How to Start a New Garden
Starting a garden from scratch
One of the best parts of owning a home isn’t the inside and its warmth and security; it’s outside, in your own little piece of paradise we call the garden. Here is some advice for those new to gardening, or those looking to enjoy and care for your garden.
It’s common to hear “yard” and “garden” used interchangeably, but the two terms have distinct meanings. A “yard” is the area immediately surrounding your home, regardless of its contents, while a “garden” is a place where you cultivate plants. A beautiful garden, however, serves more than just aesthetic purposes; it can also serve as a tranquil outdoor retreat for some “me time” in the privacy of your own backyard.
Although gardening is hard work, it has many benefits beyond the obvious ones associated with the bending, stretching, pulling, etc. that are inherent to the activity. Studies have found that gardening improved mood and lowered cortisol levels, and that gardening reduced depressive symptoms and overall stress. In addition, two studies found that gardeners had a lower risk of dementia than people who didn’t garden regularly.
If the thought of planting a garden or improving an existing one has caught your fancy, keep reading for helpful advice that will take you where you want to go.
How to Grow a Garden from Scratch
Some things are essential in a garden no matter what you plan to grow. Before planting a single seed, remember these five essentials.
Know your gardening zone.
The most disheartening thing for a gardener is to put in plants that don’t make it and die off. Planting species that aren’t adapted to the climate of your area is probably the main cause of this unfortunate occurrence, as is understanding plants needs when it comes to soil, water and sun exposure.
The USDA has established hardiness zones according to the average annual minimum temperature to assist you in selecting suitable plants. Due to the fact that factors other than temperature, such as sunshine, rainfall, and soil quality, also affect how well plants do, hardiness zones are guidelines, rather than guarantees, for gardening success.
However, if you want to get off to a good start, stick to species that have proven themselves successful in your region. Simply entering your zip code will tell you the USDA hardiness zone.
Find a suitable garden location.
Take a look around your property at various times of the day to get a feel for the areas that get lots of sun (crucial for many types of flowers and vegetables) and the areas that get more shade (don’t worry, there are plenty of gorgeous shade-tolerant plants).
You should also consider your family’s routine: If your children and pets rule the backyard, you may want to plant a garden off to one side or enclose a section with fencing to prevent it from being used as a playground or put up a fence.
In addition to planting directly in the ground, you could use raised beds, which are elevated planters constructed from wood, stone, or metal. Raised beds simplify garden maintenance in a number of ways, including better soil drainage and aeration and the prevention of ground-dwelling pests. Plus, raised beds are great for people with back pain or mobility issues because they reduce the amount of bending and kneeling required to tend to the garden.
Know your soil.
Nutrients are required for plant growth, and the soil provides these nutrients, air and water. So, after deciding where you’d like to plant your garden, you should examine your soil and have it tested to see what kind of nutrients you can provide.
A soil test measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and identifies the amounts of nutrients like nitrogen, magnesium, and phosphorous, as well as the amounts that are missing. Soil texture will also be analyzed during the test. Plant health is also affected by the soil’s texture, which determines how well it retains and drains nutrients and water. When a gardener has the results of a soil test, they can use those findings to make adjustments with fertilizer and amendments (more on these below). You can contact the county extension office or the agriculture department at a nearby college to arrange for a free or low-cost soil test, or buy a soil testing kit from your preferred nursery or online.
Know your plants: annuals, biennials, and perennials
There is a wide variety of flowers, ferns, shrubs, and grasses, but they can all be broken down into one of three categories based on how long they live: annual, biennial, or perennial. In contrast to biennials, which have two growing seasons before producing seeds and dying, perennials keep “coming back” year after year. Herbaceous perennials, which have roots that survive even after the aboveground portion of the plant dies at the end of the season, are also included in the perennial category along with “woody” trees, vines, and shrubs.
Perennials not only come back year after year but also spread to fill in empty spaces in your garden without any additional work on your part. In contrast, annuals have to be dug up and thrown away after they finish blooming for the season, only to be replanted in the spring. As a result, many gardeners choose to plant a mix of annuals and perennials, counting on the perennials to return year after year and adding annuals for a burst of seasonal color and variety.
Some of the most well-liked flowers in gardens are annuals like zinnias & calendula and perennials like daffodils, asters, peonies, and hostas.
Invest in upkeep
Except for the dormant periods in cold climates, a gardener is constantly busy with tasks such as weeding, deadheading (removing spent flowers to encourage new blooms), pruning, and ensuring the soil is healthy by adding or subtracting nutrients as needed. Chemical and organic fertilizers are both concentrated nutrient additions to soil that stimulate plant growth. The ratio of these nutrients is indicated by the numbers on the fertilizer package; for instance, “5-3-2” would indicate that the fertilizer contains five parts nitrogen, three parts phosphorus, and two parts potassium.
Soil amendments, which can be either organic or inorganic, are materials added to soil in order to make it easier for plant roots to access water and air. Grass clippings, leaves, compost, gypsum, and perlite are all examples of soil amendments.
In order to prevent water loss through evaporation and runoff and to maintain a more constant soil temperature, mulch is applied to the soil’s top layer. As a bonus, mulch prevents weeds from sprouting and makes flower beds look more polished. In contrast to organic mulches like compost, straw, and wood chips that decompose into amendments, inorganic mulches like rocks and rubber do not break down and are left in place.