What are your best tips for a newbie gardener?

Whether they relocated to a place with outdoor space this year or just want a greener thumb, we’re sure many people want to hear your best gardening tips: the tools you rely on, the plants that do well anywhere, how to keep out pests… Share your know-how!

Emily Kochman


nbbauer63 March 13, 2022
Check out the local branch of your Wild Ones organization. They teach about and promote gardening with native plants. My local branch (West Cook Wild Ones) has regular plant sales, webinars, and classes. I have been slowly building a native garden using perennials designed to attract pollinators. The information they share is worth the membership fee. Native gardening is rather easy and better for the environment.
Pamela L. April 24, 2021
Visit regularly, or better yet, become a member of your nearest Botanical Garden. You'll get inspiration, education, access to proven p!ants and seeds, and the surety that the p!ants being grown there will work in your nearby garden. We are spoiled here in NY metro area with NYBG, BBG and Wave Hill.

I am a Garden Designer and these are the resources that I rely on.

An earlier note mentions the Cooperative Extension Program; extensive free resources and education. In non-Covid times, look for the Master Gardener table or booth at Farmers Markets and outdoor events.
Emily K. April 27, 2021
So helpful. We really appreciate the expert advice, Pamela!
meryl S. April 24, 2021
I have been gardening for years, so I've tried many kinds of gloves. I found that True Blue kitchen/household chore lined rubber gloves work best. Totally waterproof and thorn-proof. I buy them in green, of course! They are indestructible and inexpensive.
Emily K. April 26, 2021
A gardening essential—thanks for sharing the tip, Meryl!
BonnieC. April 26, 2021
I have a bunch of gardening gloves on hand - none of them expensive. I have a cheap set of nitrile-lined gloves for repotting & other dirty/wet work, a relatively nice pair of goat-skin-lined gloves for regular weeding work, & a heavy-duty pair of leather gloves for pruning or working amongst thorny stuff.
mary April 24, 2021
1. You don’t need to root-till a large patch for a garden. I typically dig a small hole and plop in the plant. This works with plants, not so much with seeds.
2. Grass clipping are a great mulch. A thin layer of newspaper on the ground, topped with the clipping really helps with weeds.
3. Plant garlic, lots and lots of garlic! If possible get some at a local farmers market, or order it - just don’t use grocery store garlic. This is typically a fall planting. You will be amazed! It grows about six inches, stops for the winter, then starts again in the spring. In the dead of winter you still have green in the garden.
4. Toss in a few flowers that the pollinators like.
Emily K. April 26, 2021
Love these tips, Mary—thank you!
BonnieC. April 24, 2021
As someone who has been gardening for 30 years & not wanting to overwhelm a newbie, I only have 3 always-relevant tips:

1. READ!! Read online &/or take out gardening books from your local library. You don't have to use all the advice &/or tips, but you'll get good advice on the basics from different sources.
2. Start small!!! You can always expand later on in the season or next year, but overwhelming yourself at first will only ruin the experience for you.
3. Start by growing things you're interested in eating (or seeing in bloom flower-wise). There will be plenty of time to experiment with other things in future seasons once you've gotten your gardening feet wet.
Emily K. April 26, 2021
Thanks so much for breaking it down, Bonnie!
MMH April 15, 2021
1) Raised beds are wonderful. We use the Gardner’s Supply catalog.
2)Grow what you love & everything tastes better from the garden than it does from the grocery store
3)Always grow something you’ve never tried just for the experience
4)Grow herbs, experiment with them & for sure freeze them in the fall.
5)Don’t grow in containers if you can absolutely help it. You will never get the same result and watering containers will kill you.
6)If you have children, involve them from the beginning. They will be much more likely to eat the produce.
7)Find fun Gardner friends to compare notes, swap produce & make dinner together
Emily K. April 15, 2021
Thank you for sharing such thoughtful advice, MMH. Grow what you love and involve those you love—how important!
Tom V. April 13, 2021
Grow your soil to grow your plants. I found composting to be a great way to keep active in the garden when I wasn't growing plants. In my case, I moved to a place where the soil was tough, red clay, so I put raised beds on top of the soil and filled them with light mix of peat, compost, vermiculite, and perlite. I also mulched with shredded leaves which kept the weeds to a minimum.
Emily K. April 13, 2021
Love a raised bed! And for anyone looking to get into composting, we actually just published this handy guide: https://food52.com/blog/23990-how-to-start-composting-compost-bin-at-home. Thank you, Tom!
HalfPint April 12, 2021
Check out local extension offices or cooperatives for your county or a nearby county. They have gardening experts who offer great advice and knowledge for your area (what plants do well, how to start composting, etc).
Emily K. April 13, 2021
Thanks so much for mentioning this, HalfPint!
Gammy April 10, 2021
For a starter vegetable garden, start with veges (and herbs) that you WANT to eat and are easy to grow in your area. Look for proven varieties in your area.... your local nurseries will be a great source of both plants and information (and you get extra points if they are a local small business, too!)
Emily K. April 12, 2021
Such great advice—thanks for sharing, Gammy!
Wendy April 10, 2021
Join a local garden club.
Lots of helpful advice from people that are knowledgeable and aren’t trying to sell you products you probably do not need.
Most gardeners are generous with excess seeds, plants, pots, etc...
If you do not live close to a garden club, most regional botanical gardens have on line forums that you can ask questions on.
Also very important to observe where you intend to cultivate, how many hours of sunlight or shade, how is the soil, will it need to be amended?
Emily K. April 12, 2021
So helpful, thanks so much, Wendy! Love the idea of joining a local garden club.
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