Some people have a green thumb, and others do not. In this article, we will briefly discuss five topics to help you make better decisions at the beginning that will lead to a more successful garden in the end.

Sun

Misjudging the sunlight is a common pitfall when you are first learning about gardening. The amount of direct sunlight an area gets during the day determines what types of plants will grow successfully in that location. Observe the area before purchasing your plants because you will likely be surprised at the amount of sunlight it actually receives.

Full sun is at least six hours a day, keeping in mind that some plants such as vegetables need eight to 10. Partial sun is four to six hours of sunlight, and partial shade is two to four hours, however, sometimes these two are put in the same four to the six-hour range. Shade in gardening terms is less than two hours a day.   

Water

Another thing to pay attention to when selecting a location for a garden is its proximity to a water source. Make sure you can run a hose to your garden so you don’t have to lug water back and forth every time your plants are thirsty.

A rain barrel is also a good option for many reasons. It will save you money on your water bills, it is relatively pure and soft so it is great for non-drinking purposes, and because it isn’t treated with chemical it is better for your plants.

As for watering frequency, it is best to water two to three times a week, watering thoroughly to promote deep root growth.

Soil

The key words when discussing the optimal soil for your garden: nutrient-rich and well-drained. Adding organic matter in the form of manure or compost is the best way to prepare the soil for planting. Both can be added to the garden by spreading it on the surface and then working it gently into the soil.

Containers

No space for a garden, no problem. The possibilities are endless with container gardening. Using containers to plant flowers, vegetables, or herbs is a great alternative to traditional gardens or flowerbeds. Container gardening is also an excellent option for decorating areas around your home, such as balconies, terraces, stairwells, and even in your gardens, creating a stunning accent. When using containers for decorative purposes follow the “thriller, spiller, and filler” guideline when picking your plants. Select a good-quality nutrient-rich potting soil to fill your container with; do not use conventional garden soil as it is too dense. Ensure you choose a container with drainage holes because if excess water is unable to escape soil can become waterlogged, and your plants may die.

Hardiness Zones & Frost Dates

Knowing your Zone helps you better understand the relationship between plants and the climate you live in. Criteria considered when establishing the zones are minimum winter temperatures, length of the frost-free period, summer rainfall, maximum temperatures, snow cover, January rainfall, and maximum wind speed. All extremely important when considering if a plant will flourish or even survive before you purchase it.

Frost dates are important because they bookend the time you can safely have your plants outside, whether planted in containers or in the ground.