It’s springtime and the neighborhood nurseries are a-buzz with gardeners planning their spring vegetable gardens. If you’re venturing into this whole vegetable gardening thing for the first time this year, don’t worry — you’re not alone.
As a beginner to vegetable gardening, I was extremely averse to overly detailed advice. Too much information was paralyzing, and I just wanted to dive in and get started without reading a dissertation from the Farmers’ Almanac (not that the FA isn’t amazing). One day, after weeks of deliberation, I decided to just go for it. I went to the hardware store, had them cut some 2x4s and made my first raised bed. Then I went to the nursery and picked out the first crop of seedling veggies.
Lucky for me, the folks at my local nursery were very helpful in telling me which veggies went best together in the same bed and which organic fertilizer to buy. I threw things into that bed and also put a few things straight into the ground, mostly winging it, but occasionally using internet sources and my friends at the local nursery for guidance.
For the first-time vegetable gardener, I’ve compiled a list of beginner gardening tips that I’ve picked up since venturing down this road for the first time myself. It’s most certainly not an exhaustive list, and I do have to admit that I live in one of the most garden-friendly areas you can find, but stick to this relatively universal list and you should be up and running in no time.
10 Gardening Tips for Beginners
1. Know your climate and timing
2. Start easy
- kale (of any variety)
- bush beans (green beans that grow in a bush instead of up a pole)
- arugula (opt for a slow-bolt variety so it won’t go to seed before you have a chance to enjoy it)
- salad greens (like romaine or the spring mixes you can get in a 6-pack)
- zucchini (these need a lot of space — more than you’d think— but it’s so fun to watch them grow. One plant can yield a LOT of squash.)
3. Start a spring/summer garden first
4. Start with seedlings
5. Choose your location based on sunlight
6. Save money by using ground soil
If you’re sure that nothing suspect has happened in the soil on your property, like if you’re digging up grass or weeds that haven’t been treated, mix the ground soil into the organic soil and compost you buy. It will save you money by reducing the expenditure on bags of potting soil to get you started. Dirt can get surprisingly expensive!
Here’s a great brand of compost/soil conditioner that can be mixed directly with the ground soil with really great results.
Some people would say to test the soil, but as a beginner gardener that was a deterrent to me getting started. Doing that is up to you if you plan to use ground soil. It might be a good idea to test if you’re gardening on rented property or property that’s new to you. You can get a testing kit at most nurseries for a fair price.
7. Dive in, even if you don’t have a yard
There are plenty of things that grow well in pots, especially herbs and salad greens. The one suggestion I have is not to start with cilantro if you’re faint of heart — it bolts pretty easily and can be discouraging. But if you do decide to go for it, plant a lot, and if you can’t use it all before it bolts, let the seeds dry on the stems and you’ll have yourself some fresh coriander.
Mint, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and sage are great starter herbs — parsley grows like a weed in my yard. If you live in a warmer place that doesn’t cool off too much at night, basil is also a good starter herb, just make sure you pay attention and pluck off the ends if they start to flower — that will prevent bolting.
As for pot-able veggies, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and maybe even spring mix would work in big pots. The Container Gardening Alliance has some awesome ways to grow just about anything in some sort of container.