Many Americans would argue that there’s nothing better than digging in the dirt — and it’s easy to see why. For one thing, devoting some effort to your landscaping can improve your home’s curb appeal and allow you to sell your property for a higher amount down the line. Although the average sales price for a condo in Manhattan was $1.9 million in 2017, most Americans value having some kind of green space in lieu of a high-rise apartment. But gardening is also a great way to support local wildlife, promote self-sufficiency, and even relieve stress. In fact, a recent Princeton study found that gardeners seem to be a lot happier than the average person. In other words, gardening is a perfect project to take on right now.
But if you’ve never really done it before, it can seem intimidating. You might not know where to plant your flowers or what kind of soil you need to buy at the garden center. But these questions are easily answered — and gardening is really something that anyone can do. Even if you don’t think you have a particularly green thumb, you can learn some basic information that will allow your home garden (or even your lawn) to thrive. Here are some tips for novice gardeners that will get you started.
Get in the Zone
Before you pick up mulch or vegetables for planting, you need to figure out how your location will impact your garden. Knowing which hardiness zone you’re in can help you choose the best plants for your climate; without this information, you might unknowingly choose species that can’t really survive in your area. Hardiness zones exist on a scale from one to 70; the higher the number, the warmer the climate is. Most of the U.S. falls between a two and an eight, but it’s important to know your own zone so that you can pick plants that will be able to live with your area’s average temperatures. The USDA provides information on U.S. hardiness zones on their website.
Discover Your Soil
While you’re figuring out your zone, you should also determine what kind of soil you have in your yard. Typically, your soil will be either comprised of sand, loam, or clay. If you aren’t sure what kind of soil you have, you can conduct a quick test to find out. Then, you can add certain amendments to specific kinds of soil to improve its quality. In some cases, your favorite plants may do well in your soil already; in others, you may have to make adjustments or make other choices. You can also buy soils and mulch to provide more nutrients and moisture for your plants.
Pick the Right Plants
Approximately 117.6 million Americans participated in some kind of gardening activity during 2017. But as we’ve mentioned, not every plant will thrive in every zone, type of soil, or even location on your property. Some flowers do well in full sun, while others need at least partial shade to grow at their very best. Native plants are typically a great way to go, as they’re naturally found in your area and can support the local ecosystem. When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably want to go with some low-maintenance varieties that are easy to grow. You’ll typically want a mix of annuals and perennials, so ask your local garden store for recommendations. Certain kinds of vegetables are also pretty easy to grow, provided you plant them at the right time for your region. You’ll want to plant similar plants together (meaning full-sun plants should be in one area and partial shade varieties should be planted in another). If you’re planting vegetables, you may want to distinguish a separate area to protect your garden from pests or use some flowers as natural bug deterrents.
Don’t Forget the TLC
Even if you’ve carefully chosen low-maintenance plants, you’ll still need to show your garden some TLC. You’ll need to water your plants adequately and consistently; the soil should be moist but not soaking wet. New plants generally need more water than established ones and it’s best to water in the early morning. If you water your plants too late at night, this can make them more prone to fungus and disease. Aim for the root system, rather than the soil’s surface, when watering. Certain soils may need more frequent watering — and if you have a hot spell, you may need to increase the frequency of watering then, too. Don’t forget to weed, prune, fertilize, deadhead, mulch, harvest, and prevent pests as necessary.
The need for TLC applies to your lawn care, as well. Although hydroseeding can allow grass to start growing within a week, you’ll still need to care for your lawn properly if you want it to be lush and green. Aerating, fertilizing, and watering will all make a world of difference. And even if your main focus is the flowers, you’ll still want a freshly mowed lawn to make your yard look well-manicured.
Creating and maintaining a garden can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor that will beautify your property and the neighborhood at-large. If you’re nervous about getting started, these tips can serve as a great jumping-off point. Before too long, you’ll probably have the loveliest landscaping in the entire neighborhood.