I moved back from NYC last Spring, and the first thing I knew I wanted to do was grow a garden in my backyard. As I’ve gotten older, I’m finding new activities that spark joy, and I happily realized gardening was one of them. I thought it might be fun to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way as a beginner gardener to help you if you’re thinking of starting your own garden this season! 

  1. Pick the right location and space them apart per the instructions that come with the plant or seeds—ideally, a sunny site with enough space so your plants aren’t crowding each other (I learned this the hard way)! Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun a day. Some crops such as lettuce and spinach, and other greens will grow well in partially sunny spots, but sun-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers need as much light as possible. I started my garden in my backyard with just the right amount of sunlight. 

  1. Only grow things your family and friends like to eat. There’s no sense in spending all your time and energy (and money) growing things you won’t enjoy or that will go to waste! My favorite and most successful plants last year were kirby cucumbers (for pickling!), jalapenos (add slices to your rose wine!), and my sunflowers grew massive! A trick was adding an egg (shells and all) before planting the vegetables.

  1. Water needs to be readily available. Nothing burns out a beginning gardener faster than having to lug water to thirsty plants during a heat wave. Make sure to have a hose or faucet nearby to constantly be watering your garden. I water my plants daily in the summer, unless there’s rain (then you get a day off).

  1. Good soil is the key to a successful garden. Plants depend on the soil for nutrients, stability, and drainage. To grow your best garden, start with well-drained soil and add as much organic matter as possible. If you’re feeling adventurous, start composting! I buy my generic soil at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Also, if I’m transplanting plants I loosen up the soil before putting it in the hole.
  1. Seeds or plants? Most garden vegetables can be directly seeded where they are in order to grow—lettuce, beans, carrots, spinach, peas, cucumbers, and squash. Things that take longer to produce an edible fruit do better with a head start. Purchasing transplants as a beginner gardener is the best way to go.  Transplants are great for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons. It varies how long it takes for the plants to grow, but it’s all about testing in your first year to find out what works best for you! My favorite garden center is Wedgewood Gardens in Glen Mills, PA.  They are so helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask questions (and pop into Stile in Glen Mills while you’re in the area!!) 

The best advice I got was to simply not care so much.  As long as you’re watering, your plants have enough sun and space, you’ll be surprised how successful you can be with just a few simple tips like the ones above.  And just like that, you are ready to grow!!