Are You Wondering
How To Start A Garden?

If you'd like to try edible gardening but are wondering how to start a garden, you're not alone! Although this is not a website for beginners, about a third of the people who come here have never planted a thing.

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While I could just tell you, "how to start a garden is to buy a plant, pick a spot, dig a hole and put the plant in", some background might help first.

So let's look at some basics about plants, and then I'll give you some resources to get you started.

The basics about plants

How plants work

Plants take the sun's energy and convert it to sugars through photosynthesis. They make some of their own food! Plants use roots to hold themselves up and to gather water and nutrients in the soil to get the rest of what they need.

The more a plant does, the more it needs. A large apple tree is making a trunk, lots of leaves, and edible fruit, so it needs much more sunlight, water, and soil nutrition than a small plant which doesn't bear fruit.

All plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the day and release oxygen at night. This cycle is necessary to a plant's health just as breathing in and out is necessary for you. Some plants are very sensitive to the length of the day and in most plants the number of hours of sunlight that they get affects their growth.

What plants need

What harms plants

  • Sun - to produce sugars
  • Water - needed for internal functioning
  • Soil - stability for roots, soil nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium, and iron (to name a few).
  • Pollinators - insects or wind; pollination is necessary for the plant to reproduce
  • Too much or too little sun for that plant
  • Too much or not enough water for that plant
  • Soil with too much or not enough nutrition
  • Soil with the wrong pH: the plant won't absorb nutrition well and may die
  • Organisms which step on, infect, compete with, or eat plants (including humans)

Each plant is different. Some do not like shade, others do not like much sun. Some need lots of water, others will rot if you give them "wet feet". Investigate what your plant needs and give it proper living conditions.

What is a garden?

The traditional definition

garden (noun): a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated.

I'm not so fond of this definition, as gardening has expanded past "plants in the ground" to encompass things like:

  • Container gardens
  • Indoor gardens
  • Rooftop gardens
  • and things such as hydroponics, where the ground is not even involved.

But gardening still needs the basics of sun, water, and soil (or as some say "growing medium"), no matter what kind of gardening you're doing.

How to start a garden

1) Decide what you'd like to plant - making a list can help.

2) Read about the plants you'd like to grow. How much sun and water do they need? What kind of soil pH and nutrition do they like? How much heat and cold can they tolerate?

3) Ask around: do the plants you want to grow do well in your area? If not, consider growing them in containers. Containers are nice for beginners because it's easier to control your plant's condition in one pot than in a huge yard.

4) Choose where your garden will be located - on your front porch, inside your kitchen window, in your backyard, etc. Pick a spot which has enough hours of sunlight for the plants you want to grow.

5) Clear the area you have chosen of plants you don't want there (aka "weeds"). You can pull the weeds out, solarize them (lay black plastic over the area to kill the weeds), smother them (which you can learn about in my free report "Make a garden plot in less than an hour"), or in the case of an area of lawn, cut out the sod and turn it under.

6) Dig holes and start planting!

The hole should be larger than the pot. When putting a plant in, try to keep the plant's soil level to the ground - don't bury the plant's stem or trunk deeper than it was in the pot. This is especially important when planting trees.

So that's basically how to start a garden. You'll find that there are a lot of ups and downs in gardening: plants that don't seem to want to live, plants that you kill by forgetting to water, and plants that just love where you put them too much and try to take over!

If you remember that plants are living creatures and so treat them gently, as you would any other pet, for the most part they will do fine.


For the brand new gardener, I would recommend at least taking a look at ecological gardening. Read my interview with Jonathan White about ecological gardening here.

Here are some books on how to start a garden, including some I used when I was first starting out:

Would you like to learn more about edible gardening with a group that loves food gardens as much as you do? Join the Tasteful Landscape community.

Now that you've read a bit about how to start a garden, what would you like to read about next? Here are some related pages:

How to compost - Protecting plants from frost

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