Gardening is, not only one of my favorite hobbies, but it is also a way of life for me and for my family. I’ve literally been gardening my whole life. My earliest memories were gardening with my great-grandmother (Mimi). I’m sure that is where my love of gardening began but it is also where I began learning the fundamentals that would become so helpful later on.
Back then I could rely on Mimi’s wisdom and her decades of experience. It seemed like she knew absolutely everything and I admired that knowledge so much. I’ve carried those lessons with me throughout my life and since then, I have tried and tested and added some experience of my own.
I get so many questions related to various aspects of gardening that I wanted to make sure to have an in-depth post available to everyone. There really is so much information out there; so many different directions that you can take your gardening efforts but I am going to start with the most basic and most important tips that every gardener needs.
Tip #1 – Location
Start with the basics, know your site. I can’t reinforce the importance of garden placement enough. You can do the absolute best job creating a garden, but do it in the wrong location and it will fail. What you need is a location that will get a good amount of sunlight through the growing season, at least 6-8 hours for most crops. However, that is not the only point to consider when choosing your site, which leads me to the next tip.
Tip #2 – Soil
Your soil content is, obviously, of huge importance. Soil is different just about everywhere. Some soils are terrific for gardening and some soils will kill everything you plant. You should have your soil tested and your local extension office is a good place to start. You can also purchase home soil tests locally.
Once you know your soil type you will have a better idea of the best style of gardening for your needs. For instance, we have way too much clay here on our place, so I do all of my gardening in raised beds. I bring in topsoil and mix it up with peat moss and compost to create a good growing medium.
Tip #3 – Other Site Considerations
There are a few other items you should keep in mind when choosing your garden site. Obviously, irrigation is a factor. You need to have access to water, in some way, in order to care for your plants. Wind is also a factor to consider. There are some plants that can absolutely be destroyed by strong winds. Therefore, if you live in an area that is prone to strong winds, you will want to plan either a wind block or plan your layout so that larger, stronger plants will be able to shelter more delicate plants.
Tip #4 – Region
Be sure to know your regional planting zone. It takes your climate into account and assigns a numbered zone. When you research various planting strategies, your zone will be one of the most important determining factors.
Tip #5 – Your Garden Plan
When you have all of the pertinent information that you need, you are ready to plan your garden. So, while you are planning, you will want to choose what you are going to be growing. My suggestion, if you are a beginning gardener, is to start with two ideas; A. The easier plants to grow just until you get your feet wet. and B. The plants that will be the most useful to you.
For instance, the squash family is fairly easy to grow, but if you don’t eat them, then why waste your time, money and effort. Likewise, you may really love celery, but since it is very finicky, you may have a difficult time growing it as a beginning gardener.
Tip #6 – Plan by Timeline
It is very important to start your plants at the right time. Different plants have different lengths of growing season-time to harvest. On top of that, different areas have varied lengths of growing seasons. Being in the south here, we have a nice long growing season. I actually start almost all of my seeds in my greenhouse during January and February. You will want to determine the best time for your plants to be planted outside in order to take advantage of your season. And that brings me to the next tip.
Tip #7 – Indoors or Outdoors
When you research your seeds, you will see that some seeds NEED to be started indoors in a protected environment. The seed packets will typically tell you how many weeks prior to transplanting that you will need to start them. All of these timelines are specifically to help manage the growth time versus the weather in your area. Therefore, you really need to know your average last frost date. You can go to the Farmer’s Almanac for that as well as so much more awesome information!
There are also some seeds that MUST be sewn in place because transplanting them will damage or kill them. And then, there are those that can be started either way, you just have to determine your timeline. For instance, back to the squash… You can start them indoors if you like and transplant them outside after frost or you can direct seed them where they will grow, but you will have to wait until the danger of frost is past.
Tip #8 – Ongoing Efforts
Once you begin the process of seeding and transplanting, your efforts will turn toward helping your plants grow in a healthy and robust manner. You will want to take special care in how much water you give them. When you research the needs of your specific plants, you will find their water needs. I believe one of the mistakes that beginning gardeners make the most is over watering. across the board and inch per week is typically enough water, but different species will have varying needs, so be sure that you have that information on hand.
Another part of the ongoing work for your garden will be feeding it. I’ll mention right here that I am an organic gardener. It’s just my preference not to have the chemicals on what I feed my family. There are many ways to fertilize your garden organically. There is a good list of methods in How to Fertilize an Organic Garden.
You may also need to provide protection for your plants, be it from bugs or animals. There are several ways to do so but you can have a look at these posts for a couple of ideas. Strawberry Bed Protection Floating Row Covers
And finally, depending on what you choose to grow, pruning and/or trellising may be a need. Any vining plants will need something to climb; beans, peas, etc. As well, indeterminate tomatoes will also need some sort of support. There are so many ways to do this, but you can have a look at my favorite way to trellis tomatoes, plus I also talk about pruning in the following; Pruning and Trellising Tomatoes.
Tip #9 – A Few Other Considerations
Tools and Supplies
When you are preparing to get started gardening, there are a few tools and supplies that you will need to have on hand. For working your garden plot, some of the basic gardening tools are good to have; shovel, hoe, rake as well as hand tools. A tiller of some sort certainly comes in handy sometimes too! You will need some way to water, be it water hose, sprinkler, water can – whichever is best for your needs.
For starting your seeds, you can purchase the little six pack seed trays or so many other options that are out there. But you can even just make your own paper pots. It takes a little time to make quite a few, but it’s free and you can plant them directly into the ground as they are biodegradable. As for starting seeds, you will need a sterile seed starting mix. You can check out one of my previous posts about Seed Starting Success.
Specific Types of Gardens
This is, obviously, self explanatory. A garden that is mostly and specifically for the growth and harvest of food supplies for the table or market. There are some very specific tricks that make vegetable gardening a virtual breeze and those will be coming shortly, so be sure to check back.
Most herbs can be grown throughout the garden, but many times, there is an area set aside specifically for the growth of various herbs. Sometimes these areas are very specific; Tea Garden, Medicinal Garden, etc. Herb gardens are a beautiful addition to any landscape and the aroma is second to none! I grow a significant amount of herbs in my garden areas and I LOVE them! You can have a look at a post that I did about two of the workhorses of the herb garden in Incredible Herb Gardening; Calendula and Chamomile.
Perennials are plants that come back each year and they most usually refer to flowers, however, many herbs and some vegetables are also perennial. I have perennial plants scattered throughout all of my gardens, however, I did create a couple of perennial beds around the Natural Pool that we built in 2018. Have a look at that here; Build and Install a Perennial Flower Bed.
Upcoming Gardening Information that You Don’t Want to Miss!
I truly enjoy learning. I do my best to research and then try new gardening methods all the time. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!! You can have a look at my foray into a Straw Bale Garden and you need to stick around for the additional test gardens that I am planning this season!
Coming very soon, I will have posts up concerning such topics as companion planting, hoop house and greenhouse gardening, hügelkultur gardening and much more. Be sure to subscribe to Two Oaks Farm Talk in order to get the latest. You may also want to go check out and subscribe to A Life on the Farm for the more personal side of the simple life. And you should go and subscribe to Two Oaks Farmstead YouTube Channel, where the two sides collide for AWESOME CONTENT!