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How To Create A Vegetable Garden Plan for First-Time Growers

Updated on April 3, 2014

Surveying the Space

Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of sunlight to perform their best. The soil requirements need to be well-draining and hummus-rich. If you live in an area where heavy clay is the dominant soil type, then the best and most efficient way of growing a successful garden is by using a raised bed method. If you have little space, you can also grow everything in containers. Containers may take more tending because the water requirements are higher, but those with little space who are serious about growing some veggies won't mind. The effort put in will always be worth it to me because of the fresh, organic veggies you will yield for you and your family to enjoy.

Raised beds ready to be filled
Raised beds ready to be filled | Source

How to Build Raised Beds

I have a huge heavy clay problem in my yard. About the only thing that grows successfully in it are weeds. To combat both issues, I created some raised beds with bottoms. The bottoms are made with steel mesh. This helps suppress weeds from popping through.

After determining how much space I had to work with, I went to the home supply store and purchased 8 foot untreated lumber that was 2 inches thick and 8 feet deep. I would recommend going 8 feet deep or more if you are considering planting root crops like beets or carrots.

I had those 8 foot long boards cut down to 4 feet. All the beds are 4 foot by 4 foot. This enables me to reach into the middle of the bed from any vantage point.

I took the boards and used rust proof screws to screw all the sides together to form a square box. I then flipped the boxes over and used steel mesh screen screwed to the underside. You can find rolls of screen from any big box store and then cut them to size.

Finally, I took some landscape fabric and lined the inside of the beds with it to help prevent soil run-off.

I positioned the boxes into place and filled the boxes to the top with a mix of garden soil and compost, mixing it in well. Every few years, it is a good idea to add some soil as some will still have washed away. I also take my home-made compost and top off the beds in the fall after the garden has been put to bed. It will continue to break down over the winter months.

Putting bottoms on your beds are completely optional. It is recommended if you have a weed problem like I do. It saves a lot of time weeding!

Radishes from my garden
Radishes from my garden | Source

For first-time gardeners, how likely will you be growing a garden based on the recommendations in this hub?

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What to Plant

In Spring, why not try some cool-season veggies? You can get twice the yield utilizing the same beds by first growing a spring crop of vegetables, then harvesting and replacing with the summer growing vegetables.

Some of the easiest spring vegetables to grow for inexperienced gardeners are:

  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard
  • Arugula
  • Chives
  • Some herbs that do well in cooler conditions like Cilantro and Borage

In summer, replace some of these with warm-season vegetables like:

  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Beans (bush or pole types)
  • Cucumber
  • Summer squashes like Zucchini
  • Basil, dill and other annual herbs

Zucchini "Green Zebra"
Zucchini "Green Zebra" | Source

When to Plant

Estimated Planting Date
Direct Sow or Purchase Starts?
Late March/ Early April
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch apart and barely cover.
Late March/ Early April
Direct sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil.
Late March/Early April
Direct sow seeds 1 and 1/2 inches apart and cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil.
Swiss Chard
Late March/Early April
Direct sow seeds 1 inch apart and 1/4 of an inch deep.
Early to Late April
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch apart and barely cover.
Early to Late April
Direct sow seeds in a place where they will come back every year. Chives are considered a perennial herb. Scatter seeds and barely cover.
Late April/Early May
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch apart and 1/2 inch deep.
Mid to Late May/Early June
Purchase starter plants from the garden nursery and plant out late spring. For beginning gardeners, this is the best option.
Sweet Peppers/Chili Peppers
Mid to Late May/Early June
Same as above. Once you get some experience in the garden, you can start warm season plants from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date.
Late April/Early May
Seeds are very tiny! Plant 1/2 to 1 inch apart and 1/4 of an inch deep.
Mid to Late April
Direct sow seeds 1 inch apart for bulbing onions or 1/2 inch apart for scallions (green onions) and 1/4 of an inch deep.
Beans (Bush and Pole)
Late April/Early May
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart. For pole beans, you must provide a trellis for them to climb.
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart.
Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart.
Late April/Early May
Direct sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart.
Mid-April/Early May
Direct sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart.
Mid-April/Early May
This is a vigorous perennial herb. It is best grown in a pot, otherwise it will take over your garden! Direct sow 1/4 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart or purchase starts.
Mid-April/Early May
This herb does better in cooler temps, so plant it in a part-shade spot to protect it from bolting once hot weather comes. Direct sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart.

**These estimates are based on Zone 5 and a last-frost date of May 12th. You can find resources on the internet for your specific zone.

Marigolds: Perfect companions for tomatoes and peppers
Marigolds: Perfect companions for tomatoes and peppers | Source

Companion Plants

It is true that certain plants benefit from being planted near certain other plants. This method of gardening is called Companion Planting.

Some of the things companion planting does:

  • Repels harmful pests
  • Attracts beneficial insects for pollination of certain crops
  • Add vital nutrients to the soil

Companion Planting Chart

Good Companion
Bad Companion
Basil, Borage, Carrots, Dill, Lettuce, Parlsey, Peppers, Radishes, Beans, Marigolds
Brassica Family i.e. Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts
Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peas, Radishes, Squash, Strawberries, Tomatoes
Garlic, Onions, Peppers, Sunflowers
Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Onions, Peas, Radishes, Strawberries, Sunflowers, Tomatoe
Basil, CIlantro, Onions
Beans, Kohlrabi
Basil, Cilantro, Onions, Spinach, Tomatoes, Marigolds
Beans, Kohlrabi
Beans, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Radishes, Rosemary, Sage, Tomatoes
Anise, Dill, Parsley
Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Lettuce, Peppers, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes
Beans, Peas, Sage
Beans, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Lettuce, Peas, Radishes, Sunflowers
Melons, Potatoes
Zucchini and other Summer Squash
Corn, Onion, Radish, Tomatoes, Asparagus, Beets, Beans, Carrots, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Lettuce, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Spinach
Bee on Oregano Flower
Bee on Oregano Flower | Source
Sweet Pepper "Pinot Noir"
Sweet Pepper "Pinot Noir" | Source

Garden Advice: Start Small

The plants listed in the article are not a complete list, nor do you need to grow everything on this list in one season. Pick and choose a few so that it is easy to manage. Once you feel like you have this gardening thing down, plan to add in a few more items next year. Experiment with different types i.e. Cherry Tomatoes versus Regular Beefsteak Tomatoes. There are a plethora of vegetables out there in a variety of colors and textures.

Happy Gardening!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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