Find your gloves, some hand tools and put your old jeans on and get ready to get dirty. Using the following 8 tips for the backyard gardening beginner, your friends and neighbors will think you’ve hired an expert.
1. Plan Your Layout – How much space do you have? Does your backyard get any sun? How do you want to spend your time in your backyard once you’re finished? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you’re planning your layout. The amount of space you have will determine whether you plant a full vegetable garden or just a small raised bed. How you envision spending time in your yard will also dictate what your plan looks like. Are you going to use it for gardening only or will you be entertaining? Don’t overplant small areas and be sure to give yourself plenty of room to enjoy your new creation.
2. Plant What You Like – A lot of people will just buy a bunch of different types of seeds and put them in the soil without much thought. I recommend you look at what types of food you enjoy and start with a few of the vegetables in those recipes. When I first started, I loved salads with romaine lettuce, Persian cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes, so I only grew lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes that first year and it worked out great. I wasn’t overwhelmed and this gave me an opportunity to start slow, making it easy to manage any problems that occurred.
3. Where Do You Live? – I live in Southern California, so the year-round climate is ideal for most fruits and vegetables. If you live someplace where the growing season is shorter it’s less likely that you’ll have the same results with your garden. I suggest you talk to your local garden center or even neighbors to find out what grows well in your climate. You might even pick up a few tips from their years of trial and error.
4. Feed Your Garden – How do you feel after you’ve just downed a large soda and a candy bar? Your taste buds are probably in heaven, but your body is most likely in pretty bad shape. Your garden is no different. Be sure to use organic soil and feed your plants regularly. For example, if you’re planting tomatoes, you’ll need to add compost to the soil to ensure it’s nutrient rich. Don’t just assume that because you’re planting seeds in the dirt that you’re going to get the same results. Give your plants the best opportunity to produce. You’ll be rewarded in the end.
5. Water – Going back to the question of how much space you have in your backyard garden, if space is limited and you opt for using containers and pots instead of raised beds, be sure to water more often as soil in pots dries out faster. Also, plant vegetables with similar watering needs together to avoid over or under watering.
6. Room to Get Around – My first backyard garden consisted of one raised bed measuring 4 feet x 8 feet. This looked great on paper, but once it was finished I quickly realized that I would have a hard time getting to the plants in the middle of the bed. Be sure to give yourself plenty of room to get around. You don’t want to be stepping or kneeling on your brand new garden. Try creating two or three separate beds with walking room in between to avoid this same mistake.
7. Rest Easy – One of the biggest stresses of backyard gardening is watering. I suggest adding a small drip system to make sure everything is watered when it’s supposed to be. There are easy-to-install systems available at most hardware and local garden stores and this will save you time and stress.
8. Fun With Friends and Family – This is more of an encouragement than a tip. There’s no question, sharing is a lot of fun and makes you feel good, too. When harvest time comes, have a few friends over to help with the picking. Reward them with a nice meal planned around the different vegetables you’ve just picked and send them home with a few of their own.