Home gardening is more than just a hobby. It's a rewarding journey that connects you with nature, cultivates delicious food, helps eating healthy, and enhances the environment in which you live. But where should you begin? What should you consider before starting gardening?

Diane Blazek is a gardening expert and Executive Director of the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and motivating consumers to incorporate plants into their homes, workspaces, and gardens. Diane spoke with PissedConsumer about home gardening and provided insights on various aspects, such as gardening costs, risks, essential tools required, and many others.

Here are the top home gardening questions covered in this expert interview:

Pauline: Gardening in the United States has experienced a significant growth and popularity in recent years. Today, we'll learn the secrets of gardening from a true master - Diane Blazek from the National Garden Bureau. Diane, please tell us about yourself and your expertise in the gardening industry.

About Diane Blazek

Diane: I'm the executive director of two different nonprofit organizations. One is All America Selections, which is 91 years old, and we are a plant trialing organization. The other one is the National Garden Bureau, and we are 103 years old, so both organizations have been around for a long time. Prior to that, I spent 15 years with a horticulture publishing firm where we did trade publications, trade books, as well as consumer gardening books. So, all in all, I've been around for about 30 years in the professional horticulture world, and growing up, I grew up on a farm in Missouri, and I did a lot of gardening then, as well as what I still do in my own yard.

Gardening Tips for Beginners

Pauline: How to start growing? What are the first steps a consumer should take to ensure they have everything they need to start growing their own plants and food?

Diane: I think my advice is to just jump right in. You don't really need to purchase a lot of things. I mean, one of the best tips I think I can give is to start small. It's really easy to overdo it and get overwhelmed. Some people may not realize that gardening is work. It's fun work, but you have to tend to things. It would be like going from somebody having no children to having ten children if they decided to do a really big garden all at once. I say start small. A great way is to start with containers. Personally, I love to start with herbs because they're very easy to grow. It can do well in containers; they can be ornamental, and they can be edible. So that's probably my first step in how you can get started. There are a lot of our members, our National Garden Bureau members, who sell different kits. So it could be a microgreen kit, it could be an herb garden kit to get started. Maybe they would sell different plants to make a combination container. So, if you just go online and look for some of the starting kits from the good, reputable retailers, that's a great way to start.

Exploring Home Gardening Costs

Pauline: Growing a garden. Is it a large investment? What are the estimated costs for home gardening?

Diane: It can be a large investment if you so choose. I was saying to jump in and get started with one container, and then you don't have that big initial investment. I recycle a lot of different containers. I make containers out of different things. The main thing is making sure that they have drainage. If you're doing that, you could get started for as little as under $50 because you could have the container. You want to buy good potting soil; you want to buy either seeds or plants, depending on how many you put in there. So you can get started very economically. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a wonderful array of products. Let's say you want to do a whole kitchen potager, and you want to do it in raised beds. So you would be buying raised beds that come in any size imaginable and any height imaginable.

For example, we've got a company called Gardener's Supply, and they have wonderful raised beds that may be shorter to the ground, or maybe they're up on stands, so then you would have a different investment. You do have to fill those with soil. If you're starting indoors, you probably want heating mats and lighting to help your little seedlings stay strong and not too laggy. 

As far as the total overall cost, it depends on your budget and what size of the garden you want. So, I'm going to say you could probably go anywhere from $50 to $500 or even more, depending on what you want to invest in.

Essential Gardening Tools for Every Need

Pauline: Diane, what must-have gardening tools should every consumer have? How to choose good gardening tools? Which brands are the best?

Diane: With tools, you can start pretty basic. I think just a simple garden shovel or trowel would be all you need to get started if you're just doing containers. Now, if you're doing things in-ground, then you will need different tools just because you're dealing with a larger quantity. Some of the things that I like are garden forks to break up the soil, Hori Hori knives that you can chop through some of the roots, or hard-packed soil that's there. There are so many good brands, and like I said, we have a lot of retail members that carry really good products. I mentioned Gardener's supply earlier, some of the specific brands. Black Gold Soil is a good brand of soil if you want to do raised beds or containers. Crescent Garden has containers. A lot of them are self-watering, so that just makes it super easy, and you don't have to be as diligent about watering every day.

Johnny Selected Seeds has a wide variety of raised beds and different tools. Cobra Head is a tool that looks exactly what it sounds like. It's a curved tool. And then ProPlugger. This is one if you're going to plant bulbs. Even if you're planting small transplanting grounds, you can make this little hole with the ProPlugger. So all of those are really good brands, and you just have to practice with them. 

Which one has a grip that you're comfortable with, and what are your needs? There are a lot of brands out there also for people with some physical disabilities or limitations that are more ergonomically correct. So the great news is there's something out there for everybody, and you just want to use what you're comfortable with.

Pros and Cons of Greenhouses

Pauline: Diane, what are the pros and cons of greenhouses? What should beginners consider with greenhouses?

Diane: That's a big thing to consider. It is certainly an investment. So that's the first thing. I would never recommend that somebody is like, 'Oh, I'm going to try gardening for the first time ever. I'm going to invest in a greenhouse.' I think you have to experiment by, like I said, starting small and determining whether or not this is really for you. This fits your property; this fits your budget; it works for your family and everything like that. Local regulations, if you're in more of an urban or suburban area, you have to consider that, and just overall, the amount of time you have to spend gardening and in your greenhouse, the more space you have, the more you want to garden. And if you have a very, very busy lifestyle, you have to think, 'Okay, when am I going to fit this in?' Because it's not like plants wait around for you when they need water. They need water now. They won't wait until the weekend when you have more time. 

A lot of considerations there, and simply the size of your property. Do you have space for a greenhouse? They're like us. They're living beings. We're human beings. They're plant beings. We need food. We need water. Plants need food. Plants need water. So, I gave the analogy earlier about having a family. Your children need tending. Well, so do your plants. I know a lot of people, and there's a terminology called plant parenting, which is exactly what it is. It's not year-round, but if you have a greenhouse, then it could be year-round. So that's one of the benefits. It is either year-round or extending your season. Let's say you do enjoy starting from seed. So, depending on where you live, you can start much earlier in the year, and then you're saving money on the transplants that you don't have to buy. You can basically just use your own transplants. So there are certainly a lot of advantages. You have to think through it before you jump into that investment. 

Home gardening tips

Plants and Vegetables to Start Growing: Tips to Choose Seeds

PaulineWhat plants and vegetables would you recommend for beginners to start growing? How to choose seeds and saplings?

Diane: I feel like a lot of people get started gardening because of the food edible aspect of it. So if you love to cook, you're always watching food, cooking shows, or whatever, and you're seeing all these fresh herbs and vegetables. Then, I would recommend trying herbs and vegetables. Herbs are very easy to grow. If you don't want to start from seeds and you want to start from vegetable transplants, they're super easy to find at your local garden center, so that would be easy. There's also something called direct sow vegetables, some herbs. All you have to do is scatter a few seeds and you're going to have parsley and basil. There are also things like lettuces, kale, radishes, green beans, and peas, all of which you can directly sow. So then that kind of takes that early work out of it. You don't have to start the seeds indoors and transplant.

So that, to me, would be one of the ways to get started if you're doing edible gardening. I always promote the fact that you need to grow what you like. Eggplant may be easy to grow, but if you don't like it, then don't grow it. Your family's not going to eat it, and you would be wasting not only time and money but space where you could have been growing radishes that your family loves. That's something. If you're thinking about ornamentals, those can be annuals that you have to plant every year, or they can be perennials. There are also things that you can direct so that you can scatter some wildflower seeds or marigolds or Zinnia. I'm probably oversimplifying it because you want to not put too many seeds in one area because then you're going to have too many plants. But I think some of the direct sowing varieties would probably be the way that I would recommend starting. 

The other thing that I do is talk about high-value gardening. And so, let's say that you're starting your seeds, and you want something unique. You're going to go online. You're going to visit an online seed cellar. And you're going to say, 'Oh my gosh, look at this Carmen Pepper or Mad Hatter Pepper.' These are really unique and unusual varieties. You could choose to use your growing space for something like a green bell pepper, but it's inexpensive when you buy it at the local grocery store or farmer's market. However, a unique variety that has these unique tastes and gives you bragging rights is a lot more fun to grow when you actually see them develop and harvest, and you can send them to friends and family.

Home Gardening Risks

Pauline: Diane, are there any risks involved in home gardening? What might be some unpleasant surprises and how to prepare for them?

Diane: You have to be very patient. So you also have to have some thick skin and realize that you're going to have some failures. I would say there is a risk of failure, but don't take it upon yourself and say, 'Oh my gosh, it was me!' Because sometimes it's not. Maybe the weather was a bit unusual. Maybe Mother Nature was being a little cantankerous that week or that day. A late frost or hail comes through and damages. There are also little animals and little insects that can come through. I planted some squash one year, and boom, the rabbits came through, and they just said, 'Okay, these are really good.' And they ate all those. I planted some broccoli one time, and the little cabbage moss worms came through, and they decimated it. So there's a risk of failure.

There's a risk of learning, which is always a good thing. Sometimes, you do learn from failure. So my best advice there is just to keep track. Keep track of what you planted, when you planted the varieties you planted, and what happened. You may want to put it in a different area next year. Maybe you want to protect it differently. So that's a risk. And then it's just sometimes you get these surprises that you didn't realize. Sometimes, you didn't see the signs of when it really needed water. Maybe you thought it needed water, but it was actually drooping because there was too much water. So again, it's just lessons and learning.

Gardening Tips for Everyone

Pauline: Diane, what is your key message to consumers who start or already grow in the garden? What tips would you give to help them make it a worthy investment?

Diane: Don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be afraid to try something again if you had a failure. One of the things that we work with a lot is all the new varieties that are coming on the market. And there is a reason why there's new stuff. Think of your computers. There's a reason you have an upgraded computer or iPhone. It's because there are improvements that will make your life easier. Earlier, when we were talking about some possible failures, we had talked about pests and animals and stuff like that, but there are also diseases. Many of the newer varieties are now being adapted and bred to be disease-resistant. So be out there looking for the new stuff. Try something new; try it again. If last year's didn't work or if your first crop of lettuce didn't survive, try it again. Just don't be afraid of failure. Just keep trying it. This would be my number one piece of advice, no matter if you're a brand new gardener or if you've been doing it for 30 years.

Pauline: Thank you for the great tips, Diane. 

Starting your home garden is a great idea. To make the most of the process and avoid mistakes, follow expert tips and insights from Diane Blazek. 

Would you like to try gardening? Have you already started growing your plants and vegetables? Feel free to share your opinion and experiences in the comments below. Remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel for expert and consumer video review updates.

Legal disclaimers:

  1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.
  2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.

Leave a Reply