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Five Newbie Gardening Tips for a Successful Season

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As you all know, I have the Black Thumb of Death…I can kill a marigold. Growing things (except husbands and babies) is NOT my strong suit. I am very blessed to have grown up on a farm where my parents still garden – and I get to enjoy all that wonderful bounty. Today we have a guest post about gardening from my new friend Jill from The Prairie Homestead – a FABULOUS blog that you should subscribe to asap. Thanks a bunch, Jill! 

Spring is just around the corner, which means that many of us are counting down the days until we get to go outside and start playing around in the dirt.

Perhaps this is the first year you’ve ever had those urges and you aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Maybe you stroll through the gardening aisles at the store and longingly look at the packets of seeds and potting soil and feel sort of left out?

Well, good news! Starting your first garden is easier that you think. Today I want to share a few of my best newbie tips for a successful gardening season. So, grab some seeds and a shovel, and let’s get started!

5 Tips for the Newbie Gardener

1. Make a game plan

This may sound obvious, but don’t underestimate the usefulness of a solid plan before you start. Decide what you want to grow and why. Are you interested in supplementing the grocery budget with fresh summer veggies? Do you want to grow edibles that can be canned or preserved for later in the year? Or perhaps you simply wish to try your hand at a flower bed to improve the curb appeal of your home. Regardless of your goals, I’ve found it very helpful to write out my goals and ideas each year before I start.

Another important item to include in your plan is the last frost date for your area. This is the date when it is considered “safe” to plant most varieties of seeds directly in the ground. This website has a helpful list that is categorized by state (if you are located in the USA). While some plants will survive (and even thrive) if they are outside during a cold snap, other seedlings will quickly keel over if hit by a light frost. It’s important to know which is which!

2. Choose a gardening style that will work in your location.

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to live in the country or have a giant backyard in order to garden. Even the tiniest of backyards can usually support a small plot of some sort. If you aren’t allowed to dig up the lawn (if you are renting, for example), then consider building raised beds. The Square Foot Gardening method is famous for producing high yields in tiny spaces. Plus, raised beds allow you to easily build quality soil if your native soil isn’t the greatest.

And don’t forget container gardening! Many flowers, fruits, and vegetables can be successfully grown in containers. Plus, they are the perfect solution if you are living in an apartment or have a minimum of outdoor space. A container can be anything from a pretty pot, to a free 5 gallon bucket, to an old barrel or trash can! (Just make sure that the containers you use have adequate drainage on the bottom.)

3. Compost is king

It took me approximately two years to figure this out, but it now has become my mantra! While you may be blessed with naturally rich, fertile soil, many of us are not. Try as you might, you will have a very difficult time growing much of anything in nutrient-poor soil. Thankfully, this problem can be fixed pretty easily by adding some sort of compost to your garden spot. Compost can mean the difference between a happily producing plant, and one that is barely getting by. And the best part about using compost? It’s usually free (or super cheap!) and all-natural. :)

Since we have farm animals, my compost of choice is aged animal manure (It’s important to make sure it has composted thoroughly before adding it to your garden. Otherwise, it can ‘burn’ and kill your plants.) Composting is a huge topic, but has lots of helpful info if you are interested.

4. Don’t forget the water!

During my first few gardening seasons, I assumed that my plants had enough water simply because they weren’t wilting and dying… Wrong!

While some plants might be able to maintain themselves with a small amount of water, they probably won’t thrive or produce as much if they are always thirsty. Try to set up a consistent watering schedule (I usually shoot for every 2-3 days in our dry climate, unless it rains) and stick with it. I prefer to water in the evenings when it’s not as hot, which allows more of the water to seep into the soil instead of evaporating. Mulching around your plants is also another way to conserve moisture. If you are using containers, consider making self-watering containers to prevent your plants from drying out as easily.

5. Spend a little time in your garden each day.

Gardens seem to be the happiest when you spend a little time with them each day. If you save all of your gardening chores until the end of the week, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. However, if you spend 15-20 minutes a day in your garden weeding, watering, or harvesting, you’ll find that it is much easier to keep up on all of the duties. My favorite part of summer is spending the last few minutes before dusk out in my garden. It’s peaceful, wholesome, and good for the soul. :)

So, this is YOUR season– get out there and plant something! There’s no right or wrong way to garden, so learn from your mistakes and enjoy the process!

Feeling inspired to return to your roots and learn some new skills this year? Then you may enjoy my newly released eBook, Your Custom Homestead. This book will take you on a 21-day journey to realizing and defining the ‘homestead’ of your dreams- no matter where you may live! Visit the website for more information, a introductory video, and a chance to preview an free chapter.

*This post is linked at Fat Tuesday on Real Food Forager, at Works For Me Wednesday on We Are That Family, at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, at Pennywise Platter on The Nourishing Gourmet, at Healthy 2Day Wednesday on Quick Easy Cheap and Healthy, and at Hearth and Soul Blog Hop at Penniless Parenting.

Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, daughter, and ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding horses, growing vegetables, milking her cow, and building fence. She blogs at The Prairie Homestead, where she enjoys encouraging readers to return to their roots, no matter where they may live.

Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.


  1. Veronica says:

    I loooove! They’ll plan your garden layout based on what plants you’ll be planting, how many, and where the sun faces. They group together plants that are good growing buddies — love it! And it’s FREE! They’ll even email you a weekly to do list based on your personal garden. :)

    Also, I always new marigolds were good for tomatoes, but I recently found out their roots are the best part: they prevent bugs down in the soil!

  2. Gardening rules! I just haven’t attempted compost yet, but it’s something I’m very interested in doing!

  3. Great post..very timely for me. I just posted Friday about our garden ventures. This is our third year of gardening, with the first two years being flops for one reason or another. However, I am hoping and praying that we will have a successful garden this year! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Great post! I’m attempting my first garden this year. It will be a very small container garden, since we live in an apartment and only have a small balcony. We’re looking forward to it, though. :)

  5. I’m another black thumb. I keep trying, though!

    • I do too. Last year was the year of the $2.50 tomatoes. We bought a $5 plant – we got two tomatoes. The end.

  6. Compost does rule! I used a lot of mine last year to mulch around the plants, and it did a great job of keeping the moisture in the soil.

  7. These is an excellent post – great tips! I totally agree about spending a little time in the garden each day. It helps you to stay on top of things and not suddenly have a great big amount of work to do at once.

  8. Great points. I like to start my garden indoors to avoid the frost issues.

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