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Fall is one of the best times to plant anything from flowers, shrubs, trees, to even vegetables. You may be thinking about revamping your yard space, or even starting a garden from scratch. You’re not alone! Many homeowners take advantage of this perfect time of year to create the garden of their dreams, even if it means planting hundreds of seeds or making dozens of trips to the local nursery. If you’re thinking about transforming your backyard into the lush, green paradise you’ve always dreamed of, here are ten steps to help you get started.

1- Decide what you want to grow. When starting your own garden, you may be overwhelmed by all the options out there. It’s important to decide what you want to grow first, as this may help determine how to treat the soil and where you’re going to plant your greenery. There are annuals, which germinate and die within one year, or perennials, which regrow every spring. Consider the climate you live in, as some plants may not tolerate heat for example, while others thrive in it. Ask yourself: do you want to grow vegetables? Herbs? Flowers? Shrubs? Do you even want to plant a small tree? Your garden will be your haven, and the choice is yours — you can mix and match, but if you’re new at gardening, perhaps it’s a good idea to start small and then expand when you get the hang of maintaining your plants. If you don’t know what you want in your garden, visit a nursery to see what strikes your fancy, and ask a professional what they think you should plant!

2- Choose a location for your garden. You may have the perfect patch of land in mind, but there’s more to consider if you’re going to be a successful gardener. The location heavily depends on your plants’ needs: some may require more shade, while others crave as much sunlight as possible. Additionally, make sure that the moisture in your patch of soil is just right, and isn’t located in a place where water tends to pool after it rains. On the flip side, you also want to start your garden near a water spout for easy access. If you want to start small or aren’t sure about where is best to plant your first time around, you can try planting flowers and herbs in pots.

3- Invest in basic tools. You can’t start a garden without tools! If you don’t know what to buy, invest in some basic, easy-to-use tools. A hoe, a garden shovel, a dirt rake, garden gloves, and some hand tools should do the trick.

4- Test your soil. Once you’ve picked your patch of land according to your plants’ needs, you’ll want to test the quality of the soil. This step can be tricky if you’re just starting out, but you’ll want to know if your soil is acidic, alkaline or has a neutral pH. Visually, you can check if the soil is mostly sand, clay, silt, or a mix of the three. You may also be able to see if there are a lot of rocks that can hurt the growth of your plants. You may also want to test for contamination, as roadways or other nearby structures can hurt the quality of your soil. Finally, ask a professional to direct you to kits that can help determine whether or not your land has the basic nutrients needed to foster growth.

5- Remove grass and other unwanted plants, and consider a raised bed. If you’re starting from scratch, chances are you already have turf covering most, if not all of the area you want to plant in. Before you can prepare your soil, you’ll want to remove all the unwanted vegetation from the area. Weeds, grass, and other plants should be removed before sowing seeds or planting flowers. Consider raising your garden bed and edging out the garden to make room for a stone border. This may help keep out weeds and grass as well as providing an attractive finish to your garden while making it easier to mow around it.

6- Prepare your soil. Depending on the plants you’ve chosen, the quality of the dirt may not be sufficient to sustain them. This may mean using tools and products to change the soil. Such methods may include digging, which loosens the dirt and allows roots to penetrate more easily. You may also want to invest in mulch to protect them against the elements, and fertilizer to give those plants some extra nutrients.

7- Choose seeds and plants accordingly. For some of the plants you may have chosen, there may be the option of planting them as transplants or from seeds. The time of year and the weather, the quality of the soil, and the variety of plant will determine which one to pick. If you’re at a nursery and don’t know which one is best, ask a professional!

8- Get planting! Once you’ve completed all of these steps, it’s time to start planting! You have your seeds, flowers, shrubs, and all other necessities, but you may still be confused about where to start. Plants should be in the “right” spots: some may need to be more spaced out than others, and the seeds can only be planted so deep into the soil, for example. But at the end of the day, it’s your garden! Come up with a color scheme or organize them by aesthetic — this is your haven, so it’s totally up to you!

9- Care for your garden. Even once you’ve planted everything, the work doesn’t stop there. You need to continue caring for your lush new garden with as much watering as the plants need, consistent fertilizing and weeding, and maybe even adding compost. You may find that critters and small animals have a newfound interest in your yard, so you may want to consider adding a fence to keep them out.

10- You reap what you sow! Because it’s your garden, you get to take advantage of its beauty and the peace it may provide. If you planted vegetables and herbs, it may not be long before you’re able to use the fruits of your labor in your cooking. As for flowers, some varieties may allow you to pick them regularly, so you may be able to create some magnificent bouquets without leaving home.

These are just some guidelines for how to start your own garden from scratch, but if you’re already a seasoned gardener, there are a ton of ways you can make your green haven the envy of the neighborhood!

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