A Beginner's Guide to Gardening: What You Should Know by Alek Sabin

Now that’s it’s spring, it’s a good time to take a look at your landscaping and start thinking about what you can do to spruce up your yard (if it needs sprucing, of course). 

Starting a garden in your front yard or backyard is a great place to start. In case you’re new to the world of gardening, here is a brief look at what you need to do before starting your garden.

Look at the Sunlight in Your Property
Proper sunlight exposure is essential to keeping the flowers and plants in any garden healthy, so you’ll want to know what kind of light various areas on your property see. Let’s say you live in the northern hemisphere, for example, and the front of your house faces south. In this scenario, the south side of your home will see the most sunlight, and therefore you should plan on planting flowers and plants that require a great deal of sunlight there. The north side of your home, meanwhile, will see the least amount of sunlight, while the east side will see morning sunlight and the west side afternoon sunlight. Other buildings and large obstacles can affect what sunlight your property sees as well, so be sure to take all of these things into account as you study how sunlight travels through your property.

Research Your Climate
Similarly, it’s important to consider the climate that your plants and flowers will be exposed to. How hot do temperatures get in the summer, and what do your winters look like? In addition, how much rainfall does your area typically see?

Pick the Right Plants for Your Environment
Once you know the kind of environment that your property will provide your garden, you can begin to select flowers and plants that suit this environment well. If you know you’ll be creating your garden in front of your south-facing home, for example, you’ll want to select plants and flowers that thrive in plenty of sunlight. 

If you live in a very dry climate, for example, you’re better off planting flowers and shrubs that can withstand the heat well and that do not require a great deal of watering. If you live in a very wet climate, meanwhile, you should look for plants that thrive in plenty of water. Usually the best option here is to visit your local flower nursery and study the labeling plants and flowers as you select them.

Tip: As you select your plants and flowers, try to vary your colors, leaf size, bloom size, and plant height. This will help add interest and dimension to your garden.

Learn About Soil Materials
Before purchasing any topsoil, dirt, compost, or mulch for your garden, it’s important to know the differences between all of these materials. Here is a quick overview:
Soil is a broad term used in the gardening realm to refer to dirt. Garden soil isn’t much different from the existing soil in your garden and is turned into this natural soil to improve soil quality; topsoil, meanwhile, is typically richer in nutrients and is applied as a thick layer on top of garden soil. 

Compost is extremely rich in nutrients and should, therefore, be turned into existing soil to improve its quality (this is a great article about the benefits of composting). And mulch is added on top of soil to insulate the soil, retain moisture, and discourage weed growth. Technically materials such as gravel and pebbles can fulfill these functions of mulch as well.
It’s important to keep track of what kinds of insects and spiders are in your garden soil, as well. Certain insects are actually very beneficial, while others will harm your plants and flowers. Here’s a good article that talks about organic methods of pest control to use for gardeners.

Get the Right Tools to Garden
If you’re going to be serious about gardening, you’ll want to have the right tools on hand. 

Here’s a quick list of things you might want to pick up if you don’t already have them:
- Trowel (to dig as you plant bulbs and nursery plants)
- Shovel (for larger scale digging)
- Cultivator (to loosen small areas of soil)
- Pitchfork (to remove rocks from your soil)
- Pruning shears (to cut stems and trim away dead leaves and blooms)
- Watering can (to water small areas delicately)
- Dial hose nozzle (to make easy work of water large garden areas)
- Gardening gloves (to protect your hands)
- Gardening apron (to protect your clothing and holding frequently used tools)
- Kneeling pads (to protect your knees and you kneel)

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