Looking to get outdoors, eat healthier and save money, all in one activity? You can do all this with vegetable gardening! Starting a home vegetable garden is a great way to put fresh, healthy food on your table while saving money in the produce section. Gardening is a fun project that can have the whole family outdoors and working together. Here’s how to get going with your first vegetable garden – even if you don’t have a yard to plant one in.
Preparing Your Vegetable Garden
Before reaching for your overalls and shovel, stop and consider a few important factors for your garden.
What type of vegetables should you grow?
The best vegetables to grow in your garden are ones you will actually eat! Don’t let that hard work go to waste because you remembered your distaste for Brussels sprouts only after harvesting them.
Local climate also plays a big role in deciding what to plant. Certain vegetables do better in certain growing conditions. Enter your zip code into this USDA Hardiness Zone Map for more information on your area’s growing conditions and for a detailed list of vegetables that do well in your area during certain timeframes. You can also reach out to local gardening groups or the staff at garden centers and plant nurseries for advice.
Decide what you’ll be putting into the ground: seeds or transplants. Transplanting a young seedling into your garden will give you a head start on harvesting but will cost more than purchasing seeds. While transplanted veggies tend to resist more pests, some – like carrots, spinach and beets – fare better when planted as seeds.
Lettuce, beets, kale, peas, cherry tomatoes, green beans and radishes are a few safe bets for first-time gardeners.
Where should you grow?
Picking a spot for your garden is just as important as picking the vegetables to grow in it. Spend some time watching your yard to see where the sun hits the longest. Most vegetables like long exposure to sunlight, so avoid shady spots or areas with a lot of tree coverage.
Consider container gardening if you’re working with limited space! A 5-gallon bucket can easily be transformed into a perfect single-plant container for growing vegetables in a smaller yard, a balcony or even indoors.
For those in urban areas, see if your neighborhood has a community garden. Community gardens provide city dwellers with a patch of land to cultivate as their own in the concrete jungle.
Planting Your Vegetable Garden
Now that you’ve picked what you’re planting and selected a spot, it’s time to get this garden growing.
Preparing the Soil
- If planting directly into the ground, you’ll need to clear the area of any grass or plants currently growing there.
- Till the soil to make the ground loose and fertile for your vegetables.
- The garden beds should be 3-4 feet across – narrow enough to reach the center from either side.
Planting Your Vegetables
- Use a garden trowel to dig holes with enough room around them to let your plants grow. Consult this handy plant spacing chart for more information on your crops.
- Carefully place your seeds or plants in the holes. Cover the plants with the same amount of soil that covered them in their pots.
- Water your plants to settle them into the new soil.
- Check the soil regularly for moisture. Water the plants about once a week or when the soil is dry a half-inch below the surface.
Vegetable gardening can help relieve stress while producing delicious food. How many hobbies can you say that about? Don’t be discouraged if your dinner table isn’t piling up with fresh veggies during your first harvest. Gardening involves some trial and error, so if a plant does poorly the first time, look at it as a learning experience to improve for next time. If a full-blown vegetable garden seems a bit intimidating, start greening your thumb on a smaller herb garden instead!