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

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saving seeds

Nice done for a beginner!  You can save the seeds of an eggplant.  Once it’s overripe and withered (sounds like now!), slice open the eggplant and then separate the flesh from the seeds. Put the seeds in a bowl of water and wash the pulp away. Strain the seeds, pat them dry,  and spread them out on a tray to dry not more than two seeds thick.  Let them dry 2 to 4 weeks. When they are completely dry, you can store in a bag in a cool place free from insects and critters.

Looking for a person to plant a vegetable garden at my house

Time poor, us there anyone available to start grow a vegy garden for me. Thanks

Hi..This is a very

Hi..This is a very informative, it really helps me as a beginner on how to grow veggies on my garden. Thank you so much for this article.

Planting vegetables

Interested in planting

Vegetables die suddenly

I am growing zucchini and pole beans for the first time. It is a new bed (formally grass). I added organic soil, organic vegetable food and compost, the site gets about 6 hours of sun a day.
Zucchini -had 2 plants. First one died in mid-July - looked healthy at 1PM sagging at 4PM and dead the next day. Same pattern for the second plant but 2 weeks later.
Pole beans - same pattern as above but happened in August. Prior to that I had beans.

Thanks for any insight!

plant troubles

Hmm. How was the watering – not over or under? Any signs of insects, diseases, or animals? Mottled or yellowing leaves? Any whitish areas? For such a rapid decline on the zucchini, it sounds like perhaps something was attacking the roots - such as a virus, fungal, or bacterial disease, or an insect or animal. For zucchini, check for squash vine borer (holes at the base of the plant, and sawdust-like material beside it). Check for tunnels around the root area, and look at the roots of your gone-by plants for clues. Beans and zucchini don’t commonly share diseases, being in different families, but they do share some wilts and viruses. Sclerotinia (white mold) can be a problem, as can Fusarium.

vegetable gardening

i am looking for some input with my vegetable garden. my garden is very healthy and growing but don't seem to produce many vegetables. is there a reason why this is happening. i planted eggplant, butternut, zucinni and red peppers but after all he hard work and a luscious garden there is hardly any vegetables. please help!

Vegetables Not Producing

Hi Kay, It’s hard to determine exactly what’s happening in your garden without more information. I would recommend looking at our growing guides for each of your vegetables (you can find them here), and seeing if the tips on those pages can help. Good luck!

which vegatable marry well with others

hello
I seem to have problem placing my veggies and wondering if you can help me/

I planted celery and next to them I planted Italian roma tomatoes - those barely grew then I planted my cherry tomato they went crazy high next to them peppers and eggplant(those did not do so good) then cucumber with cauliflower and broccoli and then finally zucchini. I guess I was wondering if there is place I can find what veggies should be planted with what
thanks

what to plant where

Hi, Johanne, We can hear your disappointment. But there is hope—in fact, there is a solution——no, several!
There are probably more reasons than locale in the garden for why some plants thrived and some did not. One of the main reasons in any garden has to do with soil, esp pH—the acidity or alkalinity of it. See here for some guidance on particular plant needs and how to amend your soil to satisfy them: http://www.almanac.com/content/ph-preferences

Apart for needs, some plants just do not get along; they are not companions in the garden. Here is some guidance on that: http://www.almanac.com/content/companion-planting-chart-vegetables

Slightly different but similar is plant rotation (something to consider as you plan next year’s garden). See how to rotate vegetables here: http://www.almanac.com/video/how-rotate-your-vegetable-crops

Finally, for a better chance of success, with lots of reliable tips and guidance through the season, you should take a look at our Garden Planner program/app: http://www.almanac.com/content/online-garden-planner-old-farmers-almanac

You can preview if for 7 days. Read some of the reviews. People use it around the world—but it’s designed to be local to your zip code, so it’s quite effective. Give it a look and maybe a try.

Thanks for writing. Let us know how this goes moving forward.

Growing in the house

Could you give tips in growing veggies in the house or apartment. I bought small apartment size green house . It has 4 shelves and cover in plastic . I picked it up at Ocean State Job Lot store in my area. I live in the North East in the South side of Massachusetts 23 miles from Boston and 20 miles from Plymouth The start of Cape Cod. I miss not being able to grow veggies out side so I am trying to figure out how to do it in my house saw this mini green house for apartment . Please I need tips so I don't mess this up. Like to be able to grow all winter to would be nice.

indoor greenhouse

Hi, Deborah, We are not familiar with the particular product, but if you are experienced in growing vegetables outdoors, you know that they need sunlight. A lot of it. Unless this greenhouse comes with a suitable lamp (you would need to research the proper type), it is not clear or known to us how you would be able to grow veggies indoors. Perhaps the packaging provides instructions? If you have a south-facing porch that gets full sunlight for 6 to 8 hours per day, you might have some success with this (and without it). Window light is probably not adequate. Love the idea, but don’t completely get the concept as described. Sorry we can not be of more help.

Could you please advise me of

Could you please advise me of the minimum depth a container should be in order to give tomatoes plenty of root room? Thank you so much...

container depth for tomatoes

The recommended depth or volume of a container will depend on the variety of tomato–dwarf types would not require as much room as, say, a beefsteak indeterminate variety. But in general, allow for about 18 to 24 inches deep. I’ve grown tomatoes in a self-watering planter that was about 12” deep and 3 feet wide. Although it was a bit shallow, the plant appeared to do fine. A 5-gallon container is usually good. For container gardening, it is best to choose a determinate type of tomato, so that it doesn’t get too huge and sprawling. Dwarf/patio types are also good choices.

squash

why does my squash bloom and not make squash.

squash blossoms but no fruit

It’s probably a pollination issue. For fruit to set, pollen must be transferred from the male to the female bloom. If you don’t have enough bees or it’s been rainy weather and difficult conditions for the bees to pollinate, you won’t have squash.

Hi.....wondering about the

Hi.....wondering about the use of antibiotics in horses do these degrade or remain in well rotted horse manure? Thanks

The antiobiotics should break

The antibiotics should break down during the composting process. You can use the well rotted horse manure.

Thanks.

Wonderful information! I'm a first-year gardener and starting very small. Enjoying all the tips and simplified processes you have here :) Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

One question I have is about my soil...... I am planting lettuce, tomatoes, and basil in the same beds and am wondering what I need to do to my dirt besides till it really well? I have some basic manure, but no compost...... Is this adequate?

If you have some aged manure

If you have some aged manure mix it into the soil. After planting your seeds and seedlings you can sidedress with compost as the plants start to grow to add more nutrients to the soil. See our growing guides for different vegetables at www.almanac.com/plants.

First time gardner

Thanks for all the helpful tips! This will be my first year to have a garden, and I am trying to teach my young children as well! We need all the help we can get!

Grow your on vegetables

I need help by giving my garden a beautiful name

How about "Sally"?

How about "Sally"?

Appreciated the guodelines

It is very interesting to read from your guidelines. I am planning to make a bigger garden for business, Please send me more information for surface gardening in the tropics.

I used your gardening software and planned everything. Video

Hello,

As a first time gardener, your software helped a lot, thank you very much for your help. Here is a video with our gardening story, how we started gardening knowing absolutely nothing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Bc8QHT-PA

Garden Planning Video

Sol, This is a wonderful video showcasing your good work and the Garden Planner! Many thanks. Very impressive We’d love to share with the entire Almanac community! Best wishes for a bountiful harvest this year, your Old Farmer’s Almanac editors

Rows

Beginner here looking to help a community program. How far apart should I make my rows from one another? Will my tiller make the row or should I do that with a hoe? Thank for the help. Great page!

tilling

Hi, Jon, Tilling is usually done before planting and after harvesting. See here for some specific plants/situations: http://www.almanac.com/search/site/tilling

You don’t want to till when plants are growing as you might tear up the roots. Use a hoe to make rows and, depending on the plant, to gently cultivate the soil around them (loosen the soil) to discourage weeds. Or you can mulch around the plants to discourage weeds and never hoe, thereby not risk tearing a root.

As for distance between plants, note the guidance on your seed packet/s or plant sticks. In general, you want to be able to walk—but not stride—between the rows to maintain the plants and eventually harvest. Also, if you crowd plants, you risk reducing your harvest. Plants need to have space to grow. For more in space, search for/click on specific plants here or, again, check the instructions that come with the seeds or seedlings.

Hope you have a great year!

Hi! I am very new to

Hi! I am very new to vegetable gardening, and want to do it right.
Here are a few questions I have, if you don't mind taking the time to answer.
What is the benefit of raised gardening? Is it something I should do?
What do I do so that my plants don't get eaten by the wildlife in our area? (Deer, raccoon, skunks, groundhogs...)
How do I keep my plants to grow straight and high?
Thank you!

doing it right...

Hi, Susan, The first thing you have to get about gardening is that every season, every situation is different. It is a constant learning experience, so “do it right” or do it wrong, just do.

As for raised beds, you can read more here (http://www.almanac.com/content/garden-raised-beds-and-small-plots) and here (http://www.almanac.com/content/raised-garden-beds-how-build). Ultimately, it can be a personal preference as well as circumstances (space available, etc.).

The animals you mention can be a hazard almost anywhere. High fences and, when possible, underground barriers can be deterents. Here is some advice re rabbits: http://www.almanac.com/content/rabbits Search this web site using individual animal words for more.

About growing stright and high… well, that depends on more things than we can mention: it’s the whole ball of wax: soil, sun, water, fertillizer, TLC. For more information on specific plants, searth this site for specific names or go to Almanac.com/Gardening and find a lot at once.

Good luck!

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