Rookie Gardening Essentials

Rookie Gardening Essentials

It’s finally move in week for our new house so my gardening is slowing down. As I say goodbye to my first garden, I’m thinking back on everything I’ve learned over the past few months, as well as the tools and materials I’ve used and others that I’m looking forward to trying. There have been a few duds, but overall I’ve used a lot of great tools that I want to share with other newbie gardeners!

Raised Garden Bed

Like I wrote in my blog post when I bought my second raised garden bed, this option from Greenes is fantastic for beginner gardeners. It’s affordable ($70 on Amazon currently), easy and straightforward to install, and doesn’t show any wear after a year of use. If you’re looking for a low budget garden bed, this is a great one to start with.

Soil and Amendments

Black Kow manure compost and the Home Depot mushroom compost both were fantastic additions to the potting soil I used to grow my tomatoes. Other than one tomato that struggled a bit at first with transplant shock, they’ve all been growing quickly and strongly since I’ve potted them up, and are now around 3 ft tall and starting to bear fruit.

As far as garden and potting soil, I’ve pretty much stuck with Miracle Gro products for garden beds and containers. They’ve worked fine for me and are usually the most affordable option in store so I definitely recommend it to budget gardeners. I’m looking forward to saving up over this winter and investing on some organic options for next spring to start depending less on synthetic materials.


This year I learned a little bit more about fertilizers, and ended up using both a synthetic and an organic option. When I noticed my tomato seedlings were yellowing, I ran to the Houzz forum and found out that even tiny seedlings need extra nutrients. I ended up picking up the cheapest, easiest option for them, a water-soluble all purpose plant food from Miracle Gro. It worked really well and the seedlings grew up beautiful and are still doing well!

Once they were being transplanted though, I wanted to buy something a little more environmentally friendly, and decided on the Espoma Garden-tone since they didn’t have their Tomato-tone in store. But beware of its stench. As effective as it is, it usually takes a couple of washes to get the smell off of my hands.

Pest Control

Pest control has proven to be one of the hardest parts of gardening, and often it’s the organic and natural integrated option that wins. My best pest control solutions so far have proven to be a mix of preventive fabric covers to keep insects from laying eggs or outright feasting on the garden, garlic powder to keep pests away (we have a particular problem with grasshoppers), and Neem oil for serious issues (mostly aphids and carrot weevils).

We are having more of an issue of slugs recently but I’ve decided to let them eat what they need as long as they’re not chewing away entire rows. The little things do have to eat, after all, and getting rid of them would be more work than it’s worth. We also invested in a bird feeder which we keep stocked to encourage birds to visit our yard. Since we fed them during the winter I hope they’ll start to look around for some grasshoppers to chew on.


Working on a budget meant that I had to work with the yard tools we had laying around. Thankfully that included a transplanter and hoe that worked for pretty much all of my needs but I’m looking into a nicer hand tool set with a cultivator like the GardenHOME Folding Stool Set and a pitchfork to make turning the compost easier.


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