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How to Plant a Vegetable Garden for Beginners

Updated on December 29, 2015

Ear of Corn

Some of our corn from our garden last season
Some of our corn from our garden last season | Source

Home Gardening

Having your own garden at home, for vegetables or flowers, is one way to beautify your yard and also to reap the rewards of a little work. Sure maintaining a garden can take a little bit of time but it is a wonderful feeling when you clip your first flower or pluck a red tomato from a vine. Fortunately planting a garden is not very difficult process if you take a few simple steps. This upfront planning will help ensure that your garden will be prolific and enjoyable for many years to come.

How to Start a Garden

Similar to real estate, a very important step in having a successful garden is location, location, location. Where you put the garden is important because your garden will need a few basic ingredients to succeed.

For example, planting a garden, under the canopy of a luscious tree is not a good location; sun is an essential component to your garden. You will also want to select a relatively flat, or level, area for your garden. The grade of land is relevant because you are going to have to work on the garden at some time. You will have to pull weeds or water the garden, not to mention picking those beautiful flowers or veggies when they are ready to be harvested. If you plant your garden on the side of a hill these crucial chores might become cumbersome after a while; you might also struggle to keep the water in the garden and not just following the grade of the land and flow away.

Sunflower Plant

One of our bright little sunflowers from last year.  Behind it is the metal fence we built to keep unwanted animals out of the garden.
One of our bright little sunflowers from last year. Behind it is the metal fence we built to keep unwanted animals out of the garden. | Source

Wildlife in the Garden

If you live in the city protecting your garden from wildlife won’t be a problem, unless your neighbor’s feline gets confused and thinks your new garden is there for their personal use. For everyone else, me included, we have to take some measures that will protect our gardens during their infancy as well as when they become well established.

Deer and rabbits will see the new plants in your garden as an invitation to come to this new salad bar and will try to enjoy a meal at the expense of the plants. Erecting a fence will be a useful way to keep these little hungry creatures out of your new garden. There are also non-lethal methods to keep these creatures away. Some of them use water, noise or light to startle the creature into retreating from the area.

For people like me we had to put a fence up to keep our chickens out of our garden. Once they learned how tasty tomatoes were we had to do something to keep them away from the vines because they were eating them faster than we could. A five foot wire fence keeps them and any curious rabbits away from eating the fruits of our labor.

Gardening 101

Buying Plants

Picking the correct plants is a crucial step in having a fruitful garden. This is an important step because some plants and vegetables will just not do well in certain areas. For example peppers need sun, lots of sun, to flourish. Planting them in an area that has limited sun and mild summer temperatures that rarely get into the nineties might not be a good fit for them.

When considering what plants to purchase consider the temperature in your area as well as what kind of soil you are using. If your garden soil is in good shape, not clumpy like clay or completely sandy like a beach, you are starting off great. For those less fortunate who have heavy clay or sandy soil amendments might need to be introduced to help the soil get to a point that you can use it.

Our soil is heavy clay and it took us a couple of years of working compost into it before it reached a point that we could easily plant in it.

Clay soil is soil that during the summer months dries out and can even crack. Trying to dig a hole in dry summer clay soil is pretty much impossible. You disturb the first half an inch or so and cannot penetrate any lower. During the winter months it doesn’t drain rainfall well and has a mushy consistency that will stick to the bottom of your shoes, it is not fun trying to get it off either.

Sandy soil has too much sand in it, no kidding right? The problem with sandy soil is it drains so well that it is hard to keep the proper moisture in your garden. Anytime you feed or water your plants the nutrients will want to move through the sandy soil which is away from the plants that need them.

If you are struggling to select the best plants for your garden I would strongly suggest a trip to a local nursery. When I say nursery I’m not talking about one of the big home improvement warehouses, I mean an actual nursery. I have found that our local nurseries are far more knowledgeable about soil conditions, plant selection and providing great advice than anything I have ever received at a general home improvement place. Their variety is also much larger since plants are all that they do.

Pesticide Use

Any garden will have to wrestle with bugs and pests that want to make a meal out of your plants. How you plan on fighting this battle is strictly up to you. There are tons of commercial pest control options available on the market to help you. However don’t assume that pesticides are your only option.

Believe it or not there are non-pesticide options out there if you are concerned about using poisons near your food supply. This is especially important if any runoff from your garden can get to a stream or creek. Water supplies all over are seeing a rise in lawn fertilizer residue because of excess runoff carrying these fertilizers into storm drains in our streets.

Lady bugs are a good, organic, option for fighting pests. There are also organic products that can be applied to your garden that will help keep pests under control. This is another reason why we love our chickens. I don’t know how many bugs they eat out of the yard but it has to be a bunch, all they do all day long is forage around the yard looking for treats.

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Planting Instructions

Plants all come with instructions on how to be planted so the process really is very easy. The depth and spacing will usually be noted on the plant or package of veggie seeds. If for some reason this information is missing go ahead and ask someone. Don’t make any assumptions on this because doing it incorrectly can be detrimental to the plants health. If you buy a plant that needs full sun, and then plant it in a shady area, it will not do well and it might not even survive.

After you get your new plants into the ground go ahead and give them a nice drink of water to help them root out and establish themselves. Some plants can also be fertilized at this time, again see what the plants container recommends or ask someone.

Homegrown Tomatoes

Some fresh homegrown tomatoes from our garden last season.
Some fresh homegrown tomatoes from our garden last season. | Source

Maintenance Gardening

Once you have put everything in the ground your work is not completely finished. Routine watering, feedings and weeding will still need to take place. Every plant has different needs so make sure you understand what tasks you will have to ensure your plants thrive.

All of this hard work will be well worth it when you garden starts to produce those vegetables or beautiful flowers. Knowing that you are the reason these plants produced is a gratifying feeling of self-worth and dare I say pride. Having a colorful bouquet of flowers in your kitchen or cooking up a fresh veggie for your favorite dish is a joy that everyone should experience, if they are up to the tasks required to plant a garden.


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