Beginner Gardening Advice from 20 Successful Gardeners: Tips they wish they knew when they started

This post was most recently updated on March 26th, 2020

If you are wanting to start growing a garden and are looking for advice, here are 20 things successful gardeners wish that they knew before they started gardening.

Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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Where can I get free gardening advice?

Gardening is very much location dependant, and the very best advice that you can get for growing a garden at your place is from a local, in person source.

  • Your friends, family and neighbours
  • Local gardening clubs
  • Local seed swap meets
  • Community gardens
  • Local plant nurseries

How do you get good at gardening? 

You really get better at gardening by one thing and one thing only – practise. No amount of book learning can replace your hands in the earth learning.

There are some brilliant tips below for getting good at gardening! I would also suggest you look at our gardening resources page, and beginner gardening articles

Tips for getting good at gardening include:

  • Get your hands dirty
  • Avoid cheap potting mix and seed raising mix
  • Add mulch and more mulch
  • Root crops (like carrots and radishes) and legumes (beans and peas) need to be grown from seed
  • Start with some easy plants like lettuce, carrots and spinach to get used to gardening.

RELATED POST: Beginners guide to composting

Beginner Gardening Advice from 20 Successful Gardeners

When you are starting gardening you are sure to have some failures and some doubts. Here is gardening advice from 20 other people that have been there and done that and learned a few things along the way!

1. Sun Mapping

Lisa from Feathers in the Woods – I planted my garden where it is, because the previous homeowner had her garden there. Not only was it in the wrong spot, but it got worse year after year as the trees grew taller blocking out the sun even more! After a few years worth of errors, I did a sun map and learned where I should be planting instead.

2. Stick at it

My dear friend Rachel says – keep trying even when you kill everything the first season!

3. Lasagne gardening is the best

Tessa from Homestead Lady says – I wish I’d known I didn’t need to dig to create new beds! Lasagna gardening (or layering different types of organic matter) in place is not only easier, but it also creates a much more sustainable and healthier soil environment. I wish someone had told that little 16-year-old me beginner gardener that there was a better way!

4. Just try a few plants first

Alecia from Chicken Scratch NY – I wish I knew that I don’t have to grow everything, it’s perfectly fine to start small and go from there.

5. Watch where you plant mint

Melissa from create and find – I wish I had known that you never plant mint directly in the ground unless you want Mint growing everywhere and anywhere! Mint is an amazing plant – in a container! 

6. You don’t have to pay for everything

Adriana from Backyard Garden Lover – I wish I knew I could get most of the plants for my flower garden for free. We spent so much money to pretty up our front yard, and in later years, neighbors gave away lots of the same plants we bought. It pays to walk around the neighborhood and see what you’d like in your own garden. Then talk to your neighbors and ask for a cutting or seeds. 

RELATED: Growing potatoes in tires

7. Try a few first

Kelly from Montana Happy – I wish I picked one type of plant before buying others to see if it did well. One year, I bought 5 rose trees that cost me a mint. They all died. Rose bushes I had no problem with. Now I plant one thing and if it flourishes without much care, I buy more. 

RELATED: Easiest plants for beginners

8. Do some reading first

Amy from Amy Treasure – I’d love a really comprehensive guide on growing my own veg. What soil is good? Shade or full sun? What’s the easiest thing to grow for a complete beginner? Try here!

9. Don’t throw out old seed

Kristi from KristiTrimmer.com – I wish I would have known that old seeds germinate if stored correctly and not to throw them out. 

10. Make a plan!

Courtney from the Kitchen Garten – I wish I knew that a little planning ahead would save me time and money! So many wasted seeds and plants over the years. 

RELATED: How to plan a garden 

11. Water regularly

Kathryn from Farming my Backyard – I wish I had learned how important consistent watering was. I was always forgetting to water then drowning my poor plants! 

12. You can revive plants that are wilting

Christina from Christina’s Cucina – I hate to think about how many gerbera daisies I threw away that I could have revived instead! 

13. Plan to have too many

Brian from Krumpli – Growing vegetables leads to both failures and gluts, plan for the gluts, you can always buy vegetables in the event of failure, but if you have no plan with what to do with say 20kg or even 100kg of tomatoes you are gonna be left with a load of waste!

14. Try bag gardening

Ann from Ann’s Entitled Life – I wish I had known about bag gardening. I have done it for several years now, and this is, by far, the easiest way to grow shallow root vegetables.

15. Seed libraries are a thing!

Cindy from Living for the Sunshine –  I wish I had known about seed libraries. I spent tons of money buying seeds before I realized my local library has a seed library that gives away seeds for free!

Likewise for seedlings/larger plants, I wish I had known that botanical clubs have plant sales, selling plants for much cheaper than a commercial nursery. Plus, you have an experienced gardener right there for advice.

16. Grow low maintenance plants

Dean from Gardeners HQ – I wish I had known that some plants are a lot of work to take care of, and will only grow well under certain conditions (or they just won’t survive). Obvious I know, but it takes a few years for the fingers to become green. Here is a guide to some easy to grow low maintenance plants.

17. Mulch everything

It took a long time for me to work this out. I wish I’d known how much a difference mulching makes in weeding and keeping soil consistently moist. Mulching your garden how to do it right

18. Crop rotation is a crock 

Crop rotation can be a real science and you can get paralyzed by it. Planting something is better than planting nothing. You can plant the same plant in the same place for many years as long as the soil is well fed with 1-2 inches of compost twice a year as this comparison by long time gardener Charles Dowding shows nicely. A simple crop rotation does however not have to be hard, you can find out the basics here.

19. Carrots can take AAAGGES

Don’t panic if your carrots take 3 weeks to sprout. You haven’t killed them, they are just fussy! Try watering the ground before you sow carrots, then cover the freshly sown seeds with a board or hessian sack. Check underneath every day for signs of sprouting, and water if it looks dry.

RELATED POST: Growing carrots

20. Have fun

This is my biggest tip for beginner gardeners, we ALL have crops fail, seasons that don’t go to plan, too much of one thing and none of another. We mis-time things, the weather goes and rains all summer and suns all winter, the birds get in and dig things up or the cat decides your onion bed is a great napping place (or toilet!). It is the realities of working with nature.

If you would like help getting the most out of your garden, I would love to help you, find out more here

RELATED: Free Gardening Resources

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1 thought on “Beginner Gardening Advice from 20 Successful Gardeners: Tips they wish they knew when they started”

  1. A small comment for urban gardeners. Many of our local cities have perennial plant exchanges, herbs and flowers mostly, and it’s a great way to try new plants in your yard and meet felliw gardeners. All for free.

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