Starting A Backyard Garden: Tips for Beginners
“Having recently moved from the city to the coast, I’m rethinking our backyard gardening plan this year. I’m not exactly a first time gardener, but being in a new climate with new soil and new space has me going back to basics for planning our garden. In our new home we have so much land (the house is actually on a vineyard!), and the previous owners left a hoop house and a small greenhouse, so we will be able to test out some new things that we haven’t tried before! Here are some of my best tips for first time gardeners, and the key things to think about before growing season is upon us.” - Amy Voloshin
The Planning Stage - Be Realistic About Your Plans
1. Determine Your Growing Zone
The USDA breaks the United States into 11 “zones” that are grouped based on average temperatures, rainfall, etc. The zone where your backyard garden is located determines a lot about what you will have success growing! Be sure to determine your zone to find important dates for planting, harvesting and more.
2. Survey Your Space
Most vegetable gardens require eight full hours of sunlight per day, and while some plants can handle less, it’s important to think about the easiest plants to grow in the amount of sunlight you actually get. Before planting, go out and track the sun for a week. Next you’ll want to learn about how much space (both depth and width) your desired plants need to thrive. From there, you can make the container vs. in-ground vs. raised beds decision. Lastly, in this phase, you’ll want to find out which plants play nicely with each other. Here is a good starting point!
3. Think About Preferences
Now that you know what you can or can’t grow successfully in your garden, think about your family’s preferences. If you’re growing veggies, what’s always on your weekly grocery list you could grow yourself? Do your kids have a favorite vegetable? Get them excited by including it in your plan. Do you love gifting flower bouquets? Grow some Zinnias (one of the easiest plants to grow!) In our city backyard garden, the things we’ve had the most success with over the years and have proven to be the most useful were cherry tomatoes, herbs and blueberries.
Gather Your Materials
1. Soil & Compost
Learning a bit about your soil is a good way to know what you can grow. If you’re unsure about your soil quality, you may want to opt for raised beds or potted plants that you can fill with compost soil. Look on the website of your particular city or township, as some offer free or low cost compost to the community once per year.
2. Seeds or Starters
If you don’t feel like you’ve given yourself enough time to plan, you can always go to your local garden center and purchase plant starters. I’m a bit impatient, so growing things from seeds might be a next year project. I’ll probably get plants that have already been started to guarantee (or at least improve my chance) of success. If you want to purchase seeds, here are some reputable shopping sources online.
3. Support Your Plants
Hoops, trellis, fertilizers and more - be sure to do your research on what additional materials your plants of choice might need to thrive. Tomatoes definitely need hoops, many berries grow best with a trellis and just about everything benefits from fertilizers! Don’t forget about pest control - purchase some mesh gates if you have a lot of rabbits, or consider planting some yummy clover in another area of the yard to distract them from your hard work!
We wish you well in your backyard gardening journey this year! After you’ve dug in the dirt, treat yourself with a bath, a good book and a comfy pair of PJs.