1. Automate your sprinklers
If thinking about the cost of an in-ground sprinkler system makes you clasp your wallet in fear, relax: This can be done on a budget. With soaker hoses and an automatic timer, you can set it and forget it, giving your garden a serious leg up.

2. Pay attention to light
This seems obvious, but many first-time gardeners don't get it right—and it can doom your poor plants.
Pick plants that will thrive in the location you plant them. Pay attention to your beds year-round to understand just how much light they receive.

3. Your soil matters
You can't just shove your plants into whatever dirt fills your backyard and expect them to thrive. Depending on where you live, your yard could be cursed with some nasty native soil.
Start with a soil-testing kit, which can be found at your local gardening store or online. That test will tell you what's wrong with your soil so you can fix it.

4. Give plants space
Seed packets and bedding plant tags come with spacing instructions. Follow them—even if you're looking for a wild, English cottage–style garden. If you're buying plants in flats (the plastic plant-holders you find at nurseries), ask your store's garden pro how best to plant them if there's no information on the tag.

5. Keep digging
You can't shove a plant into a perfect plant-size hole and expect stunning results.Dig a hole that is a little wider than the container the plant is in.
Once you've dug a proper hole, here's how to finish planting:

Add fertilizer and amendments to the bottom of the hole. (Remember testing your dirt? Here's when those results come in handy.)
Place the plant in the ground.
Fill the hole with dirt and press the dirt down to remove air pockets in the soil and prevent root rot.
Water consistently for the next couple of weeks, ideally in the morning or evening.

6. Buy long-lasting bulbs
Stuffing your beds with gorgeous bulbs is the best way to keep your yard blooming easy year after year. But not all bulbs are created equal.

Many newbies don't know that most tulips will peter out after a few years, sending up leaves but no blooms.

Instead, choose daffodils, irises, and muscari—also known as grape hyacinth—for flowers that are sure to return for years to come.

However, if you're truly a tulip devotee, consider Darwin hybrid tulips, which throw up pretty flowers for about five years.

7. Start small
Your first year of gardening isn't the time to set impossible tasks.The key is to start with a few plants, and grow from there as you get your feet wet. Consider container tomatoes, a bed of irises, or a single rosebush. Once you've aced your first gardening tasks, your dreams can grow grander.
Just don't stress if you screw up. The only foolproof plants are fake.