Farrah Francis
Lifestyle Managing Editor
4 minute read
17 Oct 2021
7:00 am

How to start a garden: Tips for beginners who’ve never had one before

Farrah Francis

Shade or sunlight? What is mulch? Starting a garden can be intimidating, here are tips from an expert on creating your green haven.

Top View of gardening tools and seedlings on soil.

17 October is Garden Day and the perfect time to start a garden. But where do you start if you’ve never had one before? It can be intimidating. Questions like what goes in the sun? How often should you water? What type of plants should you purchase and do you need plant food are just some of the questions you might have.

Rone de Bruyn, Country Manager at the free gardening app, Candide explains.

How do you start a garden?

“Start slow and small”, says De Bruyn.

There’s no need to try and create an entire garden overnight, you can simply start off by creating a few raised beds, and add a few new ones every year as you gain experience.

The secret is in the soil

The secret is in the soil. Invest in your soil by growing your knowledge on what healthy soil looks like in your garden. Healthy soil sustains life – above and below ground. Ensure you add a good amount of organic matter that will create a healthy environment for soil organisms to thrive. Definitely consider starting a compost heap.

Four must-have gardening tips for beginners:

  • Get to know your garden. Ensure you study the sunny and shady spots of the garden. This will be important when you select plants.
  • Learn to plant. This is a crucial skill to master on your gardening journey. Whether seeds, seedlings, trees or rose bushes, learn how to give your plants the best start.
  • Learn how to prune. This skill is invaluable and will make all the difference in your plants’ health in the long run.
  • Embrace the highs and the lows. Gardening is a continuous learning journey so learn from the failures and celebrate the harvests and small victories.

Which plants are the easiest to start with?

The best plants to start with are the ones that occur naturally in your area. Crassulas and Aloes grow easily in waterwise gardens. Clivias and Plectranthus are wonderful in well-draining soil with dappled shade, and herbs make for wonderful container gardens. It all depends on your garden’s conditions.

The tools you’ll need to start a garden

Invest in a good pair of secateurs! This is the tool you will use for most of your gardening tasks. More importantly, learn how to best take care of the tools you do have. You don’t need many tools to start a garden and many household items can be upcycled into gardening tools.

New garden
Tools for starting a garden. Picture: iStock

 Ideal times to water?

Watering differs from the season, soil and position. There is no one rule but generally, during summer, it is best to water early morning or late afternoon, and during the colder winter months, water early mornings, especially in areas that are prone to frost.

Shade vs. Sun

There are two ways to find out which plants are best suited to sun or shade – research and experience. It’s best to do your research before planting just any plant in your garden, it might just end up costing you more.

Creating an ‘indoor garden’

  • Most houseplants enjoy bright, indirect sunlight.
  • It is of the utmost importance to ensure the soil is well-draining.
  • Learn what each plant needs and adapt your care accordingly.
  • Most plants die due to overwatering so continuously adjust your watering schedule according to season, position and temperature.
  • Start with easy indoor plants like Pothos, Philodendrons, and Monsteras, and broaden your collection as you grow in confidence when you start a new garden.
Indoor garden
Tips for an indoor garden. Picture: iStock

Tips for those with balconies

  • First things first, observe the elements! The plants you grow in containers will depend on the amount of sunlight, light intensity, temperature, wind and other conditions that are prevalent on your balcony.
  • Invest in good potting soil. Make your own mix!
  • Ensure your planters will provide adequate draining, are durable, and are lightweight.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch is made of tree bark, wood chips, pine straw, moss, grass clippings or leaves. Sometimes newspaper, manure, compost, or rubber can be used.

What tips do you have for someone wanting to start a garden who might feel intimidated – especially if they have not had a garden before?

Get an app like the Candide app for example to help you along.

Information from Rone de Bruyn, Country Manager at the free gardening app, Candide.