Vegetable gardening for beginners

If you landed on this page looking for some quick answers about vegetable gardening, I will help you with that. However, if you want a complete guide I have a free raised bed guide available for download on my website. This 26 pages guide covers many common questions about raised bed gardening, soil, irrigation, seeds, and others. 

Okay, now let’s dig into gardening. I know from personal experience, as I once was a beginner, how overwhelming could be to know how to have a thriving vegetable garden. Notice that I said thriving. Most people have experienced growing a vegetable once or twice but more often than not, the outcome is not what they expected. We are made to believe that with a little water and sun, any plant can thrive. Well, this isnt entirely true; let me tell you why. While water and sunlight are one of the most important aspects of plant survival, it’s not the only aspect of thriving. So if you desire to have a thriving vegetable garden, I am here to help.

Choosing the location of your garden

 

Although vegetable gardening isnt permanent, choosing the right location is vital as transplanting the seedlings to the wrong location can be wasteful and unhelpful for your plants. Generally speaking, most vegetables require anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. So look for the sunniest spot in your garden. But remember, this spot has to be easily accessible for you as well. Not everyone spends hours outside gardening every day like me, so choosing a bad location may result in neglect. 

Another important factor is to determine what kind of irrigation will be set up in the location and how close the location is to a water source. Remember, depending upon the size of your garden, hand irrigation may be time-consuming and impractical.

 

Choosing the soil for your garden

Now let’s talk about soil. If you have determined the perfect location for your garden, you have to now choose what gardening method you will use. Some of the options are in-ground gardening, raised bed gardening, hydroponics, aquaponics, and container gardening. Every different method has its advantages and disadvantage; which one is the best for you will depend upon your budget, space, goals, size of your garden, and others. My personal favorite method is raised bed gardening.

My advice of, regardless of what method you choose, try to start small for a season or so. I know that growing can plants is exciting. However, planting a garden that is too big before you have the chance to experience how much you would like to plant long term, what kind of issues your area present in your area, and how it will be gardening for you overall. The last thing we want is that gardening becomes overwhelming and not pleasant for you.

If you are doing in-ground gardening, I recommend a soil test to determine what kind of soil you have so you can correct any nutrient deficiencies. For example, where I live, the soil is extremely sandy. For in-ground beds, a big amount of compost has to be incorporated to improve the soil structure and add nutrients to the soil. Other places, perhaps, have problems with having extremely clay soil, so adding sand and compost will help improve the soil structure. 

If raised bed gardening is chosen, a soil amendment is not necessary. However, when picking the soil for the raised bed I recommend buying bulk organic soil. Having good quality soil is one of the most important parts of growing vegetables. Healthy soil creates healthy plants, so investing in soil life will be extremely important in the long run.

 

Choosing what to plant

A big mistake many first-time gardeners makes is choosing vegetables that they don’t eat or choosing to plant the vegetable at the wrong time of the year. So write down a list of what kind of vegetables your family eats the most? How do you use them? How can you store and preserve those vegetables? Some vegetables can not be frozen to use later, such as zucchinis. Some can be frozen but not used the same way when defrosted, such as tomatoes. 

Some plants are big producers with a fast turnaround while others aren’t and some are big producers while others arent. For example, two to three zucchini plants should be enough for a family of 3. While most broccoli varieties are fairly slower to produce and often only produce one head of broccoli.                         

 When choosing what to plant at different times of the year is important to look for frost-hardy and summer-tolerant plants. Generally speaking, leafy greens, brassicas, and snow peas, for example, prefer cooler temperatures. While tomatoes, squashes, and zucchinis prefer warmer temperatures. In my free Ebook I go into depth in what to plant, so downloading my guide will help you determine the appropriate time to plant different vegetables.         

You can either buy the plant starters at nurseries or you can start your own seedlings. Generally speaking, I avoid vegetable starters from big box stores and only buy them from known local grown nurseries. Many of the starters sold in box stores come from big operations that do not use organic methods, so knowing what was sprayed in the plants prior to coming to the store is not possible.

If you choose to start your own seeds choose varieties/cultivars that provide some advantage over others. For example, some tomato cultivars can be more resistant to soil-borne disease than others, some are known producers, and some can produce quicker than others. It is also important to choose reliable seed sellers (Jhonny seeds and baker’s creeks are two of my favorites).

Spacing your vegetables 

Some plants grow taller while others are shorter. Even within the space species, some have different growth habits. For example, tomatoes can be indeterminate and determinate. The indeterminate grows in a vine-like way and the determine don’t grow more than 4-5 feet tall. Some beans require trellises while others are bushy. 

I like to place taller vegetables towards the back and shorter vegetables in the front. This idea is to maximize sunlight as taller vegetables will shade what is behind them. So if you choose to do pole bean and bush beans, you will need to use some sort of structure where the pole beans will grow and place them towards the back and use the bush beans in the front.

Another big issue many beginners encounter is not spacing their vegetables properly. I have seen more often than not people planting 5, 10, 20, or even 30 tomato seedlings in one square foot. Plants need space to grow, otherwise, you will be growing small, stunted plants.  So what is the appropriate spacing for different seedlings? I personally like to use the square foot gardening method created by Mel Bartholomeu. He created an easy method to help growers figure it out how many vegetables they can fit per square foot. A tomato, for example, needs 1 ½ square feet to grow.

How often do water your vegetables

Different locations and vegetables will require different water requirements, so how can you determine how much to water your plants?  How often you need to water your vegetables will depend upon the time of the year, how often it rains in your region, what kind of soil do you have, if you have a irrigation system set up and what kind of vegetables you planted.

You can test the moist level of your soil by using a soil moisture meter or you can put your finger into the soil to feel how damp its.

Final Thoughts

Vegetable gardening can be frustrating and intimidating in the beginning. The good news is you will learn with your mistakes and there is always a second chance to try again. Gardening can vary greatly even within the same mistakes so my best advice to try to avoid mistakes is talking to other local gardeners and hear what they have to say. 

If you would like to learn more about vegetable gardening, you can follow me on Instagram @raisedbedguide

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