Think You Can't Become a Successful Gardener?
I would love to have a garden, but I have two black thumbs.
My garden is where plants come to die. I even killed a fake plant once.
Oh, wow! Your garden is so pretty. You're lucky that you have a green thumb.
Do you see the pattern? Gardening was an everyday part of life for thousands of years for the majority of humans alive, and yet now, millions of us are convinced we weren't born with a trait that would make us good at it—a green thumb.
Where did the myth of the green thumb originate?
There are two potential origin stories for the idea of a green thumb. Both theories come from a celebrity gardener by the name of James Underwood Crockett who would go on to host a PBS show called the Victory Garden.
His first theory says that back in the 1930s, people started commenting on how you can get green fingers from the algae that grows on the outside of pots. (If you've ever grown something in a terra cotta pot, you might have noticed that, over time, the pot will turn white and then eventually green from the moisture in the soil.) People who move pots around a lot end up getting green algae on their fingers so their fingers start to look green. Easy to see how that could morph into a green thumb.
The second theory is that the idea of a green thumb started all the way back when King Edward the First ruled England. The story is that he loved peas so much that he hired 12 servants to do nothing but constantly shell peas for him when they were in season. Whichever servant had the greenest thumb at the end of the season won a prize from the king. Who knows if this story is true, but it's similar to the first in that a green thumb simply comes from touching green things.
So, how did mere exposure to green things morph into this supernatural talent that you're either born with or not? We took something that was attainable for all—I mean, anyone can touch a pot or shell some peas, right?—and we turned it into something no longer accessible to everyone.
The truth is that gardening is a skill like any other. A craft, a hobby, you could maybe even say an art. It's like playing the ukulele, practicing yoga, or painting a watercolor. You can learn to get better at it. You can master it even if you weren't "born with it."
That being said, I know how overwhelming it can feel when you're just getting started, so I've broken down "learning to garden" into four separate parts.
To begin, all you have to do is learn how to grow herbs. And you can start right now!
Start with Herbs
Herbs Are Typically Easy Plants to Grow
The easiest way to start a kitchen garden is with herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and quick to produce. They don't require a ton of sunlight or nutrients to grow, and they'll grow in whatever limited space you give them or stretch out beautifully into a large space. You can harvest again and again from these low-maintenance plants, which means you can make the most of every plant in your garden.
When I was just getting started in the garden, I had my first growing wins with herbs. Similarly, many of my Rooted Garden clients have first learned to successfully grow herbs before they've branched out to other plants.
Some of my favorite easy growers are:
Many herbs are easy plants to grow from seed, though you can also buy mature herbs from the store to enjoy right away. To grow your own herbs from seed, simply pop a few seeds in some soil, water regularly, and enjoy the beautiful and delicious gift that will keep on giving!
Herbs also do great in containers, on windowsills, and on balconies for small-space growers and beginners alike. Not to mention, they're the perfect thing to grow indoors if you're living in a colder climate.
Master the art of growing your own organic herb garden and grow enough for a year-round supply
In this instantly downloadable ebook, you'll learn all about the main herb plant families, how to set up your own rolling steel herb garden, and how to plant it full of delicious, organic herbs for both fresh harvests and preserving for year-round enjoyment.
Become that person who passes right by all the expensive and packaged herbs at the grocery store and learn to grow your own instead.
Check out these resources from Gardenary to help you set up, plant, and tend your herb garden
- Read our Ultimate Guide to Growing Herbs, a wonderful free online resource to help you find success with your herb garden.
- Download our comprehensive ebook, The Herb Garden Guidebook, which leads you through the step by step so that you know exactly how to grow all the culinary herbs you love right in your very own space.
- Join Gardenary 365 to watch our most popular gardening course for beginners, The Herb Garden Guide, which shows you how to create your own herb garden with easy-to-follow video lessons.
If you're craving a more garden-to-table lifestyle, the easiest way to accomplish that is to pot up some herbs or create an herb garden outdoors that you can dash out to, cut some sprigs, and bring them indoors to toss onto whatever you're cooking. I guarantee you, you'll get hooked on growing a little bit of your own food once you've planted your favorite herbs.
Learn the step by step to building, planting, and growing your own delicious herb garden for a year-found supply of herbs. Your Gardenary 365 membership includes access to the Herb Garden Guide, plus our entire content library.
Then Grow Greens
Greens Are a Great Way to Learn How to Garden Organically
After you've gotten comfortable with your new herbs, the next step to growing your garden is by planting greens. Salad greens are one of the most underrated additions to a kitchen garden—and once you've tasted the difference between homegrown greens and greens from the grocery store, you'll never go back.
My favorite greens to grow are:
- lettuce plants
When you grow one of these leafy greens, you're just growing the plant for its leaves, so you don't have to spend months tending it while waiting for heavy fruit to ripen or give it space to vine and stretch across your entire garden bed. The root systems of greens are small, so they don't need a large garden to thrive; in fact, you can even create your own productive salad garden in containers. Salad greens are mostly "cut and come again", which means you can literally cut from them and then come back again and again the next week.
All you really have to do is set them up in some compost and then make sure to water them. The one issue you might face with growing leafy greens is their attractiveness to pests. Learn how to treat pests organically in the garden now, before you move on to more difficult plants.
Learn the step by step to plant, set up, and grow your own organic salad garden
In this ebook, you'll be guided through developing and growing (and troubleshooting) your own organic salad garden in a raised bed or other container.
Each chapter is complete with full instructions and detailed graphics as well as clear calls to action to keep you making progress in your own organic salad garden this season and for many seasons to come. Enjoy fresh greens at least six months each year.
Check out these resources from Gardenary to help you harvest six months of salad greens each year
- Learn our best salad garden tips to maximize your production.
- Download our ebook, Salad Garden Guide, to learn how to set up your own salad garden in a container or raised bed and grow leafy greens for at least six months of the year.
- Watch our online gardening course Salad Garden School and its companion, Six Months of Garden Salad, to learn what to plant when to keep your salad bowl filled with gourmet leaves.
Once you've grown your own leaves, you'll find it hard to go back to the wilting grocery store stuff again. Leafy greens are easy to grow but will give you so many delicious harvests. You'll feel like a gardener for sure when you're eating a bowl of completely homegrown leaves.
Learn how to plant and tend your tender salad greens in Gardenary's Salad Garden School. You'll learn what to grow each season, how to harvest leaves to encourage your plants to produce more leaves for you, and so much more.
Next, Try Roots
Roots Are Easy Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds
By now, you should feel confident in the garden! You've enjoyed fresh herbs and greens in your kitchen, and you're ready to take it to the next level: root vegetables.
The easiest (and quickest!) place to start is with radishes. Plant a few seeds in your kitchen garden and just watch the magic happen. In just five weeks, you'll have grown your very first root vegetable! Once you've had some radish wins, you can try carrots and beets.
Roots only require more skill to grow than leafy greens because, one, it's more important to get the spacing right when you're planting out the seeds, and two, you'll have to do something called thinning to make sure each little plant has the resources it needs to grow to its full potential.
Really, the hardest thing about growing these vegetables is that you can't see what's happening down below in the soil! Here are three signs to look for to know when your root crops are ready to be harvested.
Other than that, you'll apply all the skills you've learned growing leaves to help you grow strong and healthy roots.
Check out these resources from Gardenary to help you set up, plant, and tend your root crops
- Start by reading our tips for growing perfect French breakfast radishes, the best root-crop-starter plant thanks to their short time to harvest (just 40 days!).
- Learn how to grow your own beets.
- Download our Complete Guide to Gardenary Raised Bed ebook to get step-by-step directions to build your own raised beds in which to grow all your root crops.
- Enroll in Kitchen Garden Academy, our most popular gardening course online, to help you set up, plant, and tend your own kitchen garden space.
There are few things more satisfying than tugging a fully formed carrot or radish from the soil after weeks of waiting and wondering what's happening below.
Our newest online gardening course guides gardeners how to grow their own root crops, including radishes, carrots, potatoes, ginger, and beets.
Finally, Grow Fruit
Fruits Are Easy to Grow Once You've Honed Your Gardening Skills
Herbs, greens, and root vegetables, oh my! You're a garden pro by now, and you're ready to tackle the next step in the kitchen garden process: growing fruit!
One of my favorite places to start is with cherry tomatoes. They're one of the easiest plants to grow from seed indoors, and they'll give you some of the most delicious harvests to enjoy. You're now ready to fertilize and prune these larger plants with confidence.
Once you've mastered tomatoes, try peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant.
Learn all the details of kitchen garden set up, plus planting, tending, and harvesting for every season of the year.
Check out these resources from Gardenary to grow your own fruiting plants
- Learn all our tips and tricks for growing tomatoes in our Complete Guide to Growing Organic Tomatoes.
- Join the revival! Grab your copy of Kitchen Garden Revival to learn how to plan out your garden with plants from different plant families every season.
- Watch our brand new online course called Intensive Planting to learn how to fit herbs, greens, roots, and fruiting plants into your raised garden beds to maximize your production and keep all of your plants healthy and happy.
You now have the skills and know-how to grow just about any plant you'd like to in the garden. People less-informed than you, people who don't know that you've worked your way up through a proven system, might even tell you that you must have been born with a green thumb. You also know everything you need to know now to grow your own beautiful cut flowers. There are so many things you can pull from your garden space that will bring you joy.
Elevate your backyard veggie patch into a work of sophisticated and stylish art
Kitchen Garden Revival guides you through every aspect of kitchen gardening, from design to harvesting—with expert advice from author Nicole Johnsey Burke, founder of Rooted Garden, one of the leading US culinary landscape companies, and Gardenary, an online kitchen gardening education and resource company.
You're a Gardener Now
There you have it! The four easiest steps to starting the kitchen garden of your dreams. I hope you've mastered growing something delicious at each of the four stops along the way.
Here's more good news. Studies have shown that when we put our hands in dirt, we not only feel amazing, but we actually can live longer, happier lives—all thanks to being connected to plants and to soil.
Maybe instead of being so attached to this idea of the green thumb, we should focus more on encouraging every single person to get outside and grow one little thing they like to eat. Even if it feels a little overwhelming to get started, we should all try. It's not just about growing plants. It's about growing our selves.
My hope is that over the next ten years, I'll hear fewer and fewer people tell me the excuse that they weren't born with a green thumb. Instead, they'll come up to me and say, “You know, I don't have a green thumb, but I'm getting one.”
Learning How to Garden Has Never Been Easier
So, how do you start a garden for beginners? First with herbs, then with leafy greens, then with roots, and finally with fruit. And at every step along the way, you can find the help and support you need inside the Gardenary community. There's no other place to grow your self and your gardening abilities online like this.
Take our "Green Thumb" Quiz to see where your gardening abilities really stand. Based on your results, we'll send you resources to help you set up your own growing space and grow your self as a gardener.