How to Grow a Flower Garden
Planting a flower garden is one of the most joyous adventures in the life of a gardener. A flower garden is the very best place for a new gardener to start the journey. There are hundreds of possible flower choices from which to choose, ranging from very easy to care for varieties to flowers that require very exacting climates, light, and water requirements.

Because of the incredible variety of choices, the beginning gardener can often be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. One recommendation is to go to the nursery and just look at the available plants. Get into the habit of reading about the care and needs of each plant, learning general facts. Once you have an idea of which plants require full sun and which require shade, you will see how you can separate what you might select, based on the needs of the plant.

If your yard or gardening space has no shade, you will need to purchase only full sun plants. If your yard has mostly shade, then you will naturally gravitate toward the shade loving plants. A yard that has both might require that you plant two types of gardens. Remember, each garden does not have to be of a specific size. Also remember, to plant what you believe you can tend; you can always expand next year.
Annuals are plants that will live through only one growing season. These plants are most often chosen for color and shade or sun requirements. An entire flower garden can be planted with annuals, and the beauty will last for the entire growing season, but the next growing season will allow you to start again from scratch.

Using annuals can also be used to provide instant splotches of color in areas of the garden that are still waiting for a tree or a bush to fill in. Annuals provide an instant finish along a sidewalk or driveway border, like sweet alyssum in the varying colors of white, pink, and lavender. Annuals can often be purchased in large flats of two to three dozen of the same plant in the same or complementary colors.

Many businesses hire landscaping services that make use of large flats of petunias, pansies, snapdragons, zinnias, marigolds, or vinca to create an instant colorful garden to greet their customers. You might drive around town and see what landscaping companies are using to create instant color gardens; if it grows in your town, it will grow in your garden. Look around and see what you like and then recreate it in your own garden. Create two or three different gardens in this manner, your neighbors will be very impressed with your abilities. Planting in large masses creates a very impressive visual impact.

Another use for annuals is to use them in the midst of your young and non-impressive looking perennial garden. This is the way to create a garden that looks lush and full while waiting the necessary two to three years for your perennials to grow to their full size.

A planting technique is called "companion gardening." By planting specific annuals next to other plants, the annual can act as a protective barrier. Planting marigolds near your tomatoes can help to protect your tomatoes from attacks from cabbage worms. There are other situations where two plants should never be planted together.

When choosing annuals to purchase, always be sure that they are the strongest, well watered, brightly colored, specimens you can find. Once they start looking droopy and their color faded, they are likely quite stressed and not likely to do well in your garden. I have even been known to ask the nursery attendant to give my purchase a good drink of water prior to driving home to ensure that my plants will not be further stressed by being in my hot car. One of my favorite nurseries is over an hour and a half drive from my home.

Once at home, allow your plants to acclimate to their new environment prior to placing the plants into the ground. This way they will begin to adjust to the light and temperature prior to having their roots exposed, which could compromise them. I usually leave plants in place for three to four days. That way I know that they will like their new home and I will have a really good idea if I will like the color positioning.


The long lasting flower garden is created of the plants that will return, bigger and better, and year after year. The perennial is the king and queen of the flower garden. It does take some practice, however, in envisioning what a garden will look like in advance, and that is exactly what is required when planning a perennial garden.

Perennials take approximately two to three years to reach full size. There is a common saying regarding perennials, "The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap."

Understanding the long term nature of a perennial plant is necessary for appropriate planning. All perennials have specific soil, water, and sun requirements. They must be planted in the appropriate place for them to be allowed to grow to their full glory.

There are two additional important considerations when planning where to plant a perennial. A planned garden might have certain color requirements, and the perennial likely does not have flowers when it is first purchased or planted. It is necessary to be absolutely certain that the color will be compatible where you intend to place it.

The second consideration is height and how much the full grown plant will spread. When it recommends that you leave an area around the plant of three feet, make certain that you give the plant that room. By its third year it will need all three feet. It is far better to fill in the empty space around the young, immature perennial with annuals rather than to give in and think that by planting your perennials more closely together your garden will look more full. If you do that, you will have to dig up and move your plants in a year or two. Far better to plan your perennials ahead of time and spend your time digging new holes for new plants rather than moving the same plants year after year because you did not take the time to plan.

For a perennial garden a piece of graph paper will come in very handy. Even if your garden is going to be with rounded edges, the graph paper will help you to establish approximate distances between perennials to ensure that they have adequate growing room.
  • When planning your perennial garden, take into consideration color. It is a good idea to stick with no more than three colors in any given bed, to keep the look somewhat unified and appealing. Read about each plant and establish when each plant will bloom in your garden. By paying attention to blooming times, you can be sure to fill your garden with plants that will bloom in succession, giving you a full season's worth of flowering plants rather than having all the plants bloom at one time and the rest of the season bereft of color.
  • Planting perennials gives the gardener reason to be sure that the garden beds are very well prepared. Once perennials are established in a garden, the most you will be able to do is to compost, mulch, and fertilize. If you are in too much of a hurry when planting a perennial bed and do not take good care of creating ideal soil, your perennial bed will forever be stunted and never flourish to its full potential.
  • Planting in groups is a good idea for perennials; groups of odd numbers is most creative, but do not get too hung up on too many rules. If you only find one or two of a particular variety you especially want, go ahead and plant the two of them together.
  • Foliage is a serious consideration when choosing perennials. Because these plants do not usually flower the entire season, it is important to consider the foliage, color, and design, as these will be what you will see most of the time in the garden. By creating a canvas of varying colors of green and sizes and shapes of leaves, you will create a beautiful garden. There are also ornamental grasses that grow in clumps that can create an ideal focal point.


This group of plants takes a full two years to grow and bloom. Growing biennials takes patience and understanding. It is not likely the first choice recommended for a beginning gardener, however, if there is a variety of a plant that you especially like and it is something you wish to have in your garden, you will likely be willing to learn about them.
Vegetable Garden
The average garden in the United States contains at least some vegetables. Other vegetable gardens contain a little bit of everything. The beauty of a vegetable garden is that with a little bit of planning there can be enough to feed a family of four or more for the entire summer with some left over for preserving or freezing for the fall and winter.

Vegetable varieties

All it takes is a look at a good garden catalog to determine just what can be planted in your vegetable garden. Vegetables are among the easiest plants to grow. A vegetable garden is made up mostly of annual plants that need to be planted every spring, however there are a few perennials, like asparagus, that will come back year after year with greater and greater bounties of produce.

Common choices include:

  • Beans.
  • Beets.
  • Broccoli.
  • Cabbage.
  • Carrot.
  • Cauliflower.
  • Chard.
  • Corn.
  • Cucumber.
  • Eggplant.
  • Lettuce.
  • Muskmelon.
  • Okra.
  • Onion.
  • Pepper.
  • Potato.
  • Pumpkin.
  • Radish.
  • Spinach.
  • Squash, Summer.
  • Squash, Winter.
  • Tomato.
  • Turnip.
  • Watermelon.

Evaluate your needs

More importantly, however, is that you determine what you and your family will eat. There is no point in planting half a dozen plants of eggplant and beets if no one in your family will eat them. They will be good composting items, however, why waste your time and effort on something you will not eat?

Make a chart of the people in your family and evaluate the items that they like to eat. From that chart you can determine how many plants to establish of the desired varieties. Your first garden does not need to have more than half a dozen items or so. Remember, that each year you can add to your harvest as you learn what you like to eat, how much, and likely expand the variety of vegetables and other produce in your diet.

Cool Season versus Warm Season Vegetables

There are still some needs to be considered for your vegetables in addition to full sun. There are vegetables that are considered cool season vegetables. These are vegetables that need to be planted after the last frost of the season, but before the nighttime temperatures rise. These crops include cabbage, radishes, peas, lettuce, and green onions. Warm weather vegetables are spinach, peppers, corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and onions. Always be sure to check the back of the seed packet for details about each vegetable to make absolutely certain that you are planting your seeds at the appropriate times. Keep a journal the first couple of years to help you become a more successful gardener year after year.

Time from Planting until Harvest Keep in mind, nearly all vegetables on the list above like a full eight hours of sunlight. Without adequate sunlight the following chart will have very little use. With full sun and adequate water, the following chart will give you an idea of how many weeks it will take from seed to harvest. The only exception is the time for the tomato harvest, the time estimate on that one is from a transplanted seedling.

Vegetable Crop

Weeks from seed to harvest







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Chard, Swiss


Corn, sweet

9 to 13





Lettuce, head

10 to 12

Lettuce, leaf

6 to 8





Onion, dry


Onion, green

6 – 9

Pepper, (transplanted crop)





12 to 15





Squash, summer


Squash, winter


Tomato, (transplanted crop)



6 to 8


12 to 15

Soil Preparation

Soil preparation for your vegetable garden is no different than it is for any other garden. To reap the very best benefit from your garden, you need to start with the very best soil that you can afford. Raised beds with soil that is never walked on is the absolute best, but that is not always possible for every gardener. Just make sure it is as good as it can be.


Most vegetables can be planted directly into the garden at the appropriate time. It is best not to plant warm season plants early in the spring. The subsequent plants will be stunted and fail to thrive. Always be sure that you work with the season.

Plant your garden as near the house as you possibly can. This way it will always be in your sight and you will make sure that you do not allow weeds and other pests to take over your garden. You will also be careful to provide adequate water for your vegetables as they grow. Without adequate water, the plants may grow, but they will bear little fruit.

Composting for Vegetable and other Edible Gardens

This is an important section.

I compost only one way; that is with the expectation that everything will eventually end up on the table in some form or another.

Some individuals like to compost everything, including cat and dog feces. This can be done as long as you do not intend to consume any of the plant material grown in that kind of compost. Cats and dogs carry diseases that cannot be eliminated in the composting process. Other materials that can be added to a compost pile, but not one destined for your vegetable or herb garden, include bones, meat, and clippings from non-organic gardens and lawns. When in doubt,ask. If you do not know, do not put items in your compost pile that will eventually end up in your vegetable garden. Keep the two compost piles far, far apart.