5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Gardening

I’ve been gardening for a little more than 30 years and for about 15, maybe even 20 of those years, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I loved gardening. I moved through the entire process, had some successes, a lot of failures, but there were some things that if I would have known all those years ago, I would have had much greater success. So join me as I discuss the five things that I wish I knew when I started gardening. Hi, I’m Gardener Scott and I love gardening. And I love sharing my knowledge and my experience with other gardeners… particularly new gardeners. Because even though it was a long time ago I once was a new gardener. In fact, I considered myself a new gardener for many, many years because I just kept making mistakes, and things didn’t go right. But I persevered and I kept going trying to learn what it was I did wrong. And back then there was no internet and there was no YouTube video to help out along the way. It was just me and usually a dog trying to figure out the process. And it’s the gardening process that I really love. It’s the doing, the learning, having those problems, and then overcoming those problems and having the successes. But I think that’s one of the biggest issues with gardening overall… a lot of new gardeners have grand visions of the garden space and then it doesn’t turn out as they had planned. It’s too hard and they give up. And I really don’t like to see anyone give up on gardening. It’s too important. So today I’m sharing those five things that I think if you realize their importance and even learn more about them, it will make the entire process easier for you, and you’ll have more successes. The problems will still be there, but you’ll enjoy when your garden turns out the way you really did envision it. The first important thing to know… Soil is key. One of the first things I learned in my Master Gardener training was that 80% of plant problems can be traced to your soil. If something’s not going right, look to the soil. If things are going right, it’s probably because you cared about your soil. And too few gardeners realize that. They throw band-aid fixes on their garden. Chemicals, things that they heard about, or saw a video about, and hope that that will fix the problem they have. But it probably comes down to how good is your soil. A textbook soil should be 45% mineral content 25% air 25 percent water and 5 percent organic matter. And very few gardeners realize that. They’ll focus on the watering or they’ll focus on the tilling to get some of that air in there or they’ll focus on the compost to get that organic matter. But it’s an entire process. All of those things need to be working together for your soil to be the best that it can be. So think about the soil as the foundation of your garden, quite literally. If you get your soil right, if you realize that’s where most of the problems come from, the entire process is going to be easier and I guarantee you with good soil you’ll have good plants. And with good plants you’ll love gardening more than you ever thought possible. The second thing to know is that bugs happen. You’re going to have insects in your garden. So try not to worry about it. In fact, use it to your advantage because there are many beneficial insects out there. They’re predators that will eat the bad bugs and if you just focus on the bad bugs and not on the good bugs you can create an imbalance that really leads to a downward spiral and lots of problems in your garden. I know because I had that issue early in my gardening career. I had bad bugs and I would spray the chemicals to kill them, not knowing that I was also killing the good bugs. And as soon as one bad bug moves out, there’s another one ready to move in. And if you don’t have the good bugs ready to battle that onslaught, well, the bad bugs take over and can devastate your garden. So get away from the chemicals. In fact at the Galileo Garden, in particular, I used no chemicals at all. And once I learned to attract the beneficial insects I could just sit back, because nature was in balance. And I had very few issues with the bad bugs eating my plants. I had great harvests because bugs happen and I didn’t worry about it. The third thing you need to know is that weeds will win. You’re always going to have weeds. So don’t focus so much on a few weeds in your garden that it drives you crazy. I know gardeners who have stopped gardening because they just couldn’t handle the weed problem. Learn about weeds and why they’re a problem. One of the easiest ways to control weeds is to use mulch. The mulch cuts down on the weeds, dramatically. But it doesn’t eliminate them. I had one volunteer at the Galileo Garden who loved weeding. That was her favorite activity and she would get her knee pad and spend hours just pulling weeds. I never quite got to that point, but I had great admiration for her because she accepted that weeds were part of the gardening process and she turned that around to make it an enjoyable experience. Now, I’m not saying you have to enjoy weeding. But accept it. In fact it also ties in with that insect issue. Some weeds attract beneficial insects. So it may be in your best interest to let some of the weeds grow They can also help with the birds in your garden and lots of those other beneficial things that happen when nature is in balance. So don’t fight it. You can keep it under control. Stay away from the chemicals, but don’t stress over it because it’s a natural part of gardening. The fourth thing to know is that patience is a virtue. This whole gardening journey takes time to get to the point where you can enjoy it as much as I do and to have some successes along the way. There are many many gardeners who want it now and so they spend a lot of time and a lot of money, this year, to get this year’s harvest perfect. And when it doesn’t happen they walk away. Have some patience. Accept this gardening experience as something to enjoy at every step along the way. This is a Honey Crisp apple tree that I planted last month. It’s established pretty well, but in another few months, I’m actually going to cut it back by about half so that I can get the size and the shape perfect. It’s going to be three, maybe even five, years before I get any fruit off of this tree, but I have the patience to accept that that’s just how long it takes. I can almost guarantee you that when I harvest the first apple off of this tree it will be one of the best tasting apples that I’ve ever had because I waited so long to get it. And that holds true with so many other aspects of gardening. When you wait so long for something to happen it just tastes better. It feels better. It’s so much more enjoyable. That soil issue… well, it takes time to resolve. The insects and the weeds… it takes time for those things to come into balance. And if you’ve got the patience to accept that, you really will have better gardening success. Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be in such a rush. And at some point you’ll be able to look back on 30 years and be happy with everything that happened along the way. The fifth thing that I wish I knew when I first started gardening was that there are going to be failures. Many, many failures. In fact, many years there will be more failures than successes. But if we take those failures and learn from them, next year will be better… unless it’s not. Because maybe the next year we’ll have more failures, but it’s okay because we’ll learn from them and next year will be better… but maybe it won’t. Maybe we’ll have more failures. And that’s one of the things we have to deal with as gardeners. We’re always striving for the next year to be better. But we have to accept that sometimes the failures we have this year is just the price we pay for being gardeners. And ultimately we get to that point where we can enjoy those failures because we know we’re going to learn from that, and have that success. When I get together with my gardening friends, what’s one of the biggest things we talk about? Its what went wrong. Because when we can share those failures with someone else, it makes us realize that we’re not alone in this gardening journey. Everyone else is having the same failures, but maybe someone has that successful season and we can all revel in that experience because it feels good. If one gardener is happy, all gardeners are happy. And I really believe that. So you embrace those failures. Use them. Help them make you a better gardener so that you can reach the point where it’s all an enjoyable experience. It’s all part of the journey. And then you can be like me and share the experiences for those who haven’t learned about it yet. If you have any comments or questions about these five issues, or if you want to share some of your own, well, then just let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to see more of these gardening videos, well, then subscribe to the Gardener Scott channel and make sure you click on the bell so you’re notified when new videos come out. If you like this video, well, then give me a thumbs up and share it. I’m Gardener Scott. Enjoy gardening.

100 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Gardening

  1. My failure is mulching around my plants. I tried mulching around my veggies using grass clippings & compost, I ended up killing most of them. They were somewhat established when I mulched, but I mulched up next to the stems. My perpetual spinach and half my chard ended up dying to what I assume is dampening off (fungus on the stem) along with a cucumber plant that was starting its first cucumber. I had one of my tomatoes have a slug or insect eat through most of the bottom of the stem (its still alive, I'm trying to bury part of the stem to see if I can get it to root & recover).
    I'm trying a different mulch now. I'm using arborist woodchips hoping that they will work much better at keeping moisture in the soil & not be so harsh against the plant stems.

  2. 1) Soil is Key. 80% of all issues/success due to soil
    2) Bugs Happen. Don't kill them, attract the good bugs instead
    3) Weeds will win. Learn to control them, but don't stop because weeds keep growing
    4) Patience is a virtue. Plants take time to develop.
    3) Learn from your failures. You will make many so learn from them.

  3. Some time watching too many YouTube videos can mess you up also? Too many different techniques and ifferent types of gardening. For example “back to Eden gardening” doesn’t work for all areas. Where I live it barely rains😏 so the wood chips don’t break down easily

  4. Decades later I finally understood that the soil is alive. As guardians, it is our job to feed and nourish this magical stuff. Look at the rewards. Very nice video.

  5. What if you can't figure out at all what caused the problem? Then how can you learn? For example, my 1 & 2-year-old kiwi berry vines looked sickly all summer, and I had taken great care to make sure the soil was perfect. Wild yarrow was growing nearby, and I read in one place that they can hurt other plants around them, but I couldn't find anything else saying that. Have you heard of this?

  6. Greetings from Connecticut Gardner Scott! Thank you for another awesome video. I’ve got a small garden approximately 400 ft.² that I’ve pretty much done the same thing with for 20 maybe 25 years. This year something changed with the help of your videos. I planted my first fall garden and added a garlic and shallot bed that I m really excited about. Next year will be all organic and heirloom and I’m more enthusiastic than ever. Thank you very much for so freely sharing so much of your knowledge. I’ll be studying and looking forward to more great videos.
    Sincerely grateful, Dale

  7. Xin chào anh, chúc anh 2 ngày cuối tuần vui vẻ và công việc tốt đẹp ạ.anh có vườn nhà anh đẹp tuyệt vời ạ.

  8. Great advice for beginners and a timely reminder for the seasoned gardeners. Btw love the dog must be a joy to have him/her around

  9. To me success in a season is how much I learned and improved what I was doing. That will automatically show up as visible results.

  10. A lot of this made me feel a lot better about this year. It was rather subpar in my opinion, but I learned soooo much. Sadly I didn't document any of it; since it hasn't occurred to me to do so until I seen your video on it "which I viewed 5/6 days ago. Luckily I have a decent memory of most of needs to be done and avoided. Hopefully next year is far better.

  11. Totally agree. One of the things that make gardening so enjoyable is that there are a lot of ways to fail. It's not easy, but all of those ways that one can fail are manageable. It's fun to learn how to be better and to do better. The reward is food! Do this difficult task and you will be rewarded with food that didn't exist until you wanted it to…Pretty cool.

  12. If we have never killed a plant, we have never tried to grow one. Old timers like me realize we are trying to conduct a symphony, making everyone play nice together, but sometimes we hear a sour note. Just keep on playing. Great video.

  13. 1)Soil is Key; 80% of all issues/success are due to soil.

        Soil = 40% Mineral; 25% Air; 25% Water; 5% Organic matter

        (Test your soil for mineral content.)

    2) Bugs happen. Don't kill them, attract the good bugs instead.

    3) Weeds will win. Learn to control them with MULCH; don't give up.

    4) Patience is a virtue. Plants take time to. grow.

    5) Learn from your failures; Share failures with fellow-gardeners.


  14. All good points , though I have to disagree with the "weeds will win"
    We don't have any weeds, we have lots of unwanted plants that the chickens love to eat
    Terrific video , thanks for the information and your enthusiasm

  15. That is a terrifically informative video! It got me thinking of how much my approach to gardening has changed from more than 30 years ago. Probably the most significant change was when I decided (after too many years of experience) to simplify my gardening – radically! Today I use nothing but home-made compost and water. No gimmicks, no tricks, no magic solutions to "super-size" my veggies.

    The one thing thing that I wish I knew when I started was that I didn't have to dig or till my soil every fall. I used to dread that chore. A little more than 5 years ago I heard about this approach and I thought it was too good to be true. I dedicated two of my eight raised beds to "no-dig" for two years and found that I was getting equal or better results in these beds compared to the others. No more digging for me!

    All that being said, brand new gardeners usually have visions of perfection … finding the perfect ingredients, techniques and practices that will optimize their harvests. That was me too many years ago. I wanted to try out all those miracle recommendations. It was fun (but for the most part, futile). Would I have listened to all this sound advice back then? Probably not … I wanted to be creative and see for myself.

    So for brand new gardeners, I'll give this advice: If you don't want to follow this "simple" approach, reserve at least a small part of your garden as a "do nothing" area (beyond compost, water and mulch).

    Cheers and thanks for posting.

  16. Being a new gardener, this video is so helpful! Thank you! Actually these 5 points are good advise for life in general!

  17. Is your property an original farm or homestead? I say that because the houses behind you seem to indicate land was sold off for a subdivision. In my (limited) experience this can have sapped the soil or fed it, so that you can get a real soil-building/remediating project or, in my Ukrainian step-father's case, a gardening goldmine. He said that Ukrainians (of his generation I think), when house-hunting didn't even enter the home until they'd gone into the garden with a spade and checked out the soil. No good? They didn't even look at the house. Mine has what seemed to be soybean plants randomly scattered throughout the lot, but then I started to find very deep peanuts, not likely to be planted by squirrels I think. We're right on the underground railroad here and there were some experimental farms back in the day.

  18. This video is so timely for me! I'm in North Texas (7a) with a first frost date of Nov 21. First freeze in Dec. I decided to plant my first fall garden in my new raised beds. Our first frost (and hard freeze!) came on October 11th! I was tempted to just say forget it to fall gardening until I watched this video! Thank you for the encouragement! Fall gardens aren't popular here due to our usual drought and high temps in August and September, so I really needed some hope!

  19. I’m trying to find your patience. But starting with a tiny garden, I will be heartbroken if I fail completely. Just hoping some of it works out.

  20. Such valuable advice. I am just a fledgling gardener starting out – quite proud of what I've achieved so far, but boy – have I experienced everything you've stated already! The bugs, the weeds, the failures – and battling with soil problems (plus having NO clue how much water is "enough"). I've had to learn to shelve my "perfectionist" attitude and let nature take it's course in many instances – and often times, it turns out okay. Thanks Scott.

  21. Have you ever discussed good seeds vs. bad seeds for veggies? If not would you please? Do you order your seeds from a special vendor, or just go to a nursery? What to look for when choosing the best seeds? Thanks.

  22. "Weeds happen." This can't be stressed enough. I made peace with the weeds in my lawn long ago and only look to be sure garden weeds aren't interfering with my vegs. It beats spraying weed killers near me and on my food. (Tomato horn worms are an exception but they get hand picked and drowned!)

  23. Thank you, Scott. I had many Japanese beetles eating my plants. What would be the best way to get rid of them except chemicals?

  24. Thank you so much for another great video! I have just retired and sold my flat in the city (Montpellier, France). At last I'm going to have a garden 🙂 Been watching your super videos for a couple of months now & can't wait to get stuck in! Thanks again!

  25. It's true soil is key my soil seemed doomed until I realize wild pea pods growing i realized it was that I just needed to work it out now all my plants are so healthy and organic

  26. This past season was my third attempt at gardening. I don’t use any chemicals. I see beneficial insects, like “ground spiders” when I pull weeds. As you say mulch is very helpful, I am still learning about that. This was the first year of a good yield of garlic,onions,swiss chard,and basil. I am still working on the rabbit problem. They ate all my lettuce and green beans. I try to plant what they don’t like to eat. But, as you mentioned, patience is important. Thanks for your advice and videos.

  27. After a few years of experience, the first thing I would tell a new gardener is to be vary wary of people trying to sell you gadgets and miracle products. Especially products you have to keep buying over and over every season. Yes, fertilizers are an important tool, but if one's entire garden is built around constantly using bottled nutes you're just setting yourself up for a lifetime of making someone else richer. Learning to build and maintain healthy vibrant soil will serve you much better and save a good deal of money.

  28. On the topic of learning from failures, I also like to try new-to-me plants and things I'm not sure will work, on purpose. It's important to actually see failures happen in real time and understand why something doesn't work for your techniques or your conditions, and sometimes time I've found that the plants do much better than expected anyway. Barring a really nasty disease issue, I figure failed plants are just more food for the compost bin. 😉

  29. Great information! I'm curious though, why do you talk so slow though? It sounds like you are talking slower on purpose kind of… Does that help something?

  30. This was my first year. I'm very happy with my successes and my failures and I can't wait until next year to apply the things that I've learned.
    I'm hoping to grow zucchini next year! I completely feel that at this year we'll see…

  31. I've been gardening for 40 years and still don't know everything I should.  Gardener Scott you have really nailed it.  I want to join your church and I did. Subscribed and thumbs up Brother. Great advice here.

  32. I've had a cherry tree space in my front yard for yrs, room for a few, mostly successful with stone fruits but that location keeps killing my cherries, get a few nascent harvests maybe and then the tree dies mysteriously after growing strong for 5 odd yr.s. I realized I really want an evergreen wall along the front anyway so I'm filling in and extending my citrus tree line, citrus always thrive on neglect there, and re-establishing cherries in a much diff microclimate way outback. GOTTA have certain fruits if at all possible. One key goal for any type–widen the ripening time as long as possible, I can now harvest peaches (not continuously but a couple weeks per month maybe) from June to October from 5 or 6 varieties with diff ripening times.

  33. instant gratification of todays culture, where everyone instantly can get whatever they want, has truly soiled our ability to enjoy the wait.
    I was born in the early 90s, and my generation and those after me are so caught up in how quickly they can get anything, yet its never quite as good as what they had hoped it would be.
    more people need to garden, and watch this video to maybe change some mindsets. thanks for sharing, Scott!!

  34. I am nowhere near being an expert on farming and soil but 45% minerals sounds a bit high. Can you tell me the breakdown of the mineral content in an ideal soil. Thxs

  35. It is winter. I am in zone 6. I am spending my time collecting leaves with my lawn mower bag and spreading coffee grounds from Starbucks. Journal about your gardening. I use Pages on my Macbook. Now that it is winter I can enjoy looking back on my notes and planning as to what I'm going to do differently next year.

  36. Very good video keep up the good work there's nothing like having knowledge and wisdom passed on to the other gardeners I'm 68 years old I probably been gardening just as long as you or longer and what you say is right patience is a virtue for all the young gardeners Listen to A wise man retain what he says and you may succeed but take the good with the bad just like he says gardening is a love you Must nurture the love and what you get out of it you will enjoy for God has given us the ability to give life and if it's in gardening Love Is What It Takes

  37. The gardener's mantra—-NEXT Year! It's why we live FOREVER…..because we're waiting for that perfect year.
    Loved the video. I've also gardened for 30 years and I love it more every year. Greatest joy there is.

  38. Will start my 1st garden this coming spring. Thoroughly enjoyed your video. Not really sure if I have the temperament for gardening, but I’m going to give it my best effort. Anticipate referencing your videos quite frequently.

  39. When I first moved in to my home in NJ, just moving a stone would expose easily 30 Japanese beetles. My yard had been completely neglected for 30+ years and it showed. It was an insect and animal wonderland filled with damaging insects, dead grass, and lots of weeds. Skunks, birds, pigeons, possums, groundhogs, raccoons, and hawks feasted there all day and night. I decided to take my yard back and brought out the big guns. I applied Merit which killed pretty much everything and then applied a weed and feed. That first year my soil was just dead, not an earthworm in sight. I bought hundreds of ladybugs the following spring and they all flew off. Then I started bringing in compost, organic fertilizers, mulch, and tough grass types. I used BT and spinosad when I felt I must, but sparingly. I appreciated the wasps, bees, and monarch butterflies and made sure not to use anything that could hurt them. The ladybugs and earthworms came back. I don't plant things that attract animals I don't want. My point in all this is , there is a time and a place for strong chemicals and I'm very glad I used them. Now that everything is under control, I don't need to use them very much anymore and have learned to appreciate the beneficial insects. Sometimes they do need a helping hand however.

  40. Thank you Scott! Your video (and voice) has had a calming effect on me. I've taken to farming 3 years ago at age 52, and have been facing exactly what you were talking about. Now i feel more hopeful than ever with your 5 amazing tips.

  41. Thank you so much for this video. It’s my first of yours and I appreciate your honesty. We just moved into our forever home. I love growing things. I have done container planting in our past rentals. I have lots of house plants that are thriving. Do you have a “what to do for your first year” type video? I really don’t know where to start. Thank you!!

  42. I have almost no weeds in my gardens. Lots of mulch is the key. The mulch also feeds the soil and the worms.

    The soil micro organisms and the worms makes my soil so soft and aireated that I never need to till it. In fact the soil in my gardens really didn't start to get super fertile until I stopped tilling it.
    I recommend lots of herbacide free mulch, and stop tilling. It's a lot less work with at least twice the yield and half the water.

    When I plant seeds in 4" of mulch I just push back the mulch and plant a row. As the plants grow, I push the mulch back in around the new plants.
    When I translant starts, I pull back the mulch in a circle and dig a little hole, then I fill the hole with water, suspend the little plant start at the right level then brush the soil back into the water until it solidifies. When I plant this way, there usually isn't any delay for them to start growing. I think it's because the root tips don't get matted down but are instead able to point out .
    Those are my offerings to the knowledge here, I hope you have great success.

  43. I don't have a single solitary weed on my place, and it is very large. There is a satisfying reason for this. I make ten to twenty tonnes of premium grade humus most years, I harvest all of the superfluous vegetation for my compost factory. Because I harvest and process all of my vegetation and as much forest fuel overburden as possible for manufacturing into, essentially, worm castings, I no longer have weeds technically speaking, they now are a crop instead. This makes what I previously called weeding into something quite different.
    Also, if you are building up the humus in your garden beds consistently every year, and keeping the mulch on to protect and nourish the improving beds, every year will see better, more fertile, more friable and richer beds even though you may have had a very poor crop. So, always add more compost and mulch and try again. After a few years of this, problems decrease markedly.
    I will be sure to watch all of your episodes, thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  44. This video made me feel good about my small 20 square foot garden. It's small but efficient and chemical free.

    "The clouds always clear in time for the harvest"

  45. Very sound advice, I knowing most of these things being on such a low budget, usually workaround things like poor soil and at times I have found pulling weeds very cathartic, also I don't mind waiting for my garden, even though it won't wait for me, it's always a challenge and I never get bored, but I can only do so much.

  46. Weeds are natures way of telling you the soil likes to be shaded….with mulch they pull easily and when placed in a hole a few inches under the soil they act as a sponge in the soil as they decay. the way I've found to appreciate the process of weeding is to take a picture before and after from the same place…it shows you how your action creates change. I prefer to chopit and drop it.the roots in the ground work to repair soil…I'm converting desert into forest with mulch, terracing, hugelkultur, aquaducts, checkdams…food forest is food abundance perpetually.

  47. Good Day Gardener Scott. I am venturing out to start my new garden in middle Florida. I am about the Ocala latitude but very close to the Gulf of Mexico. My garden area is an old pasture that never saw any animals per say for any kind of soil (sand) amendment. I am going to start with 3 4 x 12 raised beds probably 5 1/2" high. I had a garden similar to this size in NE Ohio where I am from. I also am a master gardener through Geauga County Extension service and the Ohio State University. My plan is to use construction (tar roofing) paper or cardboard (I think I like the cardboard better) on top of the sand, then fill with arborist mulch and top with peat moss, manure, fertilizer growing medium and top that again with arborist mulch. I may not plant anything this year as I wait for the bottom and middle layer to decompose a little, but I think that would be a great start for the next 2 layers next year. Please tell me what you think about my plan. Have a great season and I will follow you closely.

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