I hear this question so often these days as new gardeners start to think about starting a garden. The first thing you need to decide is what you would like to grow. Will you grow flowers, herbs and vegetables or a bit of everything?
The next step is to examine how much time you have to commit to the garden. With many families having both parents working there is not much time left over at the end of the day. You have to be prepared to a commitment of at least a couple of hours per week and more when watering begins. Plants are living things and must be respected. To grow something and have it die is a waste and a big letdown for a first time gardener.
Do you have the proper site for what you want to grow? If you are growing vegetables, any vegetable that produces a fruit will need at minimum six hours of sun. Leafy vegetables can do with less sun and will tolerate some shade. If you are growing flowers there are choices for all types of conditions. Most herbs like sun but some will take shade. It’s best to research your choices before planting. You want your new plants to get off on the right start.
How is your soil? I grow vegetables in raised beds as they warm up faster in the spring than ‘in ground’ beds. If you are starting a new garden, it’s a good idea to get your soil tested. When I first built my raised beds I bought the best soil I could from the garden center. Don’t buy soil by the bag as it’s too costly. Have soil delivered if you need a lot. It took 12 cubic yards of soil to fill our six raised beds. To figure out how much soil you will need, refer to an online soil calculator.
Okay, you have your soil test back. How does it look? Do you need to add organic matter or fertilizer? I add a couple of bags of aged manure to each of my raised beds in early spring. There are some crops such as potatoes and onions that don’t like manure so avoid using it on these areas. I let it sit for a couple of weeks before I plant. At planting time or often the day before, I add some balanced organic fertilizer and some glacial rock dust. I work it into the soil with a hand trowel.
Start small. Remember the old saying Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a great garden. It takes time and experience. I learned through
trowel trial and error. You will too. We learn by our mistakes. It’s when we have successes in the garden that it makes this hobby so worthwhile. Of course, the fact we get fresh, nutritious food is a win as well. Try growing plants in a container first and grow from there.
So get some tools, nothing elaborate. Check out the stores for things like hand trowels, a shovel, hand rake, a kneeling pad and some gloves. If you need some help contact your master gardener extension for advice or take in a garden class. First and foremost, get outside. It’s so worth it.