I’ve got some gardening tips for absolute beginners that will take you from “Plant Killer” to “Gardening Wizard” in no time!
I’ve heard is so many times in the past: “I can’t grow a garden because I kill every plant I touch!”
You can grow a lush, fruitful garden that will keep your family stocked with fresh produce as easily as any farm in the world. All it takes is some practice and a few gardening tips for absolute beginners that will boost your confidence.
First, You Don’t Have a “Brown Thumb!”
Regardless of what you’ve heard before, there is no such thing as a “brown thumb” when it comes to gardening. Homesteaders around the world started off somewhere in their gardening journey, and most of us have killed a large number of plants. The trick is to start with one single plant.
Take my mother, for example. She said for years that she could kill a cactus – until she didn’t. Then she branched out and grew coleus, azaleas, and hummingbird vine. Once she got the confidence to try more things, she stopped “killing” everything.
The same can be said about you. Don’t let your lack of confidence kill your will to try gardening (or try again). Start with one single plant. Study up about that plant. Learn the four most important things about that single plant, and you’ll do fine.
The Top 4 Gardening Tips for Absolute Beginners
The four gardening tips that all absolute beginners must know are:
- your plant’s light preference
- how much water it needs
- what to feed it
- its temperature tolerance.
Think of it like a baby. Babies need a day/night cycle (though most babies are super confused by that concept), they need water, they need food, and they don’t typically tolerate extreme heat or cold.
Your plants are the same way. They’re your babies that you have to take care of daily.
Before you put your plant into a larger container or straight into the ground, be sure to read the tag that comes with it (or the seed packet you started your plant from) to know these 4 important pieces of information.
Beginner’s Gardening Tip #1: How much sunlight does your plant need?
We were all taught as kids in science class that a plant uses light in a process called photosynthesis to fuel its growth process. But some plants don’t always need as much sunlight as others, and others can survive on very little.
When you buy (or start from seed) your plant, learn what kind of sun it needs – full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or full shade.
- Full Sun: Your plant will need all of the sunlight it can possibly get. Typically, that’s around 6 to 8 hours of direct exposure to the sun each day.
- Partial Sun: Plants that call for partial sun need 3 to 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. Many partial sun plants may also tolerate full sun.
- Partial Shade: Partial shade plants require the same amount of sun as partial sun plants (3 to 6 hours), but they need extra protection from intense midday sun. The plant’s location can get early morning or late evening sunlight, but they need shade when the sun is highest in the sky.
- Shade: Shade-loving plants still need sunlight, just not much. They prefer less than 3 hours of direct sunlight, but they will not grow well in complete darkness. Under a tree canopy or in a shady area of your yard would be a great location for this plant.
Beginner’s Gardening Tip #2: How much water does your plant require?
This is where most people make their biggest mistakes when it comes to gardening. They either water their plants way too much, or they forget to water them altogether. Both problems will kill your plants.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to water your plants every single day. That will either result in shallow roots (if you water for short periods of time) or could result in root rot (if you water for long periods of time).
The best rule of thumb is to water your garden 2 times per week and let the water soak down about 2 inches. This will take some investigation on your part to begin with. Water your plants for a set amount of time, then poke your finger into the soil. This will tell you how deep the soil is damp (but be careful of the plant’s roots).
This is what’s called “deep watering.” It will encourage deeper and stronger root growth, thus resulting in a healthier plant.
- Water your plants first thing in the morning before the brutal heat of the day begins.
- Water at the base of the plant only.
- An additional day of watering may be necessary in the scorching heat of summertime.
Bonus tip: Mulch is your plant’s best friend! Mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil, so your plants won’t need watering as often.
Beginner’s Gardening Tip #3: What does your plant like to eat?
It’s probably best as an absolute beginner to just start with a complete fertilizer. An example would be 10-20-10 or 12-24-12. These fertilizers are pretty easy to find at any big box store. Don’t worry about what those numbers mean as a beginner. Just know that it will help your garden, and your plants thank you with an abundance of fruit.
But for those of you who are super interested to know about those fertilizer numbers, they’re the NPK (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium) values. A complete fertilizer contains twice as much phosphorus as nitrogen or potassium. Again, as a beginner, don’t worry about what those numbers truly mean to your plants right now. You’ll learn that as you go.
Beginner’s Gardening Tip #4: What is your plant’s temperature tolerance?
Garden plants are either classified as warm-season or cool-season vegetables. This tells the general weather they require for the best growth.
Warm-season plants need warm soil, high day-time temperatures, and a little cooling at night. They should be planted so that they mature during warm weather, when the soil and air are above 50ºF. They grow their absolute best when temperatures are above 75ºF.
Cool-season plants obviously need cooler temperatures and can sometimes even survive an overnight freeze. These crops should be planted when temperatures are as low as 40ºF. Mature cool-season crops can sometimes survive temperatures near or below freezing with little to no protection. They don’t fare well in warm summer temperatures and will often bolt (go to seed) without producing the food you’re looking for from them.
Awesome Books to Supplement These Gardening Tips for Absolute Beginners
Don’t ever stop learning about gardening, because the more you know, the more you’ll grow! Supplement your internet learning with these budget-friendly books that you can keep on hand to help you with your gardening knowledge.
An easy read, easy to follow, well organized book for beginners!
The book is very reassuring and extremely helpful every step of the way on your gardening journey. It’s almost like having an experienced gardener with you sharing what they’ve learned growing each of the plants listed in the book.
With beautiful pictures, great information, and a notes section to jot down anything you learn along the way, Plants You Can’t Kill will have you wanting to turn your entire yard into a garden!
This book tells You every little thing about most every kind of herb and vegetable!
A super thick book, it’s packed with so much information you’ll be reading it all the time when you’re not outside in the garden putting the knowledge to good use. It’s great for beginners and experts, alike.
With full color, glossy pages and loads of sage advice and information, you can’t go wrong with The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible!
This book will quickly teach you the fundamentals of gardening and is a great resource!
It’s easy to read, thoughtfully written and laid out, and provides step-by-step instructions to growing all of the herbs, fruits, and vegetables your family enjoys. It also covers the challenges you may encounter along the way and what to do about them.
With Growing Perennial Foods, you’ll gain better understanding of soil composition, compost, mulch, pruning, how to combat weeds, organic pest solutions, and much, much more!
This is a workbook that will help you plan a year-round garden anywhere you can grow plants!
Every single page is well-written and well-edited with gorgeously appropriate photographs. This book contains information on all 3 growing seasons, what to grow in each season, building your soil, and more tips and tricks to get the most out of your personal garden space.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener book will be a great help as you try to grow more of your family’s food!
Great Gardening Tips for Absolute Beginners
These are some of the easiest ways to start gardening even for non-gardeners. With the tips I’ve given you and the books I’ve recommended, you’ll be growing food like your survival depended on it… or at least enough cucumbers to make our super delicious Kosher Dill Pickle Recipe!
Imagine having fresh homemade pesto from the basil you grew in your own kitchen. Dream about the DIY garden beds you could make throughout your yard.
But most of all, think about the major step towards self-reliance you’ll be making!
Yes, you can grow your own food, even as an absolute beginner!
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Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.