Beginner Gardening Guide

Beginner Gardening Guide

Maybe this is your first year planting in a new location or garden bed, or you have moved to a new home and want to plant some flowers---either way, here are some helpful tips to help that new garden thrive. 


You will want to know all the specifics of the new garden site. Pay attention to which direction the garden is facing and if there are any utilities overhead or underground, large trees nearby that create shade, and the condition of the soil. 

Does the garden face north or south? This will effect the amount of light the garden will receive throughout the year.


Is the site located in a full sun location? This is a site that will receive 6+ hours or more of sun per day. Or is the site in partly shade or in full shade? 

The amount of sun that the garden gets will dictate which type of plants will flourish in the space.

Psst....full sun is when there is no shade whatsoever over the area for 6 or more hours. Think of lying out in the sun on the beach without an umbrella or having any shade around. 

Soil Conditions

The soil is one of the most important things to consider when starting a new garden. You will need to know if the ground dries out quickly or stays moist. Some plants thrive in drier conditions, while others require an area that stays mostly moist. 

Local company Pitt Moss creates a great sustainable potting soil option for container gardens. They were just voted the best overall potting soil by Better Homes & Gardens. Pitt Moss has peat free mixes, which reduce the use of non-renewable peat.

It is also a good idea to have a soil test to know the pH levels of the soil. This helps if you want to plant certain plants that may require a more acidic or basic soil. For example, blueberries require a more acidic soil and if your soil is not on the acidic side of the pH scale, then you will need to amend the soil with certain elements (sulfur or leaf mold). This is higher level gardening, but you may need to look into fertilizers to help your plants thrive depending on what type of soil you have. 

Type of Plants

This is the best part! Choosing which plants you want for your garden. Do you want ones that come back every year (perennials), or annuals which only hang around for one season? Maybe a mix of both.

If you choose perennials, you will need to be sure that they are best for your garden zone. You can find your gardening zone here. When buying a plant, check that your zone is in the range on the label.

Be sure to read the plant labels. They list important plant facts and recommendations that are ideal for successful planting, such as: the soil conditions, light requirements, spacing, and mature plant size.

Native plants are more beneficial to the ecosystem and other animals. Be sure to avoid any invasive species as well. 


There are a ton of resources online to help you with your gardening endeavors. Here are some of my favorites:

Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources

The Spruce

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Prairie Moon Nursery


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