Cultivate a green thumb—and a gorgeous garden—with tried-and-true tips, hacks, and advice from readers who’ve been there, grown that.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated June 03, 2019
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If gardening were easy, everyone would do it, right? Fortunately, anyone and everyone can cultivate a green thumb (and a luscious indoor or outdoor garden) with the right gardening tips and gardening tools. Whether you’re into container gardening or growing a lush produce garden, these tips—straight from practiced home gardeners—will help you get there.

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Gardening tools and work station

I keep a bar of soap in my garden tool bag and run my nails over it before I start gardening. It prevents dirt from getting under my nails, and I don’t have to scrub much after. — Barbara Bazar, Fairfield, Connecticut

Weed your garden first thing in the morning. It’s a really pleasant way to start your day; I like to do it while enjoying my coffee. And since the ground is still moist from the dew, the weeds are easier to pull. — @vtfarmgirl

Join a garden club in your area. I’ve benefited from a wonderful set of teachers and mentors who are passionate about gardening, the environment, and giving back to their community. — Meredith Ward, Ridgefield, Connecticut

I listen to books via the audible app on my phone. If I am listening to a cliff-hanger, gardening can go on for hours. Luckily, I haven’t pruned anything to the ground while waiting to hear "Whodunit"! — Miriam Paige, Manhattan Beach, California

Neem oil. It’s natural and acts as a fungicide, insecticide, and miticide. It can be used on fruits, vegetables, and houseplants, too. — Connie Legath, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

If you have pets, make sure you check what’s safe in case they eat your plants. There’s a good chance they will, especially if you have a curious dog like mine. — Mercedes Santana, Los Angeles

Be patient. — Alice Probst

Live in a new house for a year before making big plant investments so you really know the sun and water patterns. — Jess Heimer

Put a $5 plant in a $10 hole. Enrich the soil and you will be rewarded with healthy plants. — Rachel Mcnellis, Westbrook, Connecticut

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and a big hat. — Veronica Ramirez

Use a folding stool to sit on. I’m a physical therapist and a gardening fan, so I know how hard the bending is on our backs. Adding a simple stool improves the spine posture and reduces strain so you can spend more time digging in the dirt. — Michelle Colman, San Diego

Put a mailbox in the garden. When my mom replaced her old mailbox, I snagged it and put it in my garden to hold my gloves, clippers, hand spade, and garden ties. The things I use the most are protected and always right where I need them. — Susan Fisher, Las Vegas

Mulch everything. It saves water and creates an energy source around the plant. Newspaper, shredded cardboard, and straw work well. — Christina Wilson, Sunnyvale, California

To keep rabbits from eating my tulips, lilies, and other yummy flowers, I spray them about once a week with homemade garlic oil. I marinate crushed garlic cloves in vegetable oil, put the mixture in a spray bottle with water in equal parts, and spray it on and around the plants. It works like a charm and lasts through a rainfall. — Erika Ross, Wausau, Wisconsin

Just start. I always used to think gardening was so hard and took a lot of time and effort. One May, I just decided to plant a few seeds and be sure to water them daily. Next thing I knew, I had a bunch of kale and herbs I didn’t even know what to do with! Now I’m an avid gardener and love growing my own healthy produce. — Katie Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Stretch and wear good shoes. You are exercising your body in many different ways while in the garden. — Natashja Szortyka, Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania