Jhett built this gardening bed for my birthday, and it is honestly one of the best gifts that I have ever gotten in my life. Truly a gift that keeps on giving! My birthday is in August, so the rest of that summer was spent planning what to plant in the fall. When choosing what to grow, we honestly didn’t put consideration beyond what we wanted to eat and what people have told us does or does not grow well in our neck of the woods. Here in Humboldt County, there is not much that doesn’t grow, but we steered away from tomatoes or peppers since it can get too cold and moist here. Perhaps our biggest mistake from this gardening season was not planning enough.
We have learned a lot, and thought of 6  tips for new gardeners that may make life a bit easier.

Plan Ahead.

garden

This is a photo of our first garden. We grew peas, zucchini, lemon cucumbers, and cabbage.

Planning is one of the most important and possibly the most overlooked aspect of gardening. Proper planning could make for a much easier and more successful growing season. We have narrowed it down to 4 important things that you should ask yourselves when deciding what to plant.

  1. What grows well in your area?

The easiest way to do this is probably just to ask around.
Don’t be shy. If you see a neighbor tending their garden, ask what they have had success with. Ask the farmers at the local farmers market in your area. You may learn more than what you expected.

  1. What grows well together,and what doesn’t?

There are several plants that actually benefit each other when they’re neighbors. Be careful though, because there are other plants that usually don’t get along.

Check out this article from Weed em and Reap to get the dirt on companion planting.

Tips for New Gardeners

Tips For New Gardeners

 

3. What do the plants need?

Plants can be picky sometimes. Some want more space, water, light, nutrients…etc.
The best thing is to just do your homework. I know, it’s probably not what you wanted to hear; but a little research could save you a lot of frustration.
This Garden Buddy App is so cool and we highly recommend it for beginner gardeners. You can input the size of your garden, and what you want to plant. The app shows you things like how many plants your garden can handle, when to plant, and when you’re plants may be getting too chilly.

4. What do you want to eat?!

The most important part of any home garden. You are growing for yourself after all (and friends/family) so you should enjoy what you grow! But, don’t be afraid to try new things.

We decided on zucchini, broccoli, spinach, lemon cucumbers, and snow peas. We started all of our plants from seeds, so while they were germinating outside, we prepared the garden for their arrival. Since nothing was growing in the area except grasses, there was not much prep that we had to do except till out the grass and weeds. Luckily for me, Jhett did the majority of this while initially creating the garden bed. We also added some compost, which adds several benefits to the soil. Compost can be store bought, but it is also really easy to make yourself at home!

Grow What You Need

Whether you are growing just for yourself, or planning to share your harvest, you don’t want to be wasteful. We planted three zucchini plants for the two of us, and could not keep up with all of the zucchini’s we were getting. Not to mention, the plants were huge and even crowded out other plants we had growing. In hindsight, that space could have been used by other crops, and no zucchini would have gone to waste.

Grow a Variety of Food

If you don’t need a lot of any one plant, then mix things up a bit! Some things can be harvested repeatedly before the plant is through producing. With leafy greens, such as spinach, the outer leaves can be harvested while the plant continues to grow. Plants like carrots produce just one vegetable, so you may want to plant a few extras.

Prepare your Space

First thing to do is to clear out the grass and weeds and whatnot, it’s best to start with a clean slate.

Then, it’s time to mess things up a bit. We actually started out with pretty healthy soil, all we really did for our first garden was add some compost. There are a bunch of things to do to improve the quality of your soil. This article from Planet Natural gives the details, from changing the pH, to adding mycorrhizae to increase soil organisms. If you don’t think you have the right soil, that can change with a few extra ingredients.

If you really want to get a feel for what you’re working with, the best thing to do is test your soil. You can send out a sample to get professionally tested (actually only costs around $40). There are also soil test kits that you can do easily yourself at home are also sold in supply stores and online, although they provide less information than a formal test.

gardening tool in a vegetable garden with carrots and salad on the ground; Shutterstock ID 340183901; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Take Advantage of Any Space Available

Even if there is a ton of space to work with, you can get more bang for your buck if you use all the space you can. Vertical gardening has become pretty popular, especially with the increase in urban gardening. Check out this Potato Tower that we made in an attempt to get a lot of potatoes for a little space. We also have lemon cucumbers and peas on a trellis that border our garden bed. In addition to growing up, there are several plants that grow well in containers. Some even benefit from being in a container because they can easily be moved out of the cold or into the sun. Plants can grow on the water (aquaponics) or even hanging from the ceiling, the possibilities are endless.

Keep an Eye on Things

Once the soil is prepared and the plants are in the ground, it’s pretty much just a waiting game. Of course, you can’t just walk away and let them grow, that would be a little too easy. We like to fit a garden inspection into our daily routine. Having a couple pairs of green thumbs comes in handy here. Between the two of us, our garden is pretty well maintained. The main thing we check for is pests, or signs of pests. A healthy garden is the best pest prevention method we have found. This starts with preparing your soil properly, then keeping things watered enough, nutrients in the soil, and weeds out.

We received a fairly decent harvest from our first garden (although it was mostly zucchinis) but the best take-away was a new found love of gardening. It is so rewarding to eat the things that we have grown, and to share our bounty with friends and family. Things did not go as well as we hoped, but we learned a lot, and were eager to try again.