If you've recently become interested in gardening, it truly is a wonderful hobby to pursue. For many, growing a garden can also help them grow foods needed to nourish their family. Whether you are taking up gardening out of a desire to grow food for yourself or your family or just as a fun distraction from reality, you're sure to enjoy it.
You may be worried that you don't know anything about gardening and feel at a loss about where to start. Don't fret! That is exactly why we've compiled this article. We'll share some tips to help you get your garden up and running as well as answers to some common questions beginners have.
Tips for Creating Your First Garden
The idea of transforming that patch of dirt or grass into a beautiful garden full of flowers, fruits, vegetables, or herbs may seem like an impossible task. Where do you even begin? Will you even be able to turn your vision into a reality as an inexperienced gardener?
Yes, it is possible. While gardening definitely requires some hard word and dedication, it is not an impossible skill to learn. We've compiled a list of tips to help you get your garden started.
Choosing the Ideal Spot for Your Garden
Before creating your garden, you will first need to select the spot in your yard where your garden will be. Depending on your space, you may not have much control over this, but if possible, there are a few things you should look for when deciding where to place your garden.
Sunlight: Sunlight is an essential element nearly every plant needs grow. You will want to find an area in your space that receives enough sunlight that your flowers, fruits, and vegetables will be able to flourish. Most plants will need at least five or six hours of sunlight, so be sure to choose your spot accordingly.
Water: Without regular watering, your plants don't have much of a chance of survival. When choosing the spot for your garden, be sure to take into consideration how easy it will be for you to get water to it. If possible, try to find a location that is closer to a water source where you'll easily be able to pull your hose over to water your plants. If you are too far from where your hose connects, it may not reach your garden or it will become a big inconvenience to keep pulling out and putting it away each time you need to water your plants.
Easily accessible and visible: You want to put your garden somewhere you'll be able to see it regularly. Not only will this allow you to enjoy the flowering plants and your hard work, it will also keep it at the forefront of your mind. This can help make sure you are giving it the time and attention it needs to thrive.
Away from potential dangers: Finally, consider potential hazards to your plants, such as children, pets, or wildlife. If you have children or pets, try to position your garden away from their play areas. Also, consider any wildlife in your area and do what you can to prevent them from getting into what you plant.
Improving Your Soil
Whichever location you select, it is likely that you'll need to spend some time improving the quality of your soil. Soil needs to have the right make up and nutrients to be most effective for growing plants.
You can start by purchasing a soil test from your local gardening store. Soil test kits can help you learn the pH or your soil as well as the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash levels.
You can use the information you gain from your soil test kit to mix in other materials and make modifications to your soil. For example, if your soil is not acidic enough, you can mix in compost, manure, or peat moss to increase the acidity.
You will also need to prepare the soil to get it ready for planting. Take some time to use a tiller or shovel loosen up the soil and level it off.
Next comes one of the fun parts: deciding which plants you'll want to plant in your garden. You will want to do a little research and take your time before simply randomly selecting plants. Different regions and climates are better suited to growing different plants.
One key thing to learn is which "hardiness zone" you live in. Warmer climates have higher zone numbers, while colder climates have lower zone numbers. Some plants will need a very warm climate in order to grow and thrive, while other options can do just fine in areas that get colder.
You will also need to decide if you want to plant flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, or a combination of these options. Read up on how much space each plant needs to grow to make sure you don't overcrowd your garden.
If you'll be planting flowers, you may want to consider choosing a mix of annuals and perennials. Perennials will continue to grow year after year and won't need to be planted with each new season. While annuals do need to be planted every year, their blooms typically last longer than perennials are very vibrant.
Before heading to your local gardening store to purchase your plants, you will want to make sure you are prepared with everything else you'll need to plant your garden and maintain it. If you haven't already, be sure to purchase a nice set of gardening tools. Some of the tools you'll want to make sure you have on hand include a spade, rake, hoe, hand trowel, pruning shears, loppers, and garden fork.
You will also want a pair or two or gardening gloves, a nice, long hose with sprayer attachments, and a watering can. If your garden will be a little bit away from your home, a wheelbarrow or gardening cart can be a true life saver.
A few other items you may want to consider purchasing include seed starter trays and a shelf/table for them, plant tags, gardening clogs, a gardening apron, and a knee pillow.
Planning Your Planting Time
Once you've gathered all the essentials you'll need to take good care of your garden, you need to pick your planting date. Don't rush out on the first warm day and plant to your garden, it is important to choose the right date for your area.
Learn the average spring frost date to prevent planting too early only to have your plants die on a cold night. You will also want to take into consideration the average fall frost date to make sure you will have time to move your plants inside or harvest them before a fall frost.
Planting Your Plants
So, now you are finally ready to plant your plants. Keep in mind that some plants will grow best when you place the seeds directly into the soil in your garden, while others will benefit from being transplanted into your garden once they have begun to grow.
If you'll be planting anything that you want to start outside of your garden, be sure that you have purchase a few seed starter trays. You can also use the rinds of citrus fruits or eggshells as a place to start your seeds before moving them to your garden.
When you are planting seeds in your garden, be sure to follow the instructions for each seed or bulb type, as different plants will have different needs. Pay attention to how deep each seed or bulb should be placed and how much space you need to leave between what you plant.
After you've planted, you will also want to apply a layer of mulch over your garden. Be sure to wait until the soil has had a chance to warm up, as much can slow down this process. It is typically recommended to mulch in mid- or late-spring.
Also be sure that you don't place too much mulch over your seeds that they won't be able to push their way up. A thin layer of mulch should be fine, but it you use too much, your plants may not be able to make it to the surface.
Taking Care of Your Plants
After you've planted your seeds or bulbs, you need to make sure they receive the care they need in order to grow and thrive. Be sure to make sure your plants get enough water. However, if you overwater them, it is not good either. Feel the soil to see how moist it is and set up a rain barrel that will help you assess how much water is likely around.
Keeping your garden free of weeds is also important. Weeds can easily take over your garden and kill your plants or take up the nutrients they need. Regularly check your space for weeds and get rid of them while they are still small and less of an issue.
You will also want to regularly prune and care for your plants as they start to grow. If you see any dead plants or blooms, remove them from your garden. Getting rid of dead blooms will help the plant create new blooms.
Creating a habitat for helpful insects and keeping harmful pests away from your garden is also important. There are ways you can keep pests away from your plants without using any chemicals.
One thing you can try is to use substances that are harmless to people, but toxic to insects. These include sale, flour, and beer.
You can also try making it dangerous and more difficult for pests to get at your plants from the ground. Try crushing eggshells around and under the plants that pests seem to target to keep them away.
Keeping your plants healthy can also make them less of a target for pests and will help them hold up better if pests do make a visit. Removing any dead plants or blooms from your garden will help ensure that all of the plants in your garden are healthier and have a better chance of surviving and thriving.
Encouraging helpful insects to live in or near your garden can also keep pests at bay and help your plants grow. Some insects that are helpful include bees, ladybugs, praying mantises, damsel bugs, and ground beetles.
There are different ways to attract different insects. Bees can be attracted by planting flowering plants with flat or shallow blossom or rosemary, sage, lavender, and other bee-friendly herbs. You can also create a bee house to offer them a place to live and encourage them to stick around.
Lady bugs are attracted to dill and fennel, ground beetles like perennials and compost piles, and praying mantises like tall grasses, marigolds, shrubs, and dill.
Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor
After taking good care of your garden, it will be time for you to reap the benefits of all your hard work and dedication. Flowers in your garden will be beautiful and enjoyable to look at, and you can also trim them to put in vases inside your home.
If you grow fruits and vegetables, there are few things more satisfying than creating a delicious salad, desert, or other treat using home-grown ingredients.
Whatever you decide to grow, be sure to enjoy it and congratulate yourself on a job well-done!
Creating your own garden is a very rewarding experience. Hopefully our article has given you the inspiration you need to get started and create your own backyard (or front yard) oasis!
Tips For Starting Both Fruit & Vegetable Gardens
Specific Tips for Starting A Garden for Fruits
You’ve likely heard about how many people grow vegetables in their yards and how they probably save money in the grocery store because they have access to their own. But what about fruits? Grapes aside, you don’t really hear much about people growing them.
It’s a little odd though; after all, growing your own fruit can be exceedingly helpful. There is, of course, the whole, “ saving money” thing, but homegrown fruit also gives you a faster, readily available means to access fresh vitamins and nutrients.
Growing fruit in your own yard can even help the environment as it can help reduce the demand for land required for fruit farming. So why don’t you hear about more people doing it?
The answer to that might be intimidation, or rather, the idea of growing a fruit garden can seem intimidating. But worry not, we’ve got you covered. This is going to be a rather in-depth explanation about fruit gardens and how to grow them.
To specify, we’re going to split this into two parts; reasons that people give for not growing their own fruit gardens, why they’re plain wrong, and how to mitigate them will be the first part and actual tips on how to actually go about growing your very own (fruit) Garden of Eden will be the second.
5 (Wrong) Reasons People Give for Not Growing Their Own Fruit Gardens
Like the title for this section says, here are some reasons given for why people don’t grow their own fruit gardens. They aren’t listed in any specific order, but they are the most commonly given answers when asked, “why not grow?”
It takes too much time
When people declare that growing their own garden takes too much time, what they really mean here is that they’d have to dedicate too much of their day to keep pests away from the fruit.
The catch to growing your fruit garden properly and as painlessly as possible lay in taking the time before the actual gardening to choose the best fruits to grow (what works best for your location, the size of your yard, etc.) and laying out your garden properly.
You should really take the time to know what you want to plant and have at least some idea how to plant it. Consulting with your local nursery can be an incredible help as they can provide information and items to help you grow.
There’s not enough room
This rationale is rather circumstantial and by “circumstantial” we mean, “only if you want to grow a standard-sized tree”. As it turns out, you can get fruit trees in miniature, dwarf or semi-dwarf sizes, so the size of your yard isn’t a super great argument for not having a fruit garden.
Sure, you might not be able to plant acres upon acres of fruit plants, but fruit trees, berries, and shrubs can thrive inside of containers with no problems whatsoever. There are even varieties of fruit plants made especially for small, tight spaces.
Planting a garden is messy
There’s really no getting around it, yes, having a garden of any kind, really, can get really messy. This is largely in part to the fact that keeping your garden clean is going to require work in order to keep it disease and pest free.
That said, keeping a smaller garden clean can be done alongside the rest of the weekend chores. It also helps to keep an eye out for young fruit and to pick them before they add to the inevitable bits of fruit that will drop later.
Fruit trees are prone to disease and pest problems
This is admittedly a pretty legitimate problem as some fruit trees are liable to become home to pests but there are multiple ways to deal with this organically.
If you want to keep this from being a problem, then keep your garden clean, prune and get rid of rotting limbs as well as shriveled pieces of fruit. Doing this will keep disease and spotting from affecting your fruit plant/trees.
Another way to keep disease and pests to a minimum is to plant in areas that drain well (to avoid over watering, speaking of, don’t over water your plants). This will keep your roots from succumbing to rot and water molds.
I tried it once and it didn’t work out
Sometimes, things just don’t work out and your previous garden may have been one of those things. That doesn’t mean that you should stop trying though. Perhaps it was a matter of having done something wrong the first time; if so, there are multiple tools and resources that mitigate that.
You can (as we’ve mentioned before) consult your local nursery, there are plenty of online how-to-guides, and there are a variety of more resilient kinds of fruit plants too. As they say, if you fail once, you can always try again.
The reason we put this “why your reasons for not growing a garden part is wrong” first is pretty simple. We want to hopefully assuage any fears you may have about getting out there and getting your grow on.
We also wanted to let you know that it is very much possible to have your own fruit slice of heaven made by your own hands. With that out of the way, we’re now going to move on to the second half of this article so keep on reading!
How to Grow Your Very Own Fruit Garden
The first thing that you need to know about making your own free fruit fantasy in your own backyard is that planning is everything. The reason for this is because many kinds of vegetables are classified as either annual or biannual.
Annual vegetables finish their entire growth and life cycle within the span of a year whereas biannual veggies take two years to fully grow and complete their life cycle. Fruits, on the other hand, can live anywhere between 15 to 50 years as many of them are shrubs and trees.
Another thing that you need to think about is what kind of fruit you and your family want to eat and how much you’ll probably eat; cooked, preserved or fresh, doesn’t matter, as long as you’re really sure you’ll eat it, take it into account.
Having a general idea of what you’ll eat and how much can make it much easier to figure out how much of each kind of fruit you should plant.
Plants Vs Garden Size
We said earlier that you can have a fruit garden even if your backyard is super small and we meant it. But, the amount of space that you are able or willing to designate to your garden will determine what fruit plants you can grow.
As an example, soft fruits - blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries - need only a 3 by 6 to 10 foot long planting bed. The longest-lived of these fruits, blueberries, will be in that spot for around 40 to 50 years while a strawberry plant will live for three years or so.
If you want to plant trees, you totally can, but you need to be very conscious of how space you’ll be working with. Dwarf and trained (fruit trees grown up against a surface, such as a wall) trees will only need around 4 by 4 feet.
Semi-dwarf trees are going to need about 8 by 8 feet of garden space. Each of these kinds of trees (dwarf and semi-dwarf) can live for approximately 15 to 20 years.
While it’s not impossible to grow a regular-sized fruit tree in your yard, most are too large for this as they will need much more space - around 25 by 25 feet at the very least. They can live for upwards of a century. The shortest that these trees typically live is 40 years.
Fruit trees grown in columns, cordons (trees planted at an angle - usually 45°), and espaliers (fruit trees that have three or four horizontal branches growing from the central trunk) can occupy a space that’s about 3 by 3 feet with the latter two types ranging up to 3 by 6.
Both cordons and espaliers may need to be planted up against a wall or fence and are commonly either apple or pear trees. Plums and cherries can be grown into the espalier formation as well, however.
We’ve droned on and on about space, but time - or rather the time of year you plant is vital to take into account too. It’s common for many of these types of plants to bear fruit either the same year you’ve planted them or the immediate spring after.
A young fruit tree, on the other hand, will begin to make fruit in about three to four years and a standard fruit tree may need up to five or six. Once they begin to produce fruit, though, they will keep doing so for about 50 years.
Location and Soil
Like we said before, planning is everything. What we mean by that here is that you should find a spot that is full of sunlight to plant your trees and soft fruit. They’ll need at least eight hours of sunlight although it doesn’t hurt if they get more.
Once you’ve got the prime location mapped out, you should ensure that it’s an area that’s well-drained. We’d mentioned before in the, “why your reasons to not plant are wrong” section that soil that retains too much water can either rot or mold the roots.
It’s best to ensure that the soil is loamy too. If that term is unfamiliar to you, then it basically means that the soil should be rich and crumbly with an even (or mostly even) distribution of sand, silt, and clay. This helps to retain enough water to ensure growth.
Loamy soil allows the fruit tree’s roots to burrow deep which makes for a strong tree. This loamy, sunny, fruit growing spot needs to be sheltered from the wind too as the wind can wick moisture from leaves and branches.
There needs to be proper protection from frost and cold air too. This means that low lying spots are out as cold air and frost can kill flowers and delay the ripening process.
If it helps, go out where you intend to plant and really observe the area. Take note of every spot with these tips in mind and they can help you decide where the best place to put your garden is.
Without pollination, your plants are not going to grow. The best way to ensure that they do, and maximize as much space as possible is to choose plants that self-pollinate.
As the name suggests, self-pollinating plants can, well, pollinate without getting pollen from another plant. Fruits such as pears, blueberries, cherries, plums, certain types of apples; all of these are self-fertile so you don’t need a pollinating plant.
That isn’t to say that you have to use these kinds of fruits to start your garden, but you may want to keep them in mind when you begin choosing what to plant.
Different Ways You Can Plant
Fruit plants are planted as purchased; that is to say, the way you walk out of the nursery with it is the way it’s going to be planted.
The first planting method; balled and burlapped, or b-&-b, as it is commonly abbreviated, is the way that most specimens can be found and purchased from nurseries. Balled and burlapped fruit plants are called such because the root ball is wrapped in burlap.
The next “way to plant” we’ll cover is container planting. Container planting means that the plants come in containers that you can simply plant into the ground. These are the kind of fruit plants that are the simplest to plant and can be easily found.
The third kind of plant is known as bare-root plants. These are easiest to find in late winter and early spring and are dormant and leafless when you buy them. These are hands down the cheapest kind of plant to buy because all you’re buying is the plant.
Plant According to Temperature
Much of how you plot your fruit plants out is highly dependent on where you live. If it’s commonly cool in the summertime, then it’s better to plant by walls. This is because buildings tend to absorb heat by day and can transfer it to the plants at night.
Living where temperatures fluctuate in the spring (the good old warm/cool cycle) will make planting on the northern side of a building your best bet as the temperature remains cool until the complete arrival of spring at which point the temperature will gradually warm evenly.
Do not plant somewhere where the temperature is inconsistent as the constant variation may damage or even kill any flower buds in the spring and result in poor ripening during summer.
How to Properly Space Your Garden
An important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to plant your fruit too close to one another and that the space underneath should be empty save for a layer of mulch, leaf mold, or aged compost.
If you do intend to make or already have a vegetable garden, then be absolutely sure that you keep it separate from your fruit garden. Fruit tree roots grow deep so they need to be irrigated apart from more shallowly rooted vegetables.
Tips for Once You’ve Planted
After you’ve got everything planted where and how you want, water them immediately after and blanket the plant with a 2 to the 3-inch deep layer of mulch (or aged compost/leaf mold) so that it can maintain the moisture you’ve just given it.
Adding the layer of mulch or whatever you’ve decided it’s equivalent is will ensure that you won’t have to water the plant too often and will make sure that weeds don’t sprout up around it.
If you’re planting trees, then you might need to stake them so make sure that they have enough support to stand up. You’ll only need to do this for the first year or two though as in the third year they should have strong enough roots to withstand the wind and their own weight.
To actually attach the tree to the stake, first find one that’s about the same height as the tree and sink it up to 18 inches into the ground about six inches away from the hole you dug to plant the tree.
Once that’s been done, you can tie the tree to the stake using the figure-8 pattern. It’s important to wrap the wire in something before doing this though so that it doesn’t grind and dig into the tree’s bark. Take care not to pull the wire too tight so avoid damaging the tree.
About an eternity ago, we’d mentioned that pruning trees are imperative to keeping them healthy; you know, it gets rid of disease and all that. Another way to prune away potential disease is to snip branches that are rubbing into each other.
The rubbing causes the bark to wear away and makes it easier for disease to get into the tree. Pruning also keeps limbs from growing haphazardly and in the way of driveways, paths, and into the side of your home.
The best time to prune is in the winter, early spring, or late fall because it is at these times when the trees are leafless and dormant. Pruning in early fall can make winter injury more likely to happen so you should avoid doing so.
To provide you a bit of extra assistance, we’ve given you a list of certain fruits as well as how and when you should prune them below:
A fantastic way to make extra sure that you don’t expose your plants to disease is to dip them in either 10% alcohol or bleach. Once you’re done using them you can dip them in oil to keep them from corroding.
If you want your fruits to grow well, you gotta water them well although, what “well” means depends on the kind of soil, the weather, and the fruit plants themselves.
Cloudy, humid, cool weather will make it so that your fruits will need less water while hot, windy weather will make them thirstier, so to speak. Whatever your circumstances, water 6 inches deep at the very least at the root zone. Doing so here makes the water less liable to evaporate.
If necessary, you can have your soil tested to see if feeding your fruit fertilizer is even something that you need to do. You can have this done by a commercial garden center or a professional soil testing lab.