Are you a newbie gardener and not quite sure where to start? Do you want to plant your first back yard or front yard garden but are feeling overwhelmed with all of the information and possibilities? These questions can help you overcome those obstacles and plant your first successful garden this year!
Let me start this by saying, I am NOT an expert gardener. I’ve only had a garden for a few years, and I’ve had some big flops along the way. I may not be the best person to be giving out gardening advice to new gardeners.
But on the other hand, maybe I am. Because I am an excited gardener who thinks that it doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming to get started gardening! I mean really, if I can do it, you can do it too!
I don’t think that gardening has to be this super complex thing. I don’t think there are a lot of rules you have to follow to have a successful garden. And I think that if you want to garden, you should! I really want to encourage you to start your own backyard, or front yard, garden this summer!
5 Questions to Ask Before Setting Up Your First Garden
To help you get started, there are just a few simple questions that I think you need to ask yourself before jumping in. Again, nothing complicated, but answering these questions before you start will give you a better chance of having a successful garden!
1. Where does the sun shine?
Probably the most important question in determining where you should put your garden is: What area of your yard gets the most sun?
We tried to grow a little garden in our very shady backyard our first summer in our current home and it did not go so well. The plants just didn’t get enough sun. Gardens need LOTS of sun – FULL sun is optimal, so you want to find the very sunniest place in your yard and plant your garden there.
Don’t skimp on the sun. You may be tempted to if the place that gets the most sun is in the middle of your yard, but if your garden is too shady, your plants won’t grow as well.
For us, that means that we have a front yard garden. Our back is too shaded and our front gets full sun, so my hubs built some raised beds and a little fence and we have a pretty cute little front and side yard garden if I do say so myself! We’ve gotten lots of compliments on it from the neighbors too.
2. How’s the soil?
You may have heard or read that you need to do a soil quality test to know what kind of soil you have before you start your garden. Personally, I think that can be a big obstacle for someone just getting started with gardening, and that it’s not really necessary anyway. We’ve never done a soil quality test and we’ve gotten good results from our garden.
You can kind of tell whether you have good quality soil or not by just digging up a small spot in your yard. If the soil is rich and dark black, you’re probably good to go. But it’s it’s light brown, sandy, rocky or clay-like, the quality is probably not so good.
The quality of your soil can help you determine what type of garden you should set up. If you have high quality soil you can probably create your garden right in your yard, maybe just tilling in a little bit of compost.
But if your soil is pretty bad, you probably want to consider a raised bed or container garden. When you build a raised bed you can fill it up with quality soil and compost, which will help your garden to grow and produce a high yield.
3. To Contain or Not to Contain?
So, if you’re going to go the raised bed or container garden route, you need to decide what kinds of beds or containers you want to use. You can easily grow veggies like tomatoes and peppers, as well as herbs in containers. But larger and vine-like plants: zucchini, melon, cucumbers, squash, etc. need more space and can easily outgrow a container, or even the raised bed. (Ask me how I know!)
I’m blessed that my hubs is pretty handy and was able to make us simple raised beds out of reclaimed wood. I think there are raised bed garden kits out there that you could buy and use if building a raise bed isn’t really your thing. Or check out the ideas in this post for repurposed garden containers.
4. Is it accessible?
One important thing to remember about having a successful garden is that you will need to spend time in your garden. Weeding, watering, and harvesting are things you will need to do on a regular, even daily, basis. Be sure you can get a hose to your garden for watering, and that it’s in an area of your yard where you can spend a lot of time.
For example, sometimes I struggle to spend the time needed in our garden because it’s in the front yard and not the back. It’s harder for me to be out there working when I have young kids around. I need to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re not crawling around and eating dirt or running out into the street. This has become less of an issue as my kids have gotten older, but it’s something that I didn’t realize when we first decided to put our garden in the front yard.
5. What do we like to eat?
Finally, when deciding what to plant in your garden, the easiest thing is to just think about what you like to eat. Don’t try to grow vegetables that your family doesn’t like because then you’ll have little motivation to keep up with your garden and harvest your veggies.
Gardening should be a fun experience for you, and hopefully for your kids too. There’s something pretty amazing about walking out to your garden and grabbing food to bring in and make for your family for dinner!
So after you’ve thought through these questions, I encourage you to just jump in! If there’s anything I’ve learned from my experience with gardening over the past few years is that it doesn’t hurt to try. You don’t have to have the perfect garden plan, or soil quality, or know everything about gardening before you get started! Just try it!
Sure, you might make some mistakes or run into some bumps along the way! But that’s okay! You can learn from your mistakes and mishaps and then you will know how you can improve your garden next year! You’ll never know if you can grow a successful garden or not if you don’t get out there and try!
Are you a newbie gardener? What has held you back from starting a garden in the past? Are you a veteran gardener? What advice would you give to someone just starting out with gardening?