7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Gardening Journey

When I first began my gardening adventure, I was filled with excitement, anticipation, and a touch of naivety. I had grand visions of a lush, bountiful garden that would be the envy of the neighborhood. However, as I soon discovered, there was a lot more to gardening than just putting plants in the ground and watching them grow.

Over the years, I’ve learned countless lessons, some the hard way, that have transformed me into the confident and successful gardener I am today.

Today, I’ll share with you the seven things I wish I had known before embarking on my gardening journey.

1. Start Small & Grow Gradually

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One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started gardening was biting off more than I could chew. Excited by the prospect of growing my own food and creating a beautiful outdoor space, I planted a huge garden with a wide variety of crops.

I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of work required to maintain such a large plot, and many of my plants suffered as a result.

Looking back, I wish I had started with a smaller garden, perhaps just a few raised beds or containers (, and focused on mastering the basics before expanding. By starting small, you can learn the ropes of gardening without becoming overwhelmed, and gradually increase the size of your garden as your skills and confidence grow.

2. Invest in High-Quality Soil

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The foundation of any successful garden is healthy, nutrient-rich soil. In my early gardening days, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of good soil and often settled for whatever was available at my local garden center.

As a result, my plants struggled to thrive, and I spent countless hours trying to troubleshoot various issues.

Now, I know that investing in high-quality soil is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Before planting, take the time to get your soil tested to determine its pH level and nutrient content. Amend the soil with organic matter like compost, aged manure, or leaf mold to improve its structure and fertility (or make more or less acidic).

Well-draining soil that’s rich in nutrients will help your plants grow strong and healthy, and make your gardening experience much more enjoyable.

3. Create a Detailed Garden Plan

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Another game-changer for me was learning to plan my garden in advance.

In my early years, I would impulsively buy plants that caught my eye without considering how they would fit into my garden or if they were well-suited to my growing conditions. This led to a haphazard, disorganized garden that was difficult to maintain and didn’t live up to my vision.

Now, I take the time to create a detailed garden plan before the growing season begins. I map out my garden space, deciding what I want to grow and where each plant will go. I consider factors like plant size, growth habits, and companion planting to ensure that my garden is both beautiful and functional.

By planning ahead, you can maximize your garden space, reduce maintenance, and create a cohesive, thriving garden.

4. Choose Plants Suited to Your Growing Conditions

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One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to choose plants that are well-adapted to my specific growing conditions. What thrives in a friend’s garden a few miles away may struggle in yours due to differences in climate, soil type, or available sunlight.

Before purchasing plants, research which ones are best suited to your hardiness zone, which you can find using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Consider the amount of sunlight your garden receives throughout the day, as well as your soil type and drainage.

By selecting plants that are compatible with your growing conditions, you’ll set yourself up for success and avoid the frustration of trying to force plants to grow where they don’t belong.

5. Equip Yourself with Essential Tools

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Having the right tools can make gardening tasks much easier and more efficient. When I first started, I tried to make do with a few cheap, flimsy tools that made even simple jobs a chore.

Over time, I’ve learned to invest in high-quality, essential tools that have made a world of difference in my gardening experience.

Some must-have tools for every gardener include:

  • Gloves to protect your hands from dirt, thorns, and blisters
  • A sturdy trowel for planting and weeding
  • Pruning shears for trimming and shaping plants
  • A watering can or hose with adjustable nozzle for precise watering
  • A wheelbarrow or garden cart for transporting soil, compost, and plants

While you don’t need to break the bank on top-of-the-line equipment, investing in well-made, comfortable tools will make your gardening tasks more enjoyable and efficient.

6. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity

gardening mistakes
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Gardening is a journey of trial and error, and even the most experienced gardeners face challenges and setbacks. Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of failures, from pest infestations that wiped out entire crops to plants that simply refused to thrive no matter what I did.

At first, these failures left me feeling discouraged and questioning my abilities as a gardener. However, I’ve come to realize that each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. By observing what went wrong and researching potential solutions, I’ve gained valuable knowledge that has made me a better, more resilient gardener.

Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned. Embrace the failures as learning experiences, and use them to inform your future gardening decisions. With each season, you’ll gain new insights and skills that will help you create the garden of your dreams.

7. Find Joy in the Journey

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember to have fun and find joy in the process of gardening. It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection or to feel overwhelmed by the endless tasks that come with maintaining a garden. However, gardening is meant to be a source of pleasure, relaxation, and connection with nature.

Take the time to appreciate the small victories, like the first ripe tomato of the season or the sight of butterflies fluttering among your flowers.

Enjoy the sensory experience of digging your hands into warm soil, the scent of fresh herbs, and the satisfaction of watching your plants grow and thrive.

Gardening is a lifelong learning experience, and there will always be new challenges and opportunities for growth. By embracing the journey and finding joy in the process, you’ll cultivate not only a beautiful garden but also a sense of fulfillment and connection to the natural world.

Starting a garden can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. By following these seven essential tips – starting small, investing in good soil, planning ahead, choosing the right plants, equipping yourself with essential tools, embracing failure, and finding joy in the journey – you’ll set yourself up for success and create a garden that brings you happiness and satisfaction for years to come.

Happy gardening!

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.