15 Amazing Garden DIY Tips for Beginners

15 Amazing Garden DIY Tips for Beginners


14 minute read

Starting a garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Plant fragrant florals or start a vegetable garden (or both!), and everyone can benefit from getting their hands a little dirty. But if you are new to gardening, it can be difficult to know where to start. Still, it does not have to be complicated; when you break your project down into manageable steps, you can ease into gardening at your own pace. This is why we are enumerating these garden DIY tips for beginners like you! Soon you will see the rewards of your efforts with beautiful views, delicious flavors, and colorful blooms. These steps will help you get started from scratch, but if you have something particular in mind, you could also use a garden plan to guide your design.

Steps for your First Garden: A Beginner’s Guide

  • Determine your Climate Zone

Success in gardening is all about putting the right plant in the right place at the right time. That starts with an understanding of the crops suited to your climatic region and the season in which to plant them. The USDA maintains a plant hardiness zone map searchable by ZIP code, which divides the country into thirteen zones based on average annual minimum temperature. Find your zone and familiarize yourself with the fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that thrive in it (if you are outside of the United States, consult international hardiness zone maps). Once you know your climate zone, look up the estimated first and last frost dates so you know the duration of your growing season. Now, when you go to your local garden center, you can look for plants labeled with the number corresponding to your hardiness zone. If you are buying seeds, compare the number of "days to maturity" listed on the seed packet to the length of your growing season.

  • Decide what to Grow

Use the constraints of your climate zone and your personal preferences to determine what plants you would like to grow. Do you want a flower garden, vegetable garden, herb garden, container garden, or a combination of several options? Ask yourself what kind of fruits and vegetables you like to eat⁠⁠, and plant those. Also, take into consideration your available home gardening space. If you only have room for a small garden, it is wise to avoid large plants.

  • Choose the Ideal Garden Location

Most flowers and vegetables require several hours of direct sunlight a day, so look for an area that receives enough full sun for what you're growing. Growing plants will also be easier on a flat piece of land that's near a structure that provides some wind cover.

  • Acquire Basic Tools

At a minimum, you will need to invest in a sturdy shovel and a pair of gloves when you start your garden. But there are several other tools of the trade that might come in handy: a potting soil scoop to easily fill pots and planters, a standard kitchen knife to make precise cuts when harvesting vegetables, a battery-powered or rechargeable cordless drill to make drainage holes when converting found objects to planters, a Hori hori knife useful for dividing clumps of roots and other coarse garden tasks, hand pruners to cut stems and branches up to a half-inch in diameter, and a small pruning saw designed to access tight spaces when pruning trees and shrubs.

Garden

  • Test your Soil

Before starting a garden, get a soil test, which can be obtained for a small fee through your local USDA cooperative extension service office. In addition to identifying the proportions of clay, sand, silt, and organic matter in your garden soil, you will learn if your pH level is off and whether you have any nutrient deficiencies. You will also receive instructions to correct any imbalances. Ask for a test that covers toxic substances that are occasionally found in the soil, such as lead and arsenic. If toxins are found above safe thresholds, do not plant edibles in the soil. Instead, grow food in wooden raised beds with a barrier on the bottom that prevents the roots from getting into the ground below.

  • Make your Garden Bed

The first step to creating a garden bed is clearing away the existing vegetation. Weeds may be pulled by hand. Just make sure you get the roots so they do not resprout. If you are starting with a lawn, you may want to rent a gas-powered sod cutter to remove the grass. Then you need to prepare your plating space. It is best not to till unless it is necessary—digging can disrupt life beneath the topsoil (from worms to beetles to bacteria), which is not ideal. Instead, try no-till gardening. 

Once you have removed the debris and grass away, spread a thick layer of compost on the growing area (at least four inches thick). If your weeds are particularly stubborn, you can also try sheet mulching or the process of using cardboard to compost weeds while preserving soil structure. It is best if the beds you create are no more than four feet wide so you can reach into the center without stepping onto the soft soil and compacting it, undoing all your hard work.

  • Decide whether to grow from seed or transplant seedlings

Seed starting might save money, but it's a long process with potential bumps in the road. Some seeds are stubborn about sprouting; others take ages to develop into healthy plants ready for the harsh outdoor world. As an alternative option, you can also go to your local nursery to buy young plants grown in a commercial greenhouse. Just remember you do not necessarily want the biggest plants in the batch, as these are often “root bound.” With a dense thicket of plant roots beneath the soil, these seedlings have outgrown their pots and might not transition well into the garden.

  • Plant your seeds or seedlings with care

When planting seeds, make sure to sow them at the proper depth indicated on the seed packet, tamp the soil firmly over them with the palm of your hand, and water them whenever the surface of the soil dries out. When planting seedlings, carefully turn the pot over while putting your hand on top of the soil with the stem between your fingers. Gently squeeze the pot on all sides and shimmy it off. Grasp the mass of soil in your hands and massage it lightly until the roots are no longer stuck in the shape of the pot. If the plant is root bound, you will have to massage it more vigorously, perhaps even using a knife to loosen the mat of roots. Finally, use your hands or a small trowel to create a hole in the soil no bigger than the root mass. Position the plant, cover the roots with soil (making sure not to cover any part of the stem in the process, which is a death sentence for many types of plants), and press it firmly into the earth.

  • Water Sufficiently

Typically during the growing season, plants require about an inch of water per week. If there hasn't been rainfall, make sure you are providing a sufficient amount of water. To eliminate guesswork, an easy way to check if plants are thirsty is to simply stick your finger two inches deep into the soil. If it feels dry, then it's most likely time to water. And remember, most plants are better off slightly dry than sopping wet. Too much water can cause harmful root rot. When watering, your goal is to make the soil moist but not soggy.

  • Use Mulch Liberally

By covering the soil with rocks (which can keep the soil moist and warm) and organic matter, weeds have a hard time germinating and the earth is kept cool and moist. Worms and other beneficial soil creatures love mulch; as it decays, it becomes fuel for the soil food web, just like compost. It is important to match the right type of mulch with each crop. Wood chips are ideal for fruit trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and other large, long-lived plants. Dainty vegetables prefer less weighty mulch such as straw or leaves.

  • Maintain and Care for your Garden

There is a seasonal rhythm to garden maintenance. Spring is all about keeping the weeds from getting a toehold. Summer requires extra vigilance to keep the garden well-watered. Fall is the season for cutting things back and cleaning up. Throughout the growing season, pay attention to what the plants tell you. A yellow or deformed leaf is a sign that you should clip it off. A plant collapsing under its weight is calling out for staking. Dense, overgrown vegetation demands careful pruning to open things up so that sunlight and fresh air can circulate.

15 Easy DIY Gardening Tips and Tricks for Beginners

  1. Use Soap Shavings to Keep the Squirrels Away

Some people think squirrels are cute, but squirrels tend to munch on your vegetables and the leafy plants in your garden. There is nothing more maddening than planting lovely containers, raised beds, or a regular garden only to have squirrels dig up the soil and sometimes even the plants. An easy and inexpensive way to keep the squirrels away is to grate a bar of Irish Spring bath soap around your plants. Depending on the amount of space you need to cover, just a few bars should be enough. Unless you receive record amounts of rain, the soap shavings should work for a few weeks. Even after the soap dissolves, the scent lingers and keeps the squirrels away.

  1. Site it Right

Starting a garden is just like real estate; it is all about location. Place your garden in a part of your yard where you will see it regularly (out of sight, out of mind applies to gardening). That way, you will be much more likely to spend time in it.

  1.  Use egg cartons to start seedlings indoors

It is very exciting when winter is over, and spring is just around the corner…and it is time to start seedlings for the garden. One of the easiest ways to do that is to plant them in egg cartons! Each egg well holds the perfect amount of potting soil. Just make sure to put the cartons on a water-proof surface.

  1. Use packing peanuts or plastic bottles in large containers

Large containers pack quite a punch when it comes to curb appeal. Filling them with potting soil can be expensive and it also makes the containers very heavy. To lighten the load and cut down on the potting soil, fill the bottom half of your containers with packing peanuts. A small amount of soil will slip down through the peanuts but most of it will stay at the top. Another option is to fill the bottom of a large container with plastic soda or water bottles.

  1. Follow the Sun

Misjudging sunlight is a common pitfall when you're first learning to garden. Pay attention to how sunlight plays through your yard before choosing a spot for your garden. Most edible plants, including many vegetables, herbs, and fruits, need at least 6 hours of sun to thrive.

  1. Stay Close to Water

One of the best gardening tips you will ever get is to plan your new garden near a water source. Make sure you can run a hose to your garden site, so you do not have to lug water into it each time your plants get thirsty. The best way to tell if plants need watering is to push a finger an inch down into the soil (that is about one knuckle deep). If it is dry, it is time to water.

  1. Use plastic bins for container gardening on a budget

Plastic bins are a convenient and budget-friendly option for container gardens. They come in a variety of sizes and are very durable. Just make sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage and use the plastic bottle trick to cut down on the amount of potting soil needed to fill your bins.

  1. Choose the Right Plants

It is important to select plants that match your growing conditions. This means putting sun-loving plants into a sunny spot, choosing heat-tolerant plants in warm climates, and giving ground-gobbling vines like pumpkins and melons ample elbow room (or a trellis to climb). Do your homework and pick varieties that will grow well where you live and in the space you have.

  1. Make your Own Weed Killer

No DIY gardening tips list would be complete without the mention of weeds. Sometimes weed killer is necessary, especially in the spring when weeds seem to be the only things growing. If you need a lot, it can get very expensive. A homemade recipe that works great is to combine one gallon white vinegar, one cup table salt, and one tablespoon of dish soap. Mix it all in a garden sprayer and show those weeds who are in charge!

  1. Pinch back herbs and flowers for fuller plants

Pinching back the tops of some plants is a good way to stimulate growth and encourage the plants to fill out. Pinching is a type of pruning that can be done with your fingers on tender stems. Find a set of leaves and pinch the stem right above them. Do this when the plant is young and you will end up with bushy, lush plants.  

  1. Line containers with coffee filters to keep in the dirt

Container gardening is becoming more and more popular but with it comes certain challenges. Rule number one when planting a container is that it must have proper drainage. That means a hole in the bottom of your pot. To prevent all your potting soil from slipping through the hole, line your container with a coffee filter. It will let the water through but not the soil! Do you not have any coffee filters? A double layer of paper towel will work too!

  1. Discover your Zone

Knowing your "hardiness zone" can help you choose the best plants. Simply put, it describes the coldest place a plant can grow. The higher the zone number, the warmer the climate. So, if a plant is "hardy to zone 4" and your garden is in zone 5, that plant will survive in your yard. If, however, you're in zone 3, it's too cold to grow that particular plant. Find out your hardiness zone.

  1. Learn your Frost Dates

Planting too early (or late) in the season can spell disaster for your garden. You need to know the last average spring frost date for your area, so you do not accidentally kill plants by putting them out prematurely. It's also good to know your first average fall frost date so that you get your plants harvested or moved indoors before late season cold damages them.

  1. Add Mulch

Apply a layer of mulch that is two to three inches deep around each plant. This will help reduce weeds by blocking out the sun and reduce moisture loss through evaporation, so you have to be waterless.

  1. Feed Plants Regularly

We have already talked about the importance of starting with great soil, but that soil works best in concert with regular boosts of high-quality nutrition for your plants. In other words, amazing soil + top-notch plant food = super garden success!

Takeaway

With these 15 easy DIY garden tips, you will soon catapult yourself from a newbie garden enthusiast to a pro gardener in no time. Remember that gardening is a learned skill so be gentle with yourself as you learn (and apply) these DIY garden tips.

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