How to Garden

Get your hands dirty with our garden primer. What are you waiting for? Dig in!


Raised beds are a great way to get started gardening. Filled with quality soil, raised beds make it possible to garden almost anywhere.

Everyone is welcome in the garden. Experience is not necessary. Never picked up a trowel? Get started today and you're just as likely to harvest an armload of produce as your neighbor who has been cultivating the earth for decades.

Tending plants is a forgiving art. When you make a mistake along the way—and we all do—you can remedy it the following growing season. Long-time gardeners and newbies agree—gardening is all about experimentation. A technique that works one year, might not work as well the next, but you'll still reap the intangible rewards of working in the soil.

Great gardens include four essential elements—soil, light, water, and plants. Read on for the must-know info on these elements, then get gardening with our easy container-gardening tutorial. 

Soil

Seeds germinate best in soil that has fine particles and a soft texture. Compost will help improve sticky soil or soil with large clods.

Providing nutrients, a water reserve, and support for above ground plant parts, great soil is the beginning of a great garden. The best garden soil is loose, dark brown or black, and sweet smelling. Does your soil have a different appearance? Don't worry. There are many things you can do to improve you soil. Compost and raised beds are two ways to overcome challenging soil conditions.

If your soil is sticky clay most of the time, there is always container gardening. Gardening in containers gives you ultimate control over the soil makeup. Fill containers with nutrient rich potting mix and stand back—your plants will take off!

Light

Most container plants thrive when grown where they receive at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

Plants depend on light to fuel photosynthesis, the process of making plant-friendly energy. Most plant tags detail a plant's recommended light requirements. "Full sun" means a plant grows best in more than eight hours of direct sunlight a day. The label "part sun" refers to four to eight hours of direct light. Finally, "shade" indicates the plant will grow best in indirect light.

When choosing a location for your garden, be it an inground garden or a container garden, watch how the light changes throughout the day in a selected location. Late afternoon sun is more intense than direct sunlight in the morning hours. Different areas of your home offer widely different light intensities. Take time to study the light in an area before selecting a garden location.

In general, vegetables require full sun locations. Most annuals thrive in full sun, too, but several dazzle in shade. Perennials and shrubs thrive in sun or shade, depending on the species, as do trees.

Water

During the heat of summer plan to water container gardens once a day.

There are plants for nearly every soil moisture condition—from intensely boggy planting sites to bone-dry gardens. Pair the water needs of the plant with the available water on the planting site and you'll create a sustainable garden. Low-water gardening is called xeriscaping, and there are many great resources for gardeners. Check out the ideas here.

Plants

Plant shopping can be overwhelming. Look for healthy, robust plants and you'll be well on your way to a great garden.

Get started gardening with plants or seeds. Trees, shrubs, and most perennials are easiest to get started from transplants purchased at your local garden center or received from a friend. A healthy root system and strong stem and branch development get these long-lasting plants off to a good start in the landscape.

Annuals and vegetables are often started from seed or transplants. If you are new to gardening, start with transplants. Robust transplants will withstand a host of growing challenges and still produce great blooms and delicious fruit. As you gain experience, begin experimenting with growing plants from seed. 

Use these guidelines when shopping for plants:

  • Opt for plants with buds over those with flowers.
  • Check roots by gently removing the pot. Extremely dense, tangled, or dark roots are not desirable.
  • Avoid stressed plants with stretched-out stems, yellow or brown leaves, or roots growing out of the bottom of the pot.
  • Forgo sickly clearance plants. They are not a bargain if they have withered, are mushy, or have disease-spotted leaves.
  • Choose a shrub that is dense and well-balanced.

Start gardening now with this container gardening video

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