Are you new to gardening?
Looking for gardening tips for beginners? You can take a look at our own compilation of the best tips here.
For this article, we reach out to gardening experts around the web and on garden-related Reddits to ask for their best gardening tips for beginner. The results are magnificent, lots of gold nugget advice for beginners.
The most mentioned tips revolved around these topics:
- Keep the soil healthy (to explore no-soil option, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hydroponics Gardening)
- Focus on mulching and composting
- Watering plants is essential.
- Take notice of your gardening zone to plan what to grow
- Make use of companion planting for an efficient garden
For details of the tips, keep reading on below. Here’s a handy Table of Content so you could skip to the experts you like:
- 1 Expert Tips of Best Gardening Tips for Beginners
- 1.1 Kelly Gordon from DaisyRainGarden.com:
- 1.2 Stephanie F., Jessica H., Rachel E., Hannah E., Rachel Z. from HousePlantAddicts.com:
- 1.3 Margaret Dron from GardenManager.com:
- 1.4 Melanie Musson from USInsuranceAgents.com:
- 1.5 Jen Stark from Happydiyhome.com:
- 1.6 Bridget Shannon from Afrenchtulip.com:
- 1.7 Jennifer Walden from WikiLawn.com:
- 1.8 Pablo Solomon:
- 1.9 Lewis Peters from Onlineturf.co.uk:
- 1.10 Shelby Devore from Farminence.com
- 1.11 Josephine Fan from Dearjuneberry.com:
- 1.12 Judy DeLorenzo from Alifewellplanted.com:
- 1.13 Derek Gaughan from Princegardening.com:
- 1.14 WolfbirdHomestead:
- 1.15 MassiveNwah:
- 1.16 WheezySea:
- 1.17 zappy_snapps:
- 1.18 GinTrouble:
- 1.19 Sufficient-Weird:
- 1.20 Tarvanimelde1234:
- 1.21 LacedLemons:
- 1.22 Bknofe:
- 1.23 SherrifOfNothingtown:
Kelly Gordon from DaisyRainGarden.com:
1) The key to successful gardening is consistent watering. Try to water your plants at the same time every day, giving them a consistent amount of water.
2) Before you even start, take a look around during your daily travels and notice what kinds of plants flourish in your area. If you see a flower display that looks appealing to you, don’t be shy about asking what kinds of flowers they are!
3) Know your zone! Your climate zone is going to affect which plants will thrive and for how long. Knowing your zone is as simple as going online and entering your ZIP code.
4) When planting a flower pot, think “Thriller, Filler, and Spiller”. Instead of planting one variety of flower, mix them up!
The Thriller is the main focus of the pot, and should be planted in the center. It is the largest and most eye-catching.
The Filler should be planted adjacent to the Thriller and have a complementary color.
The Spiller should complete the arrangement and be a variety that will fall over the edge of the pot, such as verbena or sweet potato vine.
Stephanie F., Jessica H., Rachel E., Hannah E., Rachel Z. from HousePlantAddicts.com:
Sow your vegetable seeds about 2 weeks apart so you’ll have a consistent and longer harvest!
Rotate where you plant your vegetable garden each year to help the soil stay rich in nutrients, even if you’re adding manure at the beginning of each season to your beds. I also LOVE using fish emulsion for literally everything in my garden, from vegetables to flowers.
Companion planting is also an excellent way to naturally deter pests, provide root shade, lessen weeds, help create healthy soil, etc.
Examples would be dill and basil planted with tomatoes, which helps protect the tomatoes from hornworms, Tansy in the vegetable garden also helps with cutworm infestations, and mint wards off cabbage moth and ants.
Add compost, peat moss, or other additives depending on what you are planting. For vegetable gardens, I recommend raised beds with equal parts compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.
Margaret Dron from GardenManager.com:
Understand what soil they’re working with. Along with identifying their soil type (which can be either sandy, silty, loam, peat, chalky, or clay), it’s also important to identify the pH level of their soil, and to see if there are any nutrient deficiencies that need treating.
Different crops need varying types of soil with a certain pH level in order to grow best. Just like us, plants know what they like! Depending on what crop the beginner gardener is looking to grow, they may need to amend their soil to make it more suitable for growing that crop.
For example: beets struggle in hard clay soils, so that soil would first need to be loosened up and mixed with organic matter to make it a better home for those beets to thrive.
Another example is that a soil could be deficient in phosphorous – and since phosphorous is a nutrient that is most important during the early growth of a crop, the soil would need to be amended with phosphorous to make sure that crop can flourish.
When it comes to identifying a soil’s make-up, there are at-home soil testing kits that gardeners can use, or soil samples can be sent to local Department of Agriculture offices for a full analysis.
Soil pH is an important factor when it comes to growing vegetables. On the pH scale (from 0-14), anything below 7.0 is considered acidic, while anything above 7.0 is considered alkaline.
That also means 7.0 is considered “basic” or “neutral”. Crops like strawberries thrive in soils with a pH between 5..5 and 6.5, while garlic can thrive in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. The thing is, if the pH isn’t suitable for the crop being grown, it can cause a whole lot of trouble (like nutrient deficiencies).
One simple way to amend a soil’s pH is to use household substances like baking soda or vinegar. Adding vinegar to the soil will make it more acidic, while adding baking soda to the soil will make it more alkaline. That way, the crop will be planted in soil that’s better suited to help that crop thrive!
It can be tempting to simply toss a bunch of seeds into the soil, cover them, and then call it a day. However, when plants aren’t spaced out properly, it can cause overcrowding – which in turn can cause diseases to thrive and pests to go undetected.
That’s because overcrowded plants don’t get enough air circulation, and their leaves have a harder time drying off completely. These are just 2 factors in the development of fungal and bacterial diseases. Certain crops will need lots of space in between individual plants, especially if they have a large root system (like mint, for example).
When planting seeds, or planting transplants, it’s important to be mindful of the space they will need to grow and thrive! If seedlings start to come up and they seem to be overcrowded, a process called “thinning” can be done – which involves removing certain seedlings to leave only the strongest and most mature plants behind. Those seedlings left in the garden will then have ample space to continue growing.
Just like spacing seeds and transplants apart is important, having the right soil depth for crops is important too. A lot goes on underneath the soil when a plant is growing – and taproot vegetables like carrots and parsnips will need lots of depth to develop properly.
It’s especially important to consider soil depth when a beginner gardener is using either a container or a raised bed to grow their vegetables.
Broccoli plants will need at least 18 vertical inches to grow properly in a raised bed or container – and other crops will also have minimum depth needs – so beginners should be mindful of the soil depth they’re working with!
Melanie Musson from USInsuranceAgents.com:
Perennials come back every year. They’re more expensive than annuals, which only last one season, but over time they’re cheaper.
Fill in perennial flower beds with annuals only grow for one season, but they’re usually bright and cheery and can add pops of color throughout a flowerbed. It’s nice to mix annuals with perennials.
Gardening for the first time can seem overwhelming, but don’t get bogged down with details. Buy plants you like, put them in the ground, and as they grow, you’ll learn what you like, how you’d like to change things, and how to care for them.
If, as the growing season progresses and you decide you want to move a plant, go ahead and do it. You’re not making a lifetime commitment when you put a plant in the ground.
Look at a gardening zone map and find where you live and what zone it is. You’ll have the best luck when you plant flowers and vegetables that are right for your region.
Compost is one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can give your plants. Starting your own home compost can be as easy or as complicated as you’re interested in.
If you want to go easy, all you need is a compost bin and table scraps and lawn and garden clippings. You can mix things around occasionally to speed up the process of composting, but you don’t even have to do that.
Jen Stark from Happydiyhome.com:
You want to put it in a spot that you’ll regularly see so it doesn’t fade out of sight and out of mind as the growing season progresses.
It should be in an area that you can easily turn up the soil and maintain it, and you want to ensure that it gets plenty of sunlight to encourage good growth.
You’re aiming to get a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
You want to be able to get your hose up to the garden and reach every inch of it as you water. You’ll want to be able to water each time the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. This is much easier to do if you don’t have to lug water over in a bucket or pail.
It should be well-drained but rich in nutrients. You can blend in 3 inches of any all-purpose garden soil into 6 to 8 inches of the existing soil to create a rich food source for your growing plants.
For planting in raised beds, consider getting a raised-bed specific all-purpose soil to kickstart growth.
Bridget Shannon from Afrenchtulip.com:
It can be so tempting to make your first plantings something exotic or something that is your favorite flower. But if it isn’t native to your region, growing it can be a bit trickier.
Spend time at your local garden center to learn what are strong plants for your area and begin with these. You can work your way up to novelty plants once you’ve mastered soil, water, and light.
Another trick for beginners is to use containers. By planting in containers, you have complete control over soil and light and can elevate the plants from animals.
Splurge for a high quality soil and place the container in the optimal sunlight for the plant. As we move into fall and winter, the containers can also be brought indoors to avoid frost.
Again the temptation is strong to plant your favorite flowers and greenery without regard to your personal growing conditions. Soil and light needs are essential.
Dig into your garden to see if your soil is sandy, clay, or silt. Also, splurge for a bag of high quality top soil. Visit your garden at various points of the day and season to assess how much light it receives.
Different flowers and plants have different degrees of resistance to deer, rabbits and other animals. If your selections are not resistant, consider planting in a fenced area or raised bed.
Like sunlight, different plants have different water needs. Be sure to know yours and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Jennifer Walden from WikiLawn.com:
Simple herbs like thyme and rosemary are a good start. Pick herbs you like and look up how to make a window box herb garden. It’s very simple. I’ve even done it using one of the crates they often sell clementine oranges in since they are the perfect size.
If you want to try your luck at vegetables then green bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots are all great choices.
Something like a tomato plant can even be kept inside with relative ease so long as you have a way to support the weight of the tomatoes as they grow.
This will get you familiar with the basics of watering, weeding, insect control, etc. on a small scale.
Buy the best potting soil you can for your pots. Over time you can learn how to enrich the soil you have in your garden.
You can have your soil tested by your local soil conservation office, some garden shops or sending samples by mail.. The pros can advise you as to how to improve your soil.
There are gizmos that measure soil moisture content.
Or just have a local gardening expert let you feel the correct soil moisture with your finger.
Lewis Peters from Onlineturf.co.uk:
When planning on growing plants & vegetables, take note of what areas of the garden the sun reaches and position your plants accordingly.
Plants need at least 2 hours of sunlight per day to survive and so keep this in if you are planning to grow in shady areas.
Water is essential for plants to grow however under or over watering can have adverse effects on your plant’s health leaving them limp & lifeless.
If you have a potted plant, ensure that there are small holes in the bottom to allow excess water to escape.
A good metric to know when to water your plants is to fell the top of the soil with your hand, if it feels dry – slowly add water in stages. If the water is draining very slowly, or not at all and forming puddles on top of the soil you have likely over watered.
Beginner gardeners may get impatient and decide to apply fertiliser to a struggling plant to encourage growth.
This makes perfect sense, fertilizers are a powerful tool in a gardeners’ arsenal and will provide a nutrient boost however fertiliser can be incredibly powerful and applying too much can kill your plants/ lawn.
Read the label carefully and follow the instructions, one packet of fertiliser may provide much more coverage than you require.
Shelby Devore from Farminence.com
Plants are simple. They need good soil, adequate sunlight and water. Yes, there is more to it than that, but when you meet those 3 basic things, your plants will thrive.
It’s easy to find the latest and greatest tools that are made to make your gardening life simpler. But, I’d avoid these, especially when you are first starting out.
It’s easy to become dependent on these which can create bad habits. For example, there are a ton of pots, planters, and irrigation tools that will water your plants for you.. Don’t use these.
Get in the habit of checking on your plants daily. When you use the self-watering tools, you become dependent on them and won’t check your plants often enough.
This may sound obvious, but many gardeners will start with plants are are complicated because they are pretty or they were told that a particular variety is the best.
For vegetable gardening, start with simple plants like tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce. Most leafy green herbs like parsley and basil are easy to grow.
For flowers, start with some simple annuals like petunias, salvia or cosmos. These are all easy to grow and pretty forgiving.
Avoid heirloom crops at first. Heirloom crops are notorious for being hard to grow. Instead, opt for hybrid crops.
The easiest way to find hybrid crops is to look for ones not labeled as heirlooms. A few hybrid crops to try out are the Better Boy tomato or burpless cucumber.
I see gardeners trying to learn all of the things before they ever buy their first plant. Don’t do that! Learn the basics and get started.
Gardening is a skill and you can only learn so much from reading books. I will say that a basic understanding of gardening and plants’ needs is a good idea, but you’ll need to practice judging soil moisture, watering, etc.
Josephine Fan from Dearjuneberry.com:
Are you trying to grow food, ornamental decorating, privacy, etc.? Figuring out what you are looking to accomplish with your garden will help you decide on what kind of plants you are looking for.
Do you want something low maintenance or do you enjoy careful cultivation?
If you are in an excessively hot climate, plants that require frequent watering may inadvertently become a financial burden. If you are in a very cool climate, you may want to consider hardy perennials rather than having to replant every year.
If your soil is clay like or waterlogged, plants that can’t get their feet wet or sit in standing water will suffer. Likewise in dry soils or soils that can’t hold water, plants that can’t tolerate drought will not thrive.
Judy DeLorenzo from Alifewellplanted.com:
Buy seeds in late fall or early winter lest your first choices sell out. Seed companies find that January is their busiest month of the year.
When planting, attach a string between two posts to mark off the row. This will make it easier to plant seeds or starter plants in a straight line.
Cool weather crops can be overwintered (even in New England weather) under row covers. Drape plastic over hoops, then secure them with wood planks or rocks so the plastic doesn’t blow away.
This creates a warm and moist microclimate; plants will stay dormant, green, and happy into the spring (on warm days, vent the rows so the plants don’t burn up).
When you want to pick, simply lift up the plastic; be sure to re-secure afterwards. When the weather turns warm, the plants will begin to grow again. We’ve successfully done this with parsley, carrots, sage, and greens.
Derek Gaughan from Princegardening.com:
Tip #1: One of the most innovative product-based hacks I use on a regular basis is the Root Slayer shovel (no affiliation – just an avid user).
Its saw-like edges cut through the roots of bushes and is invaluable when pulling out old shrubs or redesigning a landscape. You can uproot twice as many shrubs in the amount of time it takes with a standard shovel.
Tip #2: Another innovative product for those looking to really transform the health of their grass is the My Soil test kit.
This soil sample kit is analyzed in labs and gives you a precise indication of pH and nutrient levels in your soil, so you know exactly what changes need to be made to have the best yard on the block.
It sounds complicated, but it’s as easy as scooping some dirt and putting it in your mailbox, reading the nutrient numbers on the report, and then buying fertilizer at your local store with similar levels.
Tip #3: Another trick to keep pests out of your garden without using harsh chemical sprays is to make a DIY insecticidal soap (horticultural spray). This is a completely natural product that works great against aphids and spider mites, two pests that can completely wipe out a garden. Here is the recipe I use:
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp pure dish soap (non scented, no degreasers)
Then mix 2 teaspoons of this soap mixture to every cup of water. Add to spray bottle and coat the leaves.
Tip #4: use a cupcake/muffin pan to perfectly space out vegetable seeds. When ready to plant, simply press the bottom of the pan into the soil to make depressions in the soil.
Tip #5: When pruning shrubs and trees, ALWAYS disinfect the lopper blades before moving on to another plant.
If one plant has a disease, you can easily spread it to the rest of them on your property. Simply use a cotton ball soaked with isopropyl alcohol after each tree/shrub.
Observe where the sun hits your land and write it down. It is going to change in the warm season. Once you know, it will be easier to select the right plants for the right conditions.
Start learning to collect all your plant material (greens/browns) and learn to compost. The sooner you generate your own fertility, the less reliant you will be of buying bags of soil. Fall is the best time to collect your neighborhood leaves.
Attempt to weed your plot 100%. There are techniques like solarization, flame weeding, manual pullers, etc. Don’t ever let weeds go to seed or you will have exponentially more work in the future.
Always cover your soil, wether that’s through planting a cover crop, densely planting, or using mulch like wood chips or straw.
I’d say you should look into what you’re wanting for your garden. I myself like shrubs such as dogwood (cornus) and so you look into the conditions they like and the conditions of your garden. The RHS website is very useful, as well.
Remember, it’s far easier to overwater than underwater your plants.
Mulch. If you’re in the northern hemisphere and it is leaf season, save those leaves. At some point, scrunch them up (now, with a mower, or in spring) and use them as mulch when the plants get over 3 inches/10 cm high.
Start small, learn how to water, and don’t forget to feed your plants, whether that’s with compost or fertilizer. Also, learn the signs of nutrient deficiency & what a plant looks like when it’s getting too much light or not enough.
Check your plants daily – just take a 5 minutes wander through your garden, checking plants for damage, and checking soil moisture – just stick your finger into the ground and if it’s dry it’s time to water.
It’s easier to take care of a garden when you know what it’s normally like and when you can pick up on issues early. Plus it’s nice to actually enjoy your garden by spending time in it.
Potted plants need more regular fertiliser than you’d think – especially in spring when they start pumping out flowers and fruits. Soil in pots/baskets have very little nutrients for the plants to draw upon so a good fertiliser is a must.
Grow plants you care about. If you don’t like a plant in your garden be ruthless and get rid of it. You take better care of plants you like than plants you are just keeping alive out of some bizarre sense of responsibility.
Learn to trim plants – many plants grow better after a harsh prune, most plants are happier if you remove damaged leaves, and deadheading flowers will get you more blooms. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive.
Take notes on your own garden as you notice differences or you change something. It seems like a pain but it isn’t. It will be really helpful next time around.
Buy an all-purpose garden tips book, a big Rodale book or something.
Read the parts that look interesting and apply to your situation, then remember to refer back to it if/when there is some sort of issue (pests, fertilizer needs, etc.) The first time I read a big ol’ garden book I skipped over the pests section since there weren’t any pest problems.
Later on when I saw holes in the lettuce leaves, I tried for way too long to find info online — then I remembered to look at that book — boom, instant helpful info I could read in five minutes, instead of sitting through 3 hours of YouTube videos.
Plants don’t need much. Good, deep, soil, plenty of sun, and water. That’s it. Healthy plants will outgrow pest damage, and as long as you pull weeds diligently the first month or so they’ll outcompete weeds too.
I see lots of newbie gardeners fussing over every leaf nibble and slightly curled or browned foliage. Let it be, and plant different things so a bad year doesn’t wreck the whole harvest. The fundamental essence of permaculture is working with nature rather than against it, and that requires diversity.
Being able to handle large numbers of plants watering schedule in your head is a skill that will grow. I used to have to write it all down
Think about what you want to do in your garden. Why do you want to garden? To grow your own food, to have nice flowers or for medicinal purposes? If you have answers to this questions then it is much more easy to recommend something!
First, take care of your soil and it’ll take care of you. Give it biomass and nutrients and time to assimilate them. Don’t leave it bare for more than a few minutes if possible, and don’t let it dry out all the way unless your climate requires plants that require bone-dry spells. But don’t sweat it if it does sit bare awhile or dry out — you’ll just be killing off the weaker organisms which can’t handle those extremes.
Second, diversify. Don’t plant all one thing — plant a few different varieties of each thing that you’re really keen on having at least a little survive. And for each thing you’re planting several of, don’t put them all together in one spot — spread them around your garden and then if a pest finds one plant of that type it will still have to work to find the rest.
Finally, plant perennials wherever you can. They can get their roots down deeper and handle greater climate extremes than annuals, and they’ll help cultivate a more forest-like soil biome.
Learn to propagate your perennials so you can grow the same plant in several places. Then if one dies you haven’t lost the whole variety from your site.