How To Start Your Vegetable Garden
Gardens come to life in the Spring! It’s surprisingly easy to plant and grow your own vegetable garden to harvest produce that’s healthy, tastes great and even saves you money. You can reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy a more sustainable way to live.
People around the world find the process of growing food rewarding for their physical and mental health. You can also use gardening as an opportunity to educate your kids and encourage them to explore with their senses. Together, you can share an appreciation for the food we eat while learning the importance of agriculture and our ecosystem.
Whether you want to plant seeds in a container in your kitchen or sow a full garden bed, you can learn how to plant, care for and harvest your edible plants with our helpful guide.
Plan Your Garden
First, consider which vegetables you and your family already like to eat and choose a few varieties. Planting different vegetables and fruits will allow you to continuously harvest food through the Spring, Summer and Fall. Most vegetables are annuals that need to be planted every year. Perennial vegetables can live for two or more years, such as asparagus, artichokes and rhubarb. It’s important to note that your veggies will need some time to grow and mature before they produce a yield.
Before you pick what to plant, check your local Hardiness Zone to find out which one you live in. Consider the climate of your future garden, as plants will need to go into the ground at different times.
Popular cool weather plants: Lettuce, radishes, peas, broccoli, beets, potatoes and carrots should be planted in mid-spring when temperatures are about 40-75 degrees F. Wait until the last frost before planting outside.
Popular warm weather plants: Tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, herbs, eggplant and cucumbers can be planted once the weather warms in late spring, when average temperatures are between 60-95 degrees F.
10 Easy To Grow Vegetables
Preparing Your Vegetable Garden
While all plants require the basics like sun, water and nutrients, depending on the variety, they all have different growing needs. When shopping for your garden, you’ll see options to purchase seeds or starters. Seeds will need to be grown in small containers inside or in a greenhouse, while starters can be planted outside without delay.
How to grow vegetables from seeds
Seed packets will usually list the number of days to maturity and include information such as when to sow, sowing depth, days to germination, fertilizing requirements and transplanting recommendations. Growing your own plants from seed means you can trust that they will be healthy and strong right from the start.
You’ll need to germinate seeds before they grow into plants. This is a really fun project to do with the kids because they can see exactly how plants start to grow. To easily germinate the seeds, place them between two wet paper towels or coffee filters, then put them into a plastic zip-top baggie and place near a warm, well-lit place, like a windowsill without a draft. You can also use small containers with plastic or a glass covering to maintain moisture and warmth.
Within a few days or weeks, your seeds will sprout a white root and then you can plant them into soil to continue growing. Add seed-starting mix or potting soil to small containers with drainage holes, then dig a small hole and place your seeds in, burying only the white root part. Make sure you label your plants to keep track of them.
You will need to “harden off” the seedlings that you’ve grown inside, so they get acclimated to life outside (toughen them up by exposing them to the wind, sun and rain). To do so, place the seedlings outside for two to three hours of sun in the afternoon (or as soon as it reaches above 60°F). For the next seven to 10 days, increase the amount of time your seedlings are outside by an hour each day. The goal is to expose seeds gradually to nature to produce sturdy plants that can handle anything nature throws at them. Be sure to watch the weather to make sure there’s no frost or storms coming when you’re hardening your seeds.
How to grow vegetables from starters
Plants such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash grow best from starter plants that have already gone through the germination and hardening process. Starters are usually a few inches tall and have established root systems. Once you’ve received your plant starters, you can move to the next step and plant them directly into the ground, depending on the timing and weather.
Plant Your Garden
Once you’ve selected your plants and prepared the seeds and/or seedlings, it’s time to prepare your soil. Consider if you’d like to plant your garden directly in the ground or in garden beds, raised beds, containers or vertical gardens. Make sure your garden is accessible on all sides to easily tend to your plants. Be prepared with gardening supplies including a pair of gloves and a trowel, hoe, pruners, rake and hose.
Soil preparation is key to a healthy, productive garden. All plants need phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium to grow. If you’re planting in the ground, be sure to test for these in your soil using a soil test kit, as you may need to add some nutrients. If you’re planting in containers, make sure there are drainage holes set up at the bottom, then add layers of rocks or sand and spread at least a two-inch depth of all-purpose vegetable potting soil, compost or manure on top. The soil should be aerated enough to allow water and nutrients to reach down to the roots.
Now you’re ready to plant! Start digging. Plants should be placed at a depth of two times the width – or diameter – of the seed.
Vegetable Gardening Care Tips for Beginners
Once your edible garden is planted outside in the soil, you need to take care of it!
- There are 4 main things to focus on for a successful garden: sun, soil, nutrients and water.
- Label your plants, so you know what’s growing where.
- Your garden should get lots of sunlight with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day.
- For watering, feel down into the soil, approximately 1-2 inches below the surface. If the soil feels dry, water thoroughly.
- On hot days, water in the morning to allow the water to soak into the soil before it gets too warm. Watering plants later on a hot day may actually burn the leaves, as the hot sun is magnified by water droplets.
- You can also water in the evenings after the sun goes down.
- Keep a garden journal to track when you plant and water.
- Weed as needed but be careful around young plants – sometimes, they’re hard to identify!
- Keep an eye out for pests and insects, which can easily be tamed without pesticides. Plant pest-repellants like dill, nasturtium, catnip and mint and look into adding ladybugs to your garden (they like to eat aphids).
- Slugs and snails can be a problem, but there are lots of easy strategies you can try that are available online.
- Make sure you have all the gardening tools you need!
Gardening is a truly rewarding activity for the whole family. Checking on plants and watering everyday can be a fun activity for kids as they watch their plant babies grow into fully ripened vegetables they can eat. Don’t be alarmed if some plants don’t make it. Over time, you’ll learn more about meeting the needs of your plants and how to optimize how the sun and water work together to help your plants grow.
Of course, be sure to have fun along the way and enjoy devouring your edible garden!