Researchers have recently discovered what gardeners have known for a long time: playing in the dirt makes you happy. Just on a therapeutic level, gardening makes an excellent hobby. Plus you get to spend time in the sun, experience the miracle of life springing from earth, and (hopefully) enjoy organic vine-ripened vegetables all summer long.
Hobby gardening is rewarding and just plain fun. Though gardening takes more time, luck, and grit than making a cake, here are three simple keys to help make it successful if you’re a new gardener: good soil, manageable size, and a good location.
3 keys to a successful (beginner’s) hobby garden
Soil, soil, soil
If the key to selling real estate is location, the key to a successful hobby garden is good soil. I’ve read that for every dollar you spend on your garden, 90¢ should be on the soil. Good soil sets the plants up to thrive. Poor soil sets them up for failure. (Want to know how I know?)
Before you start your garden, test your soil with a simple home soil test to find out how acidic or alkaline it is. It only costs a few dollars and will save you lots of garden problems. Many plants grow fine in a broad “middle” range, but some are notoriously picky. Blueberries, for example, need very acidic soil to do well. Which is bad news for me.
No matter what kind of soil you have, add good quality compost each time you plant to replenish the nutrients. (Starting your own compost pile is simple!) After you’ve planted, mulch to keep the moisture in and weeds out.
Keep it manageable
Just flipping through a seed magazine (or browsing the Prudent Homemaker’s garden site) is enough to get me daydreaming of turning the whole backyard into a lush garden landscape. That would be incredibly foolish at this season in life.
Unless you have plenty of experience and hundreds of hours to devote to the garden, start small. If you want to tackle more next season, you can always expand.
Not only does starting small keep you from getting in over your head, it also helps you channel your time and money investment on filling the plot you do have with high-quality soil and vigorous plants.
Keep it close
It’s way easier to keep up with a garden that is near your back door, than one you have to hike to. The more conveniently your garden is located, the easier it will be to keep it watered and tended. Choose the most convenient spot that still gets enough sun all season long.
Most garden problems are due to over or under-watering. By having the garden convenient, you can keep an eye on the health of your plants while going about your normal day and (hopefully) avoid watering woes with consistent watering.
Grow a successful hobby garden
In my highly biased opinion, growing a garden is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding of hobbies. Good soil, manageable size, and close proximity will help set it up for success… even if it’s your first time to grow a garden!
(If you’re just getting into gardening, I highly recommend One Magic Square. It’s my very favorite gardening book.)
Experienced gardeners, what else would you add? What’s the most important key to a successful garden?
(Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.)