If you’re new to gardening, you might be wondering how exactly to get started. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy. Here’s what you need to know about gardening for beginners.
There are countless benefits of vegetable gardening. Not only will you get great exercise and plenty of fresh air, but you’ll be amazed by the quality and taste of your farm-fresh produce, too.
There’s nothing quite like eating vegetables that you grew yourself!
How Do to Start Vegetable Gardening for Beginners?
Here are some quick tips to help you design and maintain the most beautiful vegetable garden imaginable.
The best tip on gardening for beginners is this – learn everything you can and never stop learning!
Vegetable gardening isn’t necessarily challenging, but there is a learning curve. As long as you do your best to keep learning constantly, you’ll be successful no matter what you decide to grow.
Choose the Right Location
Start by choosing the best possible location. One common mistake made when beginners start vegetable gardening is to choose a subpar location.
Don’t just plop your garden anywhere! Instead, choose a location that offers the following attributes.
First, it should be in a sunny spot. Most plants need around six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day during the growing season.
That said, there are some vegetables (namely leafy greens and brassicas) that can tolerate some shade, so consider this.
It should also drain relatively well and not stay wet. If the soil remains moist much of the year, you may want to plant in raised beds or containers instead.
Growing in a raised bed will allow you better control over the water in the ground.
The sites should be relatively stable and not too windy. You don’t want to plant your plants in a location that receives too much foot traffic – but you also need to make sure it’s close enough to the house to allow for easy maintenance and irrigation.
Finally, the soil in the area where you choose to plant your garden should be rich and nutritious.
Nutrient-rich soil will help your plants thrive and may eliminate the need for fertilizers later on.
Start a Small Plot
It’s easy to get carried away when you first start planning out your vegetable garden. However, if you’re a new gardener, it’s important to remember that you need to start small.
A 100 square foot garden is the general gardening recommendation for beginners. This will allow you to plant a few of your favorite vegetable plants and not get too carried away.
If you decide to grow in a raised bed, build it to no larger than 4′ x 8′. This is a decent size for beginners to manage.
Get Rid of Rows
An easy way to take advantage of the limited available garden space is to ditch traditional row planting.
While it’s wise to leave room around your plants so you can care for them, you don’t have to grow in the conventional row style to see serious results.
A unique way to grow your garden is by using raised beds or growing in a square foot gardening method.
This will allow you to grow plants in small blocks to make them easy to work around in the garden.
Plus, growing plants in grids rather than rows will free up more space in your garden. You’ll still have enough room to work around your plants, but the park will be easier to maintain with fewer weeds.
This results in less soil compaction, too.
This method, known as the intensive planting, is one of the best techniques for beginning gardeners to take advantage of.
Grow Up Instead Of Out
Few gardeners take advantage of the vertical space in their garden, instead just growing outward instead of upward. Use trellises to free up space in the park.
You can trellis just about any climbing or vining type of plant, including tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peas, and more.
And you don’t have to buy a trellis, either. You can use the fence surrounding your garden!
Plan Out Where Things Will Go
Regardless of the planting style you choose, make sure you take the time to plan out where everything will go.
Not all vegetables are going to be planted at the same time – cool-season plants will grow best in the cool weather of early spring, while warm-season plants won’t grow well until the soil has a chance to warm up.
Therefore, you’ll be staggering your planting times some and will need to consider this when you’re mapping out your garden.
You should plan on planting taller plants (like sweet corn) on the north side of your garden. That way, they won’t shade your shorter plants.
If you have trellising plants, like peas, grow them so that they have supports in place to climb up as soon as they begin to mature.
Most vegetable gardens consist of annual plants, but if you plan on growing perennials like rhubarb or asparagus, it’s a good idea to put these in a raised bed, so you don’t disturb them.
Finally, consider staggering some of your plantings. You don’t have to plant all of your lettuce seeds at once.
And if you stagger the plantings, you’ll be able to enjoy a continuous crop of lettuce all season long instead of just at once.
What Vegetables Are Good for Gardening for Beginners?
Now that you know where and how to plant your garden, it’s time to consider the best vegetable plants to grow.
There are plenty of vegetables to grow in the beginner garden.
The most accessible vegetable gardens for beginners to maintain will include plants like lettuce, herbs, radishes, zucchini and summer squash, carrots, beets, peppers, spinach, kale, green beans, and tomatoes.
Grow plants that you want to grow and that your family will eat. Once you start perusing seed catalogs, it’s far too easy to get carried away. It’s great to get your kids involved too.
Choose plants that you like to eat, and don’t get too crazy with growing oddball varieties just because they are cool colors or have fun names.
Start small and start simple with your first vegetable garden!
Also, be realistic about how much your family will eat. It doesn’t matter how much you like to eat tomatoes.
If you can’t eat pounds upon pounds of tomatoes each week, it doesn’t make sense to plant dozens of plants.
Gardening for Beginners: You Need to Decide to Start With Seed Packets or Seedlings
Choosing whether to start with seedlings or seed packets will depend mainly on your preferences as a gardener as well as what plants you’re thinking of growing.
If you live in an area with a short growing season, you’ll almost always have to start plants with long growing seasons (like tomatoes and peppers) early from seed indoors.
You can save time by purchasing seedlings that someone else has already started at your local nursery.
However, for some plants, like carrots, it doesn’t make sense to buy plants started from seed because they don’t transplant well.
Plants like carrots, lettuce, beets, and corn are far easier to start from seed outdoors – and many can be created in the early spring to give you enough time for a decent harvest.
What Month Do You Start a Vegetable Garden?
You can start a vegetable garden during virtually any month of the year. However, most gardeners begin planning and planting in the early spring.
If you plan to start some of your seeds indoors, check the times listed on the seed packet to know when you need to do so.
You can count back from the harvest date or time to maturity. This will give you an idea of how early you need to germinate inside.
For most plants that are grown outdoors, sowing seeds after the last frost is recommended.
Some, like kale and carrots, can be planted before this date, but others are frost-sensitive and will not survive a late-season frost.
Caring For Your Garden
Now that you’ve planted your first garden, all that’s left to do is take good care of it!
Most vegetable crops need around one to two inches of water per week, though this can vary. If you can, plan for your garden’s watering needs by installing irrigation systems when you plant.
Drip irrigation systems tend to work well for most plants since they deliver water to where plants need it most – at the roots – instead of overhead.
Overhead watering is still better than nothing, but it can rot as plants’ leaves stay wet longer than necessary.
Adding a two- to three-inch layer of mulch is another way you can provide your plants with the water they need. Mulch doesn’t drink water directly, of course, but it helps the soil conserve moisture and regulate its temperature.
Weeding is the gardener’s least favorite task – but it’s necessary.
While some weeds can be beneficial in a garden, most are nuisances, depriving plants of the water, nutrients, and space needed to stay healthy.
Mulch can also help with weeds since it makes it difficult for weed seeds to germinate. Cultivating around your plants regularly to remove weeds is something else you can do to stay in control.
Still, stuck on weeding? Here are a few helpful tips to follow so you can kiss those weeds goodbye.
If you start with good garden soil, you probably won’t need to fertilize your vegetable garden.
However, adding a bit of organic matter never hurts! Consider adding organic fertilizers like compost, compost tea, seaweed fertilizer, or even fish emulsion around your plants.
This will provide them with the nutrients they need without further depleting the soil.
Although you won’t need to think too closely about crop rotation in your first year as a vegetable garden, this is something you’ll want to give some thought to later on down the road.
Planting your vegetables in succession is one of the best ways to keep your garden healthy. When you rotate your vegetables, it ensures that the same crops won’t deplete the nutrients year after year.
It can also limit the number of insect pests or diseases that wreak havoc on your plants.
Move each type of plant (or each type of plant in each family) to a new location each season. Keep records of where you planted things, so you don’t forget in the off-season!
Most vegetable crops are ready to be harvested anywhere from 30 to 100 days after sowing seeds.
However, this varies widely between individual plant types. Some, like tomatoes, take an incredibly long time to reach maturity and produce ripe fruits, while others, like radishes, can be harvested in just a few weeks.
When you plant your seeds, keep good records of planting and harvesting dates. That way, you won’t run the risk of vegetables becoming overripe.
Once you bring your harvest indoors, you might find that you’re overwhelmed by the sheer quantity in your kitchen!
Feel free to preserve it – preserving food via methods like canning and dehydrating are great ways to extend the harvest’s usefulness just a little bit longer.
A Reminder for Gardening for Beginners it’s Important to Keep Good Records for the Future
As soon as you harvest the vegetables from your first garden, it’s time to start thinking about the next.
Keep good records when you’re planting, caring for, and growing your first garden. This will allow you to keep track of which plants and choices were successes – and which were failures.
Even something as simple as sketching out a garden plan that depicts where each type of plant was grown can be helpful. That way, you’ll know that you can reproduce your good results in years to come.
Becoming an expert gardener doesn’t happen overnight. With practice, however, you can quickly grow your vegetable garden and enjoy all the tasty rewards it offers.