How-To Ideas

10 Tips for New Gardeners

Garden novice? Don’t despair. You can be gardening in your own back yard with these suggestions for getting your ideas, tools and enthusiasm in sync. You might even find yourself among that green thumb club you have always dreamed of. Follow these guidelines for a successful garden.

1. Educate yourself with books, magazines and online resources. Use words, images and dreams to set objectives and goals in your quest of gardening expertise.

2. Look for like-minded souls who are members of the various garden clubs from daylilies and rock gardens to roses, or join a community garden if vegetables and food gardening are part of your dream. Seek out the cooperative extension services as well as the local universities with education outreach.

3. Purchase the basic garden tools you will need to get going including a shovel, rake, hoe, pruning shears and lobbers, garden cart, hose, gloves and a hand trowel. Remember there are many more garden gadgets available as needs grow.

4. Take your ideas and divide them into aesthetic and functional elements. Locate the space or outdoor area where you will take on your priority project. Most projects fall in line with plant related and non-plant related elements that can be combined. A perennial and herb garden is paired with a deck. A climbing rose covers an arbor that creates a shady sitting area.

5. A standard approach in development of your first garden is to build the structures first. If there are no structures, then begin with the soil by having it tested and amended as necessary to achieve a rich yield of organic matter, a pH of 6-7 and an airy consistency. This is a sure fire way to grow happy, healthy plants.

6. Choose the plants for your new garden with a sketch and ideas in hand before visiting a garden center. Favorite colors, shade or sun, annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and many other plant types can be considered. Start small, look for advice from the garden staff, and buy quality plants and a bag of organic fertilizer for starter plants.

7. Organize plants in the space while in their pots, then plant according to directions, water in well and mulch with an organic material.

8. Keep a garden diary of your plants, date planted, issues that may arise, the watering schedule, which will vary by plant type, season of planting, sun, shade and soil type.

9. Perform necessary maintenance. Learn how to do a better job eliminating weeds, employ efficient watering techniques and monitor plants for disease and insects. Seek out sources for any possible question you encounter along the way.

10. Enjoy the fruits of your labors and always look for new garden challenges that energize you as you develop a paradise that shows off your green thumb.

Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer is owner of WaterWise Garden Design. You may reach him at

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