Gardening should be simple, but it’s often more involved than it seems. Especially if you’re new to growing your garden, what can you do to ensure your plants have the best chance of succeeding? What beginner garden tips will help you get a bigger harvest and healthier plants?
There are several strategies that can help you as you go through the garden season. Often, learning from other people’s mistakes and experiences with growing a garden can help you make fewer mistakes yourself.
I’ll discuss 12 beginner garden tips that will help you give yourself the best chance of success with your space. Implement these strategies, and you’ll see your garden take off.
1. Supplement Your Soil
Your soil is the lifeblood of your plants, and healthy, rich soil produces larger, more productive plants. Good soil will nourish your plants’ roots and improve the success of your garden year after year.
One of the key beginner garden tips is you should supplement your soil regularly. This will feed the microorganisms that live in the soil. A few tried-and-true supplements for your soil include:
- Heated compost – add twice a year, in spring and fall
- Compost tea – add monthly throughout summer
- Mycorrhizal fungi – add when planting
- Fish emulsion – add monthly throughout summer
2. Water in the Morning
One of the key garden tips for new gardeners is to learn how to water in a way that minimizes the potential for disease and maximizes the benefit to the plants. First, ensure you water in the morning. This will allow time for the water to dry out before nightfall, when the likelihood for disease is higher. Second, watering in the morning will help your plants make use of the water to protect their roots during a hot summer day. Moisture is the primary defense against high heat, so watering will help your plants tolerate a hot day.
Another way to help decrease the risk of disease is to focus your watering on the dirt below the plant rather than the leaves. Avoid getting the leaves wet, and just focus on watering the roots.
3. Weed Your Garden
Weeds will grow bigger and stronger than your plants, and if left alone, they will deter your plants’ growth. Weeds can also attract harmful insects and cause disease in your plants. Therefore, it’s important to keep them out of your garden. It’s ideal to weed before you plant your garden, again about two weeks later, and then throughout the rest of the season as needed.
4. Use an Organic, Compostable Mulch
A great way to keep most weeds away is to apply a compostable mulch to your garden beds and aisles. Weeds need heat, light, and moisture to survive, so when mulch covers the ground, weeds will grow less easily. Mulch will also help by providing nutrition to the soil as it decomposes.
Remember to apply mulch after you’ve removed weeds from the space and after your seedlings are large enough to see so you don’t cover them up. A few of my favorite options for types of mulch you can use include:
- Seed-free straw
- Hardwood shredded mulch (not cedar or cypress)
- Dried leaves
- Shredded newspaper
- Partially decomposed compost
5. Use Organic Insecticides
When following organic practices, it can be hard to know how to handle insect control. My garden tip for this is to use products that are safe and organic, as they will help protect your plants from disease and invasion. A couple of the best organic insecticides to use in your garden include Neem and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which you can apply on your plants several times throughout the summer.
6. Plan Your Placement
Where you put your plants matters. Look at the instructions on the back of your seed packets or plant labels, and place your crops in sun, partial sun, or shade depending on what each one prefers.
It’s also important to think about the sun and how tall plants may shade the plants north of them, as well. Therefore, I recommend drawing out a garden map and planting your space with a clear plan for why you’re putting each plant where.
7. Use Companion Planting
Companion planting is a perfect way to improve your yields and set your plants up for success without needing to do much extra work. The concept of companion planting is that certain plants do better when they are planted near other plants. On the other hand, some plants do worse when next to certain others.
Therefore, do your research, and incorporate companion planting when designing your garden. A couple examples of easy companion plants include:
- Corn, beans, and squash
- Tomatoes and basil, carrots, or lettuce
8. Fence to Keep Animals Out
A simple garden tip for growing your garden and not having it eaten by rabbits and deer is to build a fence around the garden space. This can be as easy as digging a few t-posts and using chicken-wire, or you can build a more substantial wooden fence. The key with garden fencing is to ensure there are no big holes where animals can sneak through to grab their lunch.
9. Space Your Plants for Maximum Growth
Crowding out your plants by planting them too close together can stifle their growth. When you’re planting plants, remember to plant them far enough apart to give the adult plant plenty of room to grow.
On the other hand, you will end up thinning the crops you plant from seed. Therefore, plant your seeds according to the directions on the back of your seed packet. Once your plants germinate, remove the extra seedlings by pulling them with your fingers. Thin the seedlings until you achieve the correct distance apart, as found on the seed packets for each variety.
10. Add Pollinator Plants
Incorporating pollinator plants into your garden is a garden tip that is practical as well as beautiful. The flowers of pollinator plants will attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies into your vegetable garden. Not only are pollinator plants beautiful, but also having more of these insects around means they will pollinate your vegetables, thus helping your plants produce higher yields.
11. Deadhead Your Flowers
When growing your garden, one great way to ensure your flowers keep blooming throughout the summer is to deadhead them. Deadheading means removing the dead or dying flower heads, and when you do this, it promotes further growth and blooms on other parts of the plant.
12. Plant Mint in a Pot
Another foundational garden tip is to never, I repeat never, plant mint in your garden bed. Mint is an invasive plant, and its root system will take over and crowd out your other plants you have growing in your garden. It will also be hard to remove because it will return year after year.
Instead, plant your mint in a dedicated pot just for mint. You can plant multiple varieties in the pot if you desire. This will enable you to enjoy mint without the negative effects of it overgrowing in your garden.
Learn More About Growing Your Garden
Gardening in your own backyard is a rewarding experience for anyone. My online vegetable gardening course walks you through the entire process of growing your garden, from deciding where to locate your garden to planting and taking care of your young plants.
To learn more about how to design and plant your garden, visit the garden course and sign up.