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Gardening tips for beginners from Penn State Extension Master Gardeners


Jefferson County, PA – With everyone stuck at home, a lot of us might be thinking about starting up a home garden in our backyard for the very first time… but we need some tips.

We talked with Cheryl Shenkle, coordinator of Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Jefferson County.

So first, what are some of the best “beginner” plants that even the most amateur gardener can start to grow?

  • Start with something simple that almost grows by itself… things like tomatoes, string beans, radishes, and lettuce.
  • Start with a plan for what you want to grow and where. Make it small and manageable the first year, with room to expand the next year.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see beginner gardeners making?

  • The most common beginner mistake is to overextend yourself. Another common mistake is not getting into the habit of visiting your growing plants every day. You have to know what they are supposed to look like normally so you can easily spot problems at their very beginning.
  • You’ll also want to test the soil where you want to plant.
  • Another mistake is not learning what each plant needs and making sure you have the fertilizer that they need.
  • Limit yourself. Don’t make the mistake of buying too many plants for the space you have and can care for.

Especially as we might be feeling overwhelmed and anxious dealing with the COVID-19 situation… what’s the benefit of getting our hands dirty in the garden and actually watching something grow?

  • Gardening helps you get outside for some sunshine and fresh air. There are also microorganisms in the ground that are helpful and healthy for our bodies!
  • Concentrating on digging, planting, or trimming can take your mind off the panic and help ease your worries. It also gives you a moment of peace and quiet if you have a busy job or family.
  • It gives you goals and a sense of accomplishment.