10 Basic Garden-Planting Tips
Consider a Planting Plan
Not sure what to plant where? Check out our easy-to-follow planting plans here. We're sure you'll find a plan that is perfect for your landscape.
If this is your first foray into gardening, start small. A small plot means fewer weeds, less soil prep, and refined plant selection. One of the most challenging tasks for new and experience gardeners is choosing exactly what they are going to plant each season. Large gardens afford large plant palettes, but a great diversity of plants can be overwhelming if you're just starting out. Instead, start with a small plot and five to seven plants for your first growing season. As you gain experience, add more of your favorites and try new plants.
Check Soil Before You Prep
Tilling or spading moist soil results in clods that harden in the sun and plague your gardening efforts all season. Before loosening the soil for planting, grab a handful of earth and squeeze it in your hand. Soil that is ready to be tilled or turned with a spade will form a loose ball that crumbles easily. Sticky soil or soil that is excessively dry should not be worked.
Improve Your Garden Soil
See how easy it is to get better soil—and in turn, better plants!
Plant into a weed-free garden and you're less likely to fight weeds later in the growing season. Take time to pull, dig, or smother all the weeds in a planting area before you begin planting.
This is especially important when you are establishing a new garden in an area that was once blanketed by grass. Lawn grasses are tenacious perennials that spring back to life from mere segments of roots. Rent a sod cutter at your local home-improvement store for an afternoon and skim the sod away with minimal effort. You can accomplish the same work with a sharp spade. Excavate at least 2 inches below the soil surface to all of the grass roots.
Affectionately called "black gold" by gardeners, compost is rich in nutrients plants need. While providing valuable minerals it also improves to the soil structure, allowing water and oxygen to percolate down to plant roots. Spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of compost over a planting bed and use a spade to incorporate it into the top 10 to 12 inches of soil. Repeat this process each spring for loose, nutrient-rich soil.
Locate plants with similar needs near each other. For example, plant perennials that thrive with consistent soil moisture together for easy watering. Group container plantings together for one-stop watering as you make your way around the garden.
Make a Label
Even experienced gardeners forget plant names or exactly where they planted a row of seeds. Take a minute to label plants as you set them in the ground. The plant labels that come with transplants are fine to use in the garden. You also can make your own labels from a host of easy-to-find objects. Wooden crafts sticks make great plant labels, for example.
Moisten the soil around plant roots after planting. The water helps the plant expand its root system and eliminates air pockets around the roots. Continue watering plants as needed throughout the first growing season.
Here's a quick way to determine if the plant needs water: Sink your finger about 2 inches into the soil. If the soil is dry, water the plant deeply. If it is moist, wait a day or two and check the soil again.
Keep weeds at bay by spreading a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch over open soil. Shredded bark, pine straw, and cocoa hulls are all great mulch products.
How to Pick the Right Mulch
Learn what to look for in a mulch and how to select one that's best for your plants and gardening goals.
One of the greatest joys of gardening is watching plants grow and expand. Seeds will sprout. Tomatoes will form. Flowers will bloom. Take time to stand back and enjoy the changes in your garden. And feast on a succulent tomato as soon as it ripens!