Novice gardener? You've come to the right place. If you're looking to start up a successful garden or need answers to common growing challenges, here are four imperative steps you should take before planting anything:
Step 1) Set Your Goal/s
The foundation for a successful garden or thriving potted plants starts with simply assessing growing conditions and creating realistic goals.
First, determine the purpose of your planting. Do you want to create a bountiful vegetable garden to live more sustainably, or does your front yard simply need a colorful upgrade of flowers and shrubs? A garden can meet a variety of needs. Many produce-bearing plants can grow well alongside decorative flowers, ornamental grasses and herbs so don't feel like you have to limit yourself to any one type of goal here.
Next, observe how much sun the area you'd like to use receives. Plants vary in the amount of sun they need throughout the day and quality of light. Some may need only a few hours of direct sunlight, while others need to remain in cooler shade. Too much light can scorch plants, while too little sunlight and you may run into issues like slow growth, lack of blooms, or root rot.
Lastly, check your soil quality. Sometimes all a plant needs is a moderate layer of garden or top soil or a bit of mulch, but you may have bigger challenges like sand or clay that can affect the sustainability of certain plant species. Most home improvement stores and garden centers sell soil testing kits if you're looking to give your soil a custom treatment, while a quick visual inspection of your dirt may do the trick.
Step 2) Determine Your Growing "Zone"
Gardeners should use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map as a standard method for determining which plants are most likely to thrive in various US regions. For example the state of North Carolina falls into a spectrum of Zones 6, 7 and 8. While some plant species may fare well in any of those 3 zones, some plants that flourish in a Zone 8 near the coast of North Carolina may not survive in mountainous regions of North Carolina that fall under Zone 6.
Step 3) Pick Out Your Plants
Now that you've dug your way through Steps 1 and 2, you should be ready to select the plants you'd like to grow. Just like people, each plant species is different. Most plants include care instructions which will give you a better idea as to whether or not they are right for you. Match their sun, soil, and size requirements to your growing conditions to ensure a successful garden.
Step 4) Prepare Your Garden Beds or Pots
Once you determine what kinds of plants you'd like to invest in, begin a plan for constructing a bed or potting arrangement to assess how many plants you should buy. The sky is the limit when it comes to landscaping and design. Once you create your garden bed and cultivate your soil, you're ready to plant!
When transplanting plants be sure to do so in moderate temperatures (without the risk of frost or freezing, or in cooler evening hours during hot summer months), leaving the core root structure in tact, and then saturate with water once replanted.
Now that you've officially earned your green thumb, be sure to care for your plants according to their needs and growing conditions to guarantee a smooth transition, and a thriving garden for years to come!