest route is, again, going for a small number of different species, or even planting each in a separate pot. A good tip for home gardening beginners is to use old plastic pots with no bottom for planting species you are not sure about, because you can easily move them along with the container if you notice that they’re not “happy” in the environment.
Stopping Pests and Diseases
Do not be discouraged! Even the most experienced gardeners do not know everything about pests and diseases. That is something one learns his whole life. But the thing that every garden likes is care. Do not neglect your garden, watch over it and it will teach you what is best for it. There is a vast number of supplements and medicine you can use (home-made or industrial) and simple tricks for helping your garden.
Keep a Garden Diary
You wouldn’t believe how much can be forgotten from one season to the other. Keep your garden diary, and it will soon become a very useful home gardening manual your friends will beg to borrow. It might even become a new and successful website for future gardening beginners.
Never get Discouraged
Growing a plant gives a great feeling of fulfillment. Every new plant gives the gardener pleasure and motivation to keep going. That feeling has to overcome the disappointment and helplessness you might feel when something goes wrong. You will make many mistakes. Some of your plants will take years before they start looking and growing the way you want them to. Some will die no matter how hard you tried to keep them alive. Think of those failures as of learning opportunities, and try to get the most out of them. Experience is the best teacher!