If you’re one of those persons who believes that gardening is only for those with so-called “green thumbs,” then you need to think again. Gardening, planting, and caring for plants in your front or backyard has nothing to do with having a “green thumb” or let alone farming. Home gardening – and even growing your own vegetable garden at home – is a lot different from farming acres and acres of crops.
Today, more and more people are discovering the joys of home gardening. Whether growing a simple front garden or a small vegetable garden, more than 20 percent of households in the U.S. and Canada are discovering the home gardening band wagon. This number is actually rising annually and has something to do partly with the move to grow pesticide-free vegetables and avoiding commercially grown crop food, while contributing to the environment’s benefit.
Another push towards gardening is the significant health benefits it offers. The more plants surrounding a home, the more purified the air is, especially when indoor plants are concerned. Gardening also reduces stress and improves mental health because tending those plants seems to have a relaxing and positive effect on the mind. It also counts as moderate-intensive exercise so it benefits the body as well.
But first, start with a small garden. It’s better to be successful with a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one. After all, you’re not planting crop plants on several acres. We’re talking about starting small in your backyard or in the front yard because the most common error for beginners is planting too much too soon.
- Plant in a location with plenty of sun – whether you’re planting ornamental flowers or vegetables, these plants – unlike indoor plants – need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
- Check your soil – plants’ roots need to penetrate underground, so soft soil or nice loamy soil is best if you have this around your home. You can enrich your soil with compost for added nutrients. Make sure of proper drainage to ensure that water will not collect on the top soil for long nor will drain away quickly.
- Space the plants properly – plants need proper sunlight. Don’t plant tall ones beside short plants as they will compete for sunlight. Give proper spacing to the plants for proper distribution of sunlight, water, and soil nutrition. Read the seed packet guidance or do research online for specific spacing distance.
But wait, do prepare minimum essential equipment. We say minimum because you don’t need to go out to a gardening store and start buying a lot of gardening equipment. Since you’re starting small, start with only the required essential minimal gardening tools and add things as you need them later. Start with some containers for potting soil, a few pots, a watering can, a small trowel, shovel, hoe, and digging fork.
Here then, is a list of gardening plants to begin your garden, whether as a home garden or if you want to grow your own vegetable garden.
Epimedium Barrenwort ‘Sulphureum’
Epimedium are rhizomatous perennials with evergreen or deciduous, ternate or innately divided leaves, with open sprays of small, bowl-shaped flowers, often with prominent spurs. They thrive well in mid to late spring. Sulphureum is a deciduous perennial that grows up to 35cm in height. It forms a clump of red-tinted, light green leaves. Primrose-yellow flowers 2cm in width are carried in open sprays.
Wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
This flower is well-loved by bees, and with the proper care, Bowles Mauve will literally flower all-year. This highly coveted award-winning plant is not hard to comprehend when you first see it why it is a wide favorite with gardeners. This flowering plant grows well when provided with a free-draining, fertile site, in full-sun, even if this is a hardy species that creates intense floral appearances. This plant is ideal as a perennial pot plant or in a mid-border location, where its evergreen leaves will provide constant structure and shape. It will benefit from the once-a-week watering during the growing season and as it is not susceptible to any major pest and diseases, and needs little intervention or care. With maturity it will bush-out, producing hundreds of stout flowering stems that should be pruned to foliage-level after flowering to prevent developing seeds.
Alpine Wood Fern
A tough, hardy fern that is native to the Himalayas. At spring time, this wood fern produces bright green, shuttlecock-like fronds on upright, hairy stems that grow to a height of around 90cm. Less attractive in appearance than many other ferns, it still makes a dramatic statement in a woodland garden or under deciduous trees. Once well planted, it will even grow in dry shade. When planting this fern, incorporate a lot of well rotted leaf mould and composted pine needles of garden compost into the planting hole. Cut back dead fronds during the winter.
Siberian Squill ‘Spring Beauty’
Siberian Scilla or Spring Beauty are perennial bulbs with narrow basal leaves and erect stems bearing stems with star-shaped, flat or bell-shaped flowers which are often blue. The Spring Beauty is a bulb that grows up to a height of 15cm, and forms a basal rosette of few narrowly oblong leaves, with lax stems of up to 5 pendent vivid deep blue flowers during the spring.
Garden-fresh peas are the ultimate veggies during spring time. They are so sweet on a salad plate or when mixed with other veggies that it’s hard to pass them up for any vegetable garden. This cool-season crop thrives in cool, moist weather and can be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Snow peas are best eaten fresh because some peas convert as much as 40 percent of their sugar to starch in just a few hours in the refrigerator. Snow peas, and their close relative snap peas, are eaten whole so there is no time-consuming shelling required. Snow peas are easy to grow from seed.
Daffodil ‘Jetfire’ Narcissus
Daffodils have solitary flowers, with relaxed perianth segments and usually a long corona. Jetfire is generally a bulbous perennial flowering plant that can grow up to 20cm in height. It can have narrow, bright green leaves and flowers 7cm in width, with bright yellow, slightly relaxed perianth segments and a bright orange trumpet.
Tulip ‘Spring Green’
This is an elegant tulip with broad, white, and slightly feathered petals each with a bright green central band. This flowering plant is perfect for a sunny, well-drained garden where it will brighten up the spring or planted in pots on the patio for decorative purposes. It looks particularly lovely teamed with silver foliaged plants or with other tulips, especially with dark plum colored varieties like the ‘Black Hero.’ During the months of September to December, plant bulbs grow to 15-20cm deep and 10-15cm apart in fertile and well-drained soil. You need to allow 7-9 bulbs per 30cm sq. After the bulbs flowering, do dead-head maintenance and apply a balanced liquid fertilizer each week for the first month. Once the foliage has died down naturally lift the bulbs and store indoors for the next season.
Dog’s Tooth Violet Pagoda Bulbs
Each stem of this plant will carry up to 10 nodding, sulphur-yellow flowers with a brown central ring and deep yellow anthers. The foliage can be equally showy as it can contain bronze-mottled or fainter white marbling on the deep green, glossy leaves. In early spring this combination makes a very colorful display in woodlands and meadows, so imagine what a beauty it is in your home garden. This is a vigorous plant which will form clumps and spread. Plant bulbs should be planted 15 – 20cm deep and 15cm apart in naturalistic drifts where they can be left undisturbed for several years. Avoid planting bulbs under shrubs or trees that will soak up all the soil moisture in the spring and summer.
Tufted Pansy ‘Alba’ (Viola Cornuta)
Tufted pansy are like chameleons and can adjust or adapt to be annuals, biennials or deciduous or evergreen perennials. They have very simple or innately lobed leaves and 5-petalled flowers of characteristic shape. Tufted pansy are spreading evergreen perennials that grow up to a height of 15cm, with light green, lance-shaped leaves and pure white, long-spurred flowers that are 3cm in width.
Spurge (Euphorbia Polychroma)
The spurge has dark green, lance-shaped leaves, and topped with a froth of bright, acid yellow spring flowers that form a distinctive star shape. This perennial, early flowering euphorbia has a natural mounded shape and a short flowering season. It does look quite lovely as part of a green and yellow planting scheme or with dark red flowers and bronze-tinted grasses. During the fall the foliage turns a lovely shade of bronze. During this season, cut back the faded flower stems and avoid new ones. When working with spurges always wear gloves since the milky sap is poisonous and a potential skin irritant. Remove unwanted seedlings each spring as part of routine border maintenance.
Everyone is probably familiar with Popeye the Sailor’s favorite vegetable that makes him healthy and strong. It is definitely scrumptious in a fresh salad and lovely in the garden; this vegetable is a top must-grow plant for the edible landscape and is easy to grow in any backyard vegetable garden. Plant ribbons of spinach through a perennial border, or use it as a tidy hedge around a plot of early-season vegetables. Plant a late summer crop for harvest in fall. Try the Olympia spinach variety that is easy to grow from seed.
Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’
Magnolias have always been beautiful, rounded, small tree or large shrub that flowers on bare branches. In mid spring, it is smothered in rose pink, star-shaped flowers with long, narrow petals that emerge from darker pink buds. The leaves are mid green and the tree is deciduous. This plant is an elegant choice for even a small garden, and can easily tolerate chalky soils. The shrub does require minimal pruning. Remove any broken, diseased or crossing branches in midsummer. The best time to plant is in March or April, adding plenty of peat to the planting hole, in a sheltered spot. Mulch the plants in spring with manure and leaf mould, especially if the soil is dry.
Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and a wonderful addition to the must-grow vegetable list for any backyard small garden. Perfect for a first-time gardener or any small veggie garden that even a child can tend. Beans quickly germinate and produce copious amounts of tasty treats. They are available in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Some plants produce colorful flowers, pods, and seeds. From snap beans to edamame, you can experiment with varieties and try to grow them all. The Provider bean variety is known for its fast growth. Beans are easy to grow from seed.
Aster ‘Little Carlow’
This flowering plant has sprays of small lavender-blue daisies that blooms in late summer and autumn, particularly in the early evening. It needs a lot of sun and good soil and will grow up to a height of 4 feet.
This is the tomato’s perfect partner; basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, making it one of the great must-grow plants even in a small garden. The herb can be added to sauces, soups, and salads for a spicy, tangy flavor. The many varieties, from lime basil to Thai basil, have flavors ranging from citrusy to spicy with a touch of anise. Try to grow a few varieties and explore the different tastes. Basil grows equally well in the garden and in containers, and its clean, long-lasting foliage makes it a great plant for any backyard landscape. Try the ‘Genovese’ variety if you love spicy flavors. Basil is easy to grow from seed or transplants.
Michalmas Daisy ‘Mönch’
The longest flowering aster variety of all, with good foliage and large violet-blue daisies on slightly lax stems. It needs a lot of sun and good soil. It grows to a height of about 3 feet.