Easy Steps to Create Gardens in Your Yard for the First Time

1. Consider What to Plant
Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? If you choose vegetables and herbs for their contributions to your dinner table, plant ones your family will eat or be willing to try. If you want flowers for their flair, color, and fragrance, decide whether you want annuals that bloom most of the summer but need to be replanted each spring or perennials that have a shorter bloom time but return year after year. Each one, or even a combination, makes a stunning garden but will have different maintenance requirements. One bit of advice: Start small until you know what you're getting into.

2. Pick the Best Garden Spot
Almost all vegetables and many types of flowering plants need 6-8 hours of full sun each day. So you need to observe your yard throughout the day to figure out which spots receive full sun versus partial or full shade. Don't worry if your yard is mostly shady: You won't be able to grow tomatoes in shade, but many other plants (such as hostas and outdoor ferns) will do just fine. Check plant tags or ask the staff at your local garden center to help you understand out how much sun a plant needs.
If possible, pick a relatively flat spot for your garden because it's more difficult, time-consuming, and potentially expensive to deal with a sloping garden. And make sure your new garden will have easy access to a water source.

3. Clear the Ground
Get rid of weeds and sod in the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results—for example, if it's already spring and you want veggies this summer—cut it out. Slice under the sod with a spade. Cut the sod into sections to make it easier to remove.
For a longer term project, it's easier to use the lasagna gardening method: Cover your future garden with five sheets of newspaper; double that amount if your lawn is Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass. Spread a 3-inch layer of compost (or combination of potting soil and topsoil) on the newspaper. Water everything and wait. It'll take about four months for the compost and paper to decompose. But if you start in the fall, by spring you'll have a bed ready to plant with no grass or weeds and plenty of rich soil.

4. Test and Improve Your Soil
To learn more about your soil, have a soil test done through your county cooperative extension office. They'll lead you through the procedure: How much soil to send from which parts of the garden and the best time to obtain samples. Expect a two-week wait for the findings, which will tell you what your soil lacks and how to amend it. You can also use a DIY kit that may not be as detailed, but will give you an idea of your soil's nutrient levels.
Residential soil almost always needs a boost, especially in new construction where the topsoil may have been stripped away. In addition to being low in essential plant nutrients, your soil may also have poor drainage or be compacted. The solution is usually simple: Adding plenty of organic matter. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost to the soil when you dig or till a new bed. If you decide not to dig or are working with an established bed, leave the organic matter on the surface where it will eventually turn into humus (organic material). Earthworms will do most of the work of mixing humus in with the subsoil.

5.Maintain Your Garden Regularly
As your garden begins to grow, help it reach its full potential by keeping up with garden chores. Water the plants before they wilt. Pull weeds before they go to seed. Get rid of dead, dying, and diseased vegetation. Banish destructive insects (such as tomato hornworms) by picking them off the plant and dropping them into a bucket of sudsy water, hosing them off, or spraying on an insecticidal soap purchased at a garden center. Support tall plants (such as tomatoes) with a trellis, stake, or a tepee. Also, harvest vegetables as soon as they're ready. And remember to stop and smell the...well, whatever it is you're growing.

Skip to content