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We’ve rounded up ten common questions related to gardening for beginners so you can cut the confusion and dive into this favorite mindfulness activity! [post contains affiliate links, which means we may make a small commission, at NO additional cost to you, if a purchase is made. thanks for supporting north country nest!]

Spring has finally sprung and it is full-on garden mode here at the ‘ole nest. While I still very much consider myself a beginner when it comes to gardening, I have come to realize that I have the advantage of being related to two master gardeners. My mom and sister have quickly become my go-to for anything and everything related to gardening. Since not everyone has a gardener in their family, I’ve rounded up ten common questions for all the beginners out there.

galvanized bucket with flowers

.01 What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

If a plant is labeled as an annual, it is only “good” for one year. Because we’re in Minnesota, a lot of plants cannot withstand the frigid temperatures. In the case of some flowers, like dahlias, you can dig them up and replant the tubers again the next year. Perennials are plants that come back year after year… or at least they should. If you’re in the midwest, think rhubarb or daylilies.

hostas in rock landscaping

.02 What are zones and how do I know which one I am in?

Every flower is rated for a specific zone and it’s based on winter temperature. The USDA put together a map as a guideline for planters and growers, which you can find here. In Minnesota, we have zones one through five. At our house specifically, we cut off at zone three… meaning, we don’t plant anything that is in zone four or five if we want it to live longer than one year.

galvanized potted plant on outdoor deck

.03 Are some plants better for the ground and some better for a planter?

I would think this depends on your area. If you’re in the midwest and your containers will not be out year-round, I would suggest putting annuals in your containers and digging the perennials into the ground.

simple porch decor with galvanized buckets

.04 Do I need to put down additional soil when I’m planting in the ground?

Garden soil is usually recommended to mix into the existing soil for added nutrients. The difference between garden soil and topsoil is that garden soil has extra nutrients and is customized to what it’ll be used for, i.e., for shrubs, for flowers, for vegetables.

garden sticks for identifying plants

.05 What tools do I need to get started?

This can be dependent on your budget and what you’re planting. For a basic gardening here’s what I’ve accumulated:

.06 How often do I need to water them?

A lot. Way more than I ever anticipated and to be honest, come August, I’m ready to throw in the towel. But, if you’re starting small, it’s not too challenging. Plus, it’s a great way to spend some time outside and soak up the sunshine! My goal is to get out every night but on the more realistic side, it’s once every two or three days. Full disclosure: things die when it’s closer to the every three day mark, so keep that in mind as you start planning 🙂

.07 So. Many. Weeds. Can I prevent them from growing?

Preen is my go-to for weed prevention. You just sprinkle it over your garden and then water to activate. If you’re looking for a more organic route, my mom and sister put down cardboard, newspaper and other paper-material for weed prevention. I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet but they tell me it really helps!
DIY wedding bouquet

.08 I’m slightly overwhelmed by all the choices. Where do I even begin?

Decide how much time you want to invest and go from there. If you want to jump right in and learn as much as possible, start searching for plants that are best for your zone and do a quick yard audit to determine where you want to put said garden. If you’re leaning more towards the slow and steady start, look for low-maintenance plants. Something to get your feet wet and see if you actually like this whole gardening thing.

.09 Do I need fertilizer?

Think of fertilizer as your plant’s food. The more you feed them, the better they’ll do. Another full disclosure: I haven’t used fertilizer yet and have had pretty good luck. However, this article has me rethinking my decision and most likely joining team fertilizer this season!

hanging planters on front porch

10. I don’t have the time to garden, is it still for me?

Start with containers and low-maintenance perennials like hostas and ferns. Or, in my case, I’ve been actively trying to kill off daylilies and they keep coming back, which means they’re 100% black thumb proof. I’m willing to bet you have some stress in your life and gardening is a great activity that boosts mindfulness, which, if you took part in the mindfulness challenge this January, you know that reduces stress and improves happiness!

As with all things in life, gardening is a learning process and it’s definitely not for everyone. I spent the first 26 years of my life repulsed by anything related to gardening. And then we grew flowers for our wedding and I haven’t looked back since! It’s now become a relaxing, evening activity that gets me out of the house and enjoying the outdoors.

Let us know if you have any other questions in the comments or send us an email: contact@northcountrynest.com

All our best,


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gardening for beginners, top ten questions answered

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