If starting a vegetable garden has always been an ambition of yours, this guide is going to help your dream come true. Whether it’s a hobby or you’d prefer to save some cash by home-growing produce, a vegetable garden is ideal for sourcing your own favorite vegetables and learning more about our world in the meantime.
In this guide, you’ll find sections on the following that’ll turn you from a beginner into a practicing gardener.
- Garden Tools You Will Need
- How To Plant A Vegetable Garden
- Easy Vegetables To Grow As A Beginner
These are three simple sections that cover all you should know when starting out, from the prep work required to the best vegetable-growing beginners can grow, and how to grow them. You’ll also find linked materials that add more information to this guide, for those of you who want to dig deeper and get your hands dirtier.
Let’s start with the tools that you’ll need as a gardening beginner.
Interested in growing vegetables indoors? One of the easiest, fastest and environmentally friendly ways to grow plants is hydroponically. Here are the best hydroponic systems for growing vegetables at home for beginners.
Garden Tools You Will Need
Like with any hobby or job, you’ll need to have a toolkit. Gardeners swap out their hammers and wrenches for shovels, rakes, hoses, and hoes. Here’s a brief rundown of each piece of equipment and what it’s used for when creating a vegetable garden.
A Round-Tipped Shovel For Digging
Round-tipped shovels will penetrate the ground much easier when you’re working with softer soil, making them ideal for turning soils and transplanting plants when needed.
They distribute pressure more evenly and they’re not sharp at the tip, so you won’t inadvertently decapitate your favorite plants at the root.
A Fork For Turning And Loosening Soil
Having mentioned soil turning, this is best done with a garden fork. The size should vary, you can’t swing a large fork around in a small plot, after all.
The bigger forks are heavier too and, as a beginner, you may not have the farming brawn yet that’s required to spend some hard time turning soil.
A Steel Bow Rake For Cleaning And Leveling
You’ll also need a bow rake, which is distinct from a leaf rake and vital for cleaning the land and leveling off the dirt.
The tines are tiny, so it’s clear that they’re supposed to flatten land instead of horde leaves and other debris like most other rakes you know. The flat back end of the rake is ideal for making the soft ground even smoother, too.
A Hoe Or Cultivator For Weeding
Another tool you’ll need to prepare your seeds bed is a hoe and/or a cultivator. Hoes come in many different styles that you should check out but we’d recommend one with a heart-shaped blade for creating seed furrows.
Cultivators do much of the same but they look like a smaller rake that’s ideal for breaking the soil surface and turning up shallow weeds all at once.
A Hand Trowel Or Hori Hori Knife And A Hand Cultivator For Transplanting/Weeding
Trowels are tiny shovels that are ideal for the smaller jobs a gardener does. If gardening is surgery then the trowel is your scalpel, a small and specialized instrument for adding and removing things into your garden.
Hori-hori knives are one of the most popular types of cutting instruments for gardens. These impressive Japanese knives are heavily serrated on one end for quick and decisive plant cutting while the other side has a smooth, sharp edge. The knife is also broad, allowing it to be used as an impromptu trowel.
Hand cultivators are smaller cultivators, it’s that simple. They’re what happens when you graft the tines of a cultivator onto a trowel handle for a simple and portable means of weeding your garden, for when you need to get up close and personal.
A Garden Hose And Nozzle, Or Watering Can
Lastly, you should have a watering can or a garden hose to water your plants.
Whichever one you have, the important thing is to have a nozzle that divides the water, so it sprinkles out instead of becoming a blast of “solid” water. This is kinder on plants and more conducive to their growth.
Look After Your Tools
Once you have the tools, make sure you look after them. If you’re not making sure your tools are always clean and properly stored, rust will form on them due to oxidation.
If this has happened to you (or if you have some old tools that have been neglected), take care of it sooner rather than later, you don’t want it getting worse.
How To Plant A Vegetable Garden
Now that you know which tools you should have when first establishing your vegetable garden, it’s time to talk about the process. The process isn’t as simple as turning dirt, it also involves vital planning before you ever buy your first seeds.
Do Your Homework On What Veggies You Can Plant, Based On The Season & Climate
Right off the bat, there are plants you won’t be able to grow because of the current season or the prevailing climate of your country.
The most common vegetables that we eat daily are some of the hardiest plants that can survive through many climates and seasons but there are always times and places where you can’t grow green beans or cherry tomatoes.
Quick note: After you’ve identified your location and how it changes which vegetables you can grow, you should also look at which vegetables you actually like. You could be growing for multiple people but, if it’s for you and you alone, then you don’t want to expend effort on plants that you don’t like.[\note]
If your growing seasons are short, you’ll need faster-growing plants. You’ll also need to be acutely aware of the plant diseases in your local area to keep your vegetables healthy until harvest.
Ultimately, you’ll want to do your homework on which veggies fall into these three criteria:
- Can be grown in your climate.
- That you enjoy eating.
- Those are easy for beginners to plant, maintain, and harvest.
Let’s go into some more detail on some of these ideas below.
Choose The Right Garden Site
Everything starts with the location of the garden since this dictates which plants you can use and how many of them will fit there. You’ll be working with this plot of land for a long time, so make sure you like the place before you commit to anything.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of getting a garden plot that’s too large or complex for you to manage as a beginner. Instead of growing into it, you’re much more likely to neglect the garden because you can’t keep up with it.
Prepare The Soil
Soil prep is vital for your garden. If you don’t have working soil, you don’t have a garden, period. You should use a square-ended spade to mark the plot out clearly and lift it with a pitchfork.
The soil should be turned quite deep, we’d say eighteen to twenty-five inches deep but you could get away with only twelve. As you turn the soil, a lot of rocks, weeds, and other detritus are going to rise to the surface. Remove these and then top the turned soil with a fertilizer, preferably rotted manure or compost.
Plan Your Layout/Blueprint
Like with any landscaping project, you should plan the layout of your vegetable garden and how much space you’ll need to properly pull it off. Try for an economical setup that fits as many plants into the plot as possible.
Create a blueprint if you’re handy with a pencil. Keep seed packet information so you can discover the spacing and light requirements of individual plant types.
Keep the height of plants in mind too, especially since tall plants can create shade that smaller plants will suffer in. The northern perimeter of your garden is typically best for having more shadow coverage.
Choose The Vegetables You Are Planning On Planting
Now that you know where the garden will be, it’s time to find the vegetables that’ll go there. Before you do anything, you’ll need to decide whether you’re getting seeds or you’ll buy plants that have already germinated and can be installed in the garden with ease.
You should collect some gardening magazines and catalogs that’ll tell you all about seeds and the plants that come from them. Make a list of your favorites and pick from these. Purchasing extras is a good idea if you ever need to replace any plants at some point.Important: After you have a list, you’ll need to check which ones can be sown like seeds and which ones need to be nursed before you plant them in the garden.
Get small plants if you only have a limited vegetable garden space. Make sure they’re resistant to disease too, this will limit how much trouble you have.
Gauge the surrounding area. Online you should be able to find out your region’s ideal dates for planting, as well as the approximate times where the ground becomes frosted over. To better protect against pests, you can also companion plant your garden.
This is where plants of different species are intermingled in their planting spots. Flowers are great for protection and they bring pollinating bugs to the garden, the most notable being bees!
Once Planted – Plants Will Need To Be Watered Regularly
Obvious? Maybe, but even beginners can mess up watering a plant. Seedlings require some tenderness when they’re being watered, so the shower setting on your hose is best.
You don’t want to blast the poor plant away, after all. Aim for the soil nearby rather than individual plants, so you don’t damage them. Watering is best done in the morning as this prepares the garden. The garden will be moist for the rest of the day.
If the day is hot, watering at the end of the day won’t do them much good, they’ve already been scorched without having any moisture to keep them healthy. Try to avoid watering young plants during hot afternoons too, it can scorch their leaves.
Over time, your garden will gather weeds that’ll sap valuable water and minerals from the other plants in your garden. We’ve all seen weeds growing in gardens but now that you’re a gardener, you’ll want to limit how many of them grow. You can control weeds for as little as ten or twenty minutes of gardening every few days.
When the soil is moist, you can easily remove weeds. Whether you’re using a hoe, a hand cultivator, or your own bare hands, you can uproot pest plants with ease. Make sure you get the roots, otherwise those weeds will be back and taunting you before you know it.
Once the plants in your garden reach between four and six weeks, you can start fertilizing them. You should keep seed packets around with your plants as they should have the ideal fertilization suggestions on them.
You should especially do this with leafy greens and rooted vegetables, as their needs often vary. Adding compost to your soil is a great way to keep them fertilized, particularly for heavy-feeding plants like tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and corn.
Beware Of Plant Insects Too
There are a lot of pests that’ll want to get their pesky mandibles on your plants. We couldn’t possibly begin to list them all here, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common.
Slugs & Snails
Found in almost every garden where there are plants to munch on, these slimy swindlers will creep up to your vegetables and ruin them.
Unfortunately, they’re not fussy either, they’ll go for just about anything. That’s why they’re the first pest that comes to mind and why you need to stop them in their tracks.
If possible, you can encourage populations of birds, snakes, and amphibians like frogs to nest in your garden. They naturally munch on slugs and snails.
Otherwise, you need to create some kind of bait that keeps the slugs away from the good stuff. You can make bait at home or buy specially made products. Avoid metaldehyde and methiocarb, and other substances that are toxic to other wildlife.
If you catch them in the act, just pick them off and put them elsewhere. This could be at your bait but some prefer to exterminate the pests for good by putting them in beer or soapy water.
Aphids are small, pear-shaped, and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. There are even some species that have wings.
If you’re a fan of nature documentaries, you may have seen the symbiotic relationship between aphids and ants. Fascinating stuff, sure, but that won’t save your precious plants.
Aphids feed on many of our favorite veggies, mainly juicy tomatoes and popular greens like cabbage, lettuce, and kale. This is because they feed by sucking on the plant juices, harming the plant’s growth.
The best thing you can do is get plants that flower. They look great but they also encourage predatory insects that’ll take care of the aphids with ease.
You can remove them from plants with a blast of your garden hose. Commercially sold plant covers can also keep them sheltered.
Cutworms are the larvae of moths, so they’re pretty much anywhere a moth can land. They are two inches long, at most, and are known for the C that they curl into when intimidated.
Like with any caterpillar, they can come in all earthy colors, brown, yellow, gray, and green. Any seedlings are vulnerable to these pests.
They munch on these seedlings which, so early in their development, can be dangerous. Look for chewed stem tissue to diagnose cutworm presence.
Coat seedling stems with aluminum or paper, buried a half-inch into the ground, to keep cutworms away. Till the garden in autumn to expose their pupae to predators and the cold. As always, you can buy repellents at the store too.
These tiny beetles are one of the smallest garden pests there are. They’re about one-tenth of an inch, darkly colored, and they hop around, hence their name.
This also makes them practically impossible to catch. They go for vegetables like tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, corn, and eggplants.
There they make small round holes in them. They can also eat roots because their larvae live underground.
Crop rotation is the best way to keep them at bay, though you can also trap the adults by using brightly colored sticky cards over your plant. Garlic oil or hot pepper wax is great for repelling adults too while you can use nematodes to cull their larvae in the soil.
Easy Vegetables To Grow As A Beginner
So we’ve learned a lot about gardening for beginners, from the tools needed to the things you must do when planting your garden.
As we near the end of this guide, let’s wind down with some vegetables that are simple to grow. With the right information, you as a beginner can cultivate and enjoy the eight vegetables below!
This light and leafy green is a staple of any salad. Head lettuce will need some extra cultivation while loose-leaf lettuce is easier to grow in an outdoor vegetable garden if you follow the below steps:
Prepare the planting bed by tilling the soil where there’s plenty of suns and drainable soil. Remove debris from the soil as you turn it. Fertilize that soil with the fertilizer of your choice.
Plant the seeds two to six weeks before the next spring frost and lay approximately a half-inch of soil on top of them. Water thoroughly after planting.
Water the lettuce whenever the leaves start to look wilted. They should also receive sprinkles of water every day from a hose.
When the lettuce is suitable for harvesting, it’s as simple as using a cutting implement to remove the leaves. Only remove mature leaves and, once you have them all, you should remove the whole plant because it’ll turn bitter. The leaves are best harvested in the morning when they’re crispy from the chill in the air, and they’ll last approximately ten days in the refrigerator.
While ordinary tomatoes may be intimidating for beginners, cherry tomatoes are just as tasty while being easy to grow and more convenient! Check out how to grow these in a step-by-step format below.
First, get the seeds that you’ll be using. They’re commonly available at farmer’s markets or online through seed orders. There are several types of cherry tomato too, like Sungold, Sun Sugar, or Sweet Treats. Read up on their qualities and go with your favorite.
They need to be planted in a sunny location that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight during the daytime. It should stand relatively independently so other plants don’t shade it.
Use wooden stakes or a metal tomato cage to support tomato vines. Cherry tomatoes grow quickly, so you want something that’ll support them. This is done by tying the vine around the stakes. You could even grow cherry tomatoes from pots in your garden too.
Plant the tomatoes in warm weather, a week after the previous frost date when the weather is approximately seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Dig a small hole, a few inches deep, and plant each seed two feet apart. Cover the hole.
Water regularly and fertilize once a week, pruning sprouts as needed. After eight weeks, you should have small cherry tomatoes that come off the stems easily when pulled.
Radishes are pretty easy to grow, growing fast under the earth in less than a month (for Cherry Belle radishes). Here’s a quick guide to growing them.
Prepare by deciding on a radish species and preparing the soil. The area should have full sun with a little shade sometimes. Fertilize the land before planting.
Sow radish seeds half an inch into the ground and one inch apart from each other. If planting in rows, there should be one foot between each row. They’re great companion plants, so you can plant them with carrots, parsnips, or cabbages if you please.
Water them and watch them grow until they can be harvested, which is when their roots reach one inch in diameter. Seed packets will have more details on when to harvest but you could also take a peek to see if the bulb has grown yet. They’ll store for up to two weeks after being harvested.
Zucchini, also called courgettes, are one of the easiest summer squashes you can grow. If you’re a fan, follow the steps below:
As a species of summer squash, they’re typically best planted in the warmer seasons. They don’t like cold soil much, so the first or second week of spring is the best time to plant.
Plant them in an area where they can spread out and bask in the sunlight, between six and ten hours of light a day on draining soil. If possible, prepare the soil with fertilizer and test soil pH to create an environment with a pH level between six and seven.
Cover each seed with a half or quarter-inch of soil and then water them. Maintain them through watering and fertilization, and weeding since they’ll harm the zucchini. Encourage pollinators in your garden too, this will help growth.
Zucchinis are ready when they’re four inches long. Picking them as they reach maturity is best as it makes the plant more efficient at growing more squash. Cut zucchini away with a knife.
Peppers are a unique vegetable that’s welcome in any salad and, fortunately for you, can be grown quite easily by beginners. This is done by following these steps:
Prepare a sunny and well-drained planting site with loamy soil. Fertilize it and plant the seeds in spring or early summer in interior pots. As they grow, gradually expose them to the outside world and, when there are two fully-formed leaves, transplant them into the prepared soil. They should be twelve to twenty inches apart.
The plants should receive approximately one inch of water a week. Water even more during extreme heat and mulch too if you live in a consistently warm climate.
It may seem counterintuitive but you should pinch away any first blossoms on the pepper plant. This saves the plant energy that is then directed to pepper growth, creating larger specimens from your first yields.
Harvest when they turn from green into their mature color. They should pull off by hand without damaging the plant.
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables and for good reason. They are easy to grow and packed with healthy carotenoids that everybody should fit into their diet. Here’s how to grow them:
Turn the garden soil to a depth of twelve inches, minimum. Planters and raised beds are great for carrots, so make use of those to get the best results. Sprinkle bone meal to fertilize the soil. Nitrogen-based fertilizers can cause the roots to get “hairy.” Water the bed a lot when it’s prepared.
It’s easy to sow too many carrot seeds because of how small they are. Mix them with sand and sprinkle across the bed so you can see your coverage. Give an inch between plantings and make small trenches if you’re planting them in rows, approximately a quarter-inch deep.
Use plant covers to protect your seeds from interference, whether that’s by the environment or carrot flies. Water the bed twice every day until the seeds start to sprout and, when they do, make sure no weeds are interfering with them.
Thin carrots by separating seedlings once they’re sufficiently grown and you can tell they are too close together. The carrots left will be ready whenever you decide they are big enough. We’d recommend waiting until you can identify a half-inch of roots spreading out from the carrot shoulders.
This leafy green is considered a superfood because of how much protein, vitamins, and chlorophyll you’ll find in these deep green plants.
After you’ve prepared the soil by removing weeds and debris, and used fertilizer if necessary, you should plant seeds two inches apart for thinning later. If you’re not a fan of thinning plants, plant them four to six inches apart and a half-inch deep.
Water the seeds with a low-pressure setting on your hose regularly. The soil should be moist without becoming too soggy, after which it’ll germinate after five to ten days. You’ll see the seedlings emerging, protect them for approximately forty-five days until they’re ready for harvest. Some will grow faster, in which case you can pick them sooner.
Everybody knows what peas are, they’re a staple of many diets and they’re one of the signature plants that beginners should start growing. You grow them by doing the following:
First, fertilize your plant bed, avoid too much fertilizer, and make sure the soil has a pH level above six but beneath six-point-five.
Sowing is best done in early spring or summer. The earlier you sow peas, the sooner you can typically harvest them. Don’t sow into the soil when the weather is cold, it should be sufficiently warm to receive the pea seeds. Plant into two-inch trenches that are six inches wide, using a hoe to turn the soil as you dig. Plant each seed three inches apart and cover.
Within two weeks of watering, you should see them flowering. If the soil is drying out, mulch can keep it moist. You should also have a support system so that the plant can climb canes or trellises. Keep the soil moist so that juicy pea pods can form. Harvest through summer and early fall by picking them.
Summary & The End
Now you have reached the end of our guide. When you started reading you were a beginner but you should now have a lot of knowledge that you can use to get started.
With some experience, you’ll get better at planting and caring for your vegetable crops until most of the information in this guide comes as second nature to you.
Until then, check back with us whenever you’re unsure about something. You don’t grow a green thumb overnight and even the best gardeners had help along the way. Fortunately for you, online materials like this guide allow ordinary people to learn about gardening, all without spending time or money jumping through hoops.
With what you’ve learned in this guide, even a beginner should be able to create a successful vegetable garden.