How to Start a Garden: A Manual for People Who Kill Plastic Plants

How to start a garden

So, you’ve decided to start a garden? Bravo, dear agricultural neophyte! You’ve finally concluded that you can muster the same level of care for plants that you do for your five-year supply of instant ramen. You want to transition from “I forgot to water my cactus” to “I am a guardian of the living Earth.”

Well, pull out your rickety garden chairs and moth-eaten straw hat, because we’re going to get you from zero to “suburban botanist” faster than you can say “chlorophyll.”

Step 1: Picking Your Plot and Plant Procrastination

Before you can throw caution to the wind and immediately buy every plant that remotely catches your eye, take a deep breath. Choose where you’re going to put your eventual jungle. Yes, plants need “space” and “sunlight” and “air” and all those other things you vaguely remember from fifth-grade science.

If you’re an urban dweller living in a shoebox-sized apartment, you might opt for windowsill herbs. You know, the kind of thing you’ve always meant to do but never got around to — just like organizing your closet or learning the guitar.

For the lucky few who have actual land at their disposal (a.k.a. “the yard”), congratulations, you have more options — and more chances to mess this up.

Step 2: The ‘Sun’ Also Rises

Plants are like people; some love the sun, and some are more like vampires. Learn the sunlight pattern in your plot to decide which plant should go where. Yes, ‘where the sun hits’ is an actual thing you need to consider, not just the title of your unfinished novel.

For those of you who can’t be bothered with figuring out where the sun rises or sets (because, seriously, who knows that?), there’s a life-hack: check the plant tags. They usually come with recommendations like “full sun,” “partial shade,” and “this plant could survive a nuclear winter.”

Step 3: Soil is Important; Who Knew?

Ah, soil. The dirt beneath our feet. Literally. We walk all over it, but in the plant world, soil is the VIP lounge — the place to be. Your soil needs to have the right texture, nutrients, and pH level. If you can’t remember what pH means, don’t worry; neither can your plants. Just remember that you need to treat your soil like you would a guest at a cocktail party: give it some food (compost), a little drink (water), and don’t let it get too acidic or too basic.

Step 4: Plant Shopping or “How to Ruin Your Budget in One Aisle”

Now we get to the fun part — plant shopping. You’ll quickly find that plants are like Pokémon; you’ll want to collect them all. So go ahead, fill your cart with herbs, flowers, vegetables, and that exotic plant you can’t pronounce. You’re already doing better than your neighbor, Karen, who thinks a garden gnome is an acceptable plant substitute.

But do keep in mind, while you’re going on your plant-shopping spree, that some plants are more high-maintenance than a Hollywood diva. You wouldn’t start your pet-owning journey with a Bengal tiger, would you? (If you said ‘yes’, please reconsider your life choices.) Start simple. Think pet rock-level maintenance — like marigolds or petunias.

Step 5: Watering Woes: A Saga of Flood and Drought

Watering your plants may seem simple enough, right? Wrong. You can’t just throw water at them like you’re quenching your thirst after a marathon Netflix binge. Nope, each plant is like a unique little snowflake with its own hydration preferences.

For those who can’t bother to read the plant tags (yes, they have more information than just the price), here’s a pro tip: Stick your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If it feels dry, water it. If it’s wet, hold off unless you want to create your own plant swamp. Still too complicated? Well, you could always go for a cactus. They’re like the camels of the plant world.

Step 6: Fertilizing, or How Not to Turn Your Garden into a Toxic Waste Dump

Now let’s talk about fertilizers, the energy drinks of the plant kingdom. They come in all forms: liquid, granular, organic, synthetic, and even some stuff that looks suspiciously like something you’d find in your cat’s litter box.

Too much fertilizer and your plants become divas, demanding even more and never quite satisfied. Too little, and they sulk like teenagers deprived of Wi-Fi. So, be moderate. Follow the instructions, people. Yes, the ones on the back of the fertilizer package that you never read.

Step 7: Talking to Your Plants Isn’t Crazy, It’s Science-ish

Look, plants have feelings too. OK, not really, but studies do show that talking to your plants can help them grow better. Or maybe it just makes you feel better for having spent so much money on something you’re likely to accidentally kill. Either way, it’s therapeutic. Share your deepest secrets, read them poetry, or discuss the weather — just don’t expect any insightful replies.

Step 8: Combatting the Garden’s Arch-Nemesis: Weeds and Pests

Just when you think you’ve got the hang of this whole “gardening” thing, along come weeds and pests to rain on your parade. But fear not, for you are armed with your trusty spade and a bottle of insecticide that promises to be “gentle on plants but tough on bugs.” Wage war on those little invaders with the same zeal you reserve for killing virtual zombies.

For the organic warriors among us, vinegar and soap sprays are your eco-friendly shields. Oh, and if you see a ladybug, let it stay. Those little guys are like the SWAT team against aphids.

Step 9: The Waiting Game

After all this hard work, don’t expect immediate results. Gardens are not built in a day, no matter how many coffee-fueled hours you pour into it. It takes time, patience, and the ability to not constantly poke at the soil wondering why your tomato plant isn’t sprouting overnight. It’s like watching paint dry, but at least with a garden, you’ll eventually get to eat the results.

Step 10: Harvest, Gloat, Repeat

When you finally see that first sprout or flower, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and gloat mildly. You have successfully not killed something. Harvest your bounty when it’s ripe and ready, and feel free to show it off like a newborn baby on social media. “Oh, look, my first zucchini!” is a caption that will warm your heart and probably annoy your friends, but hey, you earned it.

So there you have it, a foolproof (kind of) guide to starting your very own garden. With luck and a bit of effort, you might just go from committing plant-icide to being the proud parent of a garden that doesn’t just survive but thrives. Or at the very least, you’ll have some fresh basil to add to your next microwavable pasta dish. Either way, it’s a win.