Vegetable gardening for beginners: What you need to know
With the warmer weather, we hope you can start enjoying your home’s outdoor space. And planting a vegetable garden is a great way to do it!
Gardening can be a healthy distraction during these uncertain times. Planting a vegetable garden gives you fresh air, exercise, relaxation, and in a few months fresh vegetables to enjoy! Follow these tips to get started.
Location! Location! Location!
The first step to a successful garden is planting it in the right place. Look for areas that get lots of sunlight. Easy to grow vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans do best with 6 hours or more of full sun. Vegetables like carrots, onions and peas can thrive in partial sunlight, which is less than 6 hours a day.
Pick a manageable size for your garden
If this is your first garden, you probably don’t want to start with a 60-acre beet farm. Start small and expand as you become more experienced. When you have a yard, a good garden size for beginners is from 8 feet by 8 feet to 12 feet by 12 feet. Pick a size that you will enjoy maintaining!
If you don’t have much yard space, don’t worry. Even a small outdoor area can yield vegetables. You can plant vegetables in large pots and place them on a patio or deck.
You can grow an indoor garden on a windowsill, hanging from the ceiling, or by creating a "green wall." Not all vegetables will grow indoors, but you can have success with herbs, carrots, garlic, salad greens, and small greens such as basil.
You can also grow plants indoors with a hydroponics kit. These kits include the case to hold the water system, seeds and LED lighting, and you can purchase them online.
Purchase basic gardening tools and equipment
For an outdoor garden, the next step is to make sure you have the right tools. We think these are useful!
- Stakes and twine or wire mesh fencing to plan the perimeter of your garden. Use a mesh fence to help keep out small animals.
- Gardening gloves to protect your hands and keep them clean.
- A large shovel to dig out the garden, turn the soil and remove large rocks and patches of grass.
- Small shovel and hand fork to dig planting rows and remove pesky weeds.
- Watering can or garden hose to help keep your garden watered.
- Wheelbarrow to make heavy items easier to move.
Getting the tools you need can be challenging right now. See if your local garden stores are open for deliveries. You can also check out home improvement websites like Home Depot or Lowes for online ordering as well as Amazon. You can buy seeds online too!
Dig out your garden and turn over the soil
Once you have your tools, measure your desired garden size and mark it with stakes and twine. Remove the grass and large rocks from the soil of your garden and turn the ground thoroughly.
You want the soil in your garden to be soft and loose. If you have never grown anything in the area before, mix mulch and topsoil with your existing soil. These will help your vegetables thrive!
Follow the instructions
Seed packets come with instructions on how to space your plants as well as how much sunlight and water they need. These are good instructions to follow and will help your vegetable garden be successful.
Weed your garden when necessary
Weeds strip soil of nutrients and strangle the plants you want to grow. Be sure to pull out weeds by their roots to keep them from coming back. For stubborn weeds, dig them out with a small shovel or gardening fork. Try to weed your garden once a week to keep it healthy.
If you are serious about gardening and plan to keep it up long-term, keep records such as:
- The location of your plants in the garden.
- How often you watered and weeded.
- How much sunlight each plant received.
- How each crop performed overall.
Records will help you remember what worked well, so you can keep doing it, and what didn’t work well, so you can try something different. Don’t get discouraged and treat any missteps as a learning experience. As the saying goes—practice makes perfect!