Finding Your Green Thumb: A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

Don’t let the size of your yard determine whether to start a garden. It doesn’t matter if you have acres upon acres of land or a postage stamp-sized yard; where there is dirt, there is a way. From planting a small herb garden to cultivating a healthy crop of fruits and veggies, there are bountiful ways to discover—and grow—your green thumb.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Port Farms’ Five-Step Beginner’s Guide to Gardening will help you get growing in no time!

1. Know What You Can Grow

When beginning your gardening adventure, there are a handful of essential details to consider. First, you will want to think about three key things: Where you live (and what can grow best there); the size of your yard (and the amount of sunlight it receives based on where it’s situated); and the realistic amount of time you have to dedicate to gardening. 

Second, consider reflecting on your garden’s purpose. Ask yourself: Will my garden be for sustenance? Decoration? Dedicated to producing occasional spices?

Gardening for sustenance is relatively common, which is why we’ve provided a list of fruits and vegetables that grow well according to their specific season:

SPRINGSUMMERFALLWINTER
CarrotsSquashBeetsGarlic
TomatoSweet PotatoesFigsCauliflower
CucumberEggplantKaleCollards
HoneydewCornKey LimesGreen Onions
PeppersApplesTurnipsRadishes
RaspberriesSorrelsCranberriesClementine

For additional information, visit Seasonal Food Guide. They provide a comprehensive list of what produce is available in the U.S. according to different months of the year. You can find what’s in season near you by selecting your state, the month, and what produce you are trying to grow! Even if your food isn’t in season, you will still be able to select the produce and learn about its properties and uses.

Also, if you are planting a vegetable garden designed to feed your entire family, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Family Garden Planning Guide. The USDA claims that the estimated pounds needed per person (which is determined by the crop) divided by the approximate yield (lbs) per foot of row will equal the amount of rows (feet) to plant per person. When creating your garden, keep in mind that some vegetables take up more room than others! The same can be said for flowers, fruits, and shrubs.

2. Determine Your Gardening Spot

There are three baseline ingredients to any successful garden: dirt, water, and sunlight. While you can improve the quality of the dirt by incorporating store-bought fertilizers, starting a compost pile, and increasing the amount of water your garden gets with a hose or sprinkler, you can’t easily increase the amount of sunlight a particular area gets, so it’s crucial that you choose carefully.

Furthermore, avoid areas with lots of trees and shadows cast from the house. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing garden (south side of the house) is your best bet. Conversely, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll want a north-facing garden.

A gardener digging soil and planting seeds.

On average, plants must have exposure to at least six to eight hours of sunlight. However, some vegetables such as peppers, corn, and tomatoes do well in direct sunlight for longer periods. If your yard lacks sunlight, consider veggies like cabbage, carrots, and root onions that do well with less light.

You’ll want to avoid any areas of your yard that are too moist from lack of drainage and air circulation. While water is essential, too much can cause mold, mildew, and fungi to grow.

If, for whatever reason, you’re digging deep (putting in sprinkler system lines, improving drainage, etc.), be sure to check with your area about who you need to contact before starting the project. For instance, in Pennsylvania, you need to call 811 to request a utility company representative to examine the area before you dig.

3. Choose Your Plants

After doing your research, choosing your location, and preparing the soil, you can select your plants and produce then begin planting!

As for flowers, Hydrangeas are great for curb appeal: they can be planted alongside the lining of your house or even in front of the home as colorful, decorative bushes. The same can be said for Vinca, Delphinium, Clematis, and Lily of the Valley, all of which are white flowers that may have a welcoming and calming effect. If you’re looking for something that demands a little attention, plant one of the following red flowers: Roses, Pentas, or Zinnias!

A gardener holding a basket of blue Hydrangeas.

If it’s your first time growing produce, there are various fruits and vegetable options we recommend trying to plant first, such as:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Blackberries and Raspberries
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini and Squash

You don’t have to begin with this list. If you’re confident in your tools, soil, and gardening knowledge, you can try to grow just about anything! Furthermore, farm with your family in mind. There are various plants that may be toxic to children and pets (if you have them), so remember to do your research before planting!

4. Get Your Gear

Gardening doesn’t have to be a backbreaking process. With the right gear, you’ll better enjoy your time outside. There are six main gardening tools you should purchase or have on hand:

  • Gloves: to keep your hands safe and free of dirt
  • Shears, Loppers, or Pruners: to trim plants and manage growth
  • Rake or Garden Hoe: to smooth and break up dirt and soil, optimal for seeds
  • Garden Fork or Spade: to move larger quantities of soil around
  • Garden Hose or Watering Can: to efficiently water plants
  • Rich Soil: to give both plants and produce the proper nutrients they need

When planning on creating a large garden, you may also want to invest in a rototiller to turn over more significant amounts of soil. If you’re intimidated by the thought of having to purchase a rototiller, these machines are often rentable from local hardware stores and tool lending libraries.

5. Regularly Tend to Your Plants and Remove Any Weeds

After planting your produce or flowers, you must maintain them. Weeds will inevitably begin to grow along with your plants, and sometimes, they can have a negative effect on your produce. In addition to stealing water, sunlight, and other nutrients from your plants, weeds can bring about diseases and unwanted insects that spread them. To remove weeds, you can dig them up with your gardening tools or purchase eco-friendly weed killers. Laying down Weed Guard is also an effective way of preventing weeds from sprouting!

A shovel in the ground digging out weeds.

Along with weeds, you will also want to watch out for any animals! To dissuade animals from eating or destroying your plants, you can build a fence, use an animal-safe repellent, or invest in a motion-detecting spray that scares the animals away.

Gardening with Port Farms

With these helpful tips from the experts at Port Farms, you have all the tools you need to get started, so make your purchases and get to planting and growing that green thumb! But before you take off to get your seeds and plants, there’s one more thing to know: Spring began on March 20 and lasts until June, so NOW is the optimal time to start your gardening journey.

7 Factors that Impact the Cost of a Barn Wedding

From a barn’s exposed wood to the venue’s pastoral views, there is a clear reason why barn weddings are becoming so popular. They’re romantic, rustic, and picturesque. And they’re also perfect for couples who want to showcase their DIY-skills.

But if you’ve started researching venues, you’ve probably noticed that barn weddings, while seemingly simple, come with their own set of complications. Does the venue have electricity? Are there bathrooms? Is the barn climate controlled?

You’ve probably also noticed a significant difference in costs between venues. Simply put: The more amenities the barn has, the higher the price. But, the more amenities the barn has, the less you’ll be renting to bring on-site.

To help make your wedding planning a little easier, Port Farms reviews seven important factors to consider when it comes to the cost of barn weddings, what we feel is essential to have, and finally, a venue that we think fits the bill.

1. Air Conditioning and Heating

Many barn venues don’t have heating and air conditioning. Because of this, both the wedding and reception must be planned according to the weather and season. The lack of A/C and heat in most barn venues is also why they get booked in late spring and early fall as the temperature and weather are milder.

Unfortunately, this means that many couples miss out on the opportunity to hold a barn wedding in fear of guests being too hot or cold. But when venues have heating and air conditioning accommodations, the options for when your wedding can expand significantly.

But if barn venues do have these features, the upfront price point will be higher. Keep in mind that if you can budget accordingly, heating and air conditioning are well worth it because it widens the window of when you can host your wedding and help you ensure your guests are comfortable when celebrating your big day. There are few things more uncomfortable than wearing a full suit in the heart of the summer, getting your makeup done while wiping sweat from your forehead, or on the flip side, shivering in your dress in heels because it’s blistering cold. And, you won’t be asking yourselves whether you should be thinking of renting heat lamps or fans to accommodate your guests.

2. Restrooms

Like heating and a/c, in-door plumbing isn’t a feature common in many barns. In fact, barn venues often utilize portable toilets or restroom trailers for weddings. And these are no cheap dates, with prices ranging from $300 to $15,000 depending on the units you choose to rent.

If you find a barn venue with bathrooms, consider booking it. You may even be able to save money and have a better experience by eliminating the need for portable toilets and restroom trailers that tend to be more costly and kind of an eyesore. Remember, you want the bathrooms to blend in, not stand out!

3. Decorations

Decorations are an integral part of setting the scene for both the wedding and reception. ValuePenguin has estimated that for floral arrangements alone, couples spend about $2,141. Of course, though, the price will fluctuate depending on the type of flowers chosen and the number of arrangements.

Port Farms indoor barn wedding reception decorations

Other wedding decoration costs, as Zola reports, are:

  • Centerpieces: $50 to $500 per table
  • Tablecloths or runner: $20 to $80 per table
  • Candlesticks: $10 each
  • Welcome sign: $10 to $50
  • Aisle runner: $30 to $200
  • Ceremony arch: $75 to $1,000 (with flowers)

Finding a barn venue with a pleasing aesthetic that also provides decor will help you minimize the time-sink of piecemealing your decorations. Just know that the price point for booking these more inclusive venues will reflect these accommodations, so while it may seem initially pricier, it may save you time and money in the long-run.

4. Catering

Foodservice is often one of the highest priorities for wedding receptions, and catering prices can depend on both what you serve and what you’re serving to how many people. WeddingWire estimates that “the average wedding catering cost in the U.S. is about $4,000, with most couples spending between $1,800 to $7,000.” There are, however, venues that include catering in their wedding services, so you won’t need to go out of your way to search for the right caterer!

5. Electricity and Lighting

As is the case with plumbing and restrooms, many barns haven’t been built with electricity. More often than not, lighting is added months or years after the building is constructed and repurposed. If wiring hasn’t been installed, you’ll need to rely on bulky generators to power the lights at your wedding.

Bride and groom posing between barn doors at Port Farms' wedding reception venue

However, premier barn venues have working electricity, which eliminates the need for generators, provides functional lighting and power, and has decorative lighting. It can set the mood for the wedding and the reception, too. And don’t forget: Capturing your wedding-day memories in photographs plays a significant role in your big day. What lighting you have will play a big role in that.

When looking for barn venues, electricity and lighting will likely inflate the cost of booking the venue. However, it will be less costly compared to renting a generator. All in all, knowing your special day will be well-lit is priceless.

6. DJ / Sound Equipment

Some venues may come with sound systems readily available. In other cases, renting sound equipment may be necessary.

When it comes to wedding receptions, some couples often choose to hire a DJ. According to WeddingWire, couples typically spend between $780 to $1,495 on hiring a professional DJ, with the average being $1,000. When hiring a DJ for your event, remember to double-check the sound ordinance rules for your area, and make sure your DJ knows the venue—and its capacity—they’ll be working in.

7. Season

Wedding season is typically between late spring to early fall, roughly from May to October. According to WeddingWire, the most popular months to get married are June, September, and October.

Booking costs may increase during this time due to high demand. BrideBox suggests having your wedding during January, March, April, or November to save on costs. Prices are lower given that more vendors have more available and less demand.

Bride and groom posing for a wedding photo outside at Port Farms

Your Wedding Destination

If you’ve been searching for a rustic, personal, and romantic wedding destination, consider Port Farms’ barn for your venue. From temperature control and catering to on-site restrooms and electricity, our venue has everything you need to make the most of your special day extra special while staying within your desired budget. Visit our site for more information on what we have to offer, or contact us to request our wedding package guide!