It’s warming up in Minnesota, and soon enough that means getting ready to spend all of the sunny, warm days outdoors. This time of year is also the time I start my garden. I’ve been gardening for the last 7 or so years, and I’ve enjoyed learning so much about growing veggies and fruits. I actually feel like an accomplished person when I can grow thriving plants out of little seeds. Throughout my journey I’ve found a lot of helpful resources online and tried a lot of different methods. Every year I continue to work on improving my skills and and learning more about this hobby. Last year I documented my garden throughout the season and now I want to use the information I learned to help others learn how to start a garden and improve their skills.
There are so many options when it comes to gardening. Veggies can be grown small-scale in pots or bins, in raised garden beds, or in a large in-ground garden. Even if you don’t have the perfect space for the garden you envision right now, it’s helpful to start somewhere. There’s always something to learn, even if you’re gardening on a small scale. Just because you don’t know how to do it it, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
I won’t claim that I’m an expert or a professional gardener, but I keep coming back every year and having good results. As a mom, it’s important to me to have hobbies and outlets for creativity. I hope to teach Q a little about gardening and loving nature as she grows older. Even though she’s young, I still try to involve her any way that I can. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll have her own garden when she’s older 🙂 For this reason, gardening has become somewhat of a family hobby. Even our dog likes to help…although I’m not sure how eating the dirt is helpful.
Hopefully these 15 simple steps will also inspire you to start a garden.
How to Start a Garden in 15 Steps
1.Pick a spot for your garden
This step might require additional steps such as buying planters, making a raised garden bed, or sectioning off a part of your backyard.
2. Learn about the zone you live in for best timelines for planting and most successful fruits and vegetables in that region
A great place to start is the Burpee Growing Zone Finder. I’m in zone 4, so a short planting and harvest window.
3. Make a list of all the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers you’d like to grow
Some of my favorites to grow are peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes (specifically roma tomatoes), kale, herbs, cucumbers, and green beans.
4. Think realistically about the space available in your garden and how much room each plant will need to grow
Overcrowding can lead to diseased plants and a low yield. Last year I was a little ambitious with growing too many tomato plants and planting them too close together. They grew very tall but took forever to produce any fruit. I had to keep trimming the leaves back to prevent them from getting diseased.
Imagine the plants at their full size, then determine how much they will need to be spaced out.
5. Research companion plants and arrange your garden based on what will grow well together
Add plants or herbs if they will benefit your garden. Herbs take up very little space and can help keep pests away from plants. Learn more details here.
6. Get all your supplies
If you’re growing indoors you’ll need starter kits (or toilet paper/paper towel rolls), seeds, and soil.
Some items you might need for outdoors include pots, additional soil, cages/posts/additional supports needed for taller plants or vine crops to climb, wire, garden gloves, a watering pot or hose, plant markers, fertilizer, and more.
7. Start early. Decide what plants need to be started indoors (if any) for the best results
This is very important in colder climates like Minnesota. Plants that are grown early and transplanted will have a longer time to produce fruit during the growing season.
8. Prepare your outdoor garden space
Weed, till, and add quality top soil to supply nutrients to your plants. A neighbor also once told me to plant aspirin in the soil next to the plants to hep the plants immune system, and I now regularly add it.
9. Water seedlings regularly
Whether you are growing indoors or outdoors, try to keep the seedlings warm and make sure the soil doesn’t try out.
10. Thin out seedlings to prevent overcrowding
Typically up to 3 medium-sized seeds will be planted in one hole. Keep the healthiest seedling with the most true leaves. Trim the other seedlings at the soil line so you don’t disturb the roots of the one you are keeping.
11. If starting indoors, harden off the seedlings then transplant after 4-5 true leaves have grown or when weather is appropriate
Spend about a week hardening off seedlings and exposing them to the outdoors before transplanting.
12. Add flowers that draw in pollinators
Last year I added a few potted annuals to my enclosed vegetable garden and they attracted a lot of bees to help with pollinating. Make sure to research with flowers attract pollinators.
If needed, you can also hand pollinate plants.
13. Fertilize the garden regularly and determine if any other plants need extra attention
Last year was the first time I regularly added organic fertilizer to the garden. You can skip this step if your soil is nutrient dense, but it does help with plant growth.
14. Take notes as you go so you can remember what worked and didn’t work as well when you start the process over the next year
Al of these notes are a helpful guide for me when planning my garden this year.
15. Enjoy your harvest! Learn how to can or dehydrate fruits and veggies to enjoy them throughout the year. 🙂
Need meal ideas for your freshly harvested veggies? Check out 10 Healthy Meal Hacks for Busy Parents.