Let Love Grow: Beginner Gardening Tips

Beginner gardening tips
Beginner gardening tips

YOU GUYS. I'm so excited about this new series! Recently, my sweet, talented friend, Ashley Bush, gave me the brilliant idea to blog about gardening after she saw a photo I posted on Instagram. My initial reaction was, "No way! I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm just learning as I go." But then I slept on it.

And when I woke up the next day and went outside to check my vegetable garden (which is literally one of my favorite parts of my day), I saw that it had grown exponentially within just a week and we have more food than we know what to do with from our tiny 8' square garden.

And then I thought about how when I rebranded earlier this year with the amazing Kathryn Duckett of Creme Brandsso much of my brand was inspired by my love for history, gardening, and growing. Not just that, but a lot of the rebrand was also inspired by my grandmother, who was an avid gardener, and gardening is now one of my and my husband's favorite things to do together. It's not uncommon to find us spending a date night gardening together, and then concocting our own meal from what was available in the garden that day.

So really, putting all these things out into the universe prompted Ashley to mention the gardening blog series. Which comes full circle to exactly what I wanted my brand to speak, so really, it only seems fitting that I talk to you about my gardening experiences. And after that initial panic attack of "I am not a pro! I still make gardening mistakes!" I got excited to share this journey with you.

I'm going to tell you more about how I got started in gardening (because if you had asked me about gardening 6 or more years ago, I would have looked at you like you had two heads) in a later post, but today, for my first post in the Let Love Grow series, I want to share with you a few beginner gardening tips. Every single one of these is going to be based on personal preference, so you'll need to think about each of them before making any quick decisions. You may even want to do a little more research to determine the best gardening plan for you.

Raised bed, in-ground, or container?

How you choose to plant your garden is going to depend on a few different factors. Your personal preference, what you plan on planting, and location all play a role in making this decision for you. A raised bed is going to be a more permanent garden, but offers a longer growing season than an in-ground garden because the soil stays warmer and drains better. On the other hand, an in-ground garden is less permanent and requires less work than building and preparing a raised bed. I found UGA to be really helpful in explaining the pros and cons of both in-ground and raised bed gardens. Container gardens are a great option if you live in a city, apartment, or have limited yard space to grow your own flowers and/or vegetables. Personally, I also think containers look really pretty (I'm a sucker for a unique planter or pot). My personal preference is to do a mixture of all three, depending on what I am planting and when.

What you’ll need

If you're interested in creating your own raised bed, you'll need a few extra tools. As a general rule of thumb, here are some tools you'll want to create a raised bed:

  • 4-8 pieces of wood, either purchased or scraps
  • Weed mat
  • Wood screws
  • Planting soil and/or compost

Admittedly, my husband did most of the building of our 8' square raised bed, so I'm not going to give you detailed instructions on that today (but I am going to bat my eyelashes and try to get him to compose a guest post on that for you!).

To get your garden started, regardless of which option (raised bed, in-ground, or container) you choose, you'll want to consider having:

  • Planting soil and/or compost
  • Gardening toolkit, typically found at any gardening or hardware store
  • Garden clippers
  • Mesh netting
  • Hose and/or sprinkler
  • Watering can
  • Heavy-duty plastic snakes and/or owls (to keep birds and rodents out!)
  • Coffee grounds (sprinkle on acidic plants - they love it!)
  • Seedlings or seeds
  • A gardening notebook
  • Plant food (skip this if you want to go the organic route)
  • Stakes (for tall plants like tomatoes)

Choosing what to plant

Now that you've got your garden area all prepped, it's time to decide what you want to plant! The obvious first question is, do you want flowers or vegetables? Or both? From there, it really comes down to personal choice and seasonality. It doesn't make any sense to plant vegetables you would never eat, so you can just scratch those off the list. Once you've decided on what you'd like to plant, make sure it's the right season for it. This will vary, depending on where you live, so you may need to do some quick research. Lastly, make sure you have enough room to plant what you're interested in. If you're confined to container gardening, planting a bunch of runner vegetables like cucumbers, squash and pumpkins really isn't the best idea. Once you've got a plan, it's time to get to planting! Be mindful of how much sun each plant requires, and you're already set up for success.

Maintenance & care

You'll want to make sure your plants get plenty of TLC when they first go into the ground. Sometimes going from their small pot into the ground can be a bit of a shock to them, so make sure they get plenty of water (without drowning them!). You'll want to water them until you see water pool on top of the soil and then sink into the soil within about 10 seconds. If the water takes any longer than that to seep in, you likely have watered them too much. If the soil is bone dry, they definitely need to be getting watered more often. You'll want the soil to have some dampness to it pretty much all the time. I try to water everything once very early in the morning before the heat of the day and again at sunset, for about 10 minutes each time. If you're worried you'll forget to water your plants, you can get an inexpensive timer from a hardware store, and attach it to your hose. Just set the time you want the water to turn on and off and you don't have to think about it again! Be sure to pick weeds as soon as you notice them, otherwise the roots may start to take nutrients from the soil away from the plants that really need it. If you notice brown or dead leaves on anything, you can pinch them off so they aren't sucking up nutrients unnecessarily. If you're planting flowers, many times the dead ones can be pinched off to make sure new, healthy ones grow, but do a little research based on your particular flower variety first!

Harvesting

Harvesting is going to be different, depending on the type of vegetable or flower. Generally, you should be able to tell if they are ripe and ready for picking based on smell and appearance. Make sure you use your garden clippers to snip them instead of just pulling the vegetables or flowers with your hands alone so you don't ruin the remainder of the plant, as it will continue to produce. Enjoy your homegrown vegetables and flowers!

Floral arrangement created by me during a class with Mindy Rice. Photo credit: Caroline Lima for Bliss & Bespoke 2015.