How to Get Started Gardening (Without a Green Thumb)

Tomatoes on the vine

If you are on the fence about starting a garden in 2021, and have watched all your neighbors jump into growing everything under the sun, then read the following guest post from Carrie Spencer of TheSpensersAdventures. The images are property of TheGardenDiaries.

Gardening can seem intimidating when you’re just starting out. Fortunately, most plants are very forgiving, so you don’t have to worry too much about making mistakes. Still, it’s helpful to know which steps to take to ensure your garden will thrive. Below, you’ll find plenty of information on how to get started — even if you don’t have a green thumb.

Gardening in a truck!!

Ask for Help If You Need It

Asking for help may be the best way to start a successful garden. Hiring someone to help you plan out your gardening plot and begin planting can be invaluable. An expert gardener can also create a garden that fits your needs and time constraints. That way, you can continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years to come.

Hire expert landscape professionals for the big stuff

Favor Local Plants

You might want to grow your favorite exotic fruit or vegetable right away. But especially for first-time gardeners, starting with simpler, local plants is a safe bet. Choosing plants that are native to your area helps prevent foreign species from taking over. Plus, native plants don’t need fertilizer and can help prevent erosion, explains the USDA Forest Service.

Fruits of native tree Chionanthus virginicus, Fringetree

Homegrown plants like native milkweed and passion vine also attract Monarch butterflies and other helpful pollinators to your garden. Selecting varieties that appeal to pollinators is a smart move as well since this ensures you’re supporting the ecosystem near your home.

Monarch caterpillars on native milkweed foliage
Monarch on native Rattlesnake Master Eryngium yuccifolium

Think About Water Conservation

All gardens require water, but some use less than others. With techniques like xeriscaping, which uses drought-resistant and native greenery, you can start your garden with water conservation in mind. And you don’t need to stick with all succulents to avoid wasting water — other plants thrive on low water rations and still look beautiful.

World famous Beth Chatto’s garden is located in the driest part of England with only 20 inches of rain annually

Know Your Soil

Before planting, try to get a soil test done

It would be nice if every plant-lover could simply start digging holes and planting seeds. But since soil quality is essential for a healthy garden, you need to know what’s in the dirt. Before you begin planting, learn about your soil, such as its pH and nutrients. You can check the soil yourself with a few smart techniques from Good Housekeeping, or you can order a test kit to send off to a lab. Or, you can start planting and see what grows — and how well.

Starting seeds indoors

Use Smart Growing Strategies

Starting a garden from scratch means you can plan out every detail. In terms of soil health and total productivity, switching things up in your garden is a great idea. Mixing crops, called companion planting, can help balance the soil and offer a range of veggies, flowers, and herbs for your home. It can also help avoid pest infestations since some plants naturally repel critters that like to nibble on your greenery.

Planting herbs amongst tomatoes can help repel pests. image from Star Bright Farm
Growing marigolds in your veggie garden deters pests

Another smart strategy is to reduce waste in the garden. For instance, if you’re pruning your trees often, the fallen branches can be repurposed into mulch and other great uses for your garden.

The Delaware Botanic Garden has reused all their sticks into making sculptures: Here it is a nest

All you’ll need is a good wood chipper — if you don’t have one, spend some time looking at the best brands online and go with one based on your size and price preferences.

Recycling plant supports and pots for next year
Layers of debris, including grass clippings, will decompose down to rich soil

Know What You’re Getting Into

Plenty of folks with green thumbs rave about the tons of zucchini their garden yields each summer. However, those same folks soon tire of zucchini, proving that abundance isn’t always ideal in terms of gardening.

Over abundant harvest of winter squash

Along with planting reasonable amounts of vegetables, you should also think about the amount of time you have for garden upkeep. Unless you want to hire landscaping or gardening professionals long-term, it’s always wise to keep your garden more manageable than what your heart desires.

Raised beds might be the answer for a low maintenance garden

Plus, planting a garden to feed a family is different than aiming to stock your kitchen with fragrant perennials. So, before you get started, consider your motivations and goals and choose a garden size and variety that suits you.

Maybe all you need are tomatoes in a container
Or lettuce and herbs in pots

Starting a garden is an excellent investment of your time, money, and effort. With the right help to get started — and a solid plan of action — you’ll have a green landscape in no time. Then, you can begin reaping the benefits of a full harvest.

Container edibles are fun and easy to grow
Daily harvest in August

Thank you Carrie for your excellent article. So, get those seeds ordered and start planning on a successful gardening year in 2021! Next up is ‘How To Get Started In Beekeeping’.

Seed catalog reading

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