Starting a Garden from Scratch: A Beginner’s Garden

First garden or starting over? Personalize your garden according to your available Space, Budget & Time- In 5 easy steps! 

Want more inspiration for starting your garden? Check out The Garden Checklistand these tips on Managing and Monitoring Your Garden, and don’t miss the Ten Tools Every Gardener Really Needs!

getting a garden started

FIVE Steps To Create YOUR Garden!

If you are starting your first garden, or it’s been a while, or maybe you are in a new climate,

HERE is plan of attack that can be personalized to YOU, according to your available space, budget and time-

Broken down into 5 easy (But detailed) steps with encouragement, humor and plenty of tips along the way!

 

Just take that first step, It only takes Five Steps To Create Your Garden!

Have you ever planted a seed and then waited….. Patiently…. For it to pop it’s little head out of the earth?

I worried about my seeds constantly until they sprouted.. Now they are very strong healthy plants! And I worry still!!! Typical mom.

There is magic in those little seeds….

It’s hard to give over control and have faith. But no matter what shade of green – Or black – Your thumb might be,

Just one foot in front of the other… let’s go take the first Five Steps To Create Your Garden!

Step by Step to a Garden for Beginners

Start Your Garden- Step 1. SET YOUR GOAL

Decide on your commitment.
1) How much of your finances can you put towards your garden this season?
2) How much space can you afford, in terms of money AND time? (More space = more time working)
3) How much time do you have to work in your garden?

For the first year, just focus on getting started! Each year you can invest more in your garden. 

grow a garden for beginners

Lets go through some things to consider about each resource:

#1: Finances:

How much of your budget can be for your garden?

Eyes over here!!! It’s really easy to get sidetracked with your garden.. and things can add up really quick!!

So, Take inventory of what you already have, to see what you DON’T need to buy.

For example, if you already have soil somewhere at your house, (Existing garden beds, or somewhere on the property that you can dig a “borrow pit”, then move the dirt to the desired area etc.)

Some excellent tips can be found in this The Garden Checklist Including how to SAVE money, find things for CHEAP or FREE, and how to just plain IMPROVISE and use what ya’ got!

This list will also tell you which and how much material(s) and supplies you will need, depending on the size of garden you want to start with. (If you’re thinking you want a whole farm, you’re in the right place! But –first steps first!)

#2 : Space

Decide on the size of your garden ahead of time. Do you want a few pots on your windowsill or a couple of containers outside?

Planting in the ground?  Do you have a small or large plot of property?  Could you transform that overgrown area into something more useful?  How about that narrow walkway from the front yard to the back?

Do you have unused vertical space or unused horizontal space?  Find it and use it!  Let’s put plants everywhere!!

OK. OK. Reel it in!!!! One step at a time! All I’m saying is, if you don’t think you have a lot of space, look a little closer! Tons of creative ideas for planters can be found in the Garden checklist!

Plants can be grown inside and out, just remember that they get dirty, are wet and need sun!

A small garden produces more than you might think. If perhaps you have plenty of space, just remember the bigger the garden, the more time, effort and funds required.

However, I would never discourage anyone who is willing to go for a big garden- it’s an investment that is well worth it!!

Using these ideas and thinking outside of the box, you can do a lot with a little space!

growing a garden beginner#3: Time

How much time and effort do you want to commit to your space?

Initially creating the garden space is the most time consuming, especially if you are starting from scratch with a large space! After preparing the soil and planting, you will begin to work on Managing and Monitoring Your Garden.

BUT don’t let the details scare you off!

These are GREAT skills to have, nurturing and caring for your own crops.
It is very rewarding to master your garden-
Just one step at a time!

If you nip things in the bud (quite literally), the work will not be as heavy. Pulling weeds before they grow large and go to seed, monitoring plants closely for pests or other issues, fertilizing and watering frequently (which you can set up on an automatic timer to save time) are all things that you will need to do for a successful garden.

Now, onto step two of five steps to create your garden!

Start Your Garden- Step 2:  Map out your garden!

On to the fun stuff…!

FIRST- Grab a tape measure, head outside.
Measure or eyeball your space.
Draw out your garden map measurements on graph paper to scale.
Take a look at the chart below and see which plants will work for you!
Use a pencil with an eraser, you will probably change your mind a few times…

This process can REALLY help the decision making happen … And also help you remember what on earth you planted!

Young Squash plants being transplanted beginners gardenSMALL SPACE:

Choose from the “Smaller Crops” and “Large singular plants” (see below)
Greens and herbs can be grown on windowsills or anywhere inside where there is plenty of sun

***Indoor planters must be functional and not just pretty! – Help yourself to some planter ideas.

Large singular plants can also be grown in pots or planters, inside or outside as long as they have plenty of room to grow and flourish.

LARGE SPACE or SMALL SPACE:

Overcoming garden frenzy – How to decide?!?

To save money, grow the more expensive produce. (Grow a full herb garden- herbs are pricey!!)
Grow what you eat most. It might be fun to grow Brussels sprouts, but will you eat them? If you won’t, I will!!

Remember if you have an abundance, you can preserve things by canning or freezing, eat them all winter and spring or even longer! Time to invest in the deep freezer, food sealer, dehydrator and the mason jars!

REMEMBER, just take that first step! One foot in front of the other, let’s go!

BELOW is a chart – I know. A chart. – It IS helpful, I swear!! The chart will show you how big which vegetables or fruits get, how long they live, and how they grow. Plants can be surprising at times, I mean Come on- would anyone really think that peanuts grow underground, or cranberries grow in bogs?

 

Tall  crops

    • Corn (Rows or blocks*, 6” to 1 square foot width for each plant, up to 8-10 feet tall)
    • Fruit trees (10 square foot plot, 20 feet tall**)
  • Sunflowers

* It is helpful to plant corn in a “Block”, ( a group of short rows close together that form a rectangle or square)  especially in windy areas, to keep it from falling down and also to help pollination.

** Fruit trees are perennials – they will take a few years to produce initially, but will give you an abundant crop every year once pruned and established!!

Large singular plants and bushes

Singular plants: (3 square feet)*

  • Broccoli, Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts, Cabbage
  • Tomatoes (can spread wide)
  • Peppers
  • Bush varieties of squash, zucchini or melon and cucumber
  • Celery

             Bushes and shrubs: (5 square feet)**

  • Blueberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Figs

*these can grow in pots as long as they have plenty of space

** Most berries are also perennials and will come back every year, which saves having to plant new plants every year, but will also require pruning every early spring. (see “spreading vine crops” for more berries)

 

Spreading vine crops*
Horizontal spreading vines:

  • Squash, pumpkins, zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Melons
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries

       

Vertically spreading vines:

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Grapes  grow vertical for about 3 feet, then horizontal)
  • Kiwi
  • Hops

Crazy“which-way” vines

  • Blackberries and Raspberries, Salmon berries

*Plants can  grow in any direction- plant pots Upside down,  vines horizontally or vertically- Plant vines near walls, trellises, or let your vines grow up your sunflowers or corn

 

Smaller crops (plant in rows*)

  Greens:

  • Lettuces
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Herbs Herbs Herbs
  • Sprouts**/ micro-greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Swiss Chard
  • Leeks

* Plant small crops in between or under big plants.

**Grow sprouts in a jar

      Root crops:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Ginger

*for root crops, make sure you have plenty of loose soil/ sand underneath for the roots to grow deep!

*for root crops, make sure you have plenty of loose soil/ sand underneath for the roots to grow deep!

*Annuals- Planted every year (If you have you annuals in pots, you can even attempt to bring them inside for the winter and keep them going! This is commonly done with peppers.)

*Perennials- will comeback each year (Perennials can be hardy or tender. Hardy perennials last year after year, but tender perennials might not last through a harsh winter. If you live in a lower hardiness zone, tender perennials might be considered as annuals.) Find out what kind of zone you live in here.

*Biennials- take two seasons to go from seed to flower (These might produce through a mild winter, and then shoot up their seed pods in the spring. If you leave them alonw, they will drop their seeds naturally in the spring and produce a new crop on their own! Some gardeners allow their biennials to self seed this way. 

Start Your Garden- Step 3: CULTIVATE 

Get the plant’s home ready. Prepare for lift off!

Pull those weeds! Get the entire root out the earth! This will save you some trouble later, any broken off pieces of root will form a new plant. The weeds will be back, but a good preliminary weeding helps a TON!

Next, get the rocks out! Big and small, as much as you can. Our garden was covered in gravel and weeds when we started, and we – meaning mostly me!- pulled an entire stone wall’s worth of rocks out- but after adding a truck full of beautiful soil it is a completely different game!

gardening for newbies

Both weeds and rocks will continue to show up. It’s an uphill battle! Read up on your garden battle strategies in Managing and Monitoring Your Garden when dealing with weeds, rocks or pests!

(All of this can take a while, so if you are anxious to plant but it’s not quite time, get out there and get everything ready!)

After clearing out the area, churn that baby up!

Till, or mix up the soil. This is a good time to amend your soil with fertilizer, while you are stirring it around anyway! Mix in your fertilizer according to the directions on the package.

The package will tell you how much fertilizer to mix in depending on the size of your plot or containers. If your fertilizer is liquid, wait to fertilize after planting.

Start Your Garden- Step 4: Get those babies in the dirt!

Whip out the map you designed for your garden (In step 2).
Set out your plants and-or seeds, and just go one at a time. Have some coffee. Or lots of coffee …

With seeds:
The package will tell you the depth and spacing of each type of seed. Generally, the bigger the seed, the further it goes into the ground and the more space it needs. With smaller seeds, they are just buried under the surface and are much closer together.

After seedlings sprout to 1-2 inches, they are thinned out by hand, survival of the fittest style!
When digging holes or rows for seeds, use a hand tool or just your hand (with a glove on) works just fine.
Make sure to cover seeds with fine soil, so that no large chunks of rock, dirt or debris keep them from emerging.

Having a bucket of fine soil to sprinkle over seeds is very helpful.

from soil to plantWith transplants:

No man handling! Plant in the morning or evening, if possible.
Maneuver each transplant out of its container by gently squeezing the side and simultaneously pulling the plant out by holding the crown (where the roots meet the stem) – very gently.

Take a gander at the size of the roots. Dig your hole a little deeper and a little wider than the existing roots.
AND THEN, make sure to loosen, or “tickle” the roots before placing them into the hole. You don’t want a solid block of roots going into the ground. Even ripping the roots a little will simulate growth and explore their new home, becoming strong and confident!

When planting, place the plant in the hole so that the base, or the “crown”, (where the roots meet the stem) is just below the level of the soil. You want your plant to be a little deeper in the hole rather than a little higher, so the roots are not exposed.

With one hand, hold the plant at the crown, placing it in the hole, spreading the roots down, and then resting your forearm (of the same hand holding the plant) flush with the ground. This will keep the plant at ground level, while using your other hand to push the dirt in and around the roots.

When the plant is supported enough to let go of it, use both hands to firmly – but gently fill in the rest of the hole with your fingertips.

Finish by creating a moat around each plant with any extra soil, encouraging water flow down to the root system.

Start Your Garden- Step 5: Just wait…

Monitor your garden … Like a hawk.

When you are paying attention to your garden, you can quickly and efficiently take care of any issues, keeping them from damaging your garden! Look at every little detail!

I love to go out first thing with my morning coffee and just check on all of the emerging seedlings, flowers and fruits in the garden. Here are some tips on Managing and Monitoring Your Garden!

As soon as you see any issues with bugs or even disease, take care of it! Especially with your little babies. Talk to your neighbors, ask them what kind of issues they might have, and how they deal with them. Getting the down low on your neighborhood garden talk is a smart move!

infographic for kids about how to grow vegetable beginner tips

If the weather takes a sudden turn you can cover seedlings that are in danger of getting hit by frost with plastic, or extreme heat with shade cloth.

Some other techniques to protect small seedlings include placing plastic bottles, milk cartons or water walls around small seedlings to spare them from wind or bad weather, or small baskets to protect from birds and other predators!

Or you can let the seedlings fend for themselves and see how they turn out- most likely they will be extremely hardy if they make it!

You will find that you will do anything to keep these little things alive.

Conclusion for A step by step guide to starting your garden:

But remember, plants are strong. They can take a lot of abuse … But they still need your sweet lovin’!

You will be surprised at the strength and hardiness of the crops that were once tiny little lifeless seeds.

Have faith. This is the hardest part!!

In the mean time, pull those weeds, drink some ice water, put your feet up and admire your hard work. Actually, go take a shower, you stink!

Haven’t started yet? Check out the The Garden Checklist to see what you need to take your first 5 steps into the garden!

If you love these 5 steps to a garden, please pin this image to your gardening Pinterest board:

gardening for beginnersHere are some helpful links for starting your garden:

 

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Thank you for reading our 5 steps to planting a garden!