How to Garden – The Ultimate Guide
If you have a garden and library, then you have everything you need, said by Marcus Tullius Cicero, and very well said. One of the greatest pastimes one can think of is gardening. Work sometime on it, and spend the rest of the time staring at it, lol!
Not only a pastime, Gardening also has some significant health benefits. Gardening encourages people to engage in wellness promoting behaviors and activities.
Gardeners tend to consume more vegetables and fruits than the people that do not garden. Gardening is counted as a moderate-intensity exercise as well, which helps people to live longer lives.
Gardening has also been proved to reduce stress and improving mental health.
Whenever you see a very nice garden with lots of flowers or fruits, everything green around, some colorful butterflies in them, doesn’t it reduce your stress? For me, my stress gets disappeared by even imagining those scenes.
So, with all these great reasons to garden, what are you waiting for? Oh wait, maybe you are waiting for a guideline, right? Maybe you are wondering how to do gardening in the proper way that no work of yours goes in vain. Bingo, you stepped into the right place. In this definitive guide here, I’ve discussed about some basic and core things of gardening that will teach you how to do gardening in the proper way. Let’s get into it!
Types of Gardening:
Gardening means one basic thing - Growing plants in a controlled way in a piece of land. But depending on what purpose you are growing the plants, gardening can be divided in some types, which are described below. Decide what type meets your expectations from gardening better.
If you love wildlife and enjoy watching animals and birds beautifying the nature with their doings, then this might be a type of gardening that you’re gonna enjoy. You can transform your yard from being a normal yard to a appealing and inviting place for wild birds and animals with right plants and landscaping.
If you especially love butterflies, their charming colors, and wish to have a lot of butterflies flying around your house, then you can do that with butterfly gardening. You’ll need to decorate your garden with flowers and plants that especially butterflies love.
Well, this type is not really defined by your purpose of gardening, it is rather defined by your availability of land. If your available space is limited, you can still grow plants in containers and enjoy plants around your house. Growing plants in containers can be actually a fun thing to do, and it’s pretty easy.
Fruits, Herbs & Vegetables:
This is a win-win type of gardening. You get to stay close to nature, and you can enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits in your meal too. And these edibles will taste even better when you grow them yourself. They are not grown in a harmful way, you’ll be sure about that too. Most of the people tend to choose this type of gardening for their backyard. Oh wait, don’t have a backyard or very less space? You can still do edible gardening in containers!
This means doing gardening in home greenhouses. There are some plants that need some special growing conditions. For this kind of sensitive plants, a greenhouse is an excellent place and solution.Give delicate plants the extra care that they need and watch them grow.
Don’t have a yard? Live in an apartment that is stopping you from being an awesome gardener? Try indoor gardening! There are some selective plants that are proven to grow well indoor with proper care. Indoor gardening can be a very nice way to have a supply of fresh oxygen right inside your house and make your apartment look more beautiful with more greenery.
This is a type of gardening that is done using natural fertilizers and pesticides. This type of gardening sums up with composting, recycling yard waste, and using natural pesticides and fertilizers. This way, you’re being kind to the environment, and you’re finding uses for yard waste left over from pruning too.
If you think the artificial and chemical fertilizer and pesticides are harming the nature, and it should be protected, then you can go for this type. Many plants grow well with natural fertilizer and doing organic gardening means working with them. You can make a mix here, means you can do edible or other type of gardening in a organic way.
Love aquatic plants and fish? Then a water garden might be your style. In water gardening, we grow aquatic plants, preferably around your backyard pond. Those plants that tend to hold water and keep around a bit moist, would be planted in this case. A person who loves the life in water is gonna enjoy this.
So, what is your type? Decide first.
Steps Of Gardening:
A secret to successful gardening is going step-by-step and doing every step in the best way possible. Here’s a complete list of works that you need to get done in the sequel to have a wonderful garden around your backyard.
Plan Your Garden:
Firstly, you need to have a clear vision about what are you expecting from your garden. I mean if you are not gonna eat a crop - do not grow it (Flower is an exception, no matter what gardening you are doing, have some flower plant around to make things more charming). Only work to achieve a goal that you really mean to achieve.
So focus on something specific, maybe fruits, vegetables or herbs that your family enjoys the most.
You also need to make sure that your choice for type of gardening makes sense for your area. Different plants are better for different areas. So your area and your choice of plants need to have a good combination among them. You can talk to successful gardeners in your area to have an idea of which crops grow well in that area and which don’t.
Whatever way you can do it, you have to make the right choice here. Otherwise, there’s a chance that all of your hard work may go in vain.
Choose a suitable place:
You need to choose a place by judging it from different aspects, such as availability of sunlight, safety from animals, the view you want from your living room, etc.
Almost all of the vegetables and flowers require about five to six hours of full sun every day. To judge actually how much sun a place gets, spend a normal day checking your chosen spot often and watch how the sun moves across the space. The place might receive more or less sun than you think.
But don't get disheartened if your lot is shady and receives minimal sun, there’re many plants that tolerate shade. If this is the case, then you need to design your whole gardening plan according to.
Next, you need to put the garden where you can't ignore its pleas for attention. Maybe near the mailbox, or outside the back door, or by the window that you stare out through when you dry your hair.
Then, think about convenience. It’s better if you can easily water or do other works in it. Try to avoid frost pockets (low areas where frost tends to settle) and high wind areas. Also care about wildlife, pet damage and children’s play areas.
Now, the fact is you won’t get all the convenience in one place. So you need to take a decision here. Decision about what advantage you’re gonna love and what drawback you can live with. So, if you have multiple options, take one option at a time, think about its advantage and drawbacks, judge all the options in this way, and pick your winner!
Prepare The Soil:
Great soil is the biggest secret to a beautiful, productive garden. This is the step you really wanna spend some time and money on, cause great soil doesn’t happen overnight. To have great soil, you need to taste it, plan the improvements needed and execute them by working your ass off.
Now, to make sure your hard work doesn’t go in vain, here’s the process to follow to improve the soil in a proper and proven way, rather than praying, lol!
Start with a Soil Test Upfront:
Well, before starting to dream of making improvements, you better know what improvements to make. So make a soil taste to begin. Give a small fee to your local Cooperative Extension office and get a test kit. Provide them samples and get the results. Discuss and analyze this result with some soil expert or experienced gardener around and decide what improvements to make and how to do so.
You need to remove what’s already growing in your planting area. You will be faced with lawn in most cases which you can dig it out by hand or use a sod cutter, depending on the size.
Add Organic Matter:
Organic matter is something that can improve any type of soil, regardless its type. It helps sandy soil retain water and clay soil to loosen and let water percolate through. You shouldn’t add too much of it and you should always mix it into existing soil. They work best this way.
You need to blend the organic matter to a depth of 6 to 12 inches, sitting up on top is not enough. The deeper you prepare the soil, the better outcome it gives. You can dig the organic matter into soil by hand using a broad fork, digging fork or shovel. Or you can automate the process with a rototiller, which can dig down at most 8 inches.
Use fertilizer now or later following the recommendation of your soil test. You may add a slow-release fertilizer after you tackle bed preparation. This is more useful to jump-start the breakdown process of organic matter that you’ve added, which hasn’t broken down yet, like chopped fall leaves, straw or sawdust. You might add any amendments also if the soil test suggests.
Dig or not:
Digging can be useful because it loosens the soil so roots can penetrate easily. But don’t dig the soil when is too wet or too dry as this can ruin its structure. The best practice is digging the soil only when it is moist enough that it can form a loose ball in your fist, and at the same time dry enough to fall apart when you drop it. You can use a spading fork or spade to gently turn the top 7 to 10 inches of soil, mixing in the organic matter that I discussed earlier. If you’re doing vegetable gardening, you should turn the soil once a year during the spring before you plant, and same with beds of annual flowers.
Pick right plants:
Pick the right plants that go with the season you’re gardening in and the type of soil you prepared, the sunlight they’re gonna get, etc. If you are doing vegetable gardening in summer, planting tomato is not suitable at that time, right? So pick the plants mainly having the season in concern.
Put them into ground in the right way:
The growth of the plant can vary depending on how you plant them. I mean, if you're are growing a plant from seed, there’ll be instructions on how to put them in the ground such as how deep to plant, and how far apart to plant the seeds. If you don’t follow those instructions properly the growth may get hampered. If you’re adventurous, you might consider getting a boost by sowing seeds indoor in a container with seed-starting soil mixes (which is available at garden centers). If you think of doing this, you should follow this guide here.
Another easy way of putting plants in ground is to buy young plants, which is known as set plants or transplants, dig a hole and plunk them in the ground.
Your plants need enough supply of water to grow well. You need to make sure that the seedlings do not ever dry out, so water them daily while they are small. Same with new transplants too, you need to water them frequently, if possible every other day till their roots establishes in the ground. After that, the frequency of watering depends on your soil (water often if it's tend to dry fast), humidity of climate (water less if it’s humid, more if it’s not) and frequency of rain (you know what to do). Try to water early in the morning to minimize evaporation. Water slowly too, giving the soil the chance to soak the water.
Cover the soil of your garden with a couple of inches of mulch, which will keep weeds out and water in. You can get different types of mulch, pine needles to bark chips to cocoa hulls. It’s better to choose a mulch that decomposes in a few months for vegetable gardens or bed of annuals. A long-lasting one such as bark chips will be good for perennials.
Keep it up:
You’ve done a lot of stuff to come till this. Your garden is on its way now, pat yourself on the back. But to make sure it keeps going, keep watering it when needed, and pull out the weeds before they get big, and do other little stuffs to make it better. And don’t forget to enjoy the charm of it every now and then.
Things you need:
To help you with the whole gardening thing, I can suggest you some stuffs, like tools and fertilizers that’ll make things easier for you. These are the best picks in their category. I mean we both know you’ll have to buy a pruner, and fertilizers, but which one? Yup, I’m suggesting those ones that worked great for me.
A good tool is like a good friend to you – they’ll make a job a lot easier. All the tool listed below is going to act like a good friend of yours in the whole gardening journey.
You can buy two different type of hoes for your garden. Standard hoe and scuffle hoe. Standard is for digging holes anything else that requires earth moving.
The Rogue Garden Hoe is my recommendation. It’s made in USA and a good one for the money.
The scuffle hoe is for chopping weed off. This has a sharp open loop at the end. Drag it in a sliding motion across the soil surface to chop off weeds at their base.
Flexrake 1000L Hula-Ho Weeder Cultivator is the one I’ll recommend here. It’s self-sharpening, and the blade can be replaced on need.
The Fiskars Traditional Bypass Pruning Shears is the best for this job. You can use them for cutting back plants in the flower and vegetable gardens, and for pruning brambles, shrubs and smaller tree branches as well.
For larger jobs, you may go for the Fiskars 32-Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper. This can handle tree branches up to 2 inches in diameter.
About hand tools, the 3-piece Garden Tool Set from KEWHILL will be a good one. It’s a one solid piece that has a non-slip, comfortable, ergonomic grip. It includes a Trowel, Transplanter, and Cultivator. Each of the handles has a hanging hole for easy storage.
Well, you may not consider the kneeler pad as a tool in a gardening standard sense. But it helped me a lot to protect my knees while working down on my knees in the garden. This is for your comfort, you may consider getting it, may not! If you think of getting on, get the InSassy(TM) Garden Kneeler Wave Pad, which is the best for the business, and you can use it inside your house too.
You’ll need to move around stuff to do gardening, and a wheelbarrow can be your best friend on this. You’ll need to move both heavy and light weights, so make sure you buy a versatile one with a good amount of space. The Gorilla Carts Poly Garden Dump Cart is the best one to get. It has four wheels, rather than one or two wheels like a traditional one, so it takes lesser effort of yours to move things around.
The Apollo 5-Gallon Bucket Garden Tool Organizer keeps your tools and seeds tidy and organized well.
The 5E28 Deluxe Tool Tower Rack with Casters from Rubbermaid keeps tools organized in your garage or garden shed.
The Roo Gardening Apron is a good apron to have for fruit picking and also for protecting your clothes during messy jobs, and it has several storage pouches too.
Worm poop is a very gentle fertilizer and a great soil builder. If you don't have your own vermicomposting setup, you may consider buying Earthworm Castings online. Another all-round fertilizer is the Sea Magic Dry Soluble Seaweed Extract Fertilizer. You can use it to inoculate your bio-char.
Mistakes to avoid:
There’s a lot to learn about gardening. But I’m trying to make sure that you don’t learn them the hard way - committing mistakes and learning. Me, being a veteran gardener, have learnt a lot in this way and I’m sharing my experience here to make sure you don’t make those silly mistakes. Avoiding the mistakes listed below will make your gardening journey smoother.
Don’t Start Too Big:
Isn’t it difficult to resist those tempting photos of perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables in nursery and seed catalogs? I know it is, but you have to. Planning too big, ordering so much variety of plants that your space and time don’t permit, can place a too heavy workload on the gardener which will ultimately lead to frustration and burnout.
A better strategy is to start small, get skills, practical knowledge, and then broadening things up gradually.
Prepare Your Soil Properly:
Without good and well prepared soil, no garden can thrive. The famous quote of Abraham Lincoln saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe," applies here. You gotta give more time to prepare the soil properly before starting to plant.
Don’t Over- or Under Water or Fertilize:
Too much or too little of water or fertilizer can make things bad for you.
Too little water will cause the plants to wilt and once they are seriously wilted, they can’t be recovered even if watered after. So don’t let the wilt by watering too less.
In the same way, Too much of water may rot the root system, and without healthy roots, the plant cannot absorb nutrients well from the soil and can’t stand upright properly either.
Different plants and different weather demand different watering, so make sure you’re doing it right.
Same goes with fertilizer. Too little, too much or the wrong timing or type of fertilizer will not allow your garden plants to produce healthy, vigorous growth. You need to use the right type of fertilizer at the right time in right quantity.
Don’t Plant Too Deep or Too Shallow:
The information that comes in the backside of the seed packet you buy, is not useless. Read them very carefully. There is information about how to put seeds on the ground, how deep, when and all. Don’t skip that! Planting seeds too deep or too shallow, both are harmful for it to grow well.
Don’t Let Weed Grow Much:
You don’t want the weed to soak all the nutrients from your well-prepared soil that you actually prepared for your valuable plants. So, don’t forget to get rid of them often, from the root. The more root it puts around in the ground, the harder it can fight with your plants to soak nutrients.
Wrapping it Up:
If you are reading till this, trust me, you know a lot more things about gardening that you knew at the start of the article. I tried to sum up most of my experience about gardening here. But this knowledge is nothing if you don’t apply them to make a nice garden of yours. So move your ass now, get to work, make a great garden and enjoy it. Bookmark this piece if you think you might need this in the future as a guideline. You can ask me if you have any question about gardening, I’ll reply to them happily.
Do Garden Hard.