Vegetable gardening has become a popular pastime among gardeners.
Starting a vegetable garden will take a lot of patience, time, preparation, and cooperation from the environment.
However, do not feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Vegetable gardening for beginners and professionals has been made easy with a couple of tips, tricks, and points to consider.
Are you ready to grow your first vegetable garden? Keep reading if you want every day to feel like harvest season.
Begin With a Small Garden Setup
If you are a beginner or someone moving into a new place, it would be a great idea to start small. While it is not wrong to want a big raised garden, growing one may be hard to manage in the long run.
One advantage of starting small is you get a better grasp of what needs to be done regarding the growing zone.
Also, if you start small, you will have an easier time managing the garden’s crops, soil, and overall health.
There is no worse feeling in the world than losing approximately half of your harvest because you got too excited going big right away.
While it is exciting to visualize your garden plans, it is important to temper your excitement and expectations.
When in doubt, consider using raised garden beds and medium-sized containers, two of the most uncomplicated layouts to set up. We will get to these later on.
Plan Before You Plant
As with any other project, growing vegetables and plants all over the garden requires a solid plan. It is not as simple as surrounding the soil with seed packets.
If anything, there are a couple of factors to consider when coming up with your garden plan.
You need to make sure you dedicate ample time to come up with a solid blueprint for the backyard.
You may not get the perfect garden design on the first try, but planning ahead of time will give you a better idea of important details like garden area, plant types, you name it.
It pays to use a journal so that you can write your own garden plans and take note of the different factors, vegetable gardening tips, and impediments you should consider.
If you are having trouble looking for ideas, here are some garden layout suggestions you can try out.
This type of setup works best if there is not much garden space. Plants are grouped in 4-foot wide raised beds, forming a vast row garden.
The raised bed layout works for most crops and vegetable varieties because it provides an equal amount of space for soil distribution among all plants.
If you want a more systematic approach, apply the square-foot method, a process in which you break down the 4X4 raised bed into 1-foot squares.
You will need 8 inches of high-quality soil to get effective results. Here are the specifications regarding the plant size and quantity per 1×1 foot square.
- 1 extra-large plant
- 4 large plants
- 9 medium plants
- 16 small plants
The only downside to intensive cropping is you will have to take out the weeds by hand because they grow in plants that are close to one another.
However, weed removal must be a daily habit. If you leave the weeds unattended, they will steal all the water and nutrients that are supposed to be for your plants.
Besides raised beds, the container garden is another viable option for growing crops, vining plants, and vegetables. “Why is this so?” you may ask?
That is because containers have extended depth, which makes them capable of housing local root systems. There are a handful of containers to choose from.
These include the 12-inch flowerpot, an empty wine bottle, and even barrels that store whiskeys.
With so many container options at your disposal, you may have a hard time choosing which one best suits your vegetable garden.
To cut a long story short, the larger your container, the more likely you will succeed in growing your plants.
Here are some veggies that thrive and grow well in the container setup.
- Swiss Chard
Make sure to incorporate different vegetable variations and group for a long and bountiful harvest regardless of the season. Two or three plant types per container should suffice.
What Plants Do You Want to Grow?
The whole exercise of gardening vegetable plants will not mean anything if you don’t harvest the plants you want.
Since we are talking about vegetable gardens, consider which plants and vegetables you want to have for the garden and your daily menus.
Make a list of your favorite veggies on your gardening journal so that you have an easier time deciding what to plant.
With constant planting and proper maintenance, you won’t have to pay a visit to the grocery store. Here are additional suggestions and points to consider when narrowing down your plant options.
Seeds vs. Seedlings
Think about how you want to begin the planting process. Do you want to start with seeds or transplants? Each has its own features and benefits. [R]
If you decide to go with the seed option, make sure to keep indoors for a month and a half before your region’s last frost.
However, some seeds like peas and beans can be inserted directly into the garden. To avoid any confusion, check the seed packet or label for additional instructions.
Are you more inclined to developing your vegetables and crops at a faster pace? If yes, seedlings may be the better option because they harvest faster than their seed counterparts.
Transplants also mature faster than seeds, allowing them to resist pests and diseases during the growing season.
The only downsides to seedlings are their limited stock and expensive price tag.
You can always mix and match seeds and seedlings to guarantee a diverse set of vegetables and crops in the garden.
Diversify the vegetable garden by applying succession planting. If you want every month to be growing season, you should plant different vegetable varieties that thrive in warm and cool weather.
Here are the different vegetable groups based on the other seasons.
These plants grow well during the early spring and fall seasons. If the temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, expect successful growth for the following cool-season vegetables:
- Winter squash
If you live in tropical areas, you may want to invest in warm-season vegetables and annuals. These plants are in peak form under the hot weather that goes for 70 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
These plants are frost-sensitive and thrive under warm soil:
- Pole beans
- Summer squash
- Sweet potatoes
If you have limited space or stocks are limited in the grocery store, you can always surround the soil with two or three companion plants.
By adding multiple vegetables, they will work hand-in-hand to combat pests and share much-needed nutrients. [R]
For example, don’t you find it annoying to see aphids and insects attacking your peppers? Basil saves the day by repelling these annoying pests while providing additional flavors for your pepper plants.
In simple terms, companion plants are like best friends looking after one another against their enemies.
Where Should You Put Plants and Vegetables
Vegetable gardening involves choosing a site. If you want successful growth for your plants and vegetables, you have to study your area as thoroughly as possible.
The best gardeners take into account important factors like the amount of sun, water, and soil.
No matter where you want to put your crops, these three components must be present in your garden for a bountiful harvest.
Direct Sunlight Is Key
One of the key elements for proper plant growth is photosynthesis. [R]
It is a process that converts light energy into glucose, compound plants like to use for the creation of cellulose and a food source called starch.
Fast-growing vegetables need about 6 to 8 hours of full sun exposure. That means you should keep these away from shrubs, fences, trees, or areas that will block the sun’s path.
Full growth will not occur if the fastest-growing vegetables cannot receive the required amount of sun exposure.
If you live in the most shade part of the neighborhood, you may want to invest in partial sun crops or vegetables that need 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. These include lettuce, kale, spinach, etc.
Are vining crops your cups of tea? If that’s the case, you can transition to container vegetable gardening. Eggplant, cucumbers, and rosemary plants grow best in the container setup.
Water Your Plants Daily
Besides sunlight, vegetables need ample water supply, especially if you live in a warm and humid area.
Water provides the roots with much-needed nutrients and moisture, which keeps the garden healthy throughout the growing season.
Young vegetable gardens need to be watered more often than more mature plants so that their roots begin spreading and developing.
Morning is the best part of the day to water your vegetables for them to receive enough moisture and withstand the scorching heat. [R]
Soil composition and changing weather patterns are key factors you need to consider when determining how much water you need to put on your plants.
Here are things you need to know regarding these factors:
- Sandy soil dries faster than clay soil.
- Cloudy and breezy conditions take a longer time drying out the soil than sunny weather.
Even if it’s raining in your area, you still need to water the garden regularly. You may think that rainwater more than makes up for the water supply of your garden.
On the contrary, it runs off and creates puddles, which does not affect the soil.
The best watering techniques involve using irrigation systems or soaker hoses.
You and your fellow gardeners should use these devices to allow both the soil and your plants to receive sufficient water.
Give Your Plants the Best Soil Service
If you want to fill up the kitchen with excellent food sources, you need healthy and nutritious vegetables all across the garden.
That can only happen if you surround them in rich soil that has excellent draining and digging abilities.
If you are unsure of the type of soil you have at home, go to your nearest garden center or a soil-testing laboratory for guidance.
Believe it or not, testing the soil on your own is not as complicated as it looks. All you have to do is grab a handful and answer the following questions:
- Does it have too much sand?
- Does it have too much silt?
- Does it have too much clay?
- Does it feel like powder?
Combining all these components and qualities will help you determine the soil’s ability to absorb water and collect nutrients.
How Can You Enrich the Soil?
Ideally, you want crumpled and dark-colored soil to ensure a healthy vegetable garden. Luckily, applying organic matter is a great way to improve all soil types.
So how exactly does it benefit clay and sandy soils?
On the one hand, clay soil contains tightly packed particles that maintain the soil’s moisture level. However, the dense particles block air passage, which may alter the roots’ development.
Organic matter such as compost and animal manures separate the little clay particles, thus enabling better water and oxygen penetration for the crops’ roots.
On the other hand, sandy soil consists of large particles and gaps. As a result, this type of soil cannot retain water and other important nutrients.
Organic matter fills these gaps between the sand particles, enabling the soil to maintain moisture and nutrients.
Indeed, these examples prove the importance of organic matter when it comes to giving your vegetables and crops a healthy soil environment.
When Should You Start Planting?
Now it’s time to answer the million-dollar question: “When is it the perfect time to plant around your garden?”
Honestly, there is no fixed timetable for all gardens and households. That is because the growing zone differs among raised beds, homes, and regions.
The differences usually lie in elevation, distances from water sources, and sun exposure. It would help if you considered how the weather affects your zone.
The SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for most gardeners is to begin planting in the vegetable garden after the last frost has visited the area.
However, if it is cold in your site all year round, part of your garden plan must involve including covering your plants with a cloth or buying a cold frame to get your seeds started on the ground.
How to Maintain Your Vegetable Garden?
All your efforts and hard work in growing your vegetable garden will be all for naught if it starts experiencing problems like wilting, withering, and rotting.
The potential for damage will always be there, but with proper maintenance, you should be able to combat these in the long run.
With that being said, here are some ways to care for the garden.
Most well-amended soils can fend for themselves in terms of nutrient production and moisture retention.
However, what if we told you there is a way in which you can give your soils, vegetables, and crops an extra kick?
You heard that right. Adding fertilizers provides a drastic boost for your vegetable garden.
Make sure to use a 10-10-10 fertilizer (the numbers stand for available Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) and employ a slow-release method to get enhanced plant growth. [R]
Are the plants and soil lacking magnesium and sulfate? Combine Epsom salt with water and apply the mixture to the garden site.
If you want a more natural alternative, there is always the option of using compost for your garden beds.
Whatever fertilizer option you choose, expect the garden to receive a major boost in both plant growth and nutrient replenishment.
No matter how much you tidy up the vegetable garden, it is inevitable for many vegetables to encounter those annoying weeds.
Therefore, you have to always be on the lookout and apply weeding at all times. Even the smallest weeds can pose a threat to your vegetation.
If you don’t attend to the weeds right away, they can twist the roots, resulting in damaged vegetables.
Also, you must practice maximum caution when removing the weeds. The last thing you want is to destroy the other plants surrounding the garden.
What Should You Watch Out For?
No matter how much you apply maximum care and protection for your garden, there will always be a cause for concern regarding the different risks and hazards.
You must attend to these right away if you don’t want your garden to lose more than half of its bountiful harvest.
The sad reality of growing a vegetable garden is that many vegetables will become susceptible to various insects like ants and aphids.
Whether or not you are a huge fan of bugs, these little creatures will not hesitate to pay a visit to your crops, especially during the growing season.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be an expert in identifying the different types of insects and pests.
Instead, you need to get rid of them right away. “But how am I going to do that?” you may ask.
Non-toxic and toxic pesticides are the way to go. Unfortunately, the latter may repel the more beneficial insects and bugs.
Furthermore, toxic insecticides may harm the leaves due to their high chemical levels.
Therefore, we suggest using non-toxic products that only target venomous and lethal insects.
The best time to apply insecticides is during dusk when the pollinators and friendly insects have left the garden.
Both bacterial and fungal diseases can be a pain to deal with. Unfortunately, these illnesses are bound to happen in cold, humid, and moist areas.
The best remedies against plant diseases are proper soil amendments and equal spacing among crops to provide sufficient air circulation.
Fortunately, there are not many diseases on the list, but you still need to keep an eye on them because they can instantly damage the leaves.
- Bacterial leaf spot: Small and dark spots surround the leaves, thus forming holes
- Downy mildew: Leaves’ edges form white mildew, causing them to wither
- Powdery mildew: The top of the leaves experience powdery growth, resulting in premature ripening of fruits
- Blights: A result of too much rain and moisture;
- Rust: Formation of reddish-brown spots on stems and leaves; these need to be removed immediately to prevent spreading
Additional Gardening Tips
Here are some extra tips you can follow to maximize the garden space and enhance plant growth during your harvest.
Use the Space Efficiently
As mentioned earlier, the area around the garden plays a vital role when it comes to developing crops.
Most gardeners desire to have massive gardens full of blooming plants and abundant vegetables like squash, beans, lettuce, etc.
After all, who wouldn’t want to grow a large supply of crops and veggies all season long?
If you have the time, space, and resources, then go for it by all means. However, be prepared to invest some weeks in maintaining the large garden.
Usually, the most efficient and successful gardeners make good use of the allotted space regardless of size.
Whether you go for containers or the systematic row planting, it is up to you which setup best fits your home.
If you want to assemble a more manageable garden, try going for raised beds.
Not only do they allow equal air circulation for all plants, but these beds give insects a hard time penetrating the soil due to the secure walls and high elevation.
Harvest in a Systematic Manner
Although all gardens possess different timetables, it still pays to employ a continuous and systematic planting method.
Oftentimes, many gardeners tend to plant all their seeds and transplants in one go.
While there is nothing wrong with going for that approach, it will require a lot of labor and human resources to set up the garden all at once.
What we propose is for you to plant seeds and seedlings in different periods of the growing season.
For example, get all the warm annuals in your soil during the summer season. As for the cool-season, you can plant those during the early stages of spring and fall.
By dividing the planting process, you allow your garden to have a rotational and more feasible supply of plants amidst the changes in seasons.
Record All the Data and Results
Last but not least, record everything you have observed in your vegetable garden. Those who make it a habit to jot down notes are always rewarded with excellent results and overall performance.
Notetaking also helps you refresh your memory in case you forget a step.
If you’ve made any mistakes in the gardening process, writing down pointers to yourself gives you a quick guide on not committing these errors again.
Do you want to remember when you applied organic matter to the soil? All you have to do is jot down the dates you filled it soil with compost or organic material.
Taking notes also helps you classify the different plant varieties and their compatibility with the different seasons and environment settings.
Of course, Google will always be there, but there’s a different feel when you are the one writing your own notes and pointers.
Indeed, your garden project becomes more personal and fulfilling once you have the pad and pen by your side.
We hope you enjoyed going over the different steps and points to consider when starting your own vegetable garden.
Gardening may require a lot of patience and dedication, but the results will be promising in the long run. HAPPY PLANTING!
For more questions or inquiries, please feel free to contact us.