Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

The Basics of Planting and Growing a Vegetable Garden

Tomatoes
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Whether you’re a beginner with a single pot or an old hand planting an entire plot, our Vegetable Gardening Guide will help you to plan and grow your tastiest vegetables ever. 

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Why garden, you ask? If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh vegetables (lots of people haven’t!), you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant textures. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can!

In this guide, we’ll highlight the basics of vegetable gardening and planning: how to pick the right site for your garden, how to create the right size garden, and how to select which vegetables to grow. 

Pick the Right Location 

Picking a good location for your garden is absolutely key. A sub-par location can result in sub-par veggies! Here are a few tips for choosing a good site:

  1. Plant in a sunny location. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The more sunlight they receive, the greater the harvest, the bigger the veggies, and the better the taste.
  2. Plant in good soil. Plants’ roots penetrate soft soil more easily, so you need nice loamy soil. Enriching your soil with compost provides needed nutrients. Proper drainage will ensure that water neither collects on top nor drains away too quickly.
  3. Plant in a stable environment. You don’t want to plant in a place that’s prone to flooding during heavy rains, or in a place that tends to dry out a lot. You also don’t want to plant somewhere where strong winds could knock over your young plants or keep pollinators from doing their job. Plant in a location that would make Goldilocks proud.

Lettuce varieties

Choosing a Plot Size: Start Small!

Remember: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a big one!

One of the most common errors that beginners make is planting too much too soon—way more than anybody could ever eat or want! Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan your garden with care. Start small.

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16x10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, based on the vegetables suggested further down this page, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little leftover for canning and freezing (or giving away to jealous neighbors).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season include beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, or you can simply make the rows shorter.)

cucumbers

How to Grow the Best Vegetables

In addition to choosing the right location, here are a few tips that will help you grow your best veggies yet.

  1. Space your crops properly. For example, corn needs a lot of space and can overshadow shorter vegetables. Plants set too close together compete for sunlight, water, and nutrition and fail to mature. Pay attention to the spacing guidance on seed packets and plant tabs.
  2. Use high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants, but if seeds don’t germinate, your money—and time—are wasted. A few extra cents spent in spring for that year’s seeds will pay off in higher yields at harvesttime. See a list of of mail-order seed catalogs here.
  3. Water properly. Watering your plants the correct amount—neither too much nor too little—will give them the best chance at producing well-formed, mature vegetables. Learn more about watering vegetables.
  4. Plant and harvest at the right time, not too early or too late. Every vegetable has its own planting dates so be sure to check the seed packet. See the Almanac’s Best Planting Dates—a gardening calendar customized to your local frost dates.

Suggested Plants for a Beginner’s Vegetable Garden

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants that are relatively easy to grow. It would be wise to contact your local Cooperative Extension Service to find out what plants grow best in your area, and when the best time for planting them is. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

Top Ten Vegetables
(Tip: Click on a veggie’s name to see its detailed Growing Guide.)

  1. Tomatoes—5 plants, staked
  2. Zucchini squash—4 plants
  3. Peppers—6 plants
  4. Cabbage
  5. Bush beans
  6. Lettuce
  7. Beets
  8. Carrots
  9. Chard
  10. Radishes
  11. Marigolds to discourage pests (and add some color!)

Radishes

Make it Easy! Use the Free Garden Planner!

Create a smarter, more productive garden. Use the online Almanac Garden Planner—now the #1 Garden Planner on the planet. Go here: http://gardenplanner.almanac.com/

In minutes, you can draw your garden on your computer. We’ve done all the research for you!

The Garden Planner automatically pulls in the frost dates for your location!  Also, it shows you how many plants fit in your space so you don’t waste seed or crowd your plants!

gp-plan_0_full_width.png

Plus, you’ll see many free garden plans for inspiration, as well as growing guides for more than 250 vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers.

Try the Almanac Garden Planner for free here. You’ll have ample time to plan your first garden. If you like it, you can subscribe.

Any questions? Ask us in the comments below!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

I live in Ecuador, can this Garden Planner understand my area?

Good day all,
This Garden Planner sounds wonderful and would like to utilize it but moved down from a wonderful growing area in Roswell, GA to the high Andes Mountains with an arid elevation of 8,200. I learned that I needed to import Top Soil(compost) and remove the clay soil that I have in order to grow my heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn etc.I was wondering if this Garden Planner has any adjustments to allow me to adjust to a reverse growing season( plus I can't grow Blueberries, as there is no winter here :( )
It the Garden Planner doesn't does anyone know of a website that they can direct me to on growing in this type of climate?
Thank you for reading this.

garden planner is global

Yes, our garden planner works anywhere! The caveats to this is that we have detailed weather information/climate data for the US, Canada, all of Europe, Australia and South Africa. For other countries, once a user has set their location, we advise them to check and adjust their frost dates to make sure that the system’s calculated planting calendar will be as accurate as possible.

Sweet potatos

When is the right time to plant sweet potato's? Also Are they done from seed?

Sweet Potatoes

Check out our Planting Calendar to see when the best time to start sweet potatoes in your area is, then read our Sweet Potato Growing Guide for information on planting, growing, and harvesting sweet potatoes! Generally, they are started from “slips,” which are sprouts grown from mature sweet potatoes. These can be purchased at nurseries or grown at home from an existing sweet potato. See our Growing Guide for more info.

Joining club

I enjoyed how to build a trellis, everytime I click join is does not go to the site.

Best vegetables to grow together

We planted our first garden last year and it was a real learning experience for us. We would like to know what vegetables to plant together for watering purposes. We were told that some vegetables require more water and others less, so we wanted to plant those that used more water together to make it easier when watering. Our garden includes tomato, potato, squash, zucchini, okra, radish, onion, jalepeno, cucumber, corn, bell peppers and green beans. We appreciate any help you can give us.

Hatching and raising

Can you hatch eggs you buy at the store

Eggs

No, chicken eggs bought from the grocery store have not been fertilized and are therefore non-viable.

what do I need to prevent my

what do I need to prevent my tomatoes destroyed. The fruit whether matured or not matured become gradually brown and fall thereafter. I tried to spray it with insecticide but still not contained. what would be the cause of this problem and the remedy needed to contain this problem. Thank you and God bless.

brown, drying tomatoes

It sounds like blossom end rot, the result of unsuitable soil conditions. See this page for more details and pictures: https://www.almanac.com/pest/blossom-end-rot

But it could be something else, too. See the pictures here and notes on avoiding the problems: https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/tomato-diseases-an...

In any case, you would be wise to make sure that your soil will support tomatoes (or whatever you grow): not every plant grows everywhere/in every soil. See here for advice on soil preparation: https://www.almanac.com/content/preparing-soil-planting

We hope this helps!

 

Brown leaves

My tomato plants were in the rain recently and got drenched. Now the leaves are turning brown. The leave underneath are green. Some tomatoes have grown large. Why brown leaves?

leaf damage

Check the photos on this page; if you find a match, you have found the problem: https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/tomato-diseases-an...

See advice in the article and search this web site for specific advice. For example, if your problem is early blight, see here https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening-blog/avoid-blight-right-tomato

Take the time to read this page, too—all about growing tomatoes: https://www.almanac.com/plant/tomatoes

 

Brown leaves

My tomato plants were in the rain recently and got drenched. Now the leaves are turning brown. The leave underneath are green. Some tomatoes have grown large. Why brown leaves?

nice article

I just read the article although I'm not really a beginner gardener. I personally always advise people to start out in pots as this gives fewer problems and more control. Of course, it's always good to have a patch of soil that can be used to grow vegetables. I do love the explanation and the plants you mention in the list are the same as I would advise. Maybe another article on starting with square foot gardening would be nice as well. Or maybe you already made it. Really nice job. Keep up the good work.

Square Foot Gardening

Thank you for the nice comments! We do in fact have an article on square foot gardening, which is great for beginners!

Amazing List

Hi Excellent list you have going here!

My 1st Veggie Garden

I like the advice here. It also seems very sensible like starting small. I've got a good small back garden to begin with, but its a bit damp. Will this be a problem, and what is the best vegetable to start with for a damp garden? Thanks guys

damp garden

“Damp” can mean a lot of things. If the space is perpetually damp because it does not get any sun just about any time, vegetables will not thrive there. Most vegetables need at least 6, usually more hours of sun per day. If it’s damp because water does not drain from it, you’re probably out of luck again. If you have damp ground but sunlight, grow things in containers (all kinds of containers), with holes, which will enable you to control the moisture level. See here for all kinds of ideas on containers: https://www.almanac.com/content/container-gardening-vegetables and click through to individual vegetables above for more information.

damp

If you have some damp ground to work with, and would like to keep your garden there for a while, you could dig some ditches for the moisture to go into and heap that dirt in between them. I personally do this with my garden after I till it up. My rows are heaped from what I use as walkways and it keeps my plants from getting flooded. Also, willow trees suck up alot of water, but I don't know if they affect any plants like cedar trees do. Anyway, if there's a will there's a way to do it.....good luck.

Gardening

Being a gardener is not easy, especially when you are new to it. But you have showed some good gardening tips for daily life dose. there are other gardening tips that I have seen.

Great Tips!

Thank you for reminding me that planting marigolds around my veggies will deter the rabbits! I had completely forgotten about that!

Tomatoes

I rally would love to know how to grow them in the tilled ground

Growing tomatoes

Hi Heather, Tomatoes are certainly one of the garden delights that is most different and delicious versus grocery store types. See our guide on how to grow tomatoes. Just click here: www.almanac.com/plant/tomatoes

New

The information here is appreciated and very insightful. I'm relatively new to gardening and my daughter and I eat organic food. We plan to start a garden this year and the previous owners of our house maintained a garden for years. (The garlic still grows). My question is I don't know if he used organic practices or harmful chemical pesticides , if he utilized the ladder, would the soil contaminate our organic seeds and organic efforts? Thank you!

organic or not?

Thanks for your appreciation of this page, Jay! Our best idea is to have a soil test, and have it done by the folks at your local coop extension. Click here and select your state for the service nearest you: http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services Explain the situation and they will help you to prepare and submit a proper sample. Folks at the extension are master gardeners and extremely knowledgeable!

growing veggies in pots or plant boxes

Hi there! You have shared good information and I appreciate it. I really love gardening, but I only grow flowering plants in our small yard. They are all in pots as our yard is all pavement/concrete. I'd like to plant veggies in boxes. Is it possible? What do you suggest is the best and easiest to grow? I hope you can give me tips on caring for them as well. Thanks so much!

container veggies

Hello! It is definitely possible to plant vegetables in window boxes, refurbished wooden boxes, and other containers. You might like the following article that talks about this and offers vegetable suggestions: http://www.almanac.com/content/container-gardening-vegetables
Here’s a video that talks about planting leaf lettuces in containers: http://www.almanac.com/video/urban-gardening-growing-lettuce-salad-leave...
Although smaller vegetables like lettuce and radishes do well in window boxes and hanging baskets, I’ve even seen some of the determinate tomatoes grown in them (such as certain cherry tomatoes), although they may need staking, or they can droop over the edge. There are also miniature varieties of certain vegetables, such as the small globular carrot types, that are ideal for containers. Hope this helps!

 

School Garden!!

Hi there.

I am doing a project for my science class, and I need to know how big a school garden should be. This school is HUGE and would have a lot of children working in it. Is there a recommended size? Thank you.

recover-seeds

I was so happy as for beginner veg.planting -eggplant as it grew,and
reward of multiple harwest .I think it was dark maroon colour-variety quite big
size ..on the sad note everithing come to end - died but some dried eggplant
still remain the rest dried out..
q: how can seeds be extracted - its tiny.tiny black seeds
how to replant,germination.atc..any help appreciated

q:

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