How to garden

How to garden

Whether you’re a seasoned landscaper, just starting to garden, or need some help with an established plot, we have guidelines and best practices to help you grow healthy plants in your own yard and garden.

Try What’s wrong with my plant? for a step-by-step guide through diagnosing a plant problem.

Starting, maintaining and harvesting your garden

The Upper Midwest home gardening calendar shows recommended timing for everything you need to do to grow great flower and vegetable gardens in Minnesota.

Check the Master Gardener Seed Trial recommendations each year for newly tested varieties of flowers and vegetables that grow well in Minnesota gardens.

Starting a garden

    — Properly disinfecting your tools can help keep diseases out of your garden and potted plants. — Companion planting is a great way to use space efficiently in the garden. — Practical methods for heating the soil in spring and protecting your garden through the first frost. — Planning ahead will help you avoid common diseases and pests that can affect a healthy harvest. — When you plant is as important as where and how if you want vegetables well into the fall. (video) (video)

Composting, fertilizing and weeding

Harvesting and storing

Small-scale hydroponics — Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. You can grow hydroponically all year long.

Managing diseases, pests and other common problems

    – Properly disinfecting your tools can help keep diseases out of your garden and potted plants. — Companion planting is a great way to use space efficiently in the garden. It also can protect your plants from some insects. – Planning ahead will help you avoid common diseases and pests that can affect a healthy harvest. – Temperature deviations in spring can cause issues that make cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and lettuce bitter or cause the crop to fail.

Care and maintenance of lawns and landscape plants

The Minnesota lawn care calendar is a handy schedule of activities that will help you keep your lawn healthy throughout the year.

How to care for trees and shrubs

How to garden in challenging situations

The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites (2007)— Download a book of recommendations from Master Gardeners on the best plants for 30 tough garden sites, such as dry shade, slopes, lakeshores, etc. Includes lists of plants with special traits such as self-seeding, long-blooming, and minimal litter trees.

Gardening in the shade — Understand shady areas in your yard and how to create gardens in them.

Follow these tips and tricks for growing gorgeous vegetables, flowers, and plants.

How to garden

In late March, interest in growing a garden hit an all-time high, according to Google Trends, while U.S. seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co. reportedly sold more seeds then than any time in its 144-year history. The reason was simple: People were craving a smart solution to address the food supply anxiety that the coronavirus outbreak has caused (read more on that here).

But even as life slowly returns to “normal,” the intrigue around starting a garden remains — Good Housekeeping saw a nearly 200% increase in interest around our gardening content in May 2020 compared to last year.

Whether you desire to exercise your creativity, boost your home’s curb appeal, or lead a healthier lifestyle, starting a garden from scratch is a fun way to accomplish these goals. In fact, Gwenn Fried, manager of Horticulture Therapy at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, notes that it’s worth truly considering its health benefits, ranging from lowering blood pressure to lifting your mood. “Nature has a huge impact on health and wellness,” says Fried. “We know that people’s cortisol levels go down in a calm, green environment.”

Along with a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get a bit dirty, growing a healthy garden as a novice calls for patience and basic knowledge about plant types (and how to arrange them), the proper way to tend to soil, and the best tools to rely on. Here, we’re sharing the ultimate gardening guide for beginners, whether you’re looking to grow healthy vegetables or Instagram-worthy plants and flowers. Plus, discover some of our favorite gardening tools available to shop online right now.

How to garden Planting the home vegetable garden is one of the most enjoyable phases of gardening. Planting is easy, so everyone can participate. Everyone enjoys watching a seed they planted sprout and begin to grow. To be successful, some equipment and supplies are needed. Make sure you have them on hand before planting time.


Purchasing seeds early gives you time to order varieties that might not be available locally. Consult the individual Easy Gardening crop publications for recommended varieties. Most seed companies will send a catalog of vegetable types and varieties on request.

Refer to your garden plan to see how much of each vegetable to plant. Do not order more seed than needed for the spring and fall gardening seasons. While most seeds can be held over for use the following year if properly stored, it is usually best to get new seeds at least every 2 years.

Before planting last year’s seeds, test their germination by placing 10 or 20 seeds between two layers of paper towel. Place the towel in a bowl or plate and keep it moist for a few days. Then count the number of seeds that sprout. If one-half or fewer of the seeds sprout, purchase new seeds (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Seeds for germination.

Many crops do better if they are started indoors and then transplanted into the garden. It is always best to use transplants when growing broccoli, cauliflower, pepper, eggplant and tomato. Home gardeners can grow their own transplants or purchase them. If you decide to purchase transplants, select good quality, healthy plants that are free of insects and diseases.

Harden home-grown transplants before planting them in the garden. About 10 days before transplanting, treat plants in the following manner:

  • Reduce watering but do not allow plants to wilt.
  • Gradually expose plants to garden conditions by placing them outside in a protected spot.
  • Do not fertilize before transplanting.

Purchased transplants may be well hardened at the time of purchase. The nurseryman can answer this question. Do not over-harden plants, as this will stunt them.


The planting equipment you will need depends on the size of the garden. In large gardens a hand planter or garden tractor may be useful. In most home gardens a hoe, rake, hand trowel, string, stakes and labels are sufficient.


Plant cool-season crops such as lettuce and broccoli as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. If planted too late, high summer temperature will cause low yield and poor quality.

Do not plant warm-season crops such as beans and tomatoes until the soil has warmed. These crops grow poorly or not at all when the soil temperature is below 65 degrees F. For fall gardens, plant warm season crops early enough to mature before the first frost.


Plant seeds when the soil is moist but not wet. Soil worked when wet may crust over and prevent seedlings from breaking through.

Use a string stretched between two stakes as a guide to keep the rows straight. Vegetables planted in straight rows are less likely to be accidentally cut off during hoeing and are easier to distinguish from weeds in the seedling stage.

Use a hoe handle, narrow stick, or a similar tool to make a seeding trench along the string. Do not plant seeds too deep. Plant small seeds such as carrot, greens, radish, and lettuce ¼ to ½ inch deep. Plant medium-sized seeds such as beet and okra ½ to 1 inch deep. Plant large seeds such as bean, corn and squash 1 to 1½ inches deep (Fig. 2).

How to garden

Figure 2. Plant seeds at the proper depth.

To get a good stand, plant more seeds than needed and thin the plants after they have come up to get the proper spacing. This is especially important if old seeds are used. Thin plants while they are still small to avoid damaging them. Seedlings that aren’t thinned will be crowded and will not grow and yield as well as they will with sufficient room (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Plant more seeds than you need, then thin the plants.


The ideal time to transplant is as soon as the soil dries after a rain. Transplant on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon. This gives the plant time to recover from transplanting before it is exposed to the sun.

Thoroughly water the transplants before planting. Using a hoe or trowel, make holes deep enough in the row so the plants can be set slightly deeper than where they grew in the pots.

Make a starter solution by dissolving 2 tablespoons of garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in 1 gallon of water. Fill the hole with the starter solution and allow it to soak into the soil.

Then remove the transplant from the pot or tray, set it in the hole, and firm the soil around the roots. Leave a dish-shaped depression around the plant to hold water. Water well to make sure the soil is in good contact with the roots.

When setting out plants growing in peat pots, cover all of the pot with soil. Peat pots exposed to the air draw moisture away from the plant roots (Fig. 4).

How to garden

Figure 4. When transplanting plants in peat pots, make sure the pots are covered by soil.

Hot caps or other protection may be needed to protect eggplant, pepper and tomato plants from late spring frosts. Be prepared to protect plants each time freezing weather is expected. Remove protection as soon as frost danger is past (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Protect young plants from freezing weather.

Plants set in the garden in late summer for a faIl garden will need some protection from the sun. A shingle, piece of cardboard, or similar object placed on the west side of the plant will provide shade (Fig. 6).

How to garden

Plants set in the garden in late summer for a faIl garden will need some protection from the sun. A shingle, piece of cardboard, or similar object placed on the west side of the plant will provide shade (Fig. 6).

Download a printer-friendly version of this page: How to Plant a Garden

View this publication in Spanish: Cómo plantar un jardín

Chris and Peyton Lambton, hosts of DIY’s “Yard Crashers,” crashed the plaza Friday to show what how you — yes, you — can plant a successful garden this season, no matter how much of a novice you may be.

How to garden

Spring gardening tips: Here's how to get your yard ready

Essential gardening tools

Regardless of your level of gardening experience, there are tools every gardener should have.

Hand trowel: This is used for breaking up earth, digging small holes, mixing in fertilizer or other additives, and transferring plants to pots. And these start as low as $4.

Hand snips: These pruners are big enough for trees and shrubs, and can handle a slew of gardening tasks, from removing deadhead flowers to clipping herbs and harvest vegetables. They start as low at $10.

Hand cultivator: This is used to turn the soil where plants and vegetables are planted, or it can be used to remove weeds from soil in a garden. For small flower or vegetable gardens, a hand cultivator can be used like a small plow to turn the earth and dig the planting rows. You can find them for as low as $6.

Choosing plants

Choosing plants for a garden can be a tricky process, but here are the two things to keep in mind:

  1. Analyze your landscape’s environmental conditions and select plants according to their ability to thrive in a specific spot. Native (indigenous) plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant and low-maintenance landscape.
  2. If you’re a beginner, they suggest using easy starter plants like begonias, dahlias and herbs. Vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, carrots and green beans are hardy and easy to care for too.

How to plant

Now that you have your plants, it’s time to, you know, actually plant them. Here’s what to know:

  • When planting bulbs, make sure to prepare the soil, determine the plant depth, place bulbs nose up/roots down and give plenty of water.
  • It’s important to group plants that have similar needs in terms of sun, water and soil conditions. Place plants far enough apart so they have room to grow, but close enough so you don’t waste precious garden space.

How to maintain your garden

Now all you have to do is keep those plants alive! Don’t be intimidated. Here are some easy tip sand tricks to make your garden thrive.

You can easily repurpose your wine bottles for your garden. Use the bottle to water your soil and the cork to mark your plants.

  1. Wash the wine bottle thoroughly and then fill it with water. Quickly flip it upside down, pushing the open end deep into the soil. It will provide a steady supply of water and save you a few days of watering your plant. You can choose to use a green or brown bottle to better blend in with your garden.
  2. Instead of buying plant markers, you can use a Sharpie to write out your plant names on corks. Carefully drill about an inch into the center of each cork and then insert the end of a bamboo skewer into the hole before planting the marker in the soil.

Crushed eggshells are an effective and inexpensive way to enrich your soil and give your plants a calcium boost. They also deter pests like snails.

  1. Rinse your saved eggshells thoroughly and then spread them evenly on a baking sheet, broken-side down, and bake them for 20-30 minutes at 200 degrees..
  2. Once they’re dry and cool, you can grind them up using a mallet or a food processor.
  3. Sprinkle the shells around the base of your plants. Store any leftover crushed shells in an airtight container for later use.

You can use everyday kitchen supplies to make two easy sprays for your plants. One keeps pests away, and the other kills weeds.

Last year, when friends learnt I was graduating from a balcony to a garden, their response was almost universal. “You must be so excited!” they gasped, kindly. Sometimes it was easier to grin along and agree rather than admit the truth: I was terrified.

Soil! Cats! Self-seeded things! Lawns! Balcony gardening was something of a corset, but I’d made myself quite at home within its whalebones over the previous six years.

I’d battled pigeons and squirrels, dealt with drainage and rain shadows, and knew my way around rudimentary structural engineering. Now I was to embark on a brave new world of seasonal changes and fox poo. I felt deeply unqualified.

A year on and the blank rectangle of turf with a dance floor-sized patio has grown up a little. A hollyhock peers over the top of the back wall, dahlias – the first I have ever grown – paint a rainbow where tulips stood three months ago.

I’m the proud custodian of a new water butt, and nary a potato peel escapes the compost bin. This is the first baby step on a long journey of gardening – and this is everything I’ve learned so far.

Gardening tips for beginners


Don’t necessarily wait a year “to see what turns up”. This is the classic advice given to new gardeners, or those with new gardens. But, if you’re starting with a relatively untended space, don’t be afraid to get stuck in.


The gardening calendar can stun you into paralysis. For everyone who likes to sow sweet peas on Boxing Day or start tomato feeding on June 21, there are people like me who believe in a generous six-week window around the time when things “should” be done. Throw in our increasingly unpredictable seasons – and sometimes the best time to do it is when you have the time.


There will come a point where the best way to start a planting scheme is just to go to a very good garden centre and buy as much as you can afford/can’t resist. I was fortunate that this moment collided with a spontaneous trip to Beth Chatto’s nursery.


Wider beds, always. But make sure you give yourself a route in. If you don’t have the space for a sneaky path around the back of a border, create stepping stones – I use bricks and small paving slabs.


An afternoon spent putting training wire in place – with vine eyes, if you have walls, or hooks or steel angles if you don’t – will save many future hours of attempting to stake things.


Keep a note of beautiful varieties blooming in other people’s gardens. Instagram remains the best kind of shopping list.


Buy plants in multiples of threes and fives only. I know it seems indulgent but one rogue variety of dahlia looks ridiculous.


Buying from specialist nurseries online will seem daunting initially and then become far more satisfying than a trip to the garden centre. You can never be too early to buy certain things (I ordered my dahlias, all five singular varieties of them, in October). Keeping an eye out for the sales is always worthwhile.


When some of these orders turn out to be something else, it’s worth ringing up to see about a replacement, but if, inevitably, they don’t have what you ordered months before, just enjoy your lucky dip regardless. (No one got their pheasant’s eye narcissus this year, BTW.)


There will be rogue colours in your beds. My “no orange” rule went out the window, courtesy of some accidental geums and some poppies I expected to be pale pink. As a wise friend said: “Colour schemes are for Monty.”


“Finely raked tilth” is lovely, but scattering annual seed with wild abandon into any space you’ve got also works.


Plant more alliums.


Sweet peas are hardier than you think. Honestly.


If your sweet peas survive frost, but not an unseasonably autumnal May, you can buy plugs right into the summer.


You really, really don’t have to sow everything frantically early. March is fine for the organised. May will do for most things. It is still worth bothering in June.


Take photos. Lots of them. And not just Instagram-worthy close-ups. I marked up my pics from spring with all the areas I’d failed to put bulbs in, which I’ll be grateful for in October.


Leaving bits of the lawn long brings goldfinches to the yard.


Hang on to your shed even if you want to replace it. I foolishly let my nephew and brother-in-law deconstruct the rotting metal one that came with the garden within days of moving in, without knowing about the national shed shortage. Three months later, I finally got another one.


Mulch is sexy. The effect of well-rotted manure on my sad, gritty loam-pretending-to-be-clay soil is amazing. I will mulch every year now; in gradual stages from November to New Year, having dragged a near-tonne of the stuff through the house. It’s the best way to suppress weeds and have healthy plants.


Squirrels chew through fairy light wires.


There are few more satisfying ways to jazz up a winter garden lacking in evergreens than by painting a fence. Black is my favourite – green pops against it, the pale pink of Clematis montana even more so – but whatever you go for, do two coats and keep the leftovers for a quick garden furniture glow-up.


Facebook Marketplace is a bargain container haven.


Bamboo cloches will defy squirrels but they will uproot your potted tulips if they’re not sunk in deeply enough. Topping with gravel helps – a bit.


You can keep slugs away but only for so long. Applying Nemaslug nematodes in March, and again in May, on drizzly days, saved the hardy annuals I’d been nurturing in a cold frame from devastation. This produced a false sense of security that led to all of my nicotiana being munched in the June deluge. I could deploy beer traps and grapefruit halves (not pellets, this is an organic garden, thank you) but soon enough the thrushes and blackbirds will find the slugs.


Watching a bumble bee feast in your garden outweighs slug damage, and is a useful reminder to avoid the pesticides.


After a long winter, there is nothing more cheering than a daffodil.


It is very difficult to kill a rose, but David Austin have a little-known five-year replacement policy if yours fails to thrive.


You need more browns (cardboard, leaves, newspaper) in your compost than you think.


Alkanet looks a lot like a fun pulmonaria. The gift of this ignorance is a surprise patch to fill with a plant that isn’t green alkanet.


A swift inspection once a day will keep you on top of weeding and snail ambush. I snatch five minutes before breakfast. Heavenly, even in hail.

I really, really, really want to have a garden with my child this year. I imagine us going out back and picking beautiful veggies and eating strawberries straight from the …vine? Strawberries grow on vines…right?

Ok, ok…I have never had a garden before. I have no idea where I want to start. None.

My husband laughed when I said I’d be making a garden this year with my boys. Not a little chuckle laugh…a hardy, you’re crazy kind of laugh. And I can’t really blame him…I have killed every single plant I’ve ever tried to grow. Every. Single. One.

So, knowing that I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world, I’ve been searching for help on the internet. I’ve compiled a list of resources that I hope will help me on my journey to having “World’s Best Garden!” Ok, maybe not. I’ll just take an “Ok Garden that Grew A Few Things”.

I can’t be the only one who wants to grow a garden with their kids, but has no idea where to begin. So, I thought I’d share my research with you. Ready? Here We Go.

How to garden

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The Basics:

I started off by purchasing a book called Gardening Projects for Kids. This thing is packed full of great ideas for what to grow with kids as well as some fun activities to do for your garden, with your kids. I’m loving it!

This post really helped me with WHEN to start planting…because I have no idea. I figured in a few months…well I was WRONG! Looks like I need to head to the store soon!

Another post from that site gave me some great beginner gardening tips. Because I’m a total beginner and I need all the tips I can get!

I’ll be planting a container garden…why dig up my backyard when I don’t know if I’ll be a good gardener? So…again for the same site…she shares some best plants for a container garden. Who knew some foods didn’t grow well in containers? I didn’t!

Nurturestore has a ton of information about gardening with kids, but I really like this post about how to start your garden. You should check out the planters she made out of old rain boots! I’m totally doing this…good excuse for new boots too.

What to Plant:

This is the piece that I’m totally clueless about…wait no…I’m pretty clueless about all of it. But this was the part I was the most interested in.

The Educator’s Spin on it has a list of great veggies to grow with kids…Including some for the beginner gardener.

I found an entire blog called Kids in The Garden and they have a post all about vegetables to grow with kids and another post about growing fruit with kids. Score!

How to garden

Make it Fun For Kids.

I want my garden to be fun for my son, so I’m looking into ways to make it more engaging for him.

Inspiration Laboratories has a post about how to use recycled containers as planters. Some of these are downright brilliant…time to start saving all those recyclables again.

Want to make fun creatures out of plants? Happy Whimsical Hearts made Sprout Heads!

And I love these plant markers from Dilly-Dally Art.

I even found this plant journal from Lemon Lime Adventures so that kids can write about their garden. How fun is that?

Other Posts All About the Garden

I found some really great posts that have lots of info about gardening with kids. They are worth a quick read!

At Home With Ali has a three part series all about gardens and kids. I loved it and got some really great ideas from her.

The Educator’s Spin on It shared the Good, Bad, and the Ugly of gardening….now there shouldn’t be any surprises…right?

Need a whole list of Gardening with Kids Tips? Kids Activities Blog has some great ones.

And finally…a little Wikki How article on how to keep your plants from dying. This is a must have article in my book. Planting the seeds is the easy part. Keeping them from dying is where I really need help.

Ok, with all that, I can’t fail…right? Well, we are heading to the store this weekend to pick up our seeds and plants. I’ll make sure to keep you posted on how our garden is growing. Fingers crossed I don’t kill too many of our plants.

How to garden

If you want the freshest produce possible, consider planting your own home garden—after all, you can’t get any closer to your kitchen table than your own backyard. Growing your own vegetables is thrifty, too. According to the National Gardening Association, the average family with a garden spends $70 on their crops—but they grow an estimated $600 worth of veggies!

10 Steps to Starting a Vegetable Garden

To get started, here are 10 steps recommended by the National Gardening Association.

1. Choose the right location

Choose a location for the garden that has plenty of sun, ample space and close proximity to your hose or water source. Find a level area to help prevent erosion.

2. Select your veggies

Decide what produce to include based on your climate, space, tastes and level of expertise. Newcomers may want to consider some of the easier crops to grow, like carrots, beans, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce.

3. Prepare the soil

Mix compost and natural fertilizers into your garden to condition the soil for your plants. Garden-supply stores can test the acidity of your soil and recommend supplements, or you can simply purchase specially made soil in bulk.

4. Check planting dates

Growing conditions and ripening cycles are different depending on the plant and the season, so you should not sow all the seeds at the same time. Planting dates can be found on seed packets. Review the ideal conditions for each veggie you want to plant before creating a gardening schedule.

5. Plant the seeds

Place your seeds or plants into the soil, following the depth and spacing directions carefully.

6. Add water

Gently spray the garden with water to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Purchase a spray nozzle for your hose so you can create a gentle rain-like mist for your garden.

7. Keep the weeds out

Mulching is the most effective way to prevent weeds. Add a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch to your garden to keep the weeds from overtaking your crops. If weeds do appear in the garden, grab them low on their stems and yank sharply, making sure to extract the entire root.

8. Give your plants room to grow

Check the spacing guide on the seed packets and be sure to remove crowded seedlings right away.

9. Fertilize as needed

Lightly till the soil by hand and add fertilizer to keep it rich. You can purchase prepared garden fertilizer or make your own from items like Epsom salt, eggshells, fish tank water and kitchen compost.

10. Reap what you sow

Harvest vegetables when they’re young and tender—but only pick them when you plan to use them. Pull root crops as soon as they reach edible size. Collect leaf crops by cutting them to within 2 inches of the ground. Finally, enjoy your harvest!

Did you know that there is a homeowners insurance policy that covers structures that are not attached to your home? Learn more about the different types of homeowners insurance.

How to garden

When creating a space for a new flower bed or veggie garden, it’s important to first prepare the soil. This is especially true if you’re working with compacted or clay soil. Tilling and adding compost give you a head start to a better growing season.

When to Till a Garden

It’s best to till a new garden in the spring when soil is dry and weather is becoming warm. For some, this may be as early as March, while others may have to wait until May or early June depending on the region and climate. Tilling wet soil damages the valuable, existing structure which you’ll need as your garden grows. Insert a trowel into the soil to determine when it is dry. If it’s difficult to insert and the soil feels dry to the touch, it’s ready.

How to garden

How to Till a Garden

Follow these 11 steps to best till your garden:

    1. It’s best to prepare your spring garden in the fall and sheet mulch before rains set in.

    To sheet mulch, first determine where your new garden will grow, remove any large weeds or shrubby plants, and wet soil using Gilmour’s Heavy Duty Front Control Watering Nozzle and Flexogen Super Duty Hose.

      1. Next, place a layer of cardboard over the soil surface.

      The cardboard is a natural weed barrier and a source of carbon.

        1. Top the cardboard with one to two inches of weed-and-seed-free grass clippings and organic compost.

        Then add a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch over the compost, using leaves, bark, or another organic mulch.

          1. Again, wet the newly sheet mulched area using your watering nozzle and hose.
          2. Let nature do its work through fall and winter until spring.
          3. When weather warms and the soil is dry, double-dig your new garden area.

          This is much easier to do after a season of sheet mulching. To double-dig, dig a 12-inch-wide trench with a spade that reaches to the depth of the spade (about 8 inches). Dig the trench from one end of your new garden to the other end, placing the soil from the trench on a nearby tarp or in a wheelbarrow.

            1. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench.

            Once loosened, but not turned, sprinkle a 2-inch layer of compost into the trench and gently work it into the soil.

              1. Next, dig another, separate trench directly adjacent to the first trench.

              Again, dig this trench so it runs the full length of the new garden. As you dig, place the soil from this second trench into the opening of the first trench. It’s best to avoid mixing the soil when moving it from one trench to the other, so let it slide off your spade rather than turning it. This will help maintain beneficial soil structure.

                1. Work the base of the trench with a garden fork and spread a 2-inch layer of compost.
                2. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you’ve covered the entire area of the new garden.
                3. Fill the final trench with the soil from the very first trench (the soil placed on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow).

                Before planting, spread a final 2-inch layer of compost over the entire bed.

                How to garden

                Benefits of Tilling Garden Soil

                When you sheet mulch in fall and double-dig in spring, it prepares a planting area that is ready to grow a fabulous garden while working with nature. Soil is habitat for microbes and animals like worms that do much of the work of maintaining healthy soil. When we double-dig instead of using a machine like a rototiller, we till in such a way that is least destructive to soil health while adding aeration and organic matter.

                Garden Tilling FAQ’s

                How deep do I till a garden?

                Double-digging adds aeration and organic matter to soil as deep as 18 inches. This is twice as deep as a typical rototiller, giving plants and their root systems the very best start.

                How do I prepare garden soil?

                Remember to first prepare garden soil with sheet mulching, this will make the work of double-digging in spring far easier. It also adds organic matter and helps manage weeds in advance. Sheet mulching is also a great method for converting lawn into a garden. Simply place your sheet mulching layers over the grass.

                How do I turn soil?

                It’s best to not turn soil often. Most soils develop over years, forming layers that are home to a variety of animals needed to grow healthy gardens. When we move soil in the double-digging approach to tilling, we add aeration and organic matter while disturbing natural soil ecology as little as possible.

                It’s easier than you think toplant an in-ground garden. Get tips for choosing the location and plants, creating thedesign, building the soil, and more.

                How to garden

                Do you dream of a backyard filled with delicious dinner ingredients but don’t know where to begin? Maybe you’ve been gazing at that perfect patch of sunny space in your yard but worry that turning it into a garden will be a difficult chore. Forget your worries and start planning your menus, because creating an in-ground garden can actually be a pretty simple process! Here’s what to do.

                1. Choose the right location

                First, select a space that’s fairly level and drains well, as your plants will be unhappy in standing water. Choose a location near the house, if possible. The more visible the garden, the more likely you’ll be to spot any problems like droopy plants or pest-eaten leaves early on, giving you time to handle them before they get out of control. A garden located near the house or walkway also makes it easier to quickly harvest a handful of herbs when you’re cooking or to pluck ripe tomatoes at their prime.

                When selecting your site, look for a space that receives six to eight hours of full sun. Most vegetables and fruit, like peppers, tomatoes, and melons, need full sun to thrive and produce bountiful harvests. If your space is only partly sunny, don’t despair—you can still grow crops like lettuce, kale, and many herbs. Know, too, that the amount of sunlight the space receives might vary during the year. A garden space that’s full sun in December may turn into a shady spot once the deciduous trees leaf out in the spring.

                Also, locating your in-ground garden near a water source will make your life much easier. Gardens need about an inch of water each week, and during dry periods, you’ll need to assist Mother Nature in watering the garden. When that happens, you won’t want to have to drag a hose across the lawn.

                Think about garden size, too. If you’re a new gardener, you may want to keep your first in-ground garden relatively small.

                Finally, remember that existing shrubs, trees, or other plants near the garden will compete with your vegetables and herbs for water and nutrients. Also, avoid planting near black walnut trees, which contain a toxin that kills vegetable plants.

                2. Create the design.

                Once you’ve selected a site for your in-ground garden, spend a little time envisioning how you’d like it to look. Measure the space and use graph paper to plot out the dimensions. If it covers a sizable area, divide it into beds that are no wider than four feet so you can reach across to plant, weed, and harvest without having to step on the soil. Be sure to leave space for paths between the beds, and make them wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.

                3. Choose your plants.

                Next, think about what you want to grow. Make a list of vegetables and herbs you like to eat and add them to your garden plan, paying attention to how much space each individual plant will need. Our free Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app is a great resource for this information, as well as info on plant sizes, sun needs, length to harvest, and more. You’ll also find this info on the vegetables and vegetables sections of our website. If you plan to grow peas, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, or other vining plants, sketch in trellises or cages to support them. (Make sure to place these where they won’t shade other crops.) Place crops that spread—like pumpkins and watermelons—where they can grow out onto the grass and not take over the entire garden.

                To find the best tomatoes and peppers for your needs and your garden, check out our interactive Tomato Chooser and Pepper Chooser. And don’t forget to add some flowers to your plan that will help draw pollinators!

                How to garden

                4. Remove the existing lawn.

                Now it’s time to head outside to your garden area. Measure out your garden beds according to your plan, then outline them by sprinkling some flour or placing stakes in each corner and attaching strings between them. Once you’ve outlined your space, rake it to remove any debris. Then, remove the grass (and any rocks or sticks you dig up) with a sod cutter or sharp spade.

                5. Build the soil.

                You may think you’re ready to plant, but there’s one more important thing to do first: Improve the soil. Strong, healthy plants need good soil to thrive and produce well, and your existing soil may not be rich enough to support your garden. The easiest way to improve your soil is to mix a few inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables and Herbs in with the existing dirt to both improve the texture and add just the right nutrients to get your plants off to a strong, well-fed start. (Bonus: It will also help protect against over- and under-watering.) A couple of other options are to mix compost in with the native soil or, if you’re feeling ambitious, do a soil test and follow the instructions for adding amendments.

                6. Set out your plants.

                When you’re ready to plant, choose Bonnie Plants. With more than a 100 years of experience, we know how to grow strong, vigorous plants for your garden. You can find your nearest Bonnie Plants retailer here.

                Set your plants out according to your garden plan, then check each plant tag to see how deep to plant it. Dig holes, place plants in the holes at the right depth, then fill in around the plants with soil. Gently press down around the base of each plant and water well to remove air pockets and settle the soil. After all of your plants are in their new home, add a layer of mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.

                7. Maintain your new in-ground garden.

                Congratulations—you’ve created an in-ground garden! Of course, you’ll need to do a little maintenance during the growing season to help your plants along: