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Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

There are several basic truths when it comes to gardening, regardless of location or plant you’re trying to grow. This is the perfect beginner’s guide to gardening for those that claim to have a ‘black thumb’ instead of a green one, or the new homesteader.

beginner gardening plant in a pot

Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

Gardening is a life-long learning journey. You will never “arrive” and know everything you need to know about gardening.

Soil health is an dynamic as the weather, the movement of animals, and the continuous depletion of nutrients via plants and the addition of nutrients by composts and fertilizers.

For “book learning” I recommend:

and so many more, but these are the three I lend to all of the new gardeners I meat and the ones I read, myself, on repeat.

In this post, I’ll try to sum up just enough information to get you started growing your own food without overwhelming you.

Plants need 3 things:

bubble bee and sunflower in the sunlight in a garden

1. Light

The importance of light is two-fold:

The number of hours of sunlight a plant receives between dawn and dusk signal different things for different plants.

In the Spring, the increasing number of hours in the day encourages some plants to flower, bloom, and produce.

The shortening number of hours in the day in Fall, encourages plants to seed and go dormant.

Secondly, the amount of sunlight a plant gets feeds it. Plants turn sunlight into nutrients, but every plant has its own unique needs for sunlight.

Some need long hours of direct sunlight to flourish, while others have been adapted to only thrive in the shade.

Since each plant is different, you’ll have to adjust your plant’s location to suit their needs.

soil and nutrient requirements in a beginner garden

2. Nutrients

Notice how I didn’t say soil. Lots of people successfully garden with absolutely zero soil, but hydoponics and aquaponics will be a topic for another post.

The most important nutrients for your plants (those macro-nutrients that plants need in large amounts) are:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorous
  • potassium
  • sulfur

When you buy compost or fertilizer, you’ll notice they focus on three primary ones: Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium.

  • Nitrogen – associated with lush vegetative growth
  • Phosphorus – needed for flowering and fruiting
  • Potassium – durability and disease resistance

The reason these are important to know is because if you notice your plants having issues with any of the three area above, you’ll know what you need to supplement your soil with.

However, fertilizers generally only focus on those three, and there’s no substitute for quality soil that can provide all of the macro-nutrients.

This is where compost comes in.

Check out my post on how to make your own compost for free!

water requirements in a beginner garden

3. Water

Like sunlight, each plant has its own specific needs for water.

Special care needs to be taken to control the amount of water your garden retains.

Most vegetable crops enjoy a lot of water, but also require soil that drains well. If you have a swampy part of your land, you can easily grow plants that enjoy lots of standing water.

When planning your garden, vegetable or otherwise, do your research for each specific plant so you’ll know how to please each one.

With these basic essentials in mind, and understanding that each plant has unique needs, you’ll be well on your way to not killing every plant you touch!