10 Things We Wish We'd Known Before Starting a Garden | Almanac.com

10 Things We Wish We'd Known Before Starting a Garden


Vegetable Gardening Tips and Tricks

Longer days are here. Starting a new vegetable garden from scratch? If you’re new to gardening, welcome! Here are 10 things we wish that we had known before we started a vegetable garden! Don’t make the same mistakes that we did.

This is the perfect time to be planning for the upcoming gardening season. You’re about to embark on journey that is equal parts challenging, rewarding, mystifying and uplifting. There’s a lot to learn, but we’re here to help.

We’ll share our top 10 tips to help you grow a successful garden.

TIP 1: Let There Be Light 

The first thing to consider is light! Most veggies, fruits and herbs need six hours to eight hours of direct sunshine every day, though some shading is beneficial in hotter climates.

Some cool-season crops such as spinach and cabbage can be grown in partial shade. There are plenty of flowers for both sunny and shady gardens.

TIP 2: Convenience

If possible, site your garden where you will see it every day. That way you can see what needs doing, when it needs doing, and it won’t become neglected. 

Also, you need to be near a water source. Make watering quick and easy by positioning your garden close to a watering hose or install water barrels (if allowed in your area) to make watering quick and easy. 

TIP 3: Enhance Soil 

Lavish your soil with love. Feed it with organic matter such as garden compost and manure. Make sure that manure has been rotted down for at least six months first because fresh manure contains weed seeds, can harbor disease, and may burn plants.

Add organic matter at least once a year, but more often if possible. Lay it on the soil surface as what’s known as a ‘mulch’, and over time your soil will become richer, more free-draining, and healthier. Organic fertilizers can be used as a short-term boost, but organic matter builds long-term soil health.

TIP 4: Take Your Time 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of planting too soon in your eagerness to get growing, but tender plants can be damaged by a sudden frost or may struggle to grow well. 

In most areas your last and first frost dates define your growing season. Our Garden Planner automatically calculates your frost dates based on your location and uses this data to recommend when you should be sowing, planting, and harvesting your chosen crops.

TIP 5: Start Well

Only once your soil has warmed up and dried out enough to become workable is it safe to begin sowing outdoors. Seedbeds must have a fine, crumbly texture. 

Sow under cover into plug trays or pots to get a head start while outside temperatures are still too low. Make sure your seedlings get plenty of light or they will become stretched and weak.

TIP 6: Keep Plants Hydrated

Most plants need an average of 1-2 inches of water a week. Water heavily less often instead of than a sprinkle every day to encourage roots to grow down into the soil to seek moisture. This will make plants stronger and more self-reliant. 

Plants in containers must be watered more often than plants in the ground.

TIP 7: Keep on Top of Weeds

Hoeing is fast and easy, and you can leave severed weeds on the soil surface to wither in the sun. Keep the blade edge sharp. Hoe close to the surface between rows to avoid damaging the roots of nearby crops. Hand-weed within rows.

Remove weeds regularly so they don’t have time to produce seeds and spread. 

Mulch with weed-free organic matter to prevent new weeds from popping up. 

TIP 8: Pick, Pick, and Pick Some More!

Some veggies, such as beans, zucchini and tomatoes, need to be picked regularly to keep on cropping. Stop picking, and they’ll stop producing!

TIP 9: Tidy Up – But Not Too Much

Don’t be too zealous during your end-of-season tidy up. Leave stems of coneflowers and thistles standing to help feed birds over winter. The dead stems of ornamental grasses can be left to add movement and structure to the garden, plus overwintering sites for beneficial bugs such as butterflies.

Add fallen leaves to compost heaps, turn them into leafmold, or layer them thickly over tender perennials to protect them in winter.

TIP 10: Take Notes
Keep track of when, where and what you grew, and note down any pests, diseases, or failures you experience, and aim to do better next season!

These tips are our recommendations but, of course, everyone who has tried gardening has different “lessons” that they learned along the way. If you are an experience gardener, please share your tips for a new gardener below.


Free Trial: The online Almanac Garden Planner

If you love growing your own food, why not take try out our online Garden Planner for free for a full week? 

The garden planner is available here: http://gardenplanner.almanac.com.

About The Author

Tim Goodwin

Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin

2023 Gardening Club

Janet (not verified)

1 year 2 months ago

Protect plants from wildlife that seem to wait to eat your crops until the day before you plan on harvesting!

Kyle Musick (not verified)

3 years 11 months ago

Start a compost bin yesterday.

Lynn Hughes (not verified)

3 years 11 months ago

I just heard that there are vegetables I should not grow because if my dogs were to eat them they would get sick. Is that true? If so, what vegetables should I NOT grow to keep my dogs healthy? Thank you.

P V Thomas (not verified)

4 years 8 months ago

I am living in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. I am having a 10 acre land and want to grow trees in organic manner. Can you help