Published with kind permission from Tim Graham at yardandgardenguru.com
Do you have space that is going to waste, and you have decided to put it to good use and have a veggie garden? If so, you have made a smart choice. Not only will it save you money, help you to eat healthier, but it is also good for the environment.
You should know beforehand; it is not possible to grow everything even for the yard and garden guru. And also some vegetables are easier to buy as they need too much attention to make it worthwhile.
All said and done, vegetable gardening for beginners is much easier than you think. As with anything, all you need is planning and a little preparation.
There is also the amount of space you have, or the area you wish to commit. You might want a traditional garden, or you have sufficient space, you can include a container garden or a raised-bed garden. Both of these you easier plants to control and can help to divide your space up.
Vegetable gardening for dummies this article is not, yet it does try to explain as much as you need to know that can get you on your way. You might find to ease yourself into your first garden; it is easier to start off small and be proud, rather than having a large garden and becoming overwhelmed and disheartened.
Too much too soon is one of the most common mistakes, it is not just the fact you will have more work to do, there is also a limit on what you and your family can physically eat.
Where And How To Plant Your Vegetable Garden.
How much sun does a vegetable garden need? This can be one of the most frequent questions asked and can dictate what crops you plant, and where. A sunny location as plants will require 6 hours of good sunlight daily.
Good soil. Roots spread easy, so the soft soil is best (loamy soil). By using compost, you can add vital nutrients to the ground which all your veggies will benefit. As with this, correct drainage is required, and if your garden has water problems, this is where your containers and raised beds come in handy.
Crops need ample space to grow, if they are too close, they will stunt each other’s growth, and the larger plants will cast shadows over the smaller varieties.
Ideal Size for Beginners Vegetable Garden
A perfect size for beginners is around 16 X 10 feet in size. In this, you would choose easy to grow varieties. This size of the plot is more than ideal to feed a family of four during the summer periods with a little extra to be frozen or given to your neighbors.
In this sized garden, you should divide your space into eleven rows which are ten feet in length; this provides plenty of space for access and the plants to grow. You should also make sure; your rows will run from north to south, this way they get the most out of the sun.
What Vegetables to Plant for First Garden?
The vegetables listed here are plants that are highly productive, yet it is worth checking with a local person who knows if they are all suitable for your area.
There are also some vegetables that will yield more than one crop in a growing season.
You should also consider what you like to eat; it is pointless growing something that will not be eaten. As part of your planning, in the beginning, you will be wondering “What Are the Easiest Vegetables to Grow?” Well here you are, the answer is below.
Tomatoes – 5 plants staked, or use a bush variety you can grow in hanging baskets. These provide all through the season once they start producing.
- Zucchini squash – 4 plants
- Lettuce – these can be plucked as needed and they will continue to grow.
- Radish and Spring onions – these are natural growing and another ideal for pots or containers.
- Peas – you can grow these where they can be supported as they are a climbing plant.
- Onions and Garlic – easy to grow and maintenance free. Ideal to grow in container gardens
- Broad Beans – seed into pots and transfer, or sow directly into the soil.
- Runner Beans – these have to be supported, yet apart from that, they are easy to grow and produce way more than enough.
If you have, the possibility of rabbits interfering with your veggies. You will have to surround your garden, or you can plant marigolds close to the edges as this helps deter rabbits.
Having Good Soil
Apart from plenty of water for your plants, they will need good soil. Before you begin planting, there are things you can do to make sure you have suitable soil.
- Soaking – wet your soil with a garden hose. Leave it a day and then dig up a handful for testing.
- Squeeze – the soil you have dug, squeeze it as hard as you can. If water runs out, you will have to add compost or another organic matter to help drainage (holding too much water)
- Check your hand – what you want to see is a ball has formed, yet when you poke it, it crumbles like a piece of cake. If it holds together or falls apart, you will have to add organic matter as it can be too sandy or contain too much clay.
Digging Your Beds
To adequately prepare your soil, you should follow these steps as a run up to planting:
- Loosening your soil – dig by hand or use a tiller.
- Spreading out your soil – when your soil has been dug, this is when you can mix in your compost and work them into the ground. Make sure you work backward to avoid compacting the loose soil as you step on it.
- Smoothing your surface – once you have dug and added your compost, smooth the surface with a rake and then water thoroughly. Let your garden stand for a few days before you begin planting
- It is worth knowing how to prepare your soil, without this knowledge and preparation and experience, you might have some plants which grow, yet there is the chance that you will have failed crops.
- For extra effect a lawn around your garden beds can make it look even better as well as attracting more bees and bird. (Don’t forget to maintain your lawn with our lawn mower guide here)
Feeding and Care
Most warm season vegetables will require a constant stream of moisture, although this is not to say you should drown them every day. As a guide, they should be watered when the topmost inch of soil is dry.
So for plants which are growing underground, this would be once to twice per week (if you have no rain). Raised beds drain much quicker, it may be the case these require watering every other day.
- Weeds – these do not just compete with your vegetables, they can quickly take over. To remove them use a hand for a hoe to cut them from the top inch of soil around your plants. For larger plants, you can cover the earth with mulch, compost or plastic to keep your weeds to a minimum.
- Fertilizing – to obtain the best yield in your harvests, this is crucial. Digging in compost when you prepare your soil may be enough, yet many people use a packaged warm season vegetable fertilizer to make sure they achieve maximum growth.
This is what everyone has been waiting for, the time when you can start picking the results of your garden. You will see that many vegetables can be harvested at varying stages.
Lettuce a prime example, you can pluck leaves as needed and the lettuce will continue to grow. Cucumbers can be picked as they grow rather than waiting until they are mature, as can zucchini.
A good rule of thumb is, if it looks good enough for you to eat it, it probably is.
Diseases and pests
- Spring Insects – you can use lightweight transparent plastic sheets to cover your vegetable rows. These protect your crops from many common insects. They can also help your plants from any light frosts you may encounter.
- Fungal Disease – to reduce this, make sure you water the soil and not the leaves of your vegetables. If you see one of your vegetables that has become diseased, it is better to remove it and throw it into the trash.
- Disease-resistant – by searching the internet, or asking at the local garden center, you can find variates that are disease resistant and offer the best protection.
- Location – each year, you should aim to change the location of your plants. This gives pests less chance to find out where they were attracted the previous year.
- Larger Insects – caterpillars and the like can be picked off by hand; they will play havoc with your leafy greens.
- Harmful Bugs – as healthy as you wish to be, you might have to use insecticidal soap sprays to control harmful bugs. Your local garden center will stock and advise how best to use these.
Raised Bed Gardening and Containers
These can be easy to construct, and only require four lengths of wood and something to support the wood pieces.
They are an ideal way for beginners to get started as they are more manageable than having a large garden to contend with. It is also easier to provide the perfect growing conditions for your crops. If you have soil that is far from ideal, you can quite easily buy good quality soil and fill your raised bed with that rather than trying to make the ground in your garden suitable. (Read our top potting bench guide to make gardening easy?)
An ideal size is 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, and as with your rows, they should be situated, north to south. The height of the bed should be 10 inches to 14 inches, to allow for healthy roots. If you are building more than one bed, make sure you leave access to your wheelbarrow and space to walk.
Pressure treated wood and railroad ties have preservatives and chemicals in them; a simple untreated plank is untreated and ideal. To support you can use a simple rebar which is hammered into the soil.
The best soil for your raised Fruit and Vegetable Garden should be dark and rich and crammed full of microorganisms. To fill your bed, you should use 60% quality topsoil mixed with around 40% of well-aged compost. During the growing season, it is advised to add a good ½ inch of additional compost to provide those all-important nutrients.
Raised beds give great drainage so you might have to water more frequently. Give your plants a nice long drink in the early evening and check them on hot afternoons. You can also purchase automatic drip feeders for irrigation, but that will be a while away.
As with raised beds, there are numerous types of containers that are suitable to grow vegetables, and any Vegetable garden tips for beginners would not be complete without mentioning containers.
These like raised beds can give you better results and are easier to control, yet the bigger the plant, the larger the container.
A good example is a wooden barrel that has been halved; this can grow a surprising amount of food. Anything that can hold soil can become a garden.
Watering might have to be done twice a day as they hold less water than raised gardens and the natural earth. Unlike vegetables are grown in the ground, the ones grown in containers should be fed with liquid fertilizer (always check the label).
You can also mix in a little compost along the way to help retain moisture and to provide extra nutrients.
When Should I Start Planting My Vegetable Garden?
Now you have all this information, and you are raring to go. The answer to that question is, as soon as you are prepared. Some varieties will have to wait until the spring, yet you might just be able to make use of the winter vegetables available.
The time to plant is now, even on a small scale. The skills and knowledge you will gain will help you when you have expanded and turned all of your gardens into a fruit and vegetable garden.