gardening for beginners

Have you been eyeing the glorious array of yellow, pink, lavender and red flowers showing up at storefronts and local nurseries over the past several weeks? Wishing you could take those splashes of color home to brighten up your entryway or porch?

You may be wondering how you can plant and grow some of these beauties, especially if you’ve never done it before. Yes, you’re not the only one who isn’t a master gardener!

The best time to start is generally from April until it gets hot (which can vary). Another time slot is September through October.

You will need tools and supplies. But before you get your credit card ready, develop a planting plan and set a budget. Take a day to observe your proposed planting spots and gauge how many hours of sunlight each area gets. This can help determine which plants would do well there. Draw a rough plan of your property, using two highlighters to mark the sunny and partially sunny areas. Then, set a realistic budget, keeping in mind that your garden doesn’t have to be completed in one week – or even in one season.

As a novice gardener, don’t take on too much. Start small, see how it goes, and take it from there. If you can get some gardening in now, you still have the early Fall months to assess and expand.

Now it’s time to research which plants will thrive in your designated planting areas. Think about the height and thickness of the plants, whether they’ll attract pollinators, such as bees, and how much watering they’ll require.

Consider plant spacing as well. What is the recommended distance between the plants, herbs or flowers you select? Don’t overbuy. When you start your garden, the plants will need to be spaced properly to grow.

Westchester County has an abundance of resources, garden centers and programs to help you navigate your choices. A community of local gardeners may be the perfect resource. They offer extensive experience with seasonal conditions, native plant knowledge and techniques that work in our area.

Ready to shop? You may want to get started with a good book. The Cornell Coop Extension recommends anything by Ruth Rodgers Claussen or Alan Armitage. For supplies, here is a list of essentials for a beginner gardener.

  • Knee pad (a thick towel may work in the beginning)
  • Potting soil (for new beds)
  • Plant food (consider organic options)
  • Mulch
  • Gardening gloves in your size
  • Watering can or hose with a garden hose nozzle
  • Trowel
  • Soil tiller or garden fork
  • Apron (or some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty)

Lastly, don’t forget sunscreen, a wide brim hat that covers your neck, and hand lotion. We hope you’ll enjoy the wonderful and colorful world of gardening!

Some local organizations to reach out to for advice and/or questions:
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County Residential Horticulture Hot Line: 914-285-4640 or
Chappaqua Garden Club:
The Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson
The Little Garden Club of Rye:



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