8 Beginner Gardener Tips and Ideas: Here’s How to Decide What to Grow

the back of a house with large floor to ceiling windows, a lawn, patio area and a stone path weaving in between hydrangeas
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Embarking on your gardening journey can be a thrilling yet intimidating endeavor. Especially for beginner gardeners when deciding what to grow, it can all be a bit overwhelming. 

Luckily, this guide provides helpful tips to pave your way to a flourishing garden. We’ll cover everything, from understanding different plants to picking the right ones for your green space.

Beginner Gardener Tips and Ideas

roses growing up a planter

Gardening is more than just putting plants into the ground and hoping they’ll thrive. It’s a blend of science, art, and intuition. One of the fundamental decisions every gardener faces is which plants to grow, and this choice can make or break your gardening experience.

While there’s always room for experimentation and learning in gardening, starting with the right plant choices based on research and observation sets a foundation for success.

It ensures a harmonious, productive, and fulfilling gardening experience, bringing joy not just to the gardener but to everyone who experiences the garden.

1. Learning About Different Plants

lavender in a contemporary garden

Before you decide what to plant, it is crucial to spend some time learning about different plants. Gaining knowledge on things like growth habits, sunlight requirements, and water needs can make your gardening journey much smoother.

You’ll find a wealth of gardening resources online, from detailed plant guides to interactive gardening forums. With this knowledge at your fingertips, you can start confidently planning your garden.

2. What’s Your Gardening Style?

a garden with an old sail boat painted blue and lots of potted plants on a patio

Next, take a moment to reflect on your gardening style. It will influence your choices on what to grow. Do you envision a bed of vibrant flowers to awe your guests, or would you prefer plants yielding fresh fruits and veggies?

Perhaps you’re more interested in low-maintenance succulents or herb gardens. Do you have enough outdoor space or are you starting a container garden indoors?

Growing for Beauty: Flowers, Shrubs, and Ornamental Plants

Cultivating flowers, shrubs, and ornamental plants can add color, texture, and interest to your garden. These can include: 

  • Annual flowers that add instant color, perennials that come back every year, and biennials with a two-year lifecycle such as foxgloves. 
  • Evergreen shrubs that retain their leaves, deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves in the fall, and flowering shrubs that combine flowers and structure. 
  • Foliage plants that are celebrated for their leaves rather than flowers, aquatic plants that provide a water feature, or vines and climbers such as clematis and ivy. 

Growing for Consumption: Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits

a man planting flowers in a garden

Growing plants for consumption is not just about producing food; it’s about cultivating health, independence, and a deeper connection to what we eat. With each seed sown, gardeners are actively participating in a tradition as old as civilization itself.

From growing root vegetables to fruit, medicinal herbs to fruit trees, there’s an incomparable sense of pride in cultivating and consuming food from one’s own garden

Growing for Challenge: Exotic Plants or Those Requiring Special Care

For many gardeners, the thrill doesn’t just lie in producing a bountiful harvest or cultivating beauty; it’s in tackling the challenges presented by exotic or finicky plants. These plants require specialized care, patience, and a willingness to learn.

These plants can include orchids, desert roses, cacti, and spiral aloe, and are probably best left to gardeners with a few years of experience! For more expert advice on creating a beautiful garden, check out Plantiago.com.

No Growing

a corner sofa on a decking in the garden with shrubs and trees in the background

However, as a beginner gardener, you may feel that you want to just spruce up your outdoor space with a lawn, patio, and a bit of garden furniture, for minimum fuss. You could look at adding a few plants in containers to add a bit of color and nature to your outside space. 

Growing a garden isn’t just about plants, it’s about making a space for you. Your personal touch and preferences will shine through in the garden, so make sure you choose a style that you’ll love to maintain and enjoy.

3. Understanding Your Garden: Sunlight and Soil Types

Every garden is unique in terms of sun exposure and soil type. Some plants thrive under full sun, while others prefer shade.

Similarly, some plants do well in clay soil, while others need sandy or loamy soils to flourish. Here’s a snapshot of soil needs for basic plants:

  • Kale – Loamy soil
  • Tomatoes – Well-draining, slightly acidic soil
  • Lavender – Sandy, well-drained soil
  • Sunflowers – Any well-drained soil
  • Hostas – Rich, moist soil

By understanding these parameters of your garden, you can pick the most suitable plants and set them up for success.

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4. Food or Flowers: Making the Big Decision

This is a major consideration for many beginner gardeners. Should you opt for an edible garden filled with luscious fruits, vegetables, and herbs? Or is a flower garden designed for visual appeal better?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s a matter of personal preference. Just remember that both choices can bring immense joy and satisfaction.

It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of starting a garden, but it’s wise to start small. A smaller, well-maintained garden can provide more satisfaction and less frustration than a larger, unmanageable one. Begin with a few types of plants and gradually expand as you gain confidence and experience.

5. Consider Maintenance Level: High or Low Input?

the back of a house with brick and black cladding, bifold doors and plant pots on a patio
Container gardening or flower beds?

Are you prepared to spend the weekend’s weeding, or would you rather have a garden that thrives on neglect? Some plants are high maintenance, requiring pruning and frequent watering, while others demand minimal attention.

Your lifestyle and available time for gardening should influence your plant choice. After all, a thriving garden requires a dedicated gardener.

Low-maintenance plants are the best choice for beginner gardeners whilst you find your green fingers. Some examples of low-maintenance plants are – 

  • Marigolds: They need well-draining soil, but are not particularly picky about soil fertility. Full sun is preferable and they need minimal watering. 
  • Sunflowers: They need moderately fertile, well-draining soil and regular watering, although they can tolerate some drought. 
  • Pansies: They need moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. They also like full sun to partial shade, depending on the climate. 
  • Lettuce: Well-draining and fertile soil is required for lettuces, and regular watering is crucial as they have shallow roots. They prefer full sun to partial shade. 
  • Tomatoes: Often the vegetable people turn to when starting a vegetable garden, tomatoes need well-draining soil with a bit of enriched compost. They also need regular watering, so a soaker hose is best. Don’t forget a stake or cage to help keep them off the ground. 
  • Mint: We have this herb growing wild in our garden with absolutely no input from myself, so mint is perfect for beginner gardeners! It likes consistently moist soil, but it seems to thrive in our garden with very little watering, and often grows out of control! So it is best grown in containers. 
  • Chives: A bit like mint, chives are extremely easy to grow and look after. They like well-draining soil that is moist but not waterlogged. Perfect for salads or as a garnish. 

6. Think Local: Discovering Native Plant Options

lemongrass growing in a garden

Going local is a wise move for beginner gardeners. Native plants are tuned to thrive in your region’s climate and soil type, making them less demanding and more likely to grow successfully.

Native plants also provide essential foods for local insects, birds, and other wildlife which is becoming more important than the aesthetics of your garden! These plants have co-evolved with local species, and many creatures have come to rely on specific native plants for sustenance.

By planting native species, you contribute to the preservation of local biodiversity. Many pollinators, like specific bees or butterflies, depend on certain native plants to complete their life cycles. They are also more resistant to local pests and diseases which means less need for chemical intervention. 

It is imperative to find out what your native plant options are, and in my opinion, make your introduction to gardening that little bit easier. 

7. Planting for Year-Round Beauty: Seasonal Planting

daffodils in a spring garden

Creating a beautiful garden all year round requires foresight, planning, and an understanding of plants and their cycles.

I know, as a beginner gardener, you’re just getting your head around perennials and vegetable gardens, but knowing what plants grow throughout the seasons can help keep your garden vibrant all year round. 

Most plants have preferred planting times, generally categorized as either cool-season or warm-season. Cool-season crops like spinach and peas thrive in the cooler parts of the growing season, while warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers need warmer soil and air temperatures. Refer to planting guides for your region to time your planting appropriately.

Here’s a breakdown of plants for each season to maintain continual garden beauty:

Spring: The Magic of Bulbs

Spring bulbs need to be planted between September and November, depending on the variety. Bulbs can include daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses. 

Summer: A Symphony of Blooms

Many summer blooms need to be planted in the spring and include some of the most colorful plants you can grow in your garden. Some summer flowers include the classic rose, daylilies, lavender (for the most amazing smell), and echinacea. 

Fall: The Grandeur of Foliage

Fall mainly relies on trees and plants that have been around all year. These include Maple trees that display amazing autumnal colors, Sedum, ornamental grasses, and Dogwood. 

Winter: The Quiet Wonders

succulents in a rockery

Evergreen plants like pines, spruces, and firs maintain their foliage, providing greenery amidst snow and bare landscapes. Plants often used in Christmas decor such as Eucalyptus, Holly, and Winterberry are also easy to plant, grow, and provide color in your garden all year round. 

By incorporating a mix of bulbs, blooms, foliage, and structural elements that peak in different seasons, gardeners can enjoy a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape in their garden. 

8. Sustainable Practices

sunflowers growing along a fence in a small garden

Adopting sustainable gardening practices not only benefits the environment but can also make gardening more enjoyable and less labor-intensive for you. Practices like composting kitchen scraps and yard waste enrich the soil and reduce waste. Mulching conserves moisture, suppresses weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. Encouraging beneficial insects by planting a variety of flowers and herbs can naturally control pest populations.

Embarking on a gardening journey might feel overwhelming at first. Nonetheless, it can become a handsomely rewarding hobby for you with proper preparation and planning your garden.

With these insights in mind for all beginner gardeners, all that’s left to do is roll up your sleeves and let the magic of your newly discovered green thumb unfold. Happy Gardening! 

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