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The Grow Spot gardening forum presents:

The 24 Best Beginning Gardening Tips

    Before You Plant

  1. Keep it real. Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby, but it takes an investment of time and energy. Organic gardening especially requires some extra thought and work, and possibly even changes in your lifestyle. Make sure you you know what you're getting into!
  2. Know your Zone. Where you are planting makes a big difference in what you should be planting. Different crops will thrive under different conditions. You can get more information on your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone here -- most seed packets are labeled by USDA Zone, so as you shop you can make an informed decision.
  3. Pick the right location. Is it close to an easy water supply? Is it close to home? How's the drainage? How's the sunlight? A little thought in advance can save you a season of heartache!
  4. Draw before you grow. Diagram out your space on paper and put in the location of each row and what you'll be planting in each row. You can use software like Visio to help, or good old pencil and paper will do just fine.
  5. Supercharge your soil three weeks before planting. You should add a healthy dose of organic matter to the area you will be planting about three weeks in advance of putting seeds in the ground. Adding organic stuff (compost, fertilizer, etc...) will improve nutrient retention, water retention, soil buffering and a whole lot of other good stuff.
  6. Save water with the "5-For-4" Rule. The "5-for-4" rule is that a 5 percent increase in organic matter in your garden will yield make it store 4 times more water. Another great water saving idea is to plant drought-tolerant plants and succulents.
  7. Drop the Acid. You have to know the pH of your soil. Certain plants like more acidic soil, certain like a more basic soil. Generally speaking, most plants like a neutral pH, which adding organic matter can help you achieve. If you're a geek who wants to get into gardening, consider an electronic pH tester. Because you know you want it.
  8. Dig it like Britney. No, seriously. Don't dig it too neatly. A messy hole will help your plants take root -- if it's too neat, the roots can't get their groove on.

  9. Phalaenopsis, photo by Jam343

    Planting and Growing

  10. Timing is important. Except when it isn't. In a lot of climates, you don't want to begin planting too early. But in some climates you can plant stuff year round. A good rule of thumb is that new seedlings like a lot of light, like 12+ hours of light. Know your zone and read your seed packages!
  11. Read Your Seeds. OK, maybe that's too basic. But it can't hurt. And they're generally really informative about ideal planting and growing conditions!
  12. Plant when it's cloudy. And the moon is full. Just kidding about the full moon. But seriously, your beautiful plants you just bought at OSH or wherever will be much more likely to survive if you can put them in the ground on a cloudy day or rainy.
  13. Gradually let the sun come out. If the plants you bought were not in a sunny location when you bought them, keep them in a partial-sun spot and only gradually expose them to the full sun.
  14. Water weekly, water deep. Water once a week, and really water deeply to encourage deep root growth. Use a soaker hose, and water in the early morning.
  15. Even on the hottest days, you probably don't need to water. If you're being good and watering really deeply once a week, then only your potted plants need daily watering on those scorchers. Of course, be reasonable, if you live in zone 11, you probably need to water more than once a week.
  16. Mulch. It's good for the soul. And your plants, too! Mulch is basically just a blanket for your garden. It can be compost or another organic layer, or it can be something like plastic or stones. Mulch keeps the water in, keeps the temperature even, keeps the bugs away, keeps the soil healthy and when used tastefully can make your garden look shiny.
  17. Drown slugs in beer. I haven't tried it, but I like the sound of this tip from Johannsen's Greenhouses: "Sink tuna cans or low dishes into the ground so that they are level with the soil surface. Fill with a mixture of half beer and half water, or 3 teaspoons of yeast per cup of warm water. Slugs are attracted by the smell, then fall in and drown."
  18. Kill weeds with vinegar. White vinegar can work wonders. And it kills weeds too! Works best on a sunny day.
  19. Keep it clean. Keep your garden tools clean. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. If you're going to let anything stay dirty, you would think it would be the thing you're always using to dig in the dirt with. But soil on your tools can harbor plant killing microbes!
  20. Keep it clean, pt. 2. Keep your plants clean too. Keep an eye on your plants for signs of disease or infestations, and prune out the bad parts.

  21. Zephyranthes candida, photo by Jam343

    Harvest Time

  22. Handle with care. Your plants are fragile - bruised fruit is no fun, and it doesn't keep as long.
  23. To each their own. Some plants like to be picked early, some late in the season. This guide from "The Growing Classroom" has lots of great specific harvest tips for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables you might plant.
  24. Pickle it!. Pickling your fruits and vegetables is fun, and it's a great way to make your harvest last through those cold winter months.
  25. The Cycle of Garden Life

  26. Rotate it!. So you've gone through a whole year of gardening bliss and are ready for round two. You've got your plans, you know what grew really well in what location, but wait! Not so fast! You should try to rotate where you plant your annuals to prevent disease and keep the soil rich.
  27. Compost it!. Start with this thread on composting and go from there. Composting can be a life-long and life changing habit!
  28. Bonus Tip

  29. Share your inspiration. Pay it forward! You can share your gardening tips and inspiration on our gardening forums! It's free and we'd love to hear from you! You can start here, at the discussion thread about this article!
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