How to Start a Garden From Scratch – Tips For Soil, Weeds, More

Gardening may be a lifelong pastime with no ceiling to the sense of fulfillment, pleasure, and horticultural expertise you can gain. However, before you start your first planting bed, there are a few things to consider and understand.

Grass Removal

When you begin the process of creating a garden from scratch, it’s important that any grassy areas are removed. Any sod or dirt containing grass may be considered “infested” by many horticulturists and professional landscapers. This is because there is no way for them to 100% guarantee they will not spread their weed problems to other areas of your garden down the road.

There are a few ways to remove sod:

  • digging it out with a shovel or spade; 
  • killing the grass with an herbicide, such as glyphosate (Roundup) and then removing it; or 
  • scorching the grass using a  flame weeder, such as a propane torch.

Garden Soil

The soil on which a garden is built is extremely important, and most plants require specific soil conditions in order to thrive.  There are many different types of soil, but in general, they can be classified as either sand, silt, or clay.

Sand has the largest particle size and does not hold water or nutrients well; silt has a medium-sized particle size and is good at holding both water and nutrients; while clay has the smallest particle size and is capable of holding large amounts of both water and nutrients.

Ideally, when starting a garden from scratch, you will want to have your soil tested to determine its pH level and nutrient levels. You can then amend the soil as needed to create the best possible growing conditions for your plants.

Select the Right Plants

When choosing plants for your garden, you must do your homework to ensure that you get the right plants in the right places.   For example, you are going to have much better success growing a shade-loving plant in an area that gets only four hours of sun each day than you will if you try to grow the same type of plant in an area with twelve hours of direct sunlight.

As for how many plants to choose from, it really depends on how big your space is and how large the plants themselves will be grown at maturity. For example, if your garden site is five feet by ten feet, then one or two tomato plants may work well; however, if this spot were forty feet long and twenty feet wide (about 600 square feet), then 15 – 20 tomato plants might be necessary.

You should also keep in mind how tall certain types of plants can get. If you have a small space for your garden, then are some plants that have smaller root systems or can be grown in containers instead of being planted directly into the ground.


Weeds are a gardener’s adversary, so it’s vital to have some information on them. You should first understand which weeds you’re dealing with. There are annual weeds and there are perennial weeds. Annual weeds complete their life cycle in one year, while perennial weeds live for more than two years.

Weed seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years before germinating. They will start to grow as the soil warms up in the spring. Weeds can be controlled by removing them when they’re young or by using herbicides.

Herbicides come in liquid, granular, and powder form, and most of them should be applied when the weed is actively growing–either early morning or evening hours are best. Be sure to read the label carefully to make sure you’re applying it correctly and safely!

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