Gardening Tips For Beginners

The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.

George Bernard Shaw

A garden is a wonderful place – it’s often full of dreams and wonders.  I find there is something  so magical about having my hands in the dirt, planting a seed or small plant, and watching it grow into a mature beauty.  No matter what kind of garden you would like to have, let’s talk today about a few tips that will help you achieve your goals. If you are a beginner at gardening, it can be overwhelming deciding what to plant and where to plant it.

Butterfly, Flower, Pollination, Pollination, Wings

Let’s  get started.

Review Your Existing Garden

Look at your existing garden and try to see the plants that are there.  Use a piece of paper and pencil to make a rough drawing of what currently exists.  What do you like? What do you want to remove?  Make a list of what you want to remove. My post, Gardening Guide with Printables, gives detailed information on  this process with a printable grid for the garden.  

Plan Your Garden

Make of a list of new additions and decide where you want them to be.  Now add and subtract from the drawing to make your dream garden on the above grid.  What is your goal? An edible garden full of vegetables and fruits or a butterfly garden attracting winged beauties?   You should plan for changes for several years. You don’t have to do all in one summer.  I originally did a 5-year plan for my garden.  You can adjust your plan next spring.

Photo Courtesy of Lee Miller, landscape designer, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening

(Lee Miller is a landscape designer, gardening expert, author, and blogger.  In a post in June, she described the process she used to plan a client’s grassless yard.  Above is a before photo of the garden. Below is one of the after shots.)

Photo Courtesy of Lee Miller, landscape designer, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening

On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real  loudly and get  a  good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my  deck  and look  out at the  garden.                   

 – Maya Angelou

Consider The Seasons When Planning

Do you love spring flowers?  Love the fall leaves?  Again look at what is there and what you need to add to give you a 4-season garden.  Trees and shrubs are the basis of a good garden for year round pleasure. Have a few evergreens and then add some flowering shrubs and trees. Review your growing zone’s limitations and plan accordingly with plants that thrive in your area. Burpee has a growing zone check by zip code  

For example, most northern classic garden plants will die in my semi-tropical zone here in Florida.  Spring bulbs usually require so many weeks of cold weather to bloom. If I plant them, I’ll never see flowers.  Someone in Minnesota cannot grow a plant that cannot withstand the extreme cold of winter there.  Most maple trees prefer the cool temperatures in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, but a few cold hardy maples can tolerate sub-zero winters in zone 3. In the United States, zone 3 includes parts of South and North Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota and Montana.    Be sure to buy the trees and bushes appropriate for your weather.  Check out the seasonal planting planner printable:

Where To Plant

Choose the right location for the right plant.  Don’t put a sun-loving plant like a tomato in the shade, and don’t put a shade-lover like a hosta in the sun. Sounds easy, right?  Many flowers and  most edible plants, including many vegetables, herbs, and fruits, need at least 6 hours of sun in order to thrive.  First, know your goal and choose plants to fit your environment.  Enrich your soil with compost and natural fertilizers. Central Florida has sandy soil. I’ve added top soil, compost, and fertilizers over the years as I’ve planted. There are actual worms in my flower beds – you’re thinking everyone has worms. Nope, not a worm to be found in my lawn. Worms don’t live in sand.

Put your garden where you will see it. I can tell you from experience that using a plant in the wrong location simply means it can die.  Period.  From my living room, I see most of the front yard daily.  From my dining table and kitchen window, I gaze at my back yard.  I enjoy the views and I am reminded of what needs to be done.  Unfortunately, I have to remember to go walk between my house and fence on the side to see what’s happening. I don’t do that daily.  Plants there have to be pretty self-sufficient.  Place your garden near a water source. All plants need water, but you live in a dry, arid climate, choose plants that can live without a frequent rain.  If you live in a rainy climate, choose plants that can handle it.  Remember to mulch well to protect your plants.

Cottage, Trees, Path, House, Home, Garden, Grass, Landscape

God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.

Francis Bacon

Consider Low Maintenance Plants

Even the smallest of backyards can be overwhelming, so it’s important to start off small and simple. Creating a low maintenance garden, perhaps, is a good place to start.  Do you want a grassless yard?  Consider grass alternatives like ground cover or stones.  Low Maintenance Yards  has lots of ideas for alternatives to grass.   

As I said earlier, start with shrubs and trees including a few evergreens. This will provide a backdrop for your yard and usually do not require loads of work.  

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. 

  –  Abraham Lincoln

Protect Your Garden

Common backyard pests can cause all kinds of problems for your plants, ruining all of your hard work. Savvy Gardening has an interesting article, 4 Surefire Ways to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden. If your goal  is to attract wildlife like birds or butterflies to your garden, be aware they will be feeding on plants. Caterpillars will devour plants in order to become butterflies. If that is not your goal, learn about common garden pests at Good Housekeeping  and what to do to prevent them. TreeHugger has a great article on 16 Plants That Repel Unwanted Insects. Keeping pests out requires some work, but it’ll be worth it to protect your garden. 

Start A Good Routine

For your garden to reach its full potential, you must do maintenance.  Gardening isn’t just something you can do once in a while, it needs to be kept up to make sure your plants stay healthy. Weeding, watering, and destroying pests are all part of a gardening routine. Create a garden to-do list that can help you stay on top of your outdoor chores and be sure to take moment each day to stop and enjoy whatever is growing.

It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.

George Eliot

Learn How To Save Time

Gardening is a lot of hard work, and it can be time-consuming.  If you have limited time, keep your garden simple with low maintenance plants.  HGTV has lots of information in The Best Low Maintenance Plants For Your Landscape. Walkways and decks can also be planned for enjoyment and less maintenance in the garden.  If your time is limited or you want to maintain a simple garden without too much effort, then learning how to save time in the garden will help you. Why not make it a family affair by getting everyone involved to help take care of the load? There are all kinds of skills you can teach your kids to get them interested in gardening while having a great family time.

Kiss  of the sun  for  pardon.   Song of the birds  for  mirth.   You’re  closer to  God’s heart  in  a garden  than any  place  else on earth.        –  Dorothy Frances Gurney

Remember taking care of your garden can be an excellent physical and mental health booster, as well as making sure your backyard looks great. Keep learning and when able, visit local gardens for great ideas of plants that thrive in your neighborhood.  During this time of few activities, my garden has kept my spirit happy. I wish the same for you.


If you enjoyed this post, you might like:

5 Steps for a Butterfly Garden

Lighting Ideas for the Garden

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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

7 thoughts to “Gardening Tips For Beginners”

  1. There is such a wealth of valuable information here, Carol. I wish I had the motivation to execute it! I will be sharing this post with a few I know with far greener thumbs than mine!

    1. If I am honest, I am not as motivated as I was 10 years ago. At 72, my body is slower and I don’t do as much as I did at 62. Sad but true. That’s not to say I don’t still love a beautiful garden, but my projects are more a paid service now. This of course means there are fewer projects. Hope you have a great day!

  2. Thanks for these handy tips! I am not the best gardener in the world but I am slowly learning. Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

  3. Wonderful information for anyone who is just starting to garden. Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ’s

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