April 17, 2018  

A Beginner’s Guide To Planning A Garden & A Free Garden Planner

Thinking about starting a garden this year? Here are my tips on how to start a garden for beginners along with a free printable garden planner to help you plan your own garden. 


A huge thanks to Theisen’s for sponsoring this post. See my disclosure policy for more information.

I’ve barely been able to keep a houseplant alive up to this point in my lifetime, so it comes as a surprise that I’m sitting here writing about gardening today!

But the idea of growing fresh vegetables and flowers with my own hands is something I’m really looking forward to. In a life filled with constant distractions and instant gratification, I’m feeling drawn to gardening where you have no choice but to slow down and watch your garden grow little by little. Gardening will be a great motivator to spend more time outdoors this summer and I also think it’s a fantastic way to teach kids how food is grown.

When Theisen’s asked me to partner on a spring planting project, I immediately knew it would be the perfect opportunity to stock up on supplies for my garden!

Today I’m sharing tips on how to start a garden for beginners because there are a lot of things to figure out when you’re getting started. I also created a free downloadable garden planner to help you plan your garden – from your seed shopping list to planting schedule to garden bed layout.

While I feel like a complete beginner, I’m realizing that I understand a lot more about growing things than many people I know. I grew up on a farm and we always had a garden in addition to crops. I never took much interest in it growing up, but I do know the basics of planting and harvesting vegetables.

So while this will be my first official garden, I have a little experience to fall back on and am a crazy researcher so you can bet I’ve been reading all the things about gardening lately! I’m no master gardener, but sometimes I think it’s helpful to hear from other beginners who are learning right alongside you.

Here’s what I’m doing to prepare for our first garden!



Download The Free Garden Planner


If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know that I love to plan! And pretty printables always make planning more fun, so I went ahead and created a printable garden planner that you can download to use when planning your own garden this year.

I used the planner to decide what to plant, how to lay out our garden beds and to make my shopping list before I headed out to pick up seeds and supplies at Theisen’s.

Subscribe below and I’ll email the garden planner to you right away, then keep scrolling for my tips for how to start a garden for beginners.

Download the FREE Garden Planner

Dreaming of warm weather and a thriving garden? Download this free printable planner to track your seed inventory, supply lists, garden layouts, planting schedule and more. Subscribe for instant access to the planner and weekly organizing tips.

I'll never send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit



How To Start A Garden For Beginners

Choose A Garden Location

There are three basic types of gardens: a conventional garden tilled in in your yard, raised garden beds and container gardens. The type of soil and amount of space you have are two factors for determining which garden format will work best. Our new house has existing raised garden beds around the edge of the deck, so I’m lucky because I don’t have to start from scratch.

Sunlight is key! According to my research, gardens should receive at least 5 hours of sunlight each day. You’ll also want to consider a location or method for keeping wildlife out of your garden.

Since we have a lot of rabbits in our yard, I know I’ll need some kind of fence to prevent them from eating all of my plants. I found this affordable wire garden border when I was shopping for gardening supplies at Theisen’s and it will be perfect for keeping small animals out of our garden beds. Now if only it would stop snowing here in Iowa so I could start prepping the garden!


Decide What To Grow In Your Garden

Brainstorm a list of vegetables, herbs, and fruits that your family enjoys. Then research what will grow well in your climate. It’s helpful to talk to neighbors and friends in your area to get their recommendations about what grows best.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Figure out your gardening zone and first and lost frost dates, because not all plants will thrive in all climates.
  • What’s easy to grow in your area? Ask around to find out what people have the most success growing. Some plants will require more care than others, so stick to some of the easier things for your first garden.
  • How much space do you have? If you are starting with a small garden, you probably don’t want to grow big vegetables like pumpkins. You may also want to limit the number of different plants you grow if you’re short on space.
  • How much food do you want to produce? Do you want to eat everything fresh as it grows or do you want a larger crop that you can freeze/can/store for later? As a beginner gardener, I think it’s best to plan to grow what your family can eat fresh and not worry about figuring out the logistics of how and where to store extra food.


I assume you’re reading this because you want to learn how to start a garden for growing vegetables, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also grow flowers! Consider a few flower varieties that you might like to try out this year.

Create a shopping list of seeds and plants you need to purchase. I’ve included a shopping list inside the Free Garden Planner to help you get organized!

If you’re curious, here’s my list of supplies (For reference, I am in Garden Zone 5a.):



Plan Your Garden Layout

Once you’ve decided what to grow, it’s time to figure out how to best arrange it in your garden. I’m still learning about best practices but some things I’m considering are how many square feet I want to devote to each type of plant, which plants need to be in the sunniest location and which plants require the most care (and should, therefore, be located nearest the house for convenience).

Use the graph paper in the Free Garden Planner to sketch up your garden layout.


Invest In Basic Garden Tools & Supplies

There are a lot of gardening tools available, but here is a list of what I consider the basics:

  • Gardening Gloves
  • Garden Hoe
  • Trowel
  • Hose
  • Watering Can
  • Seed-Starting Trays
  • Seed-Starting Soil

You really don’t need a lot of fancy tools to start out!

You can order all of the supplies and tools you need from the Theisen’s website. Here’s a peek at the things I found at Theisen’s:


Buy Seeds And/Or Transplants

While you’re shopping for supplies, you’ll also want to pick up all of the seeds and plants you need. Allow time to peruse seed options and read the back of seed packets. There are a lot of options, so you may find yourself spending a lot of time making selections.

The seed packets will tell you important information like planting instructions, how many days from planting to harvest, how much space each plant requires, etc. I loaded up on seeds from Theisen’s!

flower-seed-packets-and-gardening gloves

Start Seeds Indoors

Some of the seeds you purchase may need to be started indoors. This gives them a jumpstart so they’ve already started growing before it’s warm enough to plant them outside. Since we just got another couple inches of snow here over the weekend, it’s definitely not time to plant anything outside but I already have seeds sprouting in the house so they’ll be ready once the weather warms up.

I lined two plastic trays with Jiffy-Strips, which are all-natural containers that can be broken apart and transplanted directly into the soil. You fill each little container with soil and then water the soil before planting your seeds.


This can get messy, especially if you have kiddos that want to help, so I recommend covering your table with plastic trash bags to catch the mess!


Plant one seed per container, following the seed packet instructions for how deep to plant each seed. Most of my seeds needed to be planted at 1/4 inch deep, and I found that the end of a pencil was an easy way to make holes for the seeds.


Cover seeds with soil and label the containers so you remember what everything is. I used a Sharpie to label craft sticks to mark each row.


From what I’ve read, seeds germinate best in a warm, dark, damp environment. At the suggestion of many articles, I covered each tray of seeds with a plastic trash bag and set them on top of our fridge where it’s warm. I used a spray bottle to mist the soil with water every day and things were sprouting within a week!


Now that the seeds have all sprouted, I have moved them to a table in front of a south-facing window so they can get as much sunshine as this dreary Iowa spring will allow.

Prepare The Soil & Transplant Outside

Once we get past the last frost, it will be time to transplant my seedlings into the garden beds outside! I’ll need to loosen up the soil with a garden hoe first, then I can stick the seedlings in the ground according to the garden layout I’ve created.


I’m not a master gardener, but sometimes it’s helpful to hear from others who are learning things right alongside you. I hope this post helps answer your questions about how to start a garden. It’s really not that complicated and, as with so many things, the hardest part is getting started!

If you’re planning a garden this year, Theisen’s has everything you need for a thriving garden and perfectly green lawn! Click here to shop online at Theisens.com.

Do you plant a garden? I’d love to hear your tips on how to start a garden! And don’t forget to download the Garden Planner using the form at the bottom of this page.

I’ll be back with more gardening tips and updates in the coming months! In the meantime, you may enjoy some of these other outdoor projects:

Have a wonderful day!




Download the FREE Garden Planner

Dreaming of warm weather and a thriving garden? Download this free printable planner to track your seed inventory, supply lists, garden layouts, planting schedule and more. Subscribe for instant access to the planner and weekly organizing tips.

I'll never send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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