Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

The Basics of Planting and Growing a Vegetable Garden

January 18, 2019
Tomatoes
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Our Vegetable Gardening Guide for beginners will help you to plan and grow your tastiest vegetables ever. Find out how much food you need to grow to feed a family, top 10 vegetables for a beginner, and more tips.

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. (Bonus) Marigolds to discourage pests and add some color!

Radishes

Make it Easy! Use the Almanac Garden Planner!

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

In minutes, you can draw your garden plan 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, and if you like it, you can subscribe.

Any questions? Ask us in the comments below!

2019 Garden Guide

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

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

The Editors's picture

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...

The Editors's picture

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!

vegetable gardening

send me info about small vegetable garden.

Avocados

Can I grow avocados in my area? If yes, what variety and when to plant my first dwarf tree.

Can I grow avocados?

The Editors's picture

Hi Frances, You didn’t mention where you live. However, we can tell you that avocados grow in zones 9B through 11. This is fairly limited to parts of California and the Southern regions. See our plant hardiness zone map: http://www.almanac.com/content/plant-hardiness-zones

Avocados are subtropical trees native to southern Mexico, and they grow best in semihumid climates with moderate temperatures (60° to 80°F). You can, however, grow avocados in containers and move them inside during cold weather, but there are no dwarf varieties available, so the trees tend to get too big within about three years.

Beef Steak Tomatoes

Hi,
I like beef steak tomatos on my sandwich, but can't seem to find any at the store. For the past couple of years, I've gone to five different stores to buy a "beef steak" plant (even the Amish). Alas, all I seem to get are cherry tomatoes. Although those are fine. But, 5 PLANTS of them!!!! Sheesh, I wish they wouldn't get smushed when I put them in my slingshot. The question is, is there any way to tell the difference between tomato plants?
Just for the heck of it, last year I bought two packets of "beef steak" seeds and am starting to grow them inside and then do the transplant thing.
I've been gardening on and off for the past 40 years.
thanks,
Jeff

Sometimes plants get

The Editors's picture

Sometimes plants get mislabeled in green houses but 5 times seems like a lot. Starting your tomatoes from seed is a good idea. Be aware that there are many varieties of beef steak tomatoes with different names, from Big Boy to pink Hungarian Heart. Burpee now offers mailorder plants. Here are the beef steak offerings.

www.burpee.com/vegetables/tomatoes/beefsteak-tomatoes/?cid=PPC&gclid=CNnAhunhzMoCFcEWHwodiB0AIQ

gardening

Love your site want to learn more

Vegetable garden

Small vegetables, did string beans and tomatoes last summer did very well.With your help I could try others

Plenty of space just no knowledge

I am so lucky just to find your site. Sinds we moved to Sweden and have a large garden I am trying to create a vegetable garden. But I am like a chicken without its head running from left to right. So now I can start to plan with your help. Now I can start to plant some fruit en vegetables.

Beginners

My husband and I decided to plant our own vegetables and to look after them. The problem is that we have no experience about it, but we have a very strong will and desire to do it. Your article shows us some very important steps for beginning. Greetings

Beginner vegetable gardening

The Editors's picture

Rhonda, We are so happy to hear that this advice was useful to you and your husband. Many thanks for sharing these kind words! We appreciate your interest in The Old Farmer’s Almanac and our Web site. With all good wishes, your OFA editors

Hi, We have 3 raised garden

Hi,
We have 3 raised garden beds. This spring we added some manure to the beds and now our weeds are worse than ever. They have basically taken over the entire beds. Is there a way to rid the planting beds of all these weeds over the winter so they will be ready for planting again next spring?

Thank you.

The weeds have been around

The Editors's picture

The weeds have been around for centuries, so you are never going to completely erradicate them. You can minimize them, however, by MULCHing—now and when you plant.
See this page for more details: http://www.almanac.com/content/weed-control-techniques
And this one http://www.almanac.com/content/landscaping-low-maintenance
You might find more advice in these videos:
One... http://www.almanac.com/video/weed-killer-gardening-technique 
two...
http://www.almanac.com/video/how-get-rid-weeds

Hi, I did three box gardens

Hi,

I did three box gardens this year to see if I can grow enough vegetables like I used to on my parents farm. I can only use boxes because our landlord will not allow us to plant vegetables in the soil. The box with the okra is growing tall but no produce yet, the corn is growing up to my waist but nothing budding. I planted Roma Tomatoes in a box with banana peppers and I see the peppers are growing but the tomatoes are still small about the size of a golf ball. One was ripened red but started to rot and didn't grow any bigger.

Are the banana pepper plants keeping the tomatoes from growing larger? Do I need t transfer them to a different box by themselves?

Without seeing the plants or

Without seeing the plants or knowing your location, garden conditions, or when they were planted it’s impossible to know if the plants are at the correct stage or if there’s a problem, I’m afraid. I’d recommend you make sure you planted each at the correct time and that they’re spaced correctly and have been receiving enough water. You might like to try out our Garden Planner to see correct spacings for your plants and find the ideal sowing, planting and harvesting times for your location, based on climate data from your nearest weather station. You can try it for free for 30 days which is ample time to explore this issue: gardenplanner.almanac.com

hi. I was looking that

hi. I was looking that website and I read something about new kind of stawberries which Nj farms has.I think all organic.I could not find which farms have that do u know anything about it.thanks.

i grow a lots of herbs in my

i grow a lots of herbs in my garden but my strawberries are always tiny, could it mean they need a lot of fertiliser? My homemade compost is almost ready.
I have planted some shrubs: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (I live in the north of England) they have grow well so far, how can I help them bare good big fruits??? Thank you very much.

Is there mint near the

Is there mint near the strawberries? It is not compatible with them so it may be your problem.

I live in a tropical Island

I live in a tropical Island in indonesia called Bali. Here is very Hot and sunny, What Vegetables, fruit, or herbs should I plant? I also have a lot of animals like rats, rabbits, cats, bird running around my neighborhood. What do I do to get rid off all of them? there is also no nursery or seed plant seller here. I also can't buy internationaly because My country don't let them in and I'M 15 with no credit. Even if there is, I don't know (O already try to search) and only little type of plant they sell

Often you can save the seeds

Often you can save the seeds from the fruits and vegetables you buy. If they are locally grown even better because you know they will grow in your area. Just make sure they are not GMO genetically modified organisms You want organic or heirloom varieties of seed. Also check out to see if there are any seed trading groups around.

I was wondering about the

I was wondering about the miracle growables that have the seeds in the pods. Are they worth buying? If so, would you recommend placing them in a raised bed?

Hi Ashley, We recommend to

Hi Ashley,
We recommend to get good seed and start plants in a potting mix with added compost. If you start seeds indoors you can plant the transplants in the raised bed after your last spring frost date. Some seeds (peas, beans, radishes, squashes) you can sow directly in the raised bed.

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