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How To Start A Vegetable Garden (& Save A Ton On Produce)


A backyard vegetable garden. Rows of  planters with grown green plants and purple, pink and orange flowers scattered in the garden.

You have always wanted to learn how to start a vegetable garden. But you need to figure out where to start, which seems daunting.

After putting it off for years, you feel now is the right time.

Growing your own vegetables is exciting and rewarding. You will save money and have fresh produce right outside your door.

But you keep asking yourself questions; Where do you start? Do you have enough space? How will you know what to plant? And you begin to feel overwhelmed.

You're worried that you won't be able to grow a flourishing garden because you can barely keep a house plant alive.

Believe it or not, you may be a better gardener than you think.

Worry no more. We've outlined the steps a beginner gardener should follow to start a successful vegetable garden.

Let’s get started.

How Much Space Do You Need?

A custom built raised garden bed in a backyard. It is placed in the yard in a green grass area. There are started plants planted in the garden bed in the dirt. Small wooden staked with  the plant name stick out from the dirt.

The quick answer is not a lot. Finding an area you can maintain quickly and efficiently is important. For your first garden, we recommend starting small.

A good size to start with for a plot is a 6’x6’ or 10’x10’ area. For raised garden beds, 4 feet wide by 8 feet long is a size that is easy to build.

Starting small allows you to take baby steps and make adjustments and changes where needed. You don’t want to get overwhelmed and not be able to enjoy the gardening experience. Remember, you can always add on later.

Now that you know your garden size, let’s design your garden.

2 Must-do Steps Before Starting Your Garden

Creating a roadmap is essential before starting any vegetable garden. Before you start digging, these two important steps will help you build the perfect vegetable garden without frustration and have the most success for a thriving garden. When choosing a location, consider the following:

1. Choosing The Right Location For Your Garden

  • Find a location with the best sun exposure (very important).

  • Does the area have access to a water supply?

  • Does the area drain properly?

  • Is the location easy for you to access?

  • Is there additional space to expand in the future?

2. Design Your Perfect Vegetable Garden

Taking the time to do your research will ensure that your garden thrives. You will need to know how much space each vegetable needs, when is the best time to plant, and which plants you can and cannot plant together. To get started, follow these steps:

Now it’s time to create the perfect home and growing environment for your vegetable garden.

Build a Stable Home For Your Vegetable Garden

A garden bed in a backyard built from wood. It is built along a fence wooden fence line and the side of a house. There are tomato plants, and lettuce planted in the garden. Tall wood trellises are in the garden beds

Nothing is more important than having a healthy, well-thought-out living environment for your new vegetable garden. Preparing your garden space is the first step to growing a thriving garden.

Preparing A Plot Garden

If you have decided to grow and plant your garden on a plot with grass, you will need to measure out your space and remove the grass.

To remove the grass, the first thing you want to do a couple of days prior is to water the area. You don’t want the soil soggy but rather damp and moist. Watering will help aid in the removal of the sod and keep from compacting the soil.

Using a spade shovel or fork, cut your grass area into two to three-inch deep sections. This will allow you to remove the grass quicker and replant the sod in another area in your yard.

Building Raised Bed Planters

If you are planting your garden in raised bed planters but don’t have any, you can build them with simple tools and supplies. When ready, place your raised bed in the area you chose to grow your garden.

Containers For Your Outside Vegetable Garden

To grow vegetables in containers outside, you want to use large containers that allow for the continued growth of the plant. An 18-inch by 18-inch deep container is recommended, especially for larger plants like tomatoes or cucumbers.

Prepare Your Soil for Growing Success

A persons legs and feet wearing green rubber boots and holding a garden shovel. They are turning over soil in a grass area preparing it for a garden

While doing your research, you will find many suggestions about preparing your soil. It can quickly get confusing and overwhelming for a beginner gardener (especially if you want to start quickly).

The Wisconsin Horticulture Division of the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests, “Once your garden area has been cleared of vegetation, add compost to improve the overall soil structure. Compost also adds trace nutrients needed by plants. Work a two to three-inch layer of compost into the soil with a rototiller or shovel at least a month prior to planting.”

Almanac.com and TheTinyLife.com have made preparing your soil super simple for first-time gardeners to get started quickly and easily.

Start with your shovel or fork to turn and loosen the soil. Turn between 8-12 inches in depth. Remove any rocks or other debris from the soil. You can also use a rototiller for a plot area but make sure not to overturn the soil too much as that can compact your soil, making it harder for the plants to grow.

Create a compost mixture of peat moss vermiculite, bone meal, and blood meal. Add the compost mixture to your soil. When it's all incorporated, gently flatten your soil bed and give it a lite watering.

It’s time to buy your starter plants.

Planting Starter Plants (It’s Your Best Choice)

Black plastic planter trays filled with vegetable starter plants. White name spikes stick out from the dirt.

Simply put, it is a quick and easier planting process for beginner and experienced gardeners, providing faster growth results.

While a packet of seeds costs less, we recommend planting starter plants. A starter plant cared for by a professional has a better chance of continued growth and producing vegetables quicker than if you were to start your garden with seeds.

Starter plants also give you a clearer size perspective when deciding which vegetables to plant and where to plant them.

Protect Your Garden From Predators

Garden beds made of wood with large tomato plants and orange and yellow marigold flowers

Garden predators come in all shapes and sizes. Factors such as your geographical location, garden location, and the types of plants you have in your garden will attract different “friends” to your garden restaurant.

Animals, insects, bugs, weeds, and diseases are all examples of garden predators that can cause damage to your garden.

So how do you keep your garden safe?

There are many natural ways to help deter garden predators. To help keep your produce organic, use natural solutions to keep predators and insects out of your garden.

Farmersalmanac.com provides easy natural solutions to distract predators. These solutions are cost-effective, easy to implement, and offer beautiful enhancements to your garden design.

A few quick and easy solutions include planting specific flowers like marigolds (deters rabbits) or chrysanthemums (keeps away garden pests, ticks, fleas, ants, and more) around your garden. Or add your favorite herbs like basil next to your tomato plants helping to protect your tomato plants from insects and diseases.

In addition to a safe environment for your tomato plants, you now have fresh ingredients for your favorite pasta sauce or Caprese salad.

You can make DIY bug sprays and spray them on your plants or add other elements like fish fertilizer (deter squirrels) to the top of your soil.

Birds are a great natural resource to help keep your garden clear of insects. Birds love to feed on insects and would be happy to help you tidy your garden. Add a bird feeder or bird bath near your garden.

Additional ways to keep your garden safe from animal predators are using raised garden beds, fencing around your garden, garden plant tents, or wire cloche plant covers.

Preventing Pesky Weeds and Diseases

Weeds and diseases are those pesky neighbors that stop by without calling first. To help protect your garden, you want to add a two or three-inch barrier of mulch to your garden. It protects from the seeds of weeds being able to reach the soil, and it keeps the disease-causing organisms from reaching your plants.

Also, make sure to keep your garden clean. Remove anything that does not belong in your garden - plants that may be weeds, leaves, or flowers that may be diseased.

Growing A Vegetable Garden In Your Apartment

A young women with light brown curly hair and wearing a black and white stripped shirt is touching the leaves of her basil plant in her apartment. She is admiring her indoor vegetable plants. (tomatoes, basil, strawberries)

Yes, it’s true, you can grow a vegetable garden in your apartment, and we’ll share how.

Of course, you will have space challenges, sunlight, the choice of plants that can grow in small pots, and keeping temperatures in check, but it’s completely manageable.

For your indoor garden, you will use smaller pots that require a different type of soil than your traditional outdoor garden. You will need to use a potting mix that is light and fluffy. Potting soil helps maintain the health of the roots by draining after you water, which prevents diseases and pests from attacking the plants.

Thespruce.com shares the best plant choices for beginner apartment gardens. Options range from fresh herbs and chili peppers to Meyer lemons and strawberries. Imagine how wonderful it would be to go over to your window and pick a fresh strawberry right off the vine for breakfast without going outside (especially if it’s raining).

Alternative Methods Of Growing Indoor Vegetable Gardens - Hydroponic Planters

Rows of with hydroponic planter with small green lettuce leaves

Indoor gardens are becoming increasingly popular. Hydroponic planters are low-maintenance planters that allow you to grow without soil and provide a thriving garden all year round.

The downside to hydroponic planters is the upfront cost. The price range ranges from $70 to $1,800, depending on the brand, size, and features. You will also need to purchase new seed supplies as needed. Hydroponic planters are an excellent investment for a healthy diet if your budget and space allow for it and you do not want to maintain a traditional outdoor vegetable garden.

Your New Vegetable Garden Awaits

A younger women with brown curly hair, wearing a black sleeveless top and an apron, is sitting in her vegetable garden with a brown wooden crate filled with carrots, lettuce, beets, cucumbers. There is a young woman in the background with short brown hair, wearing a black tee shirt and apron. She is tending to the garden.

Envision your beautiful vegetable garden with vibrant red, green, orange, and yellow colors so bright as you gaze into your backyard.

Can you smell and taste the freshness of your beautiful mixed greens salad you made for your family with your homegrown lettuce, ripened red cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers, and bright orange carrots?

You may not want to spend time setting up a garden, but the benefits certainly outweigh the work.

Is there anything more satisfying than picking and eating a vegetable directly from the vine, knowing you nurtured it from the ground?

How will you start your vegetable garden?

Now’s the time to get started. Take a walk in your backyard, pick the perfect location, and think about your favorite three vegetables you want to grow first. By following these steps, you can grow a beautiful garden.



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