With spring just around the corner, you might be looking for activities you can do outside. Well, why not get into vegetable gardening? It’s a great way to spend your free time while growing your own food. And it is surprisingly easy to get into! All you need is the space, the motivation and the proper tips on how to start.

So, for those of you who have decided that vegetable gardening is right for you, but you don’t know where to start, we have prepared this helpful guide with vegetable gardening tips for beginners!

Table of Contents:

So, if you:

  • Have decided to get into vegetable gardening;
  • Are unsure how and where to start;
  • Are looking for tips on vegetable gardening for beginners,

Then look no further, because this post has the answers!

Essential gardening tools

Every gardener needs to have the proper tools to make the job easier. Investing in good quality tools will save you a lot of money and headaches in the future. So, here is an essential list of the tools you will need to maintain your vegetable garden:

  • Round tipped shovel
  • Garden fork
  • Rake
  • Garden hoe
  • Hand trowel
  • Hose and nozzle, or watering can

Planning out your garden

The first step you need to take is planning your first vegetable garden. You can do this digitally, using one of the many apps and websites out there, or you can draw it out on paper, sketching out the layout and crop placement.

Planning your garden each year can help you keep track of which crops go where, and that can aid you to practice crop rotation. Crop rotation means planting the same vegetable in the same spot only once every three years. Using this technique ensures that the plants don’t use up the same nutrients year after year. It also helps prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.

Planning your vegetable garden in groups of 4 makes it easier to practice crop rotation.

Choosing your location

The next important step is selecting the perfect spot for your vegetable plot. This will vary depending on your location and the size and layout of your garden.

Generally, you should ensure that the spot you choose gets six to eight hours of full sun per day, as most vegetables thrive when receiving lots of sunlight.

The place where your vegetable garden will go will also benefit from being sheltered from the wind, as strong winds can damage your plants, especially tall ones.

A level spot with access to water will be ideal for your vegetable plot and will shorten your trips when watering your plants.

Good soil is also an important factor when choosing the perfect place. We will talk more about this in the next chapter of this guide.

Start small

Make sure you have enough space for your beginner vegetable garden. When you are just starting, it’s best to begin with a small size plot. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a good starting size is 5×3 metres, or smaller. When choosing your location, make sure you leave space for pathways and that you have enough room to space your crops properly.

Another thing to consider when selecting the perfect spot for your vegetable garden is where you will be planting your crops. Will you be growing them in the ground, in containers or raised beds? Do the plants you’ll be growing need supports?

Containers

Container vegetable gardening is great for beginners. Pots are an excellent solution for a patio garden, growing vegetables indoors, or planting a garden that you can relocate when needed.

If you decide to grow vegetables in pots, make sure the containers you use are the correct size for what you will be planting.

Container soil needs to be enriched with nutrients to make it more beneficial for the plants.

You should also ensure proper drainage. Make sure the pots have drainage holes. When watering, keep the soil moist, but not wet, to avoid root rot.

Raised beds

Growing your vegetables in raised beds makes for efficient use of space. Raised beds are also easy to maintain, take less effort and provide less soil compaction than rows, as you won’t need to walk among your veggies.

When building your raised beds, don’t use treated lumber. The chemicals that are used to preserve wood can be highly toxic to your plants, and there goes your healthy produce.

Trellising

Tall plants may need a little extra support to grow. If you’re planning to grow tall vegetables, pick a location close to a fence or build a trellis.

Make sure to plant tall vegetables in a spot where they won’t shade shorter ones. It’s best to plant them on the north side of your garden.

Preparing the soil

After you have planned out our garden and chosen the perfect location, it’s time to prepare the ground. Ensuring that your plants are growing in the ideal soil is an excellent start to a healthy and abundant yield of fresh veggies.

We understand that vegetable gardening may seem daunting for beginners, so first of all – start small. Dig up only a little at a time to make the task more manageable.

Remove any weeds and clean the soil of debris. Feed the soil by adding a 10-10-10, slow-release fertiliser. This will help young seedlings grow and overcome transplant shock quickly. It will also strengthen their roots.

The 10-10-10 in this type of fertiliser refers to the percentages of the nutrients in the product – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Turn over the soil, aerate, level and rake it.

Sand, clay or silt?

The ideal soil for your vegetable garden is loam. It is made up of 40% sand, 40% clay and 20% silt. Loam is well aerated, retains moisture well and provides a suitable environment for your plants to grow and their roots to develop.

You can purchase compounds at your local gardening store that you can mix into your soil. They will amend the ground to reach the desired ratio.

Soil pH

The ideal soil for most crops is pH neutral. To find out your soil’s pH level, you can perform a simple test at home.

Place a couple of spoonfuls of soil in two jars. Add some vinegar to the first one. If it starts fizzing, then your soil is alkaline. If nothing happens, add a bit of distilled water to the second jar. Then, add half a cup of baking soda. If it fizzes, the earth is acidic. If neither test has caused a reaction, your soil is neutral.

You can amend your soil’s pH levels by adding compounds you can purchase at a garden store.

Compost

Compost provides a higher nutrient content to your soil, as well as a foundation for better structure. It will help moisture retention and drainage, too.

The best time to add compost is in the spring, or when you’re first turning over the soil.

Drainage

While loamy soil provides just the right amount of drainage, sand offers too much and lacks moisture retention. Clay soil, on the other hand, holds too much water and blocks off the oxygen your plants need.

To improve drainage, you can add a layer of pea gravel underneath the soil. This will help prevent water pooling.

Choosing your plants

Now that you have prepared the soil, here comes the fun part – choosing your vegetables! Unfortunately, it’s easy to get carried away and select more than you can handle when it comes to this, especially for beginner gardeners So, keep in mind that less is more. Only plant what you plan to use and be careful not to overplant.

Before choosing your plants, consider the amount of space you have, how you have planned out your garden, and how much space your vegetables will need to grow.

To guarantee the best results, use high-quality seeds that will be sure to germinate.

For small plots, you can choose varieties that are labelled “bush”, “dwarf” or “compact”. These grow smaller than regular plants and will be better suited to the size of your garden.

Choose easy to grow vegetables as your starters to make caring for your garden more manageable. Disease-resistant strains are a great way to minimise the care you need to provide.

To make sure you don’t overwork yourself at the start, limit the number of different vegetables you will grow. Eight to twelve varieties are a proper amount to start with, but this will depend on the size of your garden. Plant two to three of each crop to make sure you have an excellent yield to harvest.

Seeds vs live plants

Another aspect to consider is whether you will be planting live crops or seeds. In general, seeds are cheaper but more difficult for beginners to grow and require more effort. Live plants, on the other hand, are suitable for beginners and need little planning in advance.

The best starter plants for beginners

To make your choice easier, here we will present some of the best starter crops for all of you who are getting into vegetable gardening for beginners.

  • Radishes
    This vegetable grows fast, is easy to grow from seed and does quite well in containers.
  • Beets
    Beets grow fast, are easy to care for and can yield multiple harvests in one season.
  • Salad greens
    These veggies provide a significant yield all season long and are perfect for containers. If growing salad greens, avoid the direct sun in the summer heat.
  • Green beans
    Green beans offer a big yield and have lots of uses around the kitchen. They can be used for a variety of meals. You could can them, too!
  • Potatoes
    This is an excellent vegetable for beginners. Potatoes keep producing from spring all through summer and autumn. They are suitable for containers or potato bags.
  • Sweet peas
    This is another easy to care for plant. Sweet peas don’t require much sun, so plant them in the shade of another vegetable, if possible, and grow them on a trellis.
  • Peppers
    Peppers are easy to grow and provide your vegetable garden with fun colours.
  • Zucchini
    This vegetable is easy to grow and provides a large yield all through summer.
  • Basil
    This herb is a great companion plant and is so easy to grow. Just make sure you water it regularly.

Caring for your vegetable plants

Simply planting your vegetables and occasionally watering them won’t do the trick. You’ll need to provide them with regular tender loving care for them to grow strong and healthy.

Planting

To find out when you need to plant and harvest your vegetables, research the requirements of each crop you plan to grow, their growing time, and when they need to be planted and harvested. Don’t forget to check the conditions of the area you live in, as well.

You should aim to plant seedlings on cloudy days, or early in the morning to minimise the shock of transplantation.

Watering

It is best to water your vegetable garden in the morning so that the crops can uptake the moisture throughout the day. For a gentle watering, use the shower setting on the hose nozzle and avoid the leaves and young stalks.

You need to water young plants more regularly to provide them with the moisture they need to grow. To check if your vegetables need to be watered, put your finger in the top two inches of soil. If the ground is dry, you need to water your plants.

Fertilising

Start fertilising your vegetables once they are 4-6 weeks old.

For light feeders, most often root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and garlic, follow the instructions on the seed packet for the frequency and strength of fertilising.

For heavy feeders, which most plants are, use well-rotted manure or compost and feed with a water-soluble fertiliser.

In the summer, you should feed your crops with a quick-release vegetable fertiliser once every three to four weeks.

Weeding

As for weeding, persistence is key. You should weed little and often, most of the time 20 minutes a day will be enough to keep your vegetable garden weed-free.

Weeding when the soil is moist will prevent the tips from breaking off, leaving the roots to regrow.

When weeding, especially when using tools, be careful not to damage or dig up your vegetables accidentally.

To keep weeds at bay, spread mulch a couple of inches thick over your vegetable garden.

Keep a gardening journal

And finally, one piece of advice – keep a gardening journal! This way, you can note down your successes and failures, keep track of crop rotation, weather conditions, repeat sowings, garden plans, etc. There are many gardening journal ideas online, so start exploring!

Need help taking care of your garden?

If taking care of a garden seems like a daunting task, why not get some professional help? The gardening specialists at Fantastic Services are vetted, experienced and ready to aid you! Keep your garden in top shape without lifting a finger. The experts do it all – from planting to lawn mowing and hedge trimming.

Spend your time where it matters – let Fantastic Services take care of the rest!

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Takeaways

  • Plan out your garden on paper before you start.
  • Make sure your plants will get six to eight hours of full sun a day.
  • Raised beds or containers are a good choice for beginners.
  • Choose vegetables that are easy to grow as your starter plants.
  • Make sure you take proper care of your vegetable garden, weeding, watering and fertilising regularly.
  • Keep a gardening journal to keep track of your progress and vegetable plot.

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Did you find this post useful? How did you get on with your vegetable garden? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

Image source: shutterstock / Alexander Raths

  • Last update: May 11, 2020

Posted in Garden Advice, Life Under Lockdown

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