Southern Mom Loves: Low-Maintenance Gardening Tips for the Green Thumb Wannabe

Low-Maintenance Gardening Tips for the Green Thumb Wannabe

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Hi, guys! Today I have a Guest Post from Leigha of She shares everything homesteading including great gardening tips for beginners like the ones below. Take it away, Leigha!

Do you ever look at your neighbor's yard and wonder how in the heck they don’t kill all of their plants? Do you wonder how they can have such a luscious, beautiful piece of serenity in suburbia when your yard is covered in grass that’s dead most of the time?

Chances are those allusive green thumb neighbors of yours probably had a hard time keeping plants alive at one point too. But with practice, trial and error, and a bit of sweat (and maybe tears), they became the green thumbs that they are today. And you too can do the same!

Getting started with gardening may seem like a large undertaking, but if you follow some general tips and start slow, you can be living in a slice of spring heaven too. Read on to learn more about some of our tips for getting started with gardening when you’re a green thumb wannabe.

1. Start With Easy, Low-Maintenance Plants

Photo by Kaufmann Mercantile on Unsplash

One of the biggest mistakes a new, ambitious gardener can make is being well, too ambitious. Once you start buying plants it can be really easy to go hog wild and start buying every little plant baby that calls your name. Resist the urge to drop hundreds of dollars at the local nursery.

Start with a few easy, low-maintenance plants that you can take care of without a ton of responsibility. Once you establish their needs and requirements, slowly add more plants. This way, you know what each area of your garden needs before you try to move onto the next empty garden bed.

2. Pick Plants That Are Meant For Your Soil

Another common mistake that newbie gardeners make is trying to grow plants that aren’t adapted to the local climate. While soil testing is a whole other topic, in general, you want to make sure that your plants are able to grow successfully in whatever soil your garden has, whether it be neutral, alkaline, or acidic in nature.

At-home soil pH tests are easy to use and are generally accurate enough to give you a good idea of what you’re working with. Alternatively, for a more accurate test, consider taking a sample of your soil to your local university’s gardening extension.

3. Invest In Some Gardening Must Haves

Photo by Eco Warrior Princess on Unsplash

If you don’t have the right gardening tools, getting started with gardening is going to be that much more difficult. Make the process easier by investing in a hori-hori knife (great for weeds), a high-quality dump cart (for collecting said pulled weeds), and a lopper or two.

4. Take Control Of Weeds Now

Before you start planting, make sure to eradicate any existing weeds. This will give your plants a much better start as they won’t be competing for vital nutrients that the weeds are so selfishly keeping for themselves. In addition to the good old fashion hand pulling method, there are a variety of natural weed killer solutions that will also help make the weed eradication process a lot easier without adding noxious chemicals to your soil.

The same goes for pests. If you start growing plants and notice that you have annoying bugs flying around or hanging out on leaves, give them a spray of natural insecticide to give your plants a better chance and succeeding.

5. Choose A Location That Gets Lots of Sun (Or Lots of Shade)

Photo by Leigha Staffenhagen

Chances are your backyard has areas that are both sunny and shady, and you’ll want to choose plants based on those factors. You don’t want to totally scorch your plants, and you also don’t want to watch them wilt because they’re literally dying for some sun.

Make a list of all the sunlight needs each of your plants has and plan out your garden beds accordingly.

If you find that the plants you want require shade or filtered light and you don’t have much available to you, consider investing in a pergola! Not only will a backyard pergola provide your plants with some shade, but they’ll offer you a place to kick back and relax and enjoy all your gardening hard work! If you want to take it to the next level, consider growing vining plants around your pergola for a Mediterranean vibe.

6. Learn Your Location’s Frost Dates

Another common mistake that wannabe green thumbs make is putting their seeds or starts in the ground too early. It’s easy to get excited start planting, but this can mean the end for some of your plants if another frost rolls in.

Learn your locations frost dates and stick to them. Obviously every year there's a little bit of wiggle room but in general, sticking to those dates will help give your plants a better chance at making it through the spring.

7. Consider Using Pots

Photo by Squarely on Unsplash

If you’re interested in growing colorful flower arrangements or more invasive plants like bamboo, consider planting them in pots. This is a super easy way to maintain plants, especially for beginners, and you don’t have to worry about your other plants moving in on their roots. Just make sure to choose pots that have drainage holes.

One of the first mistakes I made as a gardener was allowing my plants to get root rot because my soil didn’t have proper drainage. It’s a bummer of a lesson to learn, but its an important lesson nonetheless!

8. Making A Feeding & Watering Schedule

Every plant has different needs, and watering can get difficult to keep track of, especially when you have numerous different garden beds, containers, and indoor plants. Though you may not need it forever, one way to keep track of everything is by setting up a feeding and watering schedule. This way you’ll know exactly when everything needs to be cared for, and no plants get by without at least a little bit of love!

9. Plant Labels Are Your Friend

Photo by Amber Turner on Unsplash

Again, it can be really easy to get carried away and end up planting a bunch of seeds and starts and later on forgetting exactly what you planted where. Plant markers are super affordable (you can even make your own at home) and they will remind you what you planted where! They also can add a bit of decorative whimsy that will be a nice reminder of what you have to look forward to in the spring!

10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over A Dead Plant (Have fun!)

Remember, gardening is fun! Don’t beat yourself up over a dead plant or a garden bed that didn’t give you the bountiful harvest you were anticipating. Every spring presents a new opportunity to grow all sorts of plants, so don’t give up when the first spring isn’t perfect.

Bio: Leigha Staffenhagen is the managing editor of, a homesteading and sustainability site focused on everything from gardening and raising chickens to off-grid living and tiny homes.


How green is your thumb? What was your favorite tip? I love to read your comments!

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