The Complete Guide to Growing a Garden Full of Flowers, Herbs, & Vegetables

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Gardening has been around as long as humans, and has a wide range of benefits associated with it. Not only is it a fun leisure activity, but it’s also useful for harvesting healthy and fresh food in your own backyard.

For anyone who’s looking to dip their toes in the gardening pond or even for those that have more experience in the trade of growing, it’s likely that questions will arise from time to time. Luckily, we’re here with your go-to guide for all of your harvesting needs, leading you to a bountiful garden year after year.

Gardening: It’s For Everyone!

Research shows that more people are gardening in today’s world than ever before. 35 percent of all American households are growing food either at home or in a community garden (as of 2014), equating to an astounding 42 million active household gardeners. In the spring of 2017, 117.6 million Americans reported that they had gardened in the past twelve months.

The National Gardening Survey revealed that Baby Boomers, married households, and those with annual incomes in an excess of $75,000 as well as college graduates were among those who spent the most on gardening. Furthermore, five million of the six million reported “new” gardening households were Millennials, aged 18- to 34-years old.

The same survey reported that food gardening and flower gardening were the most popular in 2015 among gardening activities, and that approximately one out of every three households participated in food gardening or flower gardening.

Gardeners are willing to invest in their gardens, too. Households spent an estimated $3.6 billion growing their own vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs and another $2.7 billion on flower gardening in 2015.

The Benefits of Growing a Gardening

Gardening is not only suited for everyone, it has a wide range of benefits associated with it, too!:

  • Stress relief: It’s been reported that gardening lowers one’s cortisol levels, which is the “stress hormone”. In a study, those who spent 30 minutes gardening outdoors reported better moods than those who spent the same amount of time indoor reading.

  • Immunity booster: Spending time around plants and dirt is known to boost one’s immune levels.

  • Physical activity: Gardening provides the opportunity for physical exercise to those that participate in it, adding to one’s overall health.

  • Exposure to Vitamin D: Gardening and spending time outside provides individuals with exposure to the sun, which means receiving vitamin D.

  • A sharpened mind: A study found that regular gardening could reduce the chance of dementia by up to 36 percent, making it a great activity to do to keep one’s mind sharp.

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Gardening for Beginners

Below, learn how simple it is to start your own flower, herb, and vegetable gardens to begin reaping the benefits that millions of Americans enjoy as a result of their hard work outside.

Flower Growing for Beginners

You may be wondering how to take a drab square of soil to a colorful and lush garden that helps to create beautiful bouquets. It’s easy! Here are some tips to start your flower garden from ground zero:

  • Get to know your planting site: You’ll want to choose a great spot within your yard to plant flowers on. This means taking some time to get to know the area - how much moisture does it typically receive? How much sunlight does it attract each day? What is the terrain and soil right? This will help you to make important decisions that will set up your flower garden for success.

  • Conduct a soil test: Collect soil samples by digging a hole one foot deep and then taking a few tablespoons of soil, completing the process throughout your scouted garden spot until you fill a quart-sized jar. Send your soil sample to a testing lab or bring it to your local nursery to learn about its conditions and how to best treat it while gardening.

  • Design your oasis: This is the fun part! Choose a color palette, figure out the best shape for your garden to take, and determine how many flowers you’ll need to fill the space. To achieve a pleasing aesthetic, pull one layer subtly into another for a natural look and utilize repetition of shapes and colors to maintain continuity.

Kill-Proof Flowers

Especially if you’re just starting your flower garden, you’ll want flowers that are easy to grow and maintain. Here are the best kill-proof flowers to invest in to make your floral fantasies come to life:

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  • Sunflowers: Not only do these flowers brighten up any garden, but their seeds are large and easy to handle. They grow easily in sunny gardens and come in a range of sizes.
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  • Marigolds: Growing in shades of yellow, red, and gold these flowers bloom in sunny gardens all summer long. These flowers can grow to be up to five feet tall, but they’re also available in more stunted sizes.
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  • Pansies: Adding a beautiful pop of color to any garden, pansies are easy to take care of and bloom well in cooler temperatures, mainly in the spring and fall. All these pretty pansies need is sun and well-draining soil.
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  • Begonias: These flowers need only a combination of sun and shade to grow to be lush and colorful in any garden or hanging planter.
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  • Daffodils: Plant these once and you’ll reap the benefits year after year. Daffodil bulbs will bring you the gift of their sunny appearance as the weather turns each spring. These are suitable in gardens and containers and only require partial sunlight to bloom.

Herb Growing for Beginners

Herb growing, luckily, is just as easy and rewarding as flower growing is. Expand your new garden with these tips for easy herb growth.

Set up your herb garden for success by following these tips:

  • While herbs can grow in pots or containers, they prefer to be in the ground where they have the ability to spread out.

  • The most important thing for successful herb gardening is to plant them in the right spot. Herbs thrive in sunny areas that don’t ever reach temperatures of over 90 degrees. These plants also require well-draining soil and do best with some fertilizer or compost.

  • Prepare the soil for herb planting by digging with a large garden fork that will loosen any compacted dirt. Add about an inch of compost to the top of your soil and mix it thoroughly.

  • Once you plant your herbs in your prepared soil, water them whenever their soil is dry. Check this often, as temperature and humidity levels will affect the time it takes for your plants to soak up water.

Easy Herbs to Plant and Grow

Many herbs are easy to plant and grow for beginner gardeners. Even better, many of these herbs have a wealth of uses in the kitchen:

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  • Sage: This herb is commonly used for cooking and is easy to grow. Plant this in a sunny spot with fertile and well-drained soil. Don’t plant sage in an area that is prone to flooding as it doesn’t like a wet ground. Some sage varieties even have colored leaves, making them a beautiful addition to any garden.
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  • Mint: Always have the necessities on hand to muddle your own mint for a mojito by planting this easy-to-grow herb. Purchase a young mint plant from your local nursery and plant it in your garden wherever it will receive full sun. This herb spreads easily, so it may be a smart idea to plant it in pots to keep it from taking over your garden.
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  • Rosemary: This herb loves both sun and shade and isn’t picky about soil, as long as it’s not too wet. That makes this a perfect herb for any gardener who’s just getting started.
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  • Basil: An incredibly versatile herb, basil is very tasty, too. This plant enjoys warmer weather and prefers full sun for optimal growth.
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  • Dill: This herb will give your garden a new dimension with its unique texture. Dill likes rich, well-drained soil that receives full sun. Once harvested, use dill in salads or enjoy in creams or sauces.

Vegetable Growing for Beginners

If you’re looking to further supplement your kitchen and grow your garden, vegetables are the perfect choice. They may seem like an intimidating to grow if you haven’t planted any before, but getting started on your own vegetable garden is easy when you follow these tips for planting and growing:

  • Choose the right location: The success of your vegetable garden will rely on the correct location. The following factors are a part of the recipe for a perfect vegetable garden:

    • Choose a spot that receives six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.

    • Select an area with soft soil for roots to easily penetrate. Enrich your soil with compost so that plants get the nutrients they need, and ensure that the soil in your garden drains well, not letting water pool at the top but also not draining too quickly.

    • A stable environment is needed to ensure the longevity of your veggie garden. Thus, don’t choose an area that’s prone to either flooding or drying out. Also avoid areas that frequently receive heavy winds.

  • Space crops properly: When planting vegetables, be sure to give them the room they need to properly flourish. If you plant crops too closely together, they may end up competing for sunlight, water, and nutrition.

Easy Vegetables to Plant and Grow

There are so many vegetables to be grown, but when you’re just starting out, focus on harvesting those that can make you a staple salad. They’re easy to plant, nurture, and eventually harvest!

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  • Lettuce: You can’t make a salad without lettuce, and luckily - it’s easy to grow! It can grow next to flowers or under taller plants, and lettuce plants grow well in shaded area. Lettuce is also easy to harvest - all you have to do is snip the tops off the plants or pick leaves as you need them.
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  • Tomatoes: These are probably the most popular vegetable to grow because they’re versatile. They can fit seamlessly into any sized garden, whether it be in the ground, in containers, or in hanging baskets. Place them in the center of your garden with stalks for support in a spot that receives an abundance of sunlight.
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  • Carrots: Carrots are also easy to grow, especially in raised bed gardens. These veggies prefer full sun but can also tolerate some shade and still grow to their full potential.
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  • Cucumbers: No salad is complete without crisp cucumbers! These plants like sunlight and warm temperatures, and they also need support for climbing as they grow. They need regular water, but with that, they’ll grow quickly.

A Guide for Experienced Gardeners

So you know you’re way around the garden, but you’re looking to learn more? This is the section for you. See below for our best tips and tricks to elevate your already strong gardening game.

Getting Rid of Garden Pests

Whether your planting flowers, herbs, or vegetables, you may find throughout your gardening experience that pests make their way into the area, wreaking havoc on your carefully curated plants. Use the following tips to keep your garden safe from bugs:

  • Keep soil healthy: Maintaining healthy soil is a good way to not necessarily keep bugs out, but to ensure your plants can withstand their presence. Keep your garden’s soil healthy by using compost or mulch regularly and by ensuring that your soil is not turned too often.

  • Decipher between good and bad pests: Not all bugs are bad for a garden! Some actually help pollinate plants and eat other, harmful pests. The graphic below details good versus bad pests: growing a garden-BUGS

  • Ward off bugs:  A sure-fire way to keep your garden in good shape is to keep bugs out. For natural remedies, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and eggshells help keep certain species of bugs away. Chemical sprays are another option to take care of this issue.

Flower Growing for Experienced Gardeners

If you’ve found planting, growing, and harvesting flowers to be a cinch, you may want to hone in on your floral garden design skills by using the below tips and tricks for the ultimate aesthetic:

  • Plant for year round pleasure: When planting perennials, be sure to plant a variety that grow throughout the entirety of the year. These florals all bloom for a month or so during one of the four seasons, so mixing it up means that you’ll have a colorful garden at virtually all times. growing a garden-FLOWER GROWTH

  • Avoid monotony: To ensure that your garden has variety and different dimensions to it, choose plants in a variety of heights.

  • Add greens: Flower gardens should include greens to complement the colors. Use evergreens or ornamental grasses to keep your garden interesting.

Furthermore, if you’ve mastered the art of flower growing when it comes to simple florals, it may be time to move on to those that are more rare and complex. Here are some of the best options to expand your floral horizons:

  • Hoya: These flowers occur naturally when nestled in a tree branch or bark crevice. To bloom these in your garden, provide them with sharply draining soil and provide them with regular misting. Hoyas blossom best in sheltered spots that don’t ever get below 40 degrees fahrenheit.

  • Lady’s Slipper: These are a beautiful flower that sparks conversation about your garden! Thriving in shady areas, these flowers are hard to come by as they can only be purchased in nurseries. These orchid-like plants require moisture, dappled shade, and and undisturbed location. Lady’s slippers shouldn’t be treated with chemical fertilizers, as it will lead to their demise.

  • Bat Flower: This is another conversation piece given their unique look. This tropical plant can grow up to a foot tall and should be kept in filtered shade. For watering, bat flowers should be kept moist but never soggy. These plants love humidity and have no tolerance for the cold.

  • Red Button Ginger: This is another tropical plant that prefers filtered sunlight. These flowers can grow to be up to four feet tall when they’re in the ground. Although this plant prefers the heat, it can bounce back even after light frosts.

  • Snail Vine: Creating a beautiful flower, these seeds should be planted in a sunny spot with average soil. These do take some time to make an appearance - around six weeks - but they’re worth it for their pop of color and wonderful fragrance. These grow best in the heat and will populate a vine up to 25 feet long.

Herb Growing for Experienced Gardeners

If you’ve successfully grown the basic herbs and are ready to move on to those that are more out-of-the-box, we have some great options for you:

  • Stevia: This is an insanely sweet leaf that is commonly dried and crushed, then to be used in place of regular sugar. These plants can grow to be up to two feet tall and they prefer full sun as well as a moist and well-draining soil.

  • Fennel: This herb can be used in cooking in a variety of ways, and it’s an attractive plant with wispy foliage that can grow up to five feet tall.  Fennel self-seeds easily and can be grown as an annual in cooler northern climates.

  • Borage: Boasting a cucumber-like taste, borage is said to give you courage if you munch on it. This plant grows best in full sun and can grow to be two to three feet tall. This is typically grown as an annual and shows off blue and star shaped flowers.

  • Winter Savory: Resembling thyme, this herb tastes like a mix of sage and rosemary. This herb can grow to be up to a foot tall and it grows best in full sun or an area with partial shade.

If you have the hang of growing these plants and want to do something different with your herb garden, why not try organizing them into a vertical garden? This is a great step for a more advanced gardener to take to really make their space something special:

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  •  Choose your structure: First, to create a vertical garden, choose where it will be. This could be along a fence or wall or it could also exist in a free-standing frame.
  •  Decide on irrigation: Next, choose how your vertical garden will receive the water it needs to flourish. Common ways to irrigate these structures are to use sprinklers, garden hoses, or soaker hoses.
  •  Choose your plants: Next, choose the herbs that will fill your vertical garden. Ensure that they will all fit well in the space that you chose and that the environmental factors jive well with what the plants need to thrive.
  •  Plant, maintain, and harvest: Once you’ve nailed down the logistics, plant herbs in your vertical garden, maintain them, and harvest them as appropriate. Herbs are perfect for vertical gardens as they’re lush, quick growing, and many of them have similar growing requirements.

Vegetable Growing for Experienced Gardeners

Perhaps you started with a small vegetable garden and now you’re ready to branch out to really feed your family off of your own land.  There are so many reasons to cultivate a bountiful vegetable garden, including the following:

  • Nutrition: Growing your own vegetables means they’re completely organic, making them healthier than that purchased at the grocery store. Eating them fresh, they’ll be rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  • Financial benefit: Now that you have experience gardening, you probably have it down to a science! Planting and harvesting your own vegetables will save your family money, cutting down on the need to visit your local grocery store.

  • It’s fun!: Growing your own food is not only healthy and financially beneficial - it’s also fun and rewarding!

After you’ve mastered growing the more straightforward vegetables, the good news is that there are endless alternate varieties to try your hand at! Once you start growing the following veggies in your at-home garden, you’ll be the envy of the farmer’s market:

  • Eggplants: These warm-weather crops need two to three months of warm days and nights to flourish, but they’re worth the wait. Plant in a well-spaced row, perhaps as the border of your garden. It’s easiest to start these from nursery-grown plants.

  • Radishes: This root crop grows quickly, and you’ll love having your own stock of them. These can thrive in pots and raised beds and they enjoy the sun in mild climates and shade in areas that are hot. Plant these seeds six inches apart in a diamond pattern. When the tops are up, pull them and use them in the kitchen.

  • Broccoli: This fall and spring vegetable is a summer-dish staple. Broccoli grows best in sunny areas and requires well-drained soil.

  • Kale: Known as a trendy healthy food, kale is a cold-weather crop that tastes better after a frost. This is a food rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a great crop to have on hand.

  • Brussel Sprouts: Proving to be a slow-growing cool weather crop, brussel sprouts can flourish in even freezing temperatures in your garden, giving you fresh veggies all year round.

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Gardening can add a wealth of enjoyment and fulfillment to your life. Use this guide to help you either get started or grow your gardening skills so that you can get everything out of your outdoor space that you ever imagined!

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