There is no better way to be self sufficient than by growing your own food. It’s fun, rewarding, and the vegetables taste so much better than the store. So if you’re interested in learning about how to start a vegetable garden, this post will help you through all the steps!
I’ve had a garden my entire life and I just can’t imagine not growing my own vegetables. Even though there is some work involved to get started it’s all worth it in the end.
But I have some methods and strategies for making the whole process easier, so be sure to also check out my course Vegetable Gardening Success for a fully comprehensive course on vegetable gardening.
How to Start a Vegetable Garden
You may think that growing a garden seems like too much work, or that you can never keep anything alive so why would you even try.
But if you learn what vegetables to grow in your area and you plant during the correct seasons you’re halfway there.
So don’t be afraid of gardening, just start small and follow the gardening tips below. Then feel free to also comment or email me with any questions you have.
Where to Plant
Depending on how much space you have will help you to determine where the best place will be for you to plant. But even if your space is limited, don’t feel discouraged.
There are tons of vegetables you can plant in containers, so even if it’s just a small patio garden, it’s better than nothing.
Planting in Containers
The best vegetables to plant in containers are ones that don’t get huge and out of control. For example, pumpkins spread out like crazy and plants like tomato can get really big, so they are best planted in an area with more space.
Although, there are tomatoes that grow well in containers. Check out The Best Heirloom Tomatoes for Containers here.
The size of your pots depends on how big the vegetable plant can get, but planting in pots that are at least 18-24 inches deep should be plenty deep for a majority of plants.
But roots also grow outward so it’s good to have a pot that is at least 12 or more inches wide as well.
These grow bags are really great for potatoes and some other vegetables. Plus they are easy to move around if need be.
Vegetables that are good for container growing include:
- Summer Squash
- Snap Peas
- Pole Beans
- Tomatoes (Determinate Varieties)
The next important thing is filling your containers with a good quality potting soil such as Fox Farm Potting Soil.
Planting in Raised Beds
I love my raised beds because it makes both planting and harvesting much easier. I recommend raised beds that are no more than 3-4 feet wide because that allows you to still be able to easily reach into the middle or your beds.
The length of the raised bed doesn’t matter as much, just whatever fits best in your area, but my raised beds are 3.5 feet wide x 8 feet long.
You can build your own raised beds or use already purchased containers like galvanized watering troughs.
I built my raised beds out of used railroad ties and they have worked out perfect.
The next step is then filling your raised beds with a good garden soil. Since you’ll be using much more than you would with containers or pots, I recommend looking for a local company that you can buy from in bulk.
Look for a 2 way mix that consists of sand and compost. Or a 3 way mix that consists of compost, sand, and topsoil.
Planting in the Ground
Planting in the ground is nice because it you don’t have to build any raised beds or set up any containers.
Just make sure you have healthy soil, work it up nicely before planting to remove all debris and dirt clods, and then work in compost or a good quality soil amendment before planting.
A good quality soil amendment I recommend is Garden Supreme Premium Soil Amendment.
Choosing Which Vegetables to Grow
There are so many vegetables to choose from so what I recommend is starting off with a list of your favorites and then looking up to see if that vegetable grows well in your area.
There is no use in growing tomatoes if you won’t eat them, so make your list and then below we’ll discuss how to figure out what grows best when and where.
Find your Growing Zone
The first thing you should do if you don’t already know, is find your growing zone.
Find Your First and Last Frost Dates
The next important information you need to know is your first and last frost dates.
Go to this site here to find your average first and last frost dates.
This information will help you plan out when the right time to plant is.
For a PDF of exactly when to plant all vegetables based off of your own first and last dates be sure to get my schedule below!
Fall and Spring Gardens
Some vegetables grow best in cooler weather and some grow best when it’s warm.
So depending on what growing season it is, you’ll either plant cooler or warmer season crops.
Common cool season crops are:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
- Lettuce, Baby Mix
- Lettuce Heads
These should typically be planted in early spring or later on in your fall garden.
Your common warm season crops include:
- Snap Beans
- Onions, Bulb
- Peas, Snap
- Squash, Summer
- Squash, Winter
- Sweet Potatoes
These vegetables are usually planted in spring after all danger of frost has passed and they continue growing through the summer.
How to Plant Your Vegetables
Once you know when you should plant, the next step is deciding if you should plant by seed or by transplants.
So go to this post here to learn which vegetables to directly sow by seed.
And go here to learn which vegetables to plant as transplants.
Seed Starting Tips
Seeds need adequate moisture and warmth to germinate.
So if you’re directly sowing seeds into your garden bed and the weather isn’t warm enough they likely won’t come up.
Make sure you wait until the soil has reached the optimal temperature for germination.
The same goes if you’re starting your seeds in pots to transplant.
If you start your seeds in pots and they don’t sprout, it’s likely due to the temperature.
Try setting your seed trays on heat mats or moving them to a warmer location such as a greenhouse or inside next to the fireplace.
Check out how to start tomatoes from seed here.
The ideal weather for transplanting is an overcast, cooler day. So if the weather permits transplant on a day like that, or plant early in the morning while it’s still cool, in a pre watered garden bed.
Then water the transplants good again after planting.
Tending to Your Garden
After planting, the most important thing is watering effectively and watching your plants for signs of pests or disease.
I recommend setting your garden up on an irrigation system so that you can save time and even set up a timer to water when you aren’t around.
But either way it’s important to water deeply and infrequently.
You don’t want the soil to completely dry out, but you don’t want it overly saturated either.
So water long enough that the water seeps into soil at least a couple inches down. Then the next day check the soil and if it’s still moist an inch deep, wait before watering again.
If it’s not moist an inch deep, water again.
Keep Weeds Away
The best thing to do is pull your weeds frequently because then they never get out of hand.
But you can also use homemade weed killers like this one here.
I like to use pre-emergent around the perimeters of my garden and in the walkways because its prevents the weeds from ever coming up in the first place, which is awesome.
You can check out how to use pre-emergent here.
Check for Pests and Prevent Them
The best way to prevent pests is to prevent them and kill them immediately.
One method I like for preventing pests is planting beneficial plants known for repelling pests such as:
You can also plant plants known for attracting beneficial insects that will kill the pests such as:
- Sweet Alyssum
Or you can buy beneficial insects and turn them loose in your garden.
If you notice any pests on your plants it’s important to treat them immediately. You can do so with organic pest killers such as:
Fertilize Your Plants
The final step to growing a successful garden is to fertilize your plants as needed. To learn about fertilizing, check out this article here.
Keep Garden Records
The final important step to becoming a skilled gardener is keeping records. You should keep a garden journal that includes things such as:
- What plant varieties you grew.
- Where you planted each vegetable in the garden. This is really important for keeping track of companion plants and incorporating crop rotation.
- How the crop grew.
- How you liked the taste.
- If any pests or diseases showed up.
- The dates you planted on.
While these are just a few ideas of things to keep track of, you can add in anything else that seems important.
Keeping records is great because then year after year you will have valuable information specific to your garden. If a certain variety grew really well for you then you should plant it again.
Or if it grew really bad you should ditch it and try something new.
So once you have this information, each year of gardening will only get easier and easier.
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