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Starting a garden? Yes. It’s finally time

10 tips for beginners. From various experts (including the green thumbs at the University of Minnesota’s Olmsted County Extension).

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Mother And Daughter Working In The Garden
Mother And Daughter Working In The Garden
StefaNikolic/Getty Images

1. Site it right.

Starting a garden is just like real estate—it’s all about location. Place your garden in a part of your yard where you’ll see it regularly (out of sight, out of mind definitely applies to gardening). That way, you’ll be much more likely to spend time in it.

2. Follow the sun.
Misjudging sunlight is a common pitfall when you’re first learning to garden. Pay attention to how sunlight plays through your yard before choosing a spot for your garden. Most edible plants, including many vegetables, herbs, and fruits, need at least 6 hours of sun in order to thrive.

3. Stay close to water.
One of the best gardening tips you’ll ever get is to plan your new garden near a water source. Make sure you can run a hose to your garden site, so you don’t have to lug water to it each time your plants get thirsty. The best way to tell if plants need watering is to push a finger an inch down into the soil (that’s about one knuckle deep). If it’s dry, it’s time to water.

4. Start with great soil.
When starting a garden, one of the top pieces of advice is to invest in soil that is nutrient-rich and well-drained. Achieve this just-right blend by mixing 3 inches of all purpose garden soil into the top 6 to 8 inches of existing soil if you’re planning to plant in the ground. If you’re planting in a raised bed, use raised bed soil, which is the perfect weight and texture for raised bed growing.

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5. Prepare your soil.
Do not prepare your soil for planting when it is too wet or too dry. If soil sticks to your shoes or shovel, it is too wet. Press a small amount of soil in your hand. When the moisture is right, the soil crumbles and breaks into small clumps. If it is too wet, it stays molded in a ball.

Rake the planting area after tilling or spading. A firm, fine seedbed is best, especially for small-seeded crops.

Packing the soil too much could promote crusting of the soil surface and damage emerging seedlings.

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6. Clean and disinfect your gardening tools and containers.
Plant pathogens like bacteria, fungi and viruses cause diseases that can kill plants. They can be transferred to and infect plants through bits of soil and plant debris like roots stuck on a shovel, tree sap on a pruner blade, or soil left on a pot.

Sometimes it’s easy to see what you need to clean. But pathogens are microscopic and, while your tools may look perfectly clean, these microorganisms may still be on your blade or tomato cage.

Prevent the spread of disease between plants by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your tools, equipment and garden implements.

7. Plant your “cool season” crops
You can sow early “cool-season” crops such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and onions right after preparing your garden plot.

Cool season crops must mature before hot weather. Start these crops early indoors or buy plants from a garden center.

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You can sow sandy soils a little deeper than clay soils.

Mark the rows by stretching a string tightly across the area where you want a furrow, or a long narrow trench. Use the corner edge of a long piece of angle iron or aluminum to create a furrow with a uniform depth. If you use the handle of a hoe or shovel, it may create uneven emergence of seedlings, especially with small seed vegetable crops.

8. Check out the University of Minnesota’s Olmsted County Extension’s Upper Midwest Gardening Calendar at extension.umn.edu (search “growing calendar”).

9. Add some mulch.
Apply a layer of mulch that’s 2 to 3 inches deep around each plant. This will help reduce weeds by blocking out the sun, and reduce moisture loss through evaporation, so you have to water less. You can use bagged mulch. Or, you can put down straw, shredded leaves, pine straw, or some other locally available material.

10. Feed plants—and your ego—regularly.
We’ve already talked about the importance of starting with great soil, but that soil works best in concert with regular boosts of high-quality nutrition for your plants. In other words, amazing soil + top-notch plant food = super garden success! So, a month after planting, begin feeding your garden with plant food. Then, when those crops come in, show off your garden to all your friends. And—finally!—be that person that brings in extra cucumbers to give away at work.

Female hand planting tomato plant in vegetable garden
Farmer planting tomato seedling in organic garden. Gardening at springtime
Zbynek Pospisil/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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