“Green fingers” don’t always come naturally. Sometimes people just have that “magic touch” and can spring into gardening like they have been doing it all their lives, or you may be one of those who would love to have that touch but battle to keep a house plant alive! One of the things to realise is that you do not need a lot of space to get started. Think outside the box: you can hang planters from the patio, you can get a vertical growing tower, or even have plants in your home under a grow light.
So, let’s start with some everyday tips for beginners, and starting a garden from seed to sprout and even into thriving produce:
Know your space
Before planting a garden, of any kind, the very first thing commonly suggested is to learn your zone. This means that you will know what to plant, and when to sprout the seeds before planting them in the ground. When you know your zone, you can follow the proper planting schedule for your location.
Are raised beds worth it?
Why would you need a raised bed? Is it worth it, and what is its purpose once you decide on what to plant? A raised bed, by definition, is a garden bed that is built up instead of down, into a position that solves all manner of gardening challenges. You can create raised beds simply by heaping soil up into a pile, or by using boxes to enclose and contain garden soil. Garden boxes are often synonymous with raised beds because some retaining wall or material almost always must be used to maintain the integrity of the bed over time. Largely attributed to better drainage in the soil, early planting in raised beds is possible because the soil dries out faster in seasons that are wetter and warms more quickly for planting than soil at ground level.
You can decide if you want it raised or not, and the use of soil will be important to factor in. Things like potatoes, carrots, and watermelon like to have good deep soil, while radishes are fine in less deep soil. So, deciding what goes in the raised beds is important.
People have found buying vegetables usually costs more than harvesting and cultivating their own. Sustainable living practices and prioritising one’s health have become increasingly important for many people. Gardening can play a big role in living more sustainably, helping you follow a more farm-to-table kind of lifestyle. Gardening done well can significantly benefit the environment and can help the fight against climate change as you become less dependent on commercial farming and more self-sufficient in growing your own produce.
While some may choose to grow their own veggies to live more sustainably, others do it because it’s a great hobby that helps them connect with nature while staying active. Regardless of your reasons, growing a vegetable garden can be an extremely rewarding activity.
Let’s chat about some easier seedlings to start with:
- Green beans are a great vegetable for beginner gardeners. They don’t have many pests and don’t require a lot of ‘babysitting’.
- Potatoes are one of the most giving vegetables. One plant can offer you plenty to feed you and your family. They are an “easy to start crop” and very forgiving of beginners’ mistakes!
- Tomatoes are probably the favourite of many gardeners. Although they take up space, they are a gift that keeps on giving. For beginners, start with plants from a nursery and work up to starting your own tomatoes from seed once you have some experience. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato fresh from the vine, fresh salsa, or marinara sauce for delicious pasta.
- Peppers are an easy-to-grow vegetable for beginners. They don’t have many pests or diseases, and they love the hot summer weather! You can grow hot or sweet peppers – there are wide varieties to choose from.
Can you grow in 100% compost?
Compost is the perfect solution to the fertiliser problem. By composting food and garden scraps at home, you are reducing the amount of waste transported to landfills or sent to incinerators. Not only that, but you are also creating nutrient-rich soil that can be used to feed your garden! Put a container in the kitchen next to your waste bins to conveniently collect scraps, then use an outdoor compost barrel to turn your waste into an organic nitrogen source for your garden.
These 5 items are easy to toss but also just as easy to keep for your compost:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Eggshells (though they can take a while to break down)
- Grass and plant clippings
Gardening for kids
Most kids love planting seeds and getting down and dirty with soil and pots, and when what they have planted appears and grows bigger, it’s lovely to see their enthusiasm and excitement. Garden centres are fun places to take kids as they enjoy wandering in and out of the plant and pot isles. For more inspiration, why not visit a nursery or garden centre near you?
- Basil is a must in any beginner’s garden. Basil is easy to grow and quick to produce. You can harvest basil, again and again, all season. Use it in your homemade sauces, to make pesto, or try drying it to spice up meals all year long.
- Mint is another easy go-to. It grows in moist damp areas, and the scent of mint in the garden is so refreshing.
- Rosemary is quite a hardy herb that flourishes and can get bushy. If you want smaller crops, plant them in smaller pots.
Monkeys and your new garden
Monkeys seem to be a gardener’s biggest concern when trying to maintain or grow “pretty” or sustainable gardens. An elevated garden bed with mesh cover seems to be the way people like to ensure that their beautiful garden beds are not taken by the monkeys or stood on, trampled, or pulled out.
Fences are the most common deterrent and for monkeys, you would need one that also has a ceiling. Chicken wire is a common fencing material for this. It would almost be like you are building a chicken coop for your plants. You can either build one that encircles your whole garden, or you can build individual cages for each plant that can be lifted off when you need to harvest. Even just sprinkling vegetables with pepper will deter monkeys from eating plants. Alternatively, planting chilli bushes around your elevated garden bed is an option too, but it is a bit of work to keep them at bay. As a smarter species, we must use our knowledge rather than anger to ensure a harmonious coexistence with our wildlife.
How gardening brings the “zen”
As most people know, we have all endured somewhat of a tumultuous two-year spread of various traumatic and life-altering experiences. In outdoor garden settings, viewing green plants in indoor or outdoor living spaces can perk up your spirits and your sense of well-being. But the benefits of caring for a living plant, even a single houseplant, can sometimes transcend green views. Studies show that caring for a plant has value for people facing challenging, personal circumstances beyond their control that negatively affect physical and emotional health. Whether your garden time is spent enjoying the results of someone else’s efforts or digging in with a spade and some seedlings, gardens and gardening can help bring peace and healing to lives.
Enjoying the ‘fruits’ of your labour
A garden takes work, but it can be fun! Gardening is an activity that is good for both the mind and body and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Plus, you get to eat the delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you grow. How fruitful the joys of your labour can be! Enjoy a salad of crisp beans, carrots, and lettuce, or are juicy tomatoes and melons your favourites? Don’t forget to water the plants and pull the weeds. Gardening is also an excellent opportunity to try new healthy foods that will help you and your family become more adventurous eaters. Growing a variety of produce is as fun as it is healthy. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. Gardening requires some patience, but it’s worth it when you get to dig into a plate of your own fresh produce.
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin
- Gardentech.com. 2022. How to Create a More Accessible Garden. [online] Available at: https://www.gardentech.com/blog/gardening-and-healthy-living/gardening-for-everyone-creating-accessible-gardens [Accessed 5 October 2022].
- ToolBox Divas. 2022. DIY Raised Bed Garden with Cover. [online] Available at: https://toolboxdivas.com/diy-raised-bed-garden-with-cover/ [Accessed 5 October 2022].