10 Tips For Beginning Gardeners

Here are 10 tips for beginning gardeners - how to make a plan, plants to grow, where to find gardening information, and how to make compost!

Have you been envying the neighbor's garden for too many years? Do you want gardening to NOT be a spectator sport? Are you ready to participate, but aren't sure how to begin? Here are 10 tips for beginning gardeners to nudge you in the right direction.

1) Start small to keep from getting overwhelmed. Find out if you like gardening first. Later you can expand your garden size and plant collections. Plan a small garden space on paper. A plot about 20'x20' is plenty to begin experimenting with plants. Make sure it is in a place that can be expanded when you become addicted to gardening.

2) Grow easy plants. Marigolds, zinnias, snapdragons, pansies and sunflowers are good annuals for beginners. They come in enough colors and heights to not look repetitive in the garden, too. No-fuss vegetables are beans, tomatoes, lettuce and zucchini. Basil, dill and parsley are herbs that rarely fail. Bulbs planted in the fall will come up every spring and give you confidence in your gardening!

3) Read, read, read. Get as much information as you can before you start planning. Go to the library and look at gardening books and magazines. Home and garden magazines are also good sources for simple garden design and basic plants. Study the plants you want to grow, look at design ideas, and take notes, lots of notes. Seed catalogs are educational and free. Send away for as many as you can. Once you find ones you don't care for, you can have them cancelled.

4) Along those same lines, talk to your neighbor. Make him/her your mentor! Gardeners love to share their knowledge. Some of it may be a bit too advanced for you, so take more notes that you can refer to when you have some gardening experience under your belt. Talk to the people that work in the nurseries and garden centers. They are there to help all gardeners, and they themselves have loads of experience. Call your county extension office. This is another gold mine of information. They can help with all aspects of gardening, from flowers to orchards. Do you have a local university with an agriculture or horticulture program? Use it! consider taking a few classes, too, or even getting a degree.

5) Buy good tools. It is worth it to pay a little extra for better quality tools. Good tools will last for years if you take care of them properly. The basics are:



*shovel

*iron rake

*leaf rake

*manure fork

*trowel

*hoses

*watering wand

*wheelbarrow

*pruning shears

*hoe

6) Keep records in a garden journal. Write down what you've learned by reading and talking to other gardeners. Note plants that you like, and draw out your garden plan. Always do this in pencil, because garden plans are not static! The final garden may not be exactly like your original plan. Write down the varieties of plants, colors, heights, planting dates, watering and fertilizing dates, and harvest dates and yields. Record the pests you encounter, such as bugs and their damage, and diseases your plants contract. Note the solution and where you found it (neighbor, book, garden center). You will learn faster if you have this information to refer back to. Always write down the weather, too. Rain, sun, snow, wind, cloud cover and temperatures go hand in hand with growing plants. You will know at a glance when you need to water if you have written down the last rainfall.

7) Start a compost pile. Make a ring of chicken wire about three feet in diameter, and fill it with grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen waste (no meat or dairy). If you chop these materials into small pieces, they will decompose faster. Water it and turn it with a pitchfork to produce beautiful compost that you can add to your gardens or use as mulch. Compost is the best fertilizer for all plants.

8) Consider a job in horticulture to learn more. A full growing season on a landscaping crew will give you all the information you need about planting and maintaining gardens. A greenhouse job in winter and spring will teach you how to start your own plants. Working in a nursery is a great way to learn about plants best suited for your area. By talking to customers, you can find out what others are doing, and that will inspire you to experiment in your own garden.

9) Always wear sunscreen and a hat when you're outside for extended periods of time, even on hazy days. Be sure to drink plenty of water, too. The elements are hard on our bodies when we are exposed to them continually. In the heat of summer, garden early in the morning and just before evening. You can take a siesta or read more gardening books during the hot afternoon!

10) Most important - have fun! Gardening is a relaxing past time that can become drudgery if you let it. Rewarding aspects of gardening are the beautiful flowers and scrumptious vegetables you are producing. Bonuses are watching birds and butterflies and bees being fed from your plot, watching the sunrise while you pull weeds, getting caught in an unexpected rain shower as you harvest tomatoes, and having friends ooh and aah at the fresh-picked bouquet on the kitchen table. If you're not having fun, you better find another hobby!

Happy gardening!

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