Let’s not beat around the bush: starting a garden can be intimidating, especially if your previous experiences of trying to keep plants alive have met with immediate success.
But here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be as complicated as we try to make it. All you need for your plants to thrive is sun, water and soil.
So you don’t have to be jealous of your neighbor’s green fingers. So you can get into gardening now, even if you’ve never grown anything other than older. start salad!
To make sure we’re not giving you any 💩 advice (although it’s a great fertilizer), we spoke to the Guardians of the Garden: a handful of registered nutritionists who really know (and grow) their stuff. Here’s her top advice for growing flowers, veggies, fruits, and herbs—whether you have a big old garden or a tiny windowsill.
Feeding the Root founder, farmer and nutritionist Samaria Grandberry says, “For people who are just starting out gardening without a lot of space, I would say start with a container garden or windowsill garden.”
And Bri Bell, the nutritionist and windowsill gardener behind Frugal Minimalist Kitchen, explains how easy it is to get started with container gardening. “I started growing spring onions indoors with the bare minimum: a glass of water, a sunny windowsill, and store-bought spring onions,” she says.
And while container gardening is better suited if you’re a complete novice or if you don’t have a patch of grass to your name, it can be just as easy to start with outdoor direct-in-soil gardening—especially if you have good soil. There’s no need to buy containers either!
However, Grandberry warns that plants that are outside and get hours of direct sun each day will need a lot more water. Something to consider!
As you become more comfortable with outdoor gardening, you might want to up your gardening game with raised beds, a greenhouse, or an irrigation system, but as a beginner, these things aren’t essential.
By nature, indoor gardening will automatically be container gardening. But Bell, who lives in a basement herself, assures us it’s more than possible. “It’s great for fresh herbs year-round,” she explains, adding, “As long as you have a window that gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight (or are willing to invest in a grow light), you can successfully grow shade-tolerant ones.” Herbs and vegetables on the windowsill of your apartment.”
As Bell mentions, unless you’re just planning on regrowing leftover food, you might need a little more equipment to really be successful at indoor gardening. You may need a grow light if you don’t have a sunny window, and you’ll also need containers and soil.
Finally, Wendy Jo Peterson, culinary nutritionist, cookbook author and hydroponic gardener adds: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! “The local USDA Extension office is a great place to start for courses and information about your specific area,” she explains. Grandberry recommends connecting with some online communities centered around your favorite way of gardening, such as B. Facebook groups. Even Reddit can be super helpful – r/plantclinic is essentially an open source online plant ER.
Whichever way you decide to get started, we’ve got all the details right here on what you need to ~blossom~.
Seeds, plants or scraps
You can buy all the fancy garden stuff you want, but if you don’t have anything to grow your efforts – wait for it – will be fruitless.
But where to start?
“In general,” Bell explains, “it’s a little easier to grow foods where you eat the leaves, like spinach.” She says that’s because root vegetables and fruiting plants take more time to grow — which means that there is more time for things to go wrong before you can reap. But if you want to try root vegetables or fruit plants (or flowers), do it!
Peterson says, “Easy garden plants include parsley, peas, lettuce, and carrots.”
And if you want to start as soon as possible without having to buy anything, Bell recommends starting with leftover green onions (the white ends with roots sticking out) in a cup on the windowsill with some water. “You don’t even need soil to regrow spring onions,” she explains. “You can also regrow celery or lettuce that way.”
When creating a container garden, you will need to save a bag or two of potting soil. Luckily, most potting mixes are clearly labeled for the type of plant they’re best suited for, making it easy to find what you need – or an all-purpose potting mix works well too.
If you plant directly in soil, you don’t even have to buy soil! However, Peterson recommends doing a dirt health check if you’re having trouble getting your garden to thrive. “Check the pH of your soil,” she recommends, “because incorrect pH can be frustrating.” If you’re growing vegetables, you want your soil pH to be between 5.8 and 6.5 or slightly acidic, according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension.
For your container garden you will need a lot of containers (obvi). Make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom to allow extra water to drain away. The most common planters are made of terracotta or plastic, but if you need larger ones you can buy some cheap 5-gallon buckets at a hardware store and drill holes in the bottom.
“Dollar Tree has many very affordable pot options of all shapes and sizes,” suggests Grandberry. She adds, “As a beginner, you might not want to spend a lot of money, so buying pots at the Dollar Tree can save you money.” And you know we’re all about saving the Benjamins, baby. PS if you don’t have Dollar Tree in your area, check your local 99 cent store.
A sunny spot or grow light
Alright, you’ve got plants, soil and containers – now it’s time to light up. Sunlight is your plants’ favorite food – in fact, they are strict solar tarians.
Plant your outdoor vegetable garden in a spot that gets plenty of direct sun, and find the sunniest windowsill in your home for your windowsill garden (north of the equator, this will be a south-facing window).
If you are surrounded by shade, try more shade tolerant plants. Outdoors, root vegetables and leafy greens can do well in partially shaded areas as long as they get a few hours of sun each day. Flowering plants, however, need more sun.
And if you’re an indoor gardener…
“As long as you have a window that gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight (or are willing to invest in a grow light),” explains Bell, “you can successfully grow shade-tolerant herbs and vegetables on your apartment windowsill!” Aloe, chives, and Mint can do well in a semi-sunny window, even if you don’t get much light into your home.
Alternatively, get a grow light and grow whatever you want, wherever you want! They’re not just for the herb, they’re for herb gardens too (although they can do double duty *wink wink*).
watering can or garden hose
Your plants also need water. While some plants need more and others less, a general rule of thumb is to water when the top layer of soil or soil is dry. Remember Grandberry’s advice: Vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers that are outdoors in full sun need more water than, say, beans or harder herbs (like rosemary).
Outdoors, it’s easiest to water your garden with a hose, but if you have a container garden or an indoor garden, you may want a watering can. You can save money and use a cup or an empty milk jug if you like (or just take your plant on a trip to the sink) – as long as you’re gentle, your plants won’t mind.
Plants love poop. It is what it is. “If you can,” Grandberry suggests, “find out at a local farm and ask for manure there! It’s an amazing organic fertilizer.”
If you can’t handle the manure, Peterson also recommends compost to add nutrients to your soil.
She likes mushroom compost, which you can buy online — but it also has some crap in it. Alternatively, get a composting kit and start storing your (meat and dairy free) leftovers! Homemade composting is also a great way to reduce food waste.
hand trowel and gloves
“Your hands are your best tool,” Peterson explains, but she recommends a trowel and gloves to protect those hands (JIC, you grab a handful of poison ivy while you’re pulling weeds) or to keep them clean (for example, if you just got one). fresh mani).
Grandberry says, “It’s very easy to get acquainted with the latest and greatest gardening tools,” but these basic tools should be more than enough for a small beginner garden. Of course, if you choose this gardening thing, you can buy more tools. When it comes to how many gizmos you can buy for your garden (and how much $$$ you can spend), there’s no limit.