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How to Start a Backyard Garden

August 04, 2023
Two young kids watering plants in their backyard garden

Starting a garden is one of the most rewarding home projects you can embark upon. Whether you’re looking to grow your own vegetables, herbs, or fruit or just want to enjoy the simple beauty of flowers and plants, it’s important to have a plan before you dive in.

We’ve put together ten simple steps to help you get started on your backyard garden:

1. Location, location, location

First, you need to decide where you’d like to set up and display your garden in your yard. Ideally, it’s a spot where you can keep an eye on it. If you can see your garden on a regular basis, you’re more likely to remember to prune and water it – out of sight often equals out of mind.

You’ll also want a spot that receives plenty of sunlight. Track the sunlight patterns in your backyard to help you decide the ideal location. Vegetables and herbs typically need at least six hours of sunlight, while fruits need up to ten hours per day.

2. Know your regional weather

Different climates and weather conditions require specific considerations for gardening. You’ll want to understand the average temperatures in your region, including the lowest winter temperatures and highest summer temperatures. Knowing this information will help you select plants more likely to thrive in your climate and determine the ideal planting times.

Researching average rainfall, wind exposure, and frost dates will help you decide if you need to plan for any additional support systems. If you live in an area with limited rainfall, plan for irrigation systems to ensure your garden receives enough water. If your area has strong winds, you may need to consider windbreaks or support structures for some crops. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll want to use cold frames or row covers to extend your growing season and protect from late or early frosts.

3. Set a goal for your garden

What type of garden do you want to create? Do you love cooking and wish to have homegrown vegetables, fruits, and herbs right outside your door? Do you want to create a vibrant oasis of striking flowers and lush plants? Or a combination of the two?

Deciding the goal for your garden will help determine your containers, watering and fertilizing needs, and how much care you’ll have to provide. Keep it simple and stick to a few complimenting vegetables or flowers. Once you know what you feel comfortable maintaining, you can decide how to expand.

Close up of tomatoes growing in a garden

4. Decide on your garden vessel

Once you know the ideal location and overall goal for your garden, it’s easier to determine the right gardening vessel to fit in the space. Raised garden beds are a great option for warm-weather veggies, while in-ground planting is more beneficial for cool-season crops. Container gardening is a great solution for flowers and decorative plants, especially if you’re working in a limited space, such as a small patio or balcony.

5. Invest in your tools

Like good kitchen cutlery, the right gardening tools can turn a tedious chore into a joyful pastime. After all, you wouldn’t use a butter knife to chop vegetables. Investing in proper metal tools will save you time and effort and reduce the risk of injury. Once you’ve made the investment, take care of your equipment. Keep your tools clean and sharp, just as you would a good knife.

6. Prepare the soil

Depending on the type of plants you want to grow and the container they’ll be growing in, you’ll need to ensure the soil is prepared to support your garden. Raised garden beds give you the advantage of starting your garden with the just-right amount of dirt and organic material, but they can be costly to fill and require more frequent watering as the soil can drain quickly.

In-ground gardens require more upfront work – testing the soil to understand its current pH and nutrient levels, adjusting the soil with compost to improve its fertility, clearing rocks, weeds, or debris, and tilling the ground to loosen it.

Community garden at The Ivy at University District by Brookfield Residential in Calgary AB

University District Community, Calgary, Alberta

7. Purchase high-quality seeds or plants

Depending on your preference, you can either start your plants from seeds or purchase young plants from a local nursery. High-quality seeds have better germination rates, meaning a higher percentage of them will sprout and grow into healthy plants. In the case of edible plants, high-quality seeds can lead to better-tasting and more nutritious produce. If you prefer to start with plants, research reputable nurseries as their plants tend to be healthier and more robust.

Additionally, saving seeds from your own high-quality plants can lead to a self-sustaining garden that will adapt and thrive in your specific backyard over time.

8. Plant with care

Once you’ve done the groundwork (literally), you’re ready to start planting. If you’re starting from seeds, read the package directions thoroughly for proper planting depth and spacing. Typically, you want to plant seeds roughly three times as deep as the seed's diameter and about 12 inches apart from each other.

Determine if companion planting would be beneficial in your garden. Tomato and basil are natural companions in the kitchen, but their pairing starts as early as the garden, as basil helps repel pests typically drawn to tomatoes. Research what companions can best support the crops you want in your backyard garden.

Close up of hands spooning coffee grounds at the base of a plant in a pot

9. Regularly maintain your garden

Gardening is not a one-and-done activity. It’s an ongoing process that requires attention and care.


Regular watering is essential to your garden’s success. Check the moisture levels frequently and adjust your watering schedule based on the weather and the needs of the plants. Over-watering is just as bad as under-watering. If you’re guilty of either, consider installing a drip irrigation system to control the amount of water your plants get automatically.

Weeding and Pest Management

The last thing you want is uninvited guests in your garden. Regularly remove weeds from your garden beds to prevent them from competing with your plants for nutrients and space. Monitor your plants for signs of pests or diseases. Use natural remedies to help keep your garden healthy without harming your crops.

Mulching and Fertilizing

Good soil is the foundation for any successful garden. Applying a layer of organic mulch will help the soil retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve overall soil health. Depending on the types of plants you’re growing, you may need to provide additional nutrients through fertilizers. You can use organic fertilizers or compost for a more sustainable approach.

Pruning and Harvesting

Not only should you prune any dead or diseased parts of your plants, but you should also prune branches, stems, and foliage. Doing so helps stimulate new growth and restore their vigor. Regularly pruning helps maintain the desired shape and appearance of your plants and helps control the size and spread to ensure they fit in their designated space and don’t crowd neighboring plants.

Harvest your crops as they become ripe and ready. This ensures the plants continue growing new produce, prevents overripening and spoilage, and removes any attractants for pests. By staying on top of harvesting, you encourage the plants to allocate their energy more efficiently, leading to better yields and longer production throughout the growing season.

10. Keep learning and adjusting your garden

Gardening is one of the best hands-on learning experiences you can have. Each crop will be different, and your gardening techniques will change year after year. Keep a journal or garden planner to track your planting dates, observations, challenges, and successes. You’ll have valuable insights to help you plan for future seasons. Take what you learned, don’t be afraid to try new things, and experiment with different plants or techniques.

Plants in the community garden at Two Rivers by Brookfield Residential in Odenton MD

Two Rivers Community, Odenton, Maryland

Remember, gardening is a journey, and finding the best practices for your backyard garden may take some time. Use our gardening steps to get started, enjoy the process, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Happy gardening!

Check out the Brookfield Residential blog for design advice, homebuying insights, mortgage tips, and more, including The Best Outdoor Décor Ideas and 10 Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants. You can also explore where we build and connect with our sales team when you’re ready to learn more. We’ll be expecting you!