There’s nothing sweeter than having your very own vegetable garden at home. To eat food that you produced yourself is satisfying enough, but to enjoy juicy, fresh, and healthy herbs and vegetables that grow in your backyard is priceless.
If you’ve always wanted to start your very own vegetable garden at home, then this is the right place for you. In this vegetable garden beginner’s guide, we’ll help you choose which vegetables to grow, where and when to plant, as well as a few tips on how you can enjoy a bountiful harvest.
Let’s begin our six steps for starting your first vegetable garden:
Step 1: Start Small
Suppose you’ve never grown vegetables before. You don’t want to overplay and realize you don’t have the time or expertise to take care of a large garden.
Starting small can give you a feel of whether gardening vegetables are for you, and it’s also easier to maintain. In addition, you get to learn the basics of gardening before you invest a lot of time and money into a large vegetable garden at home.
A good size is 6′ x 6′, where you can plant and grow up to five different vegetables. If you don’t want to get down and dirty in your backyard, or if you’re limited on space, you can try container gardening, such as the Garden Tower 2.
This planter is considered the “world’s most advanced vertical garden planter.” You can set it up on a patio or balcony, and you can grow up to 50 different herbs and vegetables in a tiny 4 square feet of space. There’s minimal upkeep, and the planter rotates, with all of the plants and veggies within easy reach.
Planters like these are great alternatives for home vegetable gardens, especially in places with minimal spaces.
Step 2: Choose Your Location
Your garden’s location is key to a successful harvest. Here are some of the factors that are needed for a good vegetable garden:
1. Plenty of Sunlight
Plants need sunlight to grow, and they need about 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight for proper photosynthesis. Direct sunlight means no trees, fences, or shrubs create shade over your plants.
If you have a limited area in your backyard or outdoor space, you can choose vegetables that don’t require so much direct sunlight. Vegetables such as lettuce, kale, chives, parsley, thyme, chard, spinach only need partial sunlight and root veggies that include beets and carrots, which only require 4 hours of direct sunlight exposure.
However, if you grow tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, basil, or rosemary, you’d need to have a location with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
2. Proximity to Water Access
Another need for plants is water. The closer you are to a water source, the better. During the first few weeks of planting, mainly after seeds germinate or seeds are transplanted, you’d need to water them every day.
Once your plants are established, you can water them once every other day or a few days apart.
Related: How often should I water my garden
3. Good Soil
Your plants need to be grown on good soil as they need nutrients to grow. The ground feeds your plants, so you must mix in plenty of organic matter to make your soil rich and healthy.
You’ll know your soil is healthy when it’s easy to dig and drains well. If your soil creates water pools, you’d need to have a raised bed to improve drainage.
Make sure your soil doesn’t stay wet after watering your plants. If it stays wet, you’d need to add more compost to make your soil healthier for plants to grow.
4. Not Windy
Avoid locations that have strong winds, as they could knock out your growing plants.
Step 3: Choosing Your Vegetables
When choosing your vegetables, you need to consider the following factors:
1. Ask Yourself What Vegetables You Eat
It would be best to choose veggies that you and your family already eat; otherwise, having your vegetable garden will be futile. If you grow plants that you don’t need, what’s the point?
If you typically eat tomatoes, lettuce, or herbs, then choose to plant these vegetables.
2. Ask Yourself How Much You Need
Do you live alone? Or are you a large family? Ask yourself how many vegetables you need and how many different varieties. You can always give away excess produce, but growing food that’s enough for personal consumption is ideal if you’re starting small.
3. Use High-Quality Seeds
Seed packets are inexpensive, but if they don’t grow, all that hard work caring for your vegetable garden is a waste.
4. Choose Productive Vegetables
You’d need to grow vegetables that produce well. The goal of starting a vegetable garden is to have your very own fresh veggies to eat at home, so you need plants that grow well and grow fast.
Here are some of the easiest vegetables to grow that are also productive:
- Green beans
If you live in an area with extreme weather, you can read about the best vegetables to grow in your area, as not all easy and productive vegetables will grow the same in all kinds of regions.
You can also choose to plant flowers around and within your vegetable garden as they are excellent at attracting pollinators and discouraging pests. Marigolds are especially ideal for growing within your vegetable garden.
Step 4: Plan Your Garden Layout
There are two standard garden layouts for beginners: Row Cropping and Intensive Cropping.
Row cropping is placing your plants in a single file in a row. Place them 18″ apart so you can walk between them, making it easier for you to remove weeds and care for your vegetables.
Intensive cropping is when you plant 2 to 3 veggies close together in a bed that’s about 4 feet wide. The advantage to this layout is that you’re using every square inch of your garden, but you will have to carefully pull out weeds since the plants will grow very close to each other.
In terms of tall plants, you must place them on the north side of your garden, so they don’t cover shorter plants from direct sunlight.
Step 5: When to Plant
You also need to know when to plant your vegetables. Not all vegetables are planted simultaneously, and vegetables are either cool-season or warm-season plants.
Cool-season plants are planted during the cooler months, such as late early spring or fall. Warm-season plants are planted when the soil warms up, typically during late spring or summer.
Some examples of cool-season plants are lettuce, spinach, and peas. Warm-season plants include tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
You can also practice Stagger Planting. This consists of planting vegetable weeks apart, so you don’t harvest them simultaneously. Stagger planting your vegetables keeps your vegetables coming week after week, and not just all at one time.
Step 6: Prevent Pests and Diseases
Having good soil, an ideal location, and hitting all the right notes are not enough for a successful vegetable garden. It would help if you were also prepared for pests and diseases because they can wreak havoc on all the work you’ve done.
Here are some tips to prevent pests and diseases:
1. Remove Weeds
Weeds compete with your plants for water, light, and nutrients. You must remove the first signs of weeds, or else you’ll have thin and weak vegetables.
You can add a mulch of clean straw or compost to keep weeds at bay.
2. Insecticidal Spray
If you notice a lot of insects in your garden, you can use an insecticidal spray which you can buy from a store.
3. Keep Animals Out
If there are burrowing critters in your backyard, such as rabbits, put up a fence around your garden. You must also ensure that your fence extends at least 6″ underground to stop critters from digging their way in.
4. Prevent Fungal Disease
Fungal diseases can ruin your product, and once they spread, they can destroy your entire garden. Reduce the likelihood of fungal infection by watering your plants’ roots rather than their leaves.
If you use a sprinkler, use it during the day to dry your plants’ leaves at night. If you notice a plant suffering from the disease, remove it and throw it away to prevent it from contaminating your other vegetables.
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to starting your vegetable garden at home. Starting may seem daunting, mainly if you’ve never gardened before, but once you have the bare essentials, and once you have your first produce, you’ll be jumping for joy for your very first and your very own fresh vegetables.
Remember to start small, choose a good location, choose easy vegetables, and follow the simple tips to prevent pests and diseases.