It is always good to know the gardening basics. It’s almost a new year and I keep looking at my backyard thinking about my vegetable garden. Then, every time I look out front or pull into my driveway I think about my flower garden. But I don’t have a green thumb. I don’t think of myself as a gardener, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done any gardening I feel like I may have forgotten how to do it. My wife keeps telling me to just go back to the basics.
So, what are the gardening basics? The basics of gardening are Soil, Sunlight, Temperature, and Water. Every plant needs different amounts of each. A gardener needs to know the soil and what plants grow well in that soil, know how much sun and water each plant needs, and know what weather each plant can handle.
Every plant is different. They grow in different conditions and have different needs. Much like you and I, we have different needs. Some plants grow well in the hot, sandy, desert sun while others grow well in the freezing, wet, rocky mountains. Knowing your environment and conditions will help you choose the plants that are right for you and set you on the right path to becoming a seasoned gardener.
Good soil will give your plants a good foundation and a great place to put down some roots. Some plants thrive in compact clay environments, while others need more sandy conditions. Before choosing the plants for your garden be sure to do a little digging.
If you know where you want your garden to be taken out your shovel and dig a little. It will help you get a good understanding of the ground conditions you’re working with. If your soil is not perfect for the plants you want to grow, consider building a raised garden and filling it with the soil of your choosing.
Not every plant needs to be in direct sunlight all day. In fact, that much sunlight can be damaging to many plants. Make sure that you choose plants that will work well in the amount of sunlight they’ll have. My vegetable garden gets about 8 hours of direct sunlight each day and does well, but the flower bed in my front yard is shaded 100% of the time due to the positioning of my house. This means I have to be careful about which flowers go in the front because they have to be able to survive with little to no sunlight. Place your plants wisely. There’s no reason to buy plants or grow seedlings only to position them in the wrong place. Give them every opportunity to survive with the least amount of effort and work by you.
This is often overlooked by beginning gardeners. I remember once thinking that it’d be nice to have some small palms in my front yard. I live in Texas so it’s hot. They took to the soil. They got enough water, but not too much. They were in the sunlight just enough. And then one morning in December I walked outside and it was FREEZING! It’s a rare event for this part of Texas to freeze so I hadn’t been monitoring the weather. In fact, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt to go ride my motorcycle. I ended up taking the car instead that day.
Leaving my palms in the freezing temperatures killed them quickly. They had no protection from the freeze and that was completely my fault. Looking back I should have paid more attention to the weather and the types of plants my neighbors have. None of them had palms, and that makes sense now. Not that palms couldn’t be grown here, but that if I want to grow palms I need to pay attention to the weather, perhaps keep them in a pot so I can bring them in when it’s cold, or find a way to keep the plants warm enough to last through the freeze. As a gardener, you must take the temperature into consideration when it comes to choosing the right plants for your garden.
We all know that plants need water to survive. But not all plants need the same amount of water. As a child, I had no idea that a plant could drown. How could you give a plant too much water? Some of the plants you’re likely considering for your garden need a lot of water each day, but there are others that may just need a small amount.
When choosing plants for my garden I try to make sure I’m choosing plants that have similar needs when it comes to water. This also goes back to the soil, sunlight, and temperature. Your soil conditions will be based on the amount of water that the soil retains and how quickly the sunlight and heat pull that water away.
When should I start my garden?
Starting a garden begins with the preparation of the location and this should be started as soon as you know what type of garden you want. In my backyard, I’m planting a vegetable garden. For many vegetables, the planting season is fast approaching so it’s critical that I get the garden plot prepared now (December/January) to ensure that I can plant my vegetables during the proper planting season.
Each plant has a different planting season to make sure it grows to full maturity. These planting seasons typically coincide with the temperature and weather patterns in your area. Planting seasons depend on the planting zone you live in. Here is a quick almanac tool that will help you find your zone and planting schedule.
What do you need to garden?
There are many tools that you could use for gardening, but there isn’t a lot that you need. The needs are the very basics – gloves to protect your hands, a shovel or spade to dig some holes, and a hose or pitcher to water your plants.
For the sake of gardening I’ll also say you should probably have a few other tools and supplies handy to make your gardening experience more pleasurable like shears or clippers, a rake or cultivator, a basket, gardening shoes, a hat/sun protection, knee pads, a wheelbarrow, a ruler to help with plant spacing, and a garden hoe. Depending on how much gardening you do will determine how high of a quality and how much of this gear will truly be necessary.
What are the benefits of gardening?
There is a never-ending list of the benefits of gardening – from financial benefits to physical health benefits to mental and emotional health benefits to environmental benefits. Gardening is a great way to save some money, get some exercise, relieve some stress, eat healthier food, and help the environment.
Gardening can also help add value to your home by adding great curb appeal and color. These are just a few of my favorite benefits of gardening! If you’re considering adding gardening to your repertoire of hobbies I would personally highly encourage it – even if you’ve never done it before.
A few extra tips for the beginning gardener:
- Make sure to pick the right soil
- Space your plants out so they aren’t competing so much for nutrients
- Don’t “man-handle” your new plants, they need tender love and care.
- Use a plant map – draw it by hand or get a mobile app to help you design your garden.
- Keep plant roots wet and in the shade until you are ready to put them in the ground. Don’t let those roots dry out.
- Label everything so you know what you’re growing.
- Weeds are your enemy – they will strangle your new plants – treat them like they are going to strangle you. Take them out ask quickly and thoroughly as possible, there’s no need to be nice here.
- Have FUN!!!!! Gardening can be a truly joyful experience that you can share with family and friends, but you have to make sure you’re having fun doing it!