7 steps to start a home garden

So you’ve been thinking about starting a home garden, but where do you even begin? In this article, we’ll cover the basics so that you can start your home garden with confidence and be able to pick your own fresh tomatoes to use the next time you make grandma’s famous pasta recipe.

1. Decide what to grow - Focus on the fruits, vegetables, and herbs your family uses and enjoys most. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t eat it, then don’t grow it.

You’ll also want to make sure your choices make sense for the area you live in. Keep in mind the first and last frost dates of the year can determine what kinds of things will grow well in your garden. Check out this USDA map that shows what plants are most likely to thrive in your area.

2. Choose a location - The sun is the energy source for your crops so make sure you set your garden up for success by positioning it in the place with the most potential exposure to the sun.

Southern gardens may benefit from late afternoon shade, while northern gardens likely need all the sun they can get. What you’ve decided to grow in your garden, will help you determine the best location in your yard. Most fruits and vegetables need full sun, with a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day. If you’d like to grow greens and herbs, they’ll grow well in partial shade.

3. Plan your garden beds - Keep in mind you’ll be working in your garden quite often. Raised beds are common and can make it easier to work in, but they are also more prone to drying out quickly. In very dry areas, you might want to consider sunken beds which can be used to gather more available moisture.

Beds should be 3 to 4 feet across (narrow enough that you can reach the center from either side). Most planting beds are square or rectangular for easy access, but you’re only limited by your imagination and building skills.


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4. Invest in basic garden tools - The right tools will save time, effort, and your back. A good starter pack includes:

  • Garden shovel or D handle shovel
  • Garden hoe
  • Dirt rake
  • Gardening gloves

5. Test and build your soil - It’s just dirt, right? Think again. Is your soil acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH? Do you have sand, clay, or rocks in the mix? Is there risk of soil contamination from nearby run off or roadways?

Most garden crops prefer soil with a 7 pH (neutral). Some crops might like slightly more acidic conditions, so you’ll want to look up your specific crop to determine the right type of soil.

Well-drained, deep and fertile soil works well for most plants. The soil can make all the difference in the quality of vegetables and fruits you grow, and you’ll be able to taste the difference.

6. Plant and nurture your garden - Make sure you’ve waited until the danger of frost has passed to plant heat-loving plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. You’ll want to make sure you plant seeds roughly three times as deep as the diameter of the seed (unless otherwise directed on the package). Make sure to follow the instructions printed on the packaging if applicable.

Most plants need around one inch of water per week during the growing season. Watch the forecast for rain and make sure to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Overwatering is just as bad as underwatering, so always check the soil before watering again. Soil that is too wet can cause the seeds and roots to rot.

7. Enjoy the harvest!

Like a lot of things, there are dozens of different ways to do a garden and you won’t know what works well until you try it. These general guidelines will help you get started and hopefully make your grandma proud in no time!

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