Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide

It can be highly rewarding to create your own vegetable garden. Being able to grow things that you can cook with and share your homegrown produce with people around you.

It can become a cost-effective project over time that eventually saves you money on groceries.

Understanding how to care for them takes time and research, which is why you should not rush the gardening process. It should be something that allows you to connect with nature mindfully.

Not all vegetables were created equal, which is why we have listed everything you need to know about planting a vegetable garden. The aim is to allow you to make an informed decision and create your own layout with your preferred plants in your garden.

Things To Consider Before Planning Your Garden

Preparation is key, which is why it can be highly beneficial to think about the following factors before beginning to plan your garden. It isn’t for everyone because there is an amount of hard work and commitment that goes into planting and maintaining a successful vegetable garden.

Vegetable Garden

1. Dedication

The first thing to consider is how dedicated you are. Planting a successful vegetable garden isn’t something that happens overnight, and it is important to stick at it over time. You may find that you learn from your mistakes, and that the next year you will do things differently.

Some of the most successful vegetable gardens have taken many years to come into fruition, and it takes a great deal of trial and error and experimentation to reap the benefits. That is why you will need to be dedicated, and appreciate that planting a garden takes time.

Spending time planting seeds is one thing, but you must be dedicated and committed to doing your own research about weather patterns, individual plant species, and types of soil. This is one of the best ways to improve your knowledge and should not be rushed.

2. Patience

Something that goes hand in hand with dedication is patience. If you want to grow your own vegetables, it’s worth remembering that it takes time. In some cases, certain species may not even grow during a season, and you will need to take a moment to understand why that could have happened.

The same approach can be applied to other areas of life. These include using a new perspective towards dieting, exercise, and academic progress.

Understanding that every process takes time is an important part of life, and you may not be able to see progress immediately. This does not mean that you aren’t progressing gradually.

When it comes to creating a garden, it’s important to appreciate how mother nature cannot be rushed. There is a delicate balance between many elements that needs to be considered, and certain vegetables take longer to grow than others.

Be patient and allow yourself the time to process what you may have found out in order to apply it to the rest of your garden. This can ensure that you are letting everything grow under the right conditions.

3. Spacing

Not only will your plants require different conditions, but they should be spaced differently. Consider different layouts and figure out how you want to space your plants on your intended plot.

Another thing worth considering is how different plant species interact with each other. Certain plants act as a buffer that repels pests, so you could think about planting this next to lettuce or other vegetables that are more vulnerable to insects and animals taking a bite.

You should also think about how much space each vegetable needs in terms of their roots. Some, such as pole beans and certain herbs, don’t need to be allowed as much space as other species.

This is because their growth is typically upwards rather than down into the ground. Beets and onions, on the other hand, need more space to allow them to thrive.

In addition to this, you should consider whether you have the space to set a garden up in your local area. If you have a smaller backyard, then this may not be the best choice, especially if less sunlight gets to it.

You could think about renting a garden space on a regular basis if you prefer. However, this can be more expensive than using the surrounding area in many cases.

4. Budget

Another highly influential factor worth considering is your budget. There is no point setting up an enormous vegetable garden if you cannot afford the upkeep of it.

Whether you want to allow for the extra water coming out of your utility bills, or if you are concerned about the price and upkeep of soil and bulbs, it’s worth being as realistic about what you can afford beforehand.

With that being said, there are some ways that you can cut costs with gardening. These include making your own compost from food scraps, using seeds, bulbs, and cuttings from plants and vegetables that you already own, and setting up a rain filtration system.

The great thing about setting up your own garden is that it can be made to work for you. This includes making budget-friendly choices and planting as many or as few vegetables at any time as your space and budget allows.

What Vegetables Should You Grow?

Now that we’ve covered some basics to be aware of when you are planning your garden, let’s discuss the different vegetables that you should grow. Each has their own characteristics that determine the optimum growing conditions.

Vegetable Garden

This includes weather, sunlight exposure, heat and spacing. It could also be worth using the following list to decide which vegetables you can see yourself using, and how you want to cook with them.

1. Carrots

One of the fundamental parts of a vegetable garden is carrots for many. These are some of the easiest vegetables to plant, and are a part of the same family as celery, parsnip, and parsley.

Of course, if you live in a household that aren’t big carrot eaters, then there is less need to plant this, but carrots should be planted in loose, sandy soil during cool weather.

Sow the seeds during spring evenly and make sure that they have plenty of sunlight. Carrots are usually slow growers, and are best when they are left for 2-4 months.

2. Lettuce

Another staple in many gardens is lettuce, and there are many varieties that you can plant. It is one of the easiest ways to eat what your vegetable garden produces, because they are fast growers that take around the first few weeks.

After that time, you can pick the leaves from the exterior while allowing the inner core to continue growing.

Lettuce is prone to bolting, which occurs when the weather is too warm, and can produce a bitter taste to the leaves. This can be prevented by planting lettuce next to tall plants, such as tomatoes, sweetcorn, or pole beans, so that they get enough shade during the warmer months.

Another thing to be aware of when planting lettuce is the increased interest from unwanted guests. Snails, rabbits, white flies, and other pests have a particular preference for the cool tasting leaves that lettuce produces.

For this reason, many people tend to plant their lettuce in raised beds or containers as a preventative measure, and it could be worth considering this as an option.

3. Cabbages

Cabbages are highly versatile and there are many species that can be used in cooking. These are definitely another great addition to any chef’s garden or vegetable garden if you want to integrate more veggies into your diet.

Most varieties of cabbage have different growing specifications, but they can usually thrive in a place where they get upwards of six hours of sunlight per day. They normally need well-drained, fertile soil of a pH around 6.5-6.8 if possible.

4. Peas

It may seem like peas are easy to grow, but they can be a little temperamental. Unless they are harvested and eaten right away, they will go bad. Some varieties of peas that you can plant in your vegetable garden are sweet peas, snow peas, and snap peas.

Peas grow best under colder conditions. That is why St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional day to plant peas. They need to mature while the weather is still cool, in well-drained soil within a sunny patch of your garden.

Most pea plants are seen growing up a wooden trellis, and it is usually the best way to encourage them to go up rather than out. Some things that can be planted alongside peas include carrots, chives, corn, radish, mint, cucumber, and beans.

By building a frame out of bamboo poles, you can encourage your peas to wrap themselves into this formation. It is beneficial for your other plants and peas, as they will grow thick and produce a great harvest, without disrupting the other vegetables growing around them.

5. Beans

Green beans are widely known for being easy to grow, and yielding a large harvest. They can often be seen growing on poles or bushes. After the last frost in spring is the best time to plant beans, as they need soil temperatures upwards of 48 Fahrenheit.

This is why some vegetable gardens can be seen with black plastic or fabric over the soil. They are trying to get ahead by warming the soil. Like many species, beans grow best in well-draining soil, and prefer a pH around 6-7. Regular watering is just as important for beans to grow, and they should be watered weekly, or on sunny days.

Beans are easy to harvest, and you can enjoy picking the ripe pods every day during their peak growing season. The more often you pick the beans, the more the plant will grow, and it can be a great way to start your vegetable garden.

6. Radishes

These are another relatively fast-growing vegetable, and can be picked three weeks after planting in some cases. Similarly to carrots, radishes need loose soil that allows them to grow correctly.

Because they are a lot more hardy than other vegetables, radishes can be planted around five weeks before the last frost.

It is recommended that you create or purchase a water irrigation system for these veggies, because they need moist soil that is not excessively wet.

Another thing to remember when planting radishes is that similarly to carrots, they grow best when they are left alone and given plenty of space to form the correct shape.

However, they will need to be kept free from weeds, so it could be worth keeping a closer eye on radishes in comparison to carrots. With a little care, they are great additions to any garden and work well in many dishes.

7. Cress

This can be a great ‘filler’ species to a vegetable garden, and cress seeds can be sprinkled over the soil in blocks or rows once the frosts have passed. Cress can be a great addition to salads, eggs, sandwiches, and add a finishing touch to many meals.

While it can be grown on window sills in a wet paper towel, cress can also grow outdoors, which could make for a perfect, easy to maintain vegetable garden addition.

It can be used to prevent weeds from growing in the space between larger plants, or simply planted as a starter to get your vegetable garden going.

8. Bell Peppers

Peppers are unique because they grow for a long period of time. There are many varieties of peppers, and they can be spicy or sweet depending on growing conditions and species.

Something that makes bell peppers stand out is their resistance to most pests, and the warm conditions needed.

They are more sensitive to colder temperatures, and will either need to be hardened to the conditions or planted indoors.

Planting 2-3 weeks after the last frost of spring is usually the best bet for bell peppers, and the seeds germinate best when the soil is around 70 Fahrenheit.

9. Zucchini

A type of summer squash that returns each season is zucchini. It makes a great addition to many meals, and the plants are typically seen in the form of bushes.

It is best to plant zucchini seeds when the soil is reaches at least 60 Fahrenheit, but they can also be started indoors.

These vegetables need more sun than most, as well as shelter from the wind. Make sure to scatter with mulch or organic fertilizer to allow your zucchini seeds to get enough nutrients to grow.

Creating Your Layout

Now that you have decided which vegetables you want to grow, it’s time to take a closer look at the area you want to create your garden in. Try to consider the following factors, and using this information as an opportunity to experiment with different garden layouts.

Vegetable Garden

1. Assessing Your Space

This step might seem obvious, but it is surprising how many people do not think about the space that they have when they are figuring out how to lay out their garden.

If you want to create a vegetable garden in your backyard, then you should consider the amount of sunlight that the area receives, what the average temperature is, and if you have the space to expand and plant multiple vegetables at the same time.

If you do not think that you have the right amount of space within your backyard or even front yard, then you could think about renting a spot in the community garden local to you. It could be a good idea during this part of the process to start a garden journal.

This can help by allowing you to experiment with layouts and different configurations without actually having to try them out. If you want to see your progress over time, and use a space to log what you have learned then a gardening journal can be a satisfying process.

Another important thing that you should take into consideration before digging into the ground and creating your garden is where the nearest water source is.

Of course, most community gardens have a shared tap which is used for water supply, but for those that want to set their vegetable patch up from their backyard or within the home, you should think about how close the nearest water source is.

2. Research Your Vegetable

Try to be specific in your research, including possible pests that are drawn to a particular vegetable, and the type of soil that each thrives in. certain plants need different levels of care, water, and soil, so it could be worth designating separate areas within your garden.

Try to decide, based on your research, if you can plant multiple vegetables that require different soil pH or water levels. If this is not possible, then you should try to research which vegetables need similar conditions and seeing whether you want to plant those particular species.

Another thing to research is how to harvest each vegetable, and whether they will return each year, or keep producing crops across the seasons.

Taking care of each vegetable is something that should be taken seriously, because it can make the difference between a successful harvest and a crop that doesn’t taste as it should.

You should also research your intended vegetables so that you can plan which species to plant and when. This can allow you to have something growing at all times, and ensure that your garden is always in use.

Use each vegetable’s timeline and seasons to your advantage, and make a rough schedule based on predicted frosts and changing seasons.

3. Exploring Your Options

As another part of your research, you should try to speak with other gardeners from your local community about growing options and how they think you should start your vegetable garden.

This can be highly beneficial, because of the different options that can alter a plant’s growing conditions.

Vegetable Garden

Pots are a great way to isolate a particular plant, and can be placed indoors or outdoors depending on the climate you live in.

Small herbs, beets, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, chilies, and salad onions all work well in pots if you do not have the space to create a complete vegetable garden.

It is easier to control the conditions and provide specific care to individual species at any given time when they are all in pots. Certain vegetables attract more pests than others when paired with particular species, which is another reason why planting in pots can be a great alternative to the ground.

Raised Beds are usually used to avoid damaging the ground underneath, and they are easier to empty out when needed.

Depending on how high the raised beds are, they can be much easier to access. This means that there may not be as much need for crouching or kneeling down which can take their toll on joints.

Soft fruits and any vegetables are easy to grow in raised beds, and they can be as large or small as you like. This means that raised beds can be a great compromise if your backyard or intended area for your garden is smaller or an awkward shape.

If you have the space, you could consider keeping your plants indoors. This can be a good option for those who live in more unpredictable climates, or who want to plant specific vegetables.

Indoor vegetables are easier to keep at a certain temperature, and can be perfect if you lack the outdoor space.

If you live in an apartment without a green space, you could consider setting up a miniature vegetable garden in order to practice what you’ve learned without taking up a lot of space.

This could be something added to your window sill or against a bare wall, for example.

Vegetable Garden

Your final option is a greenhouse. This is usually only realistic for people who live in remote areas on larger plots of land. If you have a greenhouse on the property, or even if you don’t, you could consider cleaning it up, building one for yourself, or buying one.

Greenhouses are a great way to make the most out of the sunlight, and can ensure that certain plants are kept at the correct temperature.

Tips And Tricks For Garden Care

These are some additional things worth keeping in mind when you are planning your vegetable garden. It’s also worth remembering that these processes take time, and that you will need to engage in regular maintenance.

This can help ensure that you get the most out of your vegetable garden, as it can prevent infestations or damage if you spot the signs early and tackle any issues before they can get worse. 

Vegetable Garden

1. Look For Weeds

While it is suggested that you plant different types of herbs and vegetables together, it’s important to regularly check the soil for weeds.

If you spot anything growing where it shouldn’t, then you should try to remove it gently using a hoe. Weeds use up valuable space, nutrients, and sunlight that your vegetables need.

You can also prevent weeds from filling the empty space around your vegetable plants by using a mulch of clean straw, plastic, or compost.

This makes the area less hospitable, which can deter weed growth without causing any damage to the plants that you want to be there.

2. Dealing With Pests

Another common issue with vegetable gardens is pests and other unwanted guests. Certain species are more likely to attract specific insects and animals than others.

Preventative measures include using raised beds that are harder to reach, and working on the layout of your garden in terms of what is planted where.

While there are things you can do to prevent them from noticing, such as planting other things surrounding the desirable vegetable, it’s worth knowing what to do once you notice signs of pests.

You can use a store-bought insecticide for large infestations, or pick off some larger insects if you see any.

You could consider the impact on particular species, and avoid ingredients that are especially harmful. Some natural insect and pest repellents include lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender, cinnamon, and tea tree oil.

3. Vegetable Tips

Another important thing to remember is that you should only plant the vegetables that you and your family want to eat. This means certain vegetables may not be worth planting and taking care of if you cannot incorporate it into your meals.

Plant what you want to eat, and what you will use on a regular basis.

It’s also worth keeping in mind the fact that each vegetable has its own selection of varieties. This means that you may end up growing a type of tomato that has a different taste to what you are used to.

Make sure that you read up on different varieties of your favorite vegetable and decide which type you want to grow.

On that note, it pays off to use high quality seeds. Many people plant their seeds into rich soil when the spring frosts are starting to die out. This way, their seedlings have already got a head start into the growing season by the time the ground warms up.

4. Water Access

Depending on what type of base you decided to build your garden, you should also think about the intended water access. If your garden is far from the nearest water source then you may find yourself walking in circles more often than necessary.

It can be a tedious job to get everything connected and working, which is why you should try to set up your vegetable garden as close to the nearest water source as possible.

It can also be more time-consuming to water your garden every day and a waste of water in many cases. This is because soaking your plants thoroughly every few days can promote deeper root growth.

Try to set up a watering routine using an irrigation system. This can be a great way to get water to plants that need it more frequently, as you can open up more holes that will feed to a particular vegetable plant and plug those that go nearer to one that doesn’t need watering as frequently.

5. Protection From Harsh Weather And Animals

To avoid colder weather causing damage to your plants and vegetables, you could add a temperature-retaining mulch that helps insulate the soil underneath and prevents the weather from reaching the roots.

You can also cover the garden or a particular plant with a cold frame to provide additional protection from larger animals and changing climates. It can also be covered with a frost cloth for particularly heat sensitive plants.

Another way that you can protect your garden against larger animals such as deer from damaging your crops is to set up an external fence around the perimeter.

However, the total height of the fence depends on what animals are native to your region. Remember to check that the fence also goes deep into the ground to deter rabbits from digging their way in.


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Summary

The great thing about gardening is that it can be as challenging or effortless as you decide to make it. There are so many options nowadays, that there is a way for everyone to enjoy the simple act of gardening and watching something grow over time.

Even if you live in an apartment, you could start your own miniature window garden, or even ask your neighbors if they want to join forces and start your own community garden.

Vegetable Garden

Like many things in nature, gardening can allow us to appreciate the small things that bring us joy, and even has the power to bring people together.

There is definitely something satisfying about preparing a meal using ingredients fresh from your vegetable garden, and you can taste the difference to store bought too!

Depending on how many vegetables you eat, and your experience, if any, with gardening, you could begin your vegetable garden in your backyard.

Raised beds can prevent damaging the earth underneath and allow you to get a closer look at your plants. Tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and many more vegetables and herbs can be planted once you have done your research.

Have a little fun with it and make sure to share your harvest with your friends and family!

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