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Learning how to start a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When you grow your own garden, you can harvest fresh seasonal veggies, herbs, and fruit as you need them instead of having to drive miles to the nearest grocery store. It just doesn’t get any fresher and healthier than that.
While starting a vegetable garden is not all that difficult, there are certain things you should know and prepare for. Just jumping in and sowing your seeds without any prior thought or planning will be an exercise in frustration. No matter how much work you put into it, you won’t get the results.
This article covers the basics of how to start a vegetable garden. As you scroll to the bottom, you’ll find some great resources that offer detailed guidance and tips on starting, maintaining and harvesting your vegetable garden.
4 Basic Steps to Starting a Vegetable Garden
Step #1. Decide What You Want to Plant
This is the most important step to growing the vegetables you enjoy eating.
Start by making a list of all the recipes you tend to prepare more frequently than others. Note which vegetables and herbs you use over and over again, because this will tell you not only what you should plant, but also in what quantity.
Don’t forget to jot down other items your family enjoys, even if you aren’t using them in your cooking currently. Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to expand your culinary horizons.
Involve your children in this planning phase. Ask what they might like to grow or make fun suggestions if they are too young to come up with ideas on their own. Not only will this spark their interest in gardening, but they are also more likely to eat the veggies that they’ve helped grow.
Pumpkins, ornamental gourds, and sunflowers (for their beauty and seeds) are popular choices with kids of all ages. Fast-growing plants, such as lettuce and beans, are also great choices for children because they produce noticeable results quickly.
Once you’ve made a list of plants you want to grow, go to the Seeds Now Seed Shop to pick up your vegetable starter seeds. Seeds Now carries one of the largest selections of organic vegetable seeds. You can choose from individual vegetable seed packs and variety packs.
What’s really great about shopping at Seeds Now is that they have fantastic resources to help you get started, starting with this free ebook, A Complete Guide to Organic Gardening. While you’re browsing through the seeds and supplies at Seeds Now, you must check out their Expanding Seed Starting Soil Pods. Planting vegetables using starting soil pods simplifies the whole process and makes it so much more rewarding. All you need to do is add water to the soil pod, add your seeds, and watch them grow.
Step #2: Pick the Right Location for Your Vegetable Garden
Planting a successful vegetable garden is all about location, location, location. If you want your plants to thrive, there are a couple of non-negotiable items you will need to provide:
1. Sunshine. Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
2. Water. Make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You will need to water your plants whenever Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, so make sure you have a convenient source of water nearby.
3. Accessibility. Gardens need care, so position your vegetable garden in an area that is convenient to get to with the tools you need to work in it. If you place it too far from the house or garden shed where you keep your tools or in an area difficult to reach with a wheelbarrow, you may find yourself tempted to neglect it.
Make your life easier and plant your garden in the most convenient sunny location you can find.
4. Good Drainage. You may have to do some work for this one, especially if you live in an area with heavy clay or compacted soil. If you find the area you want to plant tends to collect standing water, you will want to build your beds up to protect your plants from overly wet feet.
Step #3: Create Your Garden Beds
Once you’ve identified where you want your garden, you will need to decide where you want the individual beds within it. As you are doing so, keep in mind the orientation of the sun throughout the day because taller plants or those growing on trellises can cast damaging shadows if they aren’t positioned correctly.
To create the individual beds, many old school gardeners swear by the traditional practice of removing heavy layers of sod, then tilling and amending the soil beneath it before planting your vegetable plants.
Although this method will certainly work, you simply don’t have to work that hard. Instead, you can use the Lasagna Gardening method of building your beds UPWARDS instead of digging down to create them. This method works equally well with raised garden beds or directly on the ground.
To get started, add flattened cardboard or a thick stack of newspapers on top of the ground and then add alternate layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure or barn litter, organic mulch, yard clippings and/or compost.
You can either prepare these beds months in advance or right before you plant. Either way, the layers will meld together into a beautiful, rich soil for your plants.
For more details on this no-dig gardening method, check out Lasagna Gardening, a New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.
Step #4: Start Planting!
Once your beds are ready, it’s time to start planting!
Before you start digging, you have some choices to make: you can sow seeds directly into the soil, start seeds indoors then harden them off outdoors before adding them to your garden, or plant established transplants you’ve purchased directly into your prepared beds.
Some plants require direct sowing, while others need to be started indoors several weeks before the frost-free date in your area in order to perform well. While you are creating your list of plants you want to grow, make a note of the growing requirements for each so you can give your plants the best chance of survival.
If you decide to follow these four easy steps to plant a vegetable garden, you will be rewarded all season long with an abundant supply of fresh and healthy produce. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you did it with your own two hands.
More Reading Resources with Detailed Instructions on How to Grow a Vegetable Garden
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil
This is the highest-rated book on vegetable gardening on Amazon, with over 800 mostly 5-star reviews. In this best-selling book expert vegetable gardening, Ed Smith focuses on growing more with less effort. The handbook offers essential, in-depth information on using wide, deep raised beds and organic methods resulting in bountiful harvests. With in-depth information for gardeners of all levels, this is the only book you’ll need to get started.
Other vegetable gardening resources that you can check out:
The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook: Make the Most of Your Growing Season – This is a fantastic, information packed book. Read my full review here.
Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens
Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!
Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden
All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition, Fully Updated: MORE Projects – NEW Solutions – GROW Vegetables Anywhere (All New Square Foot Gardening)