My Top Tips for New Gardeners 'Growing Their Own' This Year

Whether it's food, vegetables, flowers, or herbs, here's some professional advice.

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More and more people are turning to their gardens and taking steps to grow their own. But if you have never gardened before, and don't consider yourself to be particularly green-fingered, getting started can feel a little overwhelming. 

As a gardening consultant and designer, I work with gardeners who have a wide range of experience and skill levels, to help them make the most of their space. Going back to fundamentals, here are my top tips for new gardeners growing their own this year.

Get To Know Your Garden

Whenever a new gardener approaches me, this is the first piece of advice I would deliver: understand that no two gardens are exactly alike. You need to get to know your garden before you can hope to use it and grow your own there in the most effective and successful ways. 

Getting to know your garden first and foremost means simply spending time there. Over time, you can learn more about sunlight and shade, wind, water and soil, the plants and the wildlife that shares your space, and other features of the environment. 

But spending time in the garden, in observation and with an open mind, can help you find a deeper connection to the natural environment. Learning from and growing with nature is the recipe for gardening success. 

Start With the Big Picture

New gardeners often leap several steps and start choosing plants to grow in their gardens right away. But it can be beneficial to take a step back and look at the big picture before zeroing in on the specific details. 

First, you should think about the patterns that shape the space—how sun, water, and wind move across and through the space, and how you yourself and other members of your household might use the space and move through it over time.

It can be helpful to look at the big picture in terms of your goals and intentions. Thinking about why exactly you are growing can focus your efforts, and help you see more clearly how you will be able to overcome challenges and meet your goals. 

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Have a Holistic Plan in Place

I would certainly recommend that new gardeners have a holistic plan in place for their garden and for the growing year before they begin. In order to take the first steps in garden design and creation, you really need to have a clear sense of the direction you wish to take, and where you are going. 

A garden plan is partly about ensuring that you know which elements you would like to include, and then determining the best layout for those elements. It is also about thinking how changes will occur, and how you will react to and with those changes over time.

You will need to decide which method(s) you might employ. From forest gardening to polyculture annual production to container gardening, there are plenty of different options to consider.

It is best to plan for the longer term, as well as think about the growing season immediately ahead of you.

Get the Basics Sorted Before You Sow and Grow

As well as having plans in place before you start, I always recommend that new gardeners think about the basics before they actually start to sow and grow.

One key consideration is water. Think about where your water comes from and how you might be able to catch rainwater on your property and keep it around. 

Another key consideration is how you will create healthy soil—and maintain a healthy and fertile garden over time. I would recommend creating a composting system as a top priority for any new garden where there is not already one in place. 

It is important to grow resources for the maintenance of fertility and healthy ecosystems in your garden, as well as growing the crops and edible plants themselves. 

woman waters vegetable bed with a hose

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Curb Your Ambition

New gardeners can sometimes be prone to biting off more than they can chew. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of ambition when it comes to what you eventually want to achieve in your garden. But remember, Rome was not built in a day.

It is best to adopt a slow and steady approach, starting small and working step by step to achieve your ultimate goals. Be sure to take into account your skill and experience level, and how much time you have available when you start to garden for the first time.

If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again

Many new gardeners become disheartened and give up when things do not go according to plan. But more experienced gardeners know that however long you have been gardening, things can and will sometimes go wrong.

One thing to remember as you start your first forays into the gardening world is that not everything is in your control. You will also doubtless make mistakes. But as long as you don't put all your eggs in one basket, you will surely experience plenty of successes, too. And you should not give up when things don't go according to plan.

Know That You Are Not Alone

Even if you are feeling dispirited and don't feel that things are going well in your garden, remember that you are not alone. There are plenty of ways to reach out to other gardeners and to learn and grow together with others in your community. Sharing tips and even resources and yields with other gardeners in your area can help you feel connected and less isolated in your endeavors. 

As you begin your garden, it is important to remember that there is a wealth of life around you that will help your gardening efforts in a range of different ways. Look after the wildlife that shares your space and together you can work in harmony with nature to create a healthy, beautiful, and productive garden.