The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Garden: 326 Fast, Easy, Affordable Ways to Transform Your Yard One Project at a Time

The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Garden: 326 Fast, Easy, Affordable Ways to Transform Your Yard One Project at a Time

by Sally Roth


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The low-stress way to create beautiful spaces
Unsure how to get from the garden you have to a garden you love? Award-winning author Sally Roth divides the task into easily accomplished mini-projects. This detailed guide shows you how to transform any outside space, bit by bit, whether it’s sprucing up an entrance, increasing curb appeal, or any of twelve other improvements. Filled with helpful tips, shortcuts, and basic design plans, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Garden proves that no matter your setting or skill level, you can grow a fabulous outdoor showplace—one manageable step at a time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604696745
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/08/2017
Pages: 284
Sales rank: 614,603
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Sally Roth is an award-winning author of more than 20 popular books about gardening, nature, and birds, including the best-selling Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible. Roth is also a contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She and her husband share their home in the high Rockies with a variety of animals. You can visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: A Lifetime of Learning
I learned how to garden at my mother’s knee—literally.

“I’m going outside for a while,” she’d announce, and I’d follow along, hurrying to get my little red wagon, so I could help haul plants or weeds or rocks.

Her gardens were gorgeous. And ever changing, as she transplanted things a few inches left or right, or all the way across the yard. I can still see her standing back, squinting, to check the look of what she was creating. 

“Needs more yellow, right there,” she’d say, pointing. Then she’d reach for the shovel to move a blooming clump of coreopsis daisies then and there. Every year, her flower beds got bigger, and the lawn got smaller. Meanwhile, I absorbed the art of gardening, and the how-tos of transplanting, dividing, and otherwise making more of a good thing.

Garden centers were almost unheard of back then, so Mom got most of her plants from friends and neighbors. Oh, you could send away for plants through the mail, but that cost money, and Mom was a penny-pincher. Having gone through the Great Depression, she never took money for granted. 

Sixty years later, I still remember which precious plants she had sent away for, because those words became part of their name: “The smokebush I sent away for.” “The ‘Peace’ rose I sent away for.” “The climbing ‘Don Juan’ [rose] I sent away for.” That was the grand total, until I grew up and visiting the garden centers and nurseries then springing up all over became a weekly outing for Mom and me.

Every summer, my mom broke off a spray of her beloved smokebush to put in the old white ironstone pitcher. “Smell,” she’d urge me. “Doesn’t it smell good?” I can still conjure the distinctive scent.

Some plants were growing around the hundred-year-old house when my parents bought it in the 1930s, like peonies, old “lemon lily” daylilies (Hemerocallis flava), lily-of-the-valley, and a few pink “live forever” sedums. And Mom made more of those plants, as well as plants she’d received from friends, saving seeds, slicing off starts, and rooting cuttings. She managed to plant our whole acre with lush gardens that probably cost her a total of $100 over the decades.

My mom was a big fan of native plants, which were called wildflowers in her day. All natives are beautiful, but some are too understated to stand out. Black-eyed Susans, here with native blue California phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), make a conspicuous splash.

It was a gardening education, but I didn’t realize that until I left home and started my own garden. Then I was the one talking the leg off anyone who stopped to admire what I was doing. “The hollyhocks? Those came from Mom’s yard—she always called them ‘outhouse flowers,’” I’d say, laughing. “See these babies? The big ones seed themselves! Here, let me dig you a few.

“And those are the columbines I started from Katie’s seeds. Hers were pink and white, but some of mine came out dark purple! Don’t you love that color?” 

Then I’d stand back and squint at the bed. “Needs more yellow...”

Table of Contents

A Lifetime of Learning 8

A Building Block Garden Primer 17

Twelve Easy Small Gardens: First Impressions at the Lamppost 56

A Welcome Garden At the Entrance 72

A Pretty Frame At the Corners 86

Dress up a Tree Shady Spots 102

Between Neighbors Private or Pretty? 118

Cheerful Color In the Lawn 132

An Ever-Expanding Garden Extending the Edges 146

A Beckoning Bench Gathering Places and Sitting Spots 159

Sidewalk Slip Creating Curb Appeal 176

Lots of Pots a Can't-Miss Container Garden 192

Artist's Canvas Gardening on Slopes 209

Now You See it, Now You Don't Dealing with Eyesores 224

Gardening Secrets Top Ten Ways to Save Time and Money 236

Resources 255

Further Reading 258

Photography Credits 260

Index 261

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