Gardening has a number of benefits, from helping you save money to improving your health. We’ll show you how to get started gardening, from basic skills and techniques to learn to choosing the right equipment to help your plants thrive. Learn more about the types of garden you can grow, which plants do best in which areas of the country, and the meaning of a few commonly used garden terms.
Benefits of Gardening
So what are the benefits of gardening? A few studies have found that gardening helps to lower stress levels, as CNN reported. In one study, two groups of people were instructed to complete a challenging task. One group read indoors afterwards while the other group gardened.
The gardening group had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and noted that they were in a better mood, compared to the reading group.
Another study reported by CNN found that people suffering from bipolar disorder or depression had a noticeable, measurable improvement in their depression problems after spending six hours per week in the garden for three months. Even after they stopped gardening, people who had gardened had a lasting improvement in their moods.
Gardening isn’t just good for your mental health. It also has a number of benefits for your physical well-being. It’s a great form of low-impact exercise and helps to improve or maintain strength and flexibility.
While most of the activities associated with gardening won’t be a substitute for taking a long walk or going for a run, some can be. For example, if you find yourself regularly shoveling in the soil or filling a wheelbarrow with dirt and pushing it across your yard, you’ll get in a fair amount of cardiovascular exercise while in the garden.
Financial Benefits of Gardening
Although you might have to make an initial financial investment in gardening, purchasing supplies, seeds or plants, and tools, the hobby also has a number of financial benefits.
One of the big ways that gardening can help you save money is by reducing your grocery bill. If you successfully grow a number of vegetables at home, you don’t have to purchase them at the store. One $3 tomato plant will produce a lot more than $3 worth of tomatoes, for example.
If you are planning on lowering your food bill by gardening, be sure to choose the right plants. Some things are more difficult to grow than others or might have a lower yield than expected. Salad greens, kale, spinach and a variety of herbs are a few examples of plants that are easy and cost effective to grow.
Basic Gardening Skills
Gardening does require a few skills, but these skills are usually pretty simple to master. Without the ability to plant seeds or seedlings, provide adequate water, and troubleshoot problems in the garden, you won’t get very far.
Starting plants from seeds not only gives you more freedom and flexibility when it comes to the plants you grow, it can also save you a fair amount of money. There are a few things to know before you plant a seed.
First, how early should it be planted? Some seeds need to be started indoors, well before the last frost date in your area. Some seeds are better off direct sown into the garden, either before or after the last frost. You also want to think about how deep the seed should be planted and how many seeds you should plant.
Watering in the garden seems like it should be self-explanatory or easy enough to figure out. But as the video from ExpertVillage suggests, it’s actually one of the most common mistakes people make when gardening.
It’s easy to underwater your garden, but it’s also very easy to overwater it, leading to rot and other problems. Learning how to get the balance right between too wet and too dry is an essential gardening skill.
Knowing where to plant is another important skill to develop as a gardener. It’s not just about finding a spot in your garden that gets the amount of sun your plants will need. It’s also about understanding how close or how far apart to space certain plants. Companion planting, or grouping certain types of plants or certain species of plant together is another skill to master.
I also wanted to add here, that more and more these days, it’s essential to develop a “green” gardening skill set — gardening in a way that is good for the environment. We’re planning to write a lot more about this, but for now, I can’t recommend this guide highly enough (from our friend Trudy at Dujardin Design).
Essential Gardening Supplies
You don’t need a lot to get a garden started, but having some essential tools and supplies will be a big help. For example, having at least a small hand trowel or shovel will really come in handy when you need to dig a hole for planting or if you want to dig up any weeds.
Having tools specifically for weeding, such as a hoe or digger, can also be particularly helpful when you’re just getting started in the garden. Weeds can be a pain, and pulling weeds by hand is particularly annoying and tiring work. A tool that makes short work of weeding will make you a lot happier in the garden.
A watering can or hose with spray nozzle attachment is another must-have in the garden. A hose might be make it easier to water, but if your garden isn’t near a spigot, a watering can be just as handy.
Garden shears, pruners or even just a pair of sharp scissors will allow you to prune or harvest with ease. Take good care of your pruners or scissors. The sharper the blades, the easier the cut and the less likely you’ll be to hurt your plants.
Essential Gardening Techniques
Knowing some basic gardening techniques will help you increase your yields and get the most enjoyment out of the garden. One technique that can come in handy is knowing how to compost.
You can set up a compost pile in backyard, use worms to get the job done or invest in a compost tumbler. No matter which method you use, it’s important to keep the compost pile in balance, by putting in both brown and green materials, according to the University of California.
Another technique worth mastering is planting or transplanting in the garden. There might come a time when you need to move a plant from one part of the garden to another or when you need to repot a plant into a bigger container. In some cases, you might need to learn to divide a plant, turning one plant into two or more.
Pruning is another garden technique you’ll hear a lot about. There a number of reasons to keep plants pruned. It can encourage new growth or can encourage the production of new flowers. Pruning also helps improve the appearance of your plants, whether they are trees, shrubs or annual flowers.
The video above from Monrovia plants introduces you to four common pruning methods. It also explains why you’d want to use certain methods and how to do them.
In addition to these skills, I also highly recommend this guide about starting a garden by Liz from BellyRubbin if you’re a beginner.
Hardiness Zones 101
When you’re first getting started with gardening, you might hear a lot about hardiness zones. Plants and seed packages often have zones listed on them. What is a zone and why does knowing a plant’s hardiness zone range affect you?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided the country into 13 zones, based on the average minimum temperatures experienced by those areas. Each zone is separated by about 10 degrees. The coldest zone, zone 1a, can have temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 13b, the warmest zone, has temperatures that typically don’t dip below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you know your zone, you can get a fair ideal of what perennial plants will be able to survive the winter where you live and which plants you’ll need to grow as annuals, or for a single season.
Types of Gardens
As a gardener, you have a lot of options when it comes to the type of garden you grow. When you’re just getting started in the garden, think of what you want to get out of it. Are you growing vegetables, do you want to attract butterflies or are you growing herbs? Here’s a short list of the various types of garden you can grow:
- Container garden
- Greenhouse garden
- Vegetable garden
- Herb garden
- Fairy garden
- Butterfly garden
- Ornamental garden
- Water garden or aquascaping
- Rock garden
- Organic garden
Garden Words to Know
You might come across some new-to-you terms when you’re just getting started in the garden. Here are five commonly used garden terms and what they mean:
- Soil pH: Soil can be acidic, neutral or alkaline, depending on its pH. A low pH soil is acidic while a high pH soil is alkaline. Some plants do best in acidic soils, others prefer alkaline. Knowing your soil’s pH can help you decide what to plant.
- Hardening off: If you are planting seedlings outdoors, you’ll need to harden them off first, or get them used to outdoor conditions. That typically involves setting the seedlings outside for a few hours at a time, gradually increasing the time they spend outside.
- Pruning: Pruning refers to cutting back or trimming your plants, to allow for new growth. You can prune in several ways, by pinching the flowers or cutting the stems.
- Perennial: Perennial plants can live in the garden for many years. They usually go dormant, or die back, in the winter, but their roots continue to live beneath the soil.
- Organic: In the garden, organic has two meanings. First, it means living or made of living materials. It also refers to a method of gardening that doesn’t use synthetic pesticides or other chemicals.
Learn All About Gardening
Are you ready to jump feet first into gardening? We have a lot of informative articles on the topic. Take a look at the sidebar, where you’ll find everything from how to grow specific types of vegetables and herbs to how to choose the best tools and supplies for your garden.
Lastly, we don’t have much info about pests in the garden (yet), but it’s a super important part of gardening, so we recommend this guide by Bugs Are Gone.