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Would you love to grow your own yummy, organic food for your family? Of course, you would! By following these easy steps you can learn how to start a vegetable garden that will be easy to care for and provide your family with lots of tasty food.
Growing a vegetable garden doesn’t have to be complicated. I started my first vegetable garden in my grandmother’s backyard when I was just a child.
What can I say, I was bitten by the gardening bug and it continues to be my favourite hobby.
To me, it’s a beautiful place to spend time working, relaxing, and praying while growing amazing quality food for my family at the lowest price possible.
Are you ready to get started on your first garden?
How To Start A Vegetable Garden
1. Pick A Sunny Location
When you are trying to decide where to start a vegetable garden in your yard take some time to really look around.
You will want to pick an area of your yard that gets a lot of sunlight. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to grow well.
If you have an area of your yard that gets full sun all day then that is the best place to start a garden! The more sunlight your plants have the faster and better they will grow.
2. Safe Area
After you have found a nice sunny area of your yard to start a garden you’ll want to make sure that it is also a safe place to garden.
You don’t want to plant there if that place is prone to flooding when it rains or if it gets strong winds and has no natural windbreaks like shrubs, trees, or buildings to protect the plants from strong winds.
3. Know Your Frost Dates
Before you decide to start your garden make sure you know what your first and last frost dates are.
This is often overlooked when you are new to gardening but they are so important!
In the spring you shouldn’t plant heat-loving plants like tomatoes, and peppers outside until after your last frost date.
In the late summer, you need to make sure your planting crops that will mature before your first frost in the fall, or are cold tolerant plants like spinach.
4. Start Small
It’s so tempting when starting your first garden to make it huge, but it’s often a mistake!
Growing a vegetable garden is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work.
You want your first vegetable garden to be a success and not a pile of weeds that leave you feeling discouraged.
So how big should your first vegetable garden be?
Well, it depends on how much room you have and how many people are in your family.
A good size vegetable garden for a beginner is about 16×10 feet. A garden about this size will give an average family of 4 lots of food during the summer, with some extra for freezing and canning.
5. Pick Easy To Grow Vegetables
For your first garden, it’s important to pick vegetables that your family likes to eat and are easy to grow.
After all, you are working hard to start a garden, you want to grow food that you are looking forward to eating!
It’s best to check with local garden centers to see what vegetables grow well in your area but these are some popular and easy to grow plants to try.
6. Plan Your Garden
Now the real fun begins! Once you know where you are going to start your garden and what you are going to grow there it’s time to draw out your plan.
You might think that this is silly, but it’s actually very helpful.
Take some paper and draw out your garden. Then divide the garden into beds, leaving enough room between them for comfortable pathways.
Plant to grow your tallest plants along the northern edges of the garden so that they don’t shade the shorter ones.
Instead of using traditional rows, try planting with the square foot gardening method or a similar intensive gardening method.
This will help you grow so much more food in a small space.
7. Prepare The Soil
Now that you have everything all planned it’s time to start preparing your garden soil!
You have 2 basic methods to choose from here.
No Dig Gardening
You can use a no dig method which is my favourite way to garden.
This can be done by laying newspaper or cardboard down over your garden area and then adding a thick layer of compost on top of it to start your garden.
The Back to Eden gardening method is my favourite to use.
Learn all about starting a Back to Eden garden.
The other common choice when starting a vegetable garden is to simply dig or till the soil.
If you decide to use this method make sure the soil in your garden area is dry before working it. Working wet soil compacts it and that is harder for your plants to grow in.
Mark out the edges of your garden with stakes and string and till the soil with your tiller. If you are starting a garden over sod you will have to till the garden a few times.
After the first tilling rake the sod clumps out and then till the garden again.
Once you have the soil nice and lose add a few inches of compost or well-rotted manure and till it one more time.
Hand Dig A Garden
If you don’t have access to a tiller you can also hand dig your vegetable garden.
This is how I started my first garden when I was just a kid and starting a garden in my grandma’s backyard.
It was a lot of work but so worth it that I tripped my garden size the next year.
After marking out your garden, use a spade to cut out one square of grass at a time. Shake off any soil and add the grass clumps to your compost pile.
After the sod has been removed use your shovel to turn over the remaining soil. Topping it with a few inches of good quality compost. Finish the garden by raking the surface smooth.
8. Plant The Garden
Now you’re ready to start planting your garden!
For vegetables that you are starting by seed follow the spacing instructions on the seed package. Then firm the soil down over them and keep the planted area moist (but not soggy) until the plants are established.
If your planting with seedlings you’ve started yourself or bought at a nursery remember to harden off the plants before planting them into your garden.
9. Mulch Your Garden
Often we think of mulch in the garden only for flower beds but it just isn’t true.
Mulching your vegetable garden will save you so much work. It helps to suppress weeds, keeps your plant’s cleaner when it rains because dirt doesn’t splash up on to them and holds moisture in the soil.
10. Watering Your Garden
One of the most important parts of caring for your vegetable garden is watering.
On average a vegetable garden needs 1 inch of water each week. If you have been getting enough rain then you won’t need to worry about watering your garden.
Using a rain gage like this one is in your garden is a perfect way to know just how much rain you’ve been getting each week.
On the other hand, if you are not getting enough rain, in a drought, or having extremely hot weather you’ll need to water your garden.
It’s better to water your garden once a week deeply then it is to water lightly but more often. This encourages the plant’s roots to grow deeper into the soil to reach the more moist soil.
You see starting your first vegetable garden isn’t so hard, is it?
Just follow the steps of selecting the best area of your yard, planning out what you will grow for the right time of year, and prepare your planting area.
With these simple steps, you’ll be enjoying growing your own organic food for your family that is fresher and cheaper than anything you can buy in the store or farmers market.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.