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Beginner gardening: How to start a backyard garden from seed in 9 easy steps

Ferry-Morse Home Gardening Blog | September 2021

A gardener sowing a small lettuce seed directly into their outdoor garden soil.

A gardener sowing a lettuce seed into their backyard garden in a row marked 'LETTUCE'.

Have you ever found yourself staring at that sunny spot in your backyard and imagining a garden there?

Starting a backyard garden from seed gives you the chance to grow your own food. It’s also more economical than buying plants and gives you access to a wide selection of plant varieties.

And the best part is that anyone can do it. Let’s get started!

What do I need to start a backyard garden?

Believe it or not, the first thing you need is a sense of adventure. OK, I know what you’re thinking, gardening is peaceful and just so zen—and it is!

However, undertaking the tasks involved in growing fruitful plants in uncontrollable environmental conditions is an exciting and sometimes testing endeavor, putting you in touch with your adventurous spirit while enhancing your ability to conquer challenges.

With that in mind, here’s the step-by-step process of creating your very own backyard garden from seed.

What are the steps of starting a backyard garden from seed?

You can establish a backyard garden in nine simple steps.

  • Select a site.
  • Use garden tools.
  • Decide what to grow.
  • Plan your garden.
  • Prepare the soil.
  • Sow the seeds.
  • Establish irrigation.
  • Control pests and weeds.
  • Harvest your produce.

Let’s go through the details involved in each step.

1: Select a site.

Site selection is where you’ll want to start your gardening adventure. It’s one of the most critical decisions you’ll need to make.

Ideally, your site should:

  • Receive full sun, which is six to eight hours of sunlight per day
  • Have fertile soil that drains well
  • Be near a source of water that allows you to irrigate your plants efficiently
  • Not be near trees and shrubs that will compete with your garden plants for air, water, and sunlight

If your soil is too rocky or too difficult to work, then building a raised bed might be your best option.

Sunlight pouring over some beautiful, blooming flowers

Sunlight shining on some beautiful blooming flowers in a backyard.

2. Use garden tools.

Tools will help a lot throughout your backyard garden starting process! Here’s a list of the essentials:

  • Garden gloves
  • Hand pruners
  • Long-handled hoe
  • Rake
  • Spade
  • Trowel
  • Watering can

Most are inexpensive and readily available, used, new, and even at your local dollar store! Read more about other tools you might want to consider.

3. Decide what to grow.

We want you to be as successful as you can be!

Therefore, when deciding what to grow, consider plants that:

  • Appeal to your taste
  • Are easy to grow from seed
  • Are appropriate for your growing zone

Reading seed packets will give you a pretty good idea of each plant’s required growing conditions and when and how you should sow the seeds.

But there’s more to it than that. Consider how much space you have at your site. For example, pumpkin seedlings might not take up much space initially, but mature plants require a lot of room that might overwhelm a small garden.

A selection of Ferry-Morse Organic seeds sitting on a retail shelf for shoppers to choose from.

A selection of Ferry-Morse Organic seeds sit on a retail shelf for shoppers to choose from.

What are some great plants that beginner gardeners can grow?

Start with seeds that are easy to grow because small wins will encourage you to keep going.

To get you growing in the right direction, consider trying the following herb, flower, and vegetable seeds: 

Easy to Grow Herbs

Easy to Grow Flowers

Easy to Grow Vegetables

4. Plan your garden.

Planning your garden can be a lot of fun! Flex your artistic abilities by drawing it out on paper or use a garden planner app if you prefer a technological approach.

When planning, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much space do I have?
  • When do I need to sow seeds?
  • How much sunlight does my garden receive throughout the day?

How much space do I have?

Think about how the plants you want to grow will spread. You’ll want to prevent crowding because it can cause disease and interfere with healthy airflow between plants.

A basic rule of thumb is to ensure tall plants don’t block sunlight from shorter plants. The secret is to know the path of the sun over your garden. 

When do I need to sow seeds?

Read the back of each seed packet to determine when to sow each variety. In short, you’ll want to plant seeds according to their maturity date and your region’s first and last frost dates. 

How much sunlight does my garden receive throughout the day?

Assessing the amount of sunlight your garden receives is a simple but important activity. The best part is it’s easy to accomplish.

Just peek out the window at your garden throughout the day. Then estimate the number of hours of daylight it receives. Completing this assessment will help you determine the best spots to start seeds or plant seedlings that meet each plant’s sunlight requirements.

If spots in your garden receive part sun only, don’t despair! Simply check out these partial shade flowers that will add color and vibrancy to those shady areas. Or, try shade-tolerant leafy green vegetables.

5. Prepare the soil.

Garden soil should be fertile and well-drained. Before sowing seeds or installing transplants, work the soil in your garden beds until it is crumbly, debris-free, and weed-free.

6. Sow the seeds.

Depending on your outdoor growing window and each seed’s requirements, you’ll either sow them indoors or directly outdoors. Check out our guide on indoor seed starting.

For outdoor sowing, use the following guidelines:

  • Sow seeds in rows
  • Label each row, so you remember what you planted there
  • Plant each seed according to its instructions for depth and spacing
  • Cover the seeds with soil, again according to their specific depth requirements
  • A good rule of thumb is to over-sow seeds because you can always thin the seedlings later

More information is available in our seed starting guide. It’s worth your time to check it out!

7. Establish irrigation.

Irrigation is essential. Here’s a little advice on that topic:

  • Actively growing plants require about one inch of water each week
  • Watering in the morning gives plants a chance to dry out, mitigating fungal problems
  • Sprinklers, a watering can, or a hose are all the equipment you need to provide your seeds and plants with adequate water
A gardener waters their plants in their outdoor garden using a hose.

A gardener waters their young plants using a hose.

Mulching complements watering and more!

We’ve all been there, driving past manicured yards in the springtime, admiring freshly-mulched landscapes of colorful annual flowers and shrubs.

But do you know that mulching is a must for a backyard garden? Here’s why: It improves your soil’s aeration, tilth, and drainage. Furthermore, adding mulch:

  • conserves moisture 
  • suppresses weeds
  • increases blooms and yields
  • regulates soil temperature

8. Control pests and weeds.

Diseases, insects, and weeds cause problems for all gardeners. Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare for these challenges.

Pests

It’s best to use a preventative approach to controlling pests, like Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Check out our guidance on identifying and controlling garden pests.

Weeds

Weeds compete with seeds and seedlings for resources. Learn how to identify them so you don’t accidentally pluck out your seedlings while weeding your garden.

Pull weeds when they are small before their roots become established, and try your best to remove them before they go to seed. And don’t forget that mulch is a great weed suppressant.

Around larger plants, cultivate weeds with a hoe using shallow movements that won’t damage roots. And that’s it!

9. Harvest your produce.

After all of your hard work, it will be time to harvest the fruits of your labor. When the time comes, just keep these two things in mind:

  • For peak flavor, let vegetables ripen in the garden before harvesting
  • For maximum nutrition, harvest vegetables on the same day you plan to consume, store, or preserve them

Once you experience the intense goodness of your homegrown produce, your expectations of what vegetables should taste like might never be the same again!

Are you ready for the adventure to begin?

Now that you have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to embark on your gardening adventure, we hope you’ll accept the challenges while enjoying the wholesome benefits.

After all, few other activities are as balancing, healthful, and enjoyable as the gardening escapades you can have in your own backyard. Give it a go and share your experiences with us in the comments below!

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