Thinking about starting a vegetable garden? You’ve come to the right place! Growing your own vegetables is so rewarding: it’s cheap, healthy, and delicious! It may seem intimidating to get started but I’m going to walk you through it.
Pick Your Spot
Even if you have a small balcony, you can still grow vegetables! Just be warned that one minute you’re 19 years-old with a few herbs on your apartment patio and then POOF you’re a crazy garden lady like me. It’s a slippery slope. Why? Because gardening is ADDICTIVE. Although you can certainly grow many things such as herbs and tomatoes in pots, I’m writing this article assuming that you are here because you want to start a good ol’ fashioned raised bed garden.
To pick a spot for your garden, track the sun for several days. Many veggies need full sun (6-8 hours per day), so walk outside a few times a day (say 8 am, 10 am, noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm) one weekend to see if the sun hits that spot. You want a nice, sunny home for your future veggies.
Prep the Area
Once you’ve decided where your garden will be, use stakes and twine to map it out, then use a pick ax to clear the area. You don’t want any grass or weeds creeping into your vegetable garden. A weed cover is ideal to place underneath the bed.
How to Build a Raised Bed Garden
My dad build my herb garden and vegetable garden. My big raised bed is 4’x8′. To build a sturdy raised bed, you’ll want to screw boards into anchors. Buy two boards of the same heights (we did 2×6) and 4′ for the sides. We chose cedar because cedar lasts a long time.
Rather than screwing the boards to each other, which wouldn’t be nearly as strong, we used a 4″x4″ block, which we cut to fit the depth of the two boards. Because I have two 2×6 boards stacked on top of each other, that means we cut the 4×4 to be 12″ tall. A tablesaw is ideal for cutting the anchor pieces but we don’t have one so my dad used a skill saw, rotating the 4×4 piece as he went. That’s the trickiest part. Otherwise this project can easily be done in a flash!
Next, measure the diagonal to square it up. Work on a flat surface, like a garage floor. Use exterior screws to attach the boards to the cedar anchors: two screws on each board with with the two boards stacked right on top of each other. That’s it! You’re just building a frame. Set it on your prepared space and you’re ready to add soil.
Do you have it build it yourself? Nope! You can buy a raised-bed online or from your favorite home and garden supplier.
Fill it With Soil
You’ll see a lot of intense articles online about soil. Ignore all of them if you’re just starting out. Unless you’re a chemist, soil information is probably totally overwhelming. Don’t fret about it. Let the pro’s do it for you! Buy soil specifically formulated for raised vegetable gardens from your local garden center. Get enough soil to mostly fill your bed, leaving about two inches at the top.
Pick Your Plants
For beginners, I highly recommend transplanting vegetables versus trying your hand at seeds. A transplant is a young plant that’s ready to be adored by you, a newbie vegetable grower. It’s easier to plan out your garden with transplants than with direct sow seeds. Plus, you get to eat the fruits of your labor sooner than with seeds!
Some of the easiest transplant vegetables to grow are:
Some of the easiest vegetables to grow from seeds are:
I tend to use seeds for my fall/spring/winter garden and transplants for my summer garden. The reason for that is I don’t need 100 tomato plants, but I can easily use up a seed packet of beets. Be sure to pay attention to how much space each plant needs. Last summer, I easily fit five tomato plants, five basil plants (which I ALWAYS grow by my tomatoes for optimum flavor), two pepper plants, two squash plants, a zucchini plant, and an eggplant in my 4×8′ bed.
Notice how bare the bed looked when I first planted the transplants. The number one mistake I see when people are first starting out is overcrowding. Yes, your garden will look bare when you first plant it, but tomato plants can get crazy tall and many summer vegetable vines will take over if you aren’t careful so read spacing info and plan accordingly.
Lately I’ve been ordering all of my seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery in Oregon. The seeds have fantastic germination (aka most of the seeds become plants) and they have all sorts of rare varieties to choose from, which is quite a treat for a home gardener! My favorite part though is that they have really detailed planting and growing instructions on each seed packet. I’ve also had very good look with Seeds Now.
No matter what you’re growing, most plants will be stressed by drought followed by overwatering. Use your knuckle as a general rule of thumb: stick your index finger in the soil down to the first knuckle (the knuckle by the tip of your finger). If the soil feels dry, water. If it doesn’t, your plants are okay.
I absolutely love using seaweed on vegetables! Grab a pack of Sea Magic from Amazon along with a half gallon jug, and follow the dilution instructions. The jug o’ seaweed lasts me a whole season. Then just add half a cup of your mixture to your watering can before filling it up. Water you vegetables at the base to give them a boost of nutrients. I do this every six weeks for the entire growing season. Seaweed increases the sugar content in vegetables, making them unbelievably delicious.
What you plant and when you plant is up to you (and your growing region and season) so it’s hard to get too specific but I hope this gave you an idea of how you get started with your very own vegetable garden!