How To Start a Vegetable Garden For The First Time
Gardening gives us a hobby and allows us to nurture another living thing, which is good for the soul. Plus, everything tastes better if you grew it, that’s a plain fact. Want to learn how to start a vegetable garden? Read on below!
Step 1: Find a Location
Finding the perfect location for your garden takes some work. You need a place that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day for growing most vegetable crops.
But if your backyard is always shaded, or the only source of sunlight is a windowsill, don’t feel bad. You can get away with growing leafy veggies and herbs which only need 2-4 hours of sunlight.
You’ll also need to choose a spot with good soil, that’s soft and full of nutrients. Make sure it’s loose and not compact so the plant roots can penetrate down.
Finally, you need to pick a spot with a stable environment, which means your garden will stay safe. Avoid areas that get waterlogged when it rains or where there’s a lot of wind.
Step 2: Choose Crops to Grow
Now that you know where you’ll put your garden, You need to decide what’ll go in it.
First, Check with your local gardening center to know what grows best in your area. You’re not going to grow something in Montana that flourishes in Florida.
Then, pick out the foods your family will actually eat, from what grows well in your location. A good way to know that is to take a look at your usual grocery list.
Tip: For beginner gardener, it’s best to pick the easiest vegetable to grow.
Once you have two or three crops in mind, pick out the variety you want to use. There are subtle differences in sizes and yields.
Also, you need to look for disease resistance or temperature tolerance varieties. Experiment with them to see which variety is best for you.
Though it’s good to be excited to get things in the ground, you don’t want to overdo it. Too many first time gardeners start out with too many plants.
Start small! And as your time and effort allow you. Even one container on a windowsill can be a good start.
Step 3: Time Things Carefully
Planting time matters a lot for your garden success. Some plants can’t handle the cold nights of early springs, while others wilt in the summer heat. That’s because there are warm and cold season vegetable crops.
Cold season vegetables tolerate cold weather and even can enjoy a little frost. You can sow them directly outside and harvest before the last frost.
Warm season vegetables need a long growing season and will die if the weather and soil are too cold. Gardeners start warm-season crops from seeds inside and transplant them outside when the weather is warm enough. This way these crops will get enough time to grow.
If you find Starting seeds indoors is a bit challenging for you, you can skip the seeds and buy seedlings from your local garden store.
The National Gardening Association offers a planting calendar on their website. Go there, type in your zip code and you will have a planting calendar for your area.
Step 4: Use Raised Beds or Containers
Have you ever seen someone planting a garden in what looks like wood-lined boxes? Those are called raised beds. Raised beds and containers are easier to plant and better for the plants than traditional row system.
Why? For one, you don’t have to bend over as far and get back pain while taking care of your plants.
Two, they provide better soil conditions, like less compact soil conditions and better drainage.
They even protect from pests like slugs and snails. Finally, they’re an efficient way to use your space. Also raised beds are easy to put them together – you can do it in an afternoon.
Step 5: Learn About Your Crops
Rows are so last century when it comes to home gardens. Now, gardeners use companion planting.
Companion planting is based on planting a variety of plants together in to gain more benefits like pest control, pollination, maximizing use of space, and more.
It seems strange, but planting flowers around your tomatoes is a good thing. Not only they are pretty, but they attract bees, which help with pollination, and friendly insects like ladybugs, which protects your plants from other harmful Insects.
They are many more companion planting examples. What you need to do is to learn which goes with which so you can plan your garden, which brings us to the next step.
Step 6: Plan Your Layout
Check out garden layouts on Pinterest if you need guidance or inspiration. But, keep in mind, what works for one garden may not work for yours.
You need to make sure the person who wrote up the suggestion lives in a similar climate as you if you’re going to copy their suggestions.
Generally, there are some planning guidelines you need to follow:
Place the tallest plants on the north side so they don’t shade smaller ones.
Place plants with vines on the edges of your box or container so they can roam freely without covering other crops.
Use a piece of paper to map everything out or to make it easier to use an online gardening planner.
Whatever you use to plan your garden, you need to keep it as seasons go. You’ll need to rotate where you plant each crop to make sure you don’t drain the soil of a certain nutrient.
Step 7: Prepare Your Garden
First things first, you’ll want to make a checklist of everything you need to buy. That includes materials if you’re building raised beds and garden tools like spades or little rakes.
With everything written down, figure out what this is going to cost you to set up. Yes, setting up a garden can be expensive, but it’ll pay itself off with produce in the long run.
Once you buy everything you need, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Weed and remove rocks from where you’re going to plant. Make sure you dig down in the roots to get any straggling bits of weed growth.
Then, build your raised bed where you’ve prepared the spot. Or – clean your garden containers with plain water and fill them with soil.
Step 8: Building Your Soil
Speaking of soil, you don’t want to use ground soil. It’s not well aerated and it doesn’t’ drain well. Plus, if the soil has any issues or hidden weed seeds, they’ll become part of your garden.
You want to plant in special soil formulated for growing vegetables like potting mixes. As for raised beds, gardeners use a wide range of soil mixes. Try out some and pick a mix that suits your garden.
Step 9: Care and Maintain
Watering: You want to give your plants an inch of water once a week, that’s the usual water requirement for veggies.
However, In hot days you may need to give your plants more than one inch of water. So general you need to water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Weeding: Naturally, the intensive planting style of raised beds and containers keeps weeds at the minimum. However, you can decrease weeds even more with little effort.
Use a garden hand tool like a hoe or a fork to remove any weed seedling you come across. But be careful when you’re doing that so you don’t disturb plants roots.
Also, covering the soil with straw or shredded leaves inhibits the germination of weed seeds. This process called mulching and it helps the soil to retain water too.
Fertilizing: Unless you’re lucky enough to have a picture perfect soil (and that rarely happens) you’ll want to enhance it.
As seeds grow and start to sprout, it’s best that you add some water-soluble organic plant food to encourage the best harvest.
Step 10: Crowd Control
Finally, you’re really growing now! But your job isn’t over. You need to protect your plant from pests and diseases.
Always water low near the base of the plants or use a dripping system, so leaves don’t stay wet for long. This way you’ll Avoid fungal diseases, that spread when you water the leaves and not the soil. If you’re using sprinklers water early in the morning to give leaves time to dry.
If you see one sprout dying of a disease, or even a full plant, pull it out and throw it away. Plant diseases can spread and you don’t want to risk your other crops.
When you’re planting, try to find seeds or seedlings labeled as disease resistant and make sure to rotate your crop every season.
As for pests, if you see some cute little grasshoppers or caterpillars on your crops, pick them off with your hands.
You can buy an organic insecticide if the bug problem gets worse. Or, go a different route and buy a bag full of live ladybugs to release into your garden.
Finally, think about installing a fence around your garden to protect it from rodents and mammals.
Step 11: Harvest!
Finally, you’ve put in the work and there are big juicy veggies ready to pick.
As a rule of thumb, the more you harvest the more will grow back and if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is!
A good way to keep all this organized is to have a garden journal, where you can take detailed notes. Write down where you planted your plants and note if any issues arise.
In time, you’ll have made your own personalized gardening book that’s perfect for where you live.
Your insight on how to start a vegetable garden is unbelievably useful! It will guide your way to a successful garden.
Ready to get some seeds in the soil right now? Click here to learn about the best seed starting mix.