Gardening for Novices - Our Tips and Learnings

After four and a half years of living in our house, I finally planted the vegetable garden I’ve been saying I was going to plant since year one. I’m excited about it, so I thought I’d share some of the things I learned along the way. I love the idea of being able to snip fresh basil or cilantro out of your garden for a recipe or make a salad with what you’ve grown yourself. We lived in a condo prior to buying our house, so now that we have a yard, this was my first real go at trying to plant things and keep them alive. I’ve learned gardening is not as easy it seems. I could have used a Gardening 101 course for dummies when I first started.

For starters, the first time I tried to plant flowers around our yard, I didn’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial. I planted a bunch of beautiful annuals in pots and flower beds the first year, only to learn that they are one and done. They don’t grow back the following spring and you must replant new flowers. Perennial flowers bloom again each year and often come back larger and more vibrant each spring. You plant them in the spring and fall when it’s cooler, so they get enough water to establish their roots and to make it through the hot summer. I loved seeing the fruits of my labor this spring when all the plants I planted last year, begin to bloom again! Here is a great list of some beautiful Flowering Perennials from Spring to Fall from Better Homes & Gardens.

The second lesson I learned was about proper sun and shade. It’s crucial that you follow the sun/shade requirements that come on the tag. I of course, didn’t think to look at the tag on my first go at gardening, which resulted in some dead, pathetic looking plants. If a plant requires part shade, then make sure you plant it in a location where it will have some shade. Otherwise the plant with fry in the sun. If a plant requires full sun, it needs plenty of sun to thrive and bloom. I had several plants that never bloomed because they didn’t get enough sun in a shady part of our yard.  

During a summer visit from my Mom, I learned about deadheading and its importance for re-blooming. Deadheading is when you remove the head of the spent flowers. It really makes a difference towards how neat your garden looks and if you get to see the plants bloom again that same season. Here’s a great explanation of “how to” and “why” you should Deadhead Flowers.

Once my flowers were finally under control after three years of trial and error, I started on my vegetable garden. My Father-in-Law recommended we start with Lettuce, Beets, Cucumber, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Basil, and Cilantro. He gave us “starts”, or a small portion of the vegetable with the root attached that were already grown from his garden. We used seeds for the lettuce. Some vegetable like green onions, require bulbs. You can buy them already started or just the bulb. Planting just the bulb or seeds takes much longer but sometimes results in better outcomes. Vegetables are complicated because timing and location are everything. Here is a great article on When to Plant Vegetables from Better Homes & Gardens. It’s also important to know your planting zone, or how hardy the vegetables need to be to make it through winter in your region. It will also tell you when you should plant each vegetable and how they will do in your region’s climate. You can check out your regions planting zone HERE.

So far, our vegetables are doing well! Most of them should mature in late summer so I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. The area where we planted gets morning shade and plenty afternoon sun. We installed a soaker hose system to control how much water they get each day and it’s working out well. Installing a soaker hose is the most annoying project we’ve done around the house because you should route the hose around the vegetables or plants and bury it in the soil. It takes some time and the hoses can be temperamental. You also need a close water source. Our soaker hose is on an automatic timer like a sprinkler so we don’t have to worry about them getting the correct amount of water. I found this inexpensive Miracle Grow Soaker Hose System was the easiest to work with and install for a small garden.

Lastly, good irrigated soil is everything. Make sure your location can drain easily and buy some gardening soil at your local gardening store. Quality soil is important. They make specialized soil for both vegetables and flowers.

Here are a handful of pictures from my garden below. My next venture will be sunflowers.

Do you have a green thumb? We would love to hear any tips you have or your favorite flowers and veggies to plant. You can leave a comment in the comment section below. Happy Gardening! 

 1. Portland  Roses
 2. Basil and  Cilantro
 3. Hosta
 4. Roma and  Beef Steak  Tomatoes
 5. H. F. Young  Clematis
 6. Yellow  Sweet Pepper
 7. Sunny Day  Yellow Rose
 8. Zucchini
 9. Pink  Dianthus and  Pansy

 Cheers,  Lauren


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