5 Fear-Conquering Tips For First Time Gardeners

I am a huge of fan of home gardens—it's one of the first things I set up when I move into a new home, and I don't know if I remember how to function without one—but that wasn't always the case. Two years ago I was convinced botanical life couldn't survive within a ten pace radius of my home. What changed? I stopped over thinking it and just started doing it.

1. Start small. You don't need a full sized garden to get started. Just pick a sunny spot, a plant that you like looking at or cooking with and start from there. My first gardening success was a half meter square of dirt under my front stair case.

2. Invest time in your soil. Once you have your space, big or small, indoor or outdoor, spend some time making sure your soil is healthy. You can buy a top soil or you can start a compost and make your own. My first compost (which went hand in hand with my first gardening success) was a wheel barrow of dirt outside my kitchen and I just buried food scraps as I produced them. (Not an option for everyone, but it worked for me.)

3. Don't stress about the edging. There are so many images of gorgeous gardens that you could be forgiven for thinking you need immaculate edging and specially designed planters. In reality you just need a vessel that holds dirt with holes for drainage, anything will do. My half meter garden just spilled onto the concrete until I found some old decking wood to slip between the stair posts.

4. Plant what you use. There are so many gardening do's and don'ts that it can all seem a bit like hard work. 'Plant these here at this time of year. Don't plant these next to these. Do this... but only if the moon is doing this.' You can read every article you find and still not have any success (been there!). For me, things worked out best when I didn't over-think them. If I needed basil for pesto, I bought basil seedlings from the markets and planted those. If I saw some gorgeous marigolds, I planted those. Some things worked, some things didn't, but if you plant enough things something's bound to stick.

5. Don't over-tend. I killed so many plants by over tending them. Watering them twice a day. Moving them from spot to spot. Replanting them. Staring at them, looking for signs of discomfort. It turns out my gardens just needed space to be a gardens. My half meter garden got watered once a day, give or take a few. It got added to as I tried new plants, picked as I needed things, and that was it!

What would be your top five tips to hesitant first time gardeners?

(Re-edited from a post originally published on 5.27.2011 - CM)

(Images: Sarah Starkey)

MORE GARDENING ADVICE ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
You Can Do It! First-Time Vegetable Gardening for the Black-Thumbed
Notes On Starting A Vegetable Garden