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!

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Hello, I m working on making

Hello,
I m working on making plan of training tribal ppl on kitchen garden which can help them to increase their nutrient intake with food diversity so can suggest any site or links which have videos for training these ppl on how to develop a kitchen garden.

WOW ! You have some nerve

WOW ! You have some nerve thinking that you need to train Native Americans on what ,when and how to grow on our Native land ! Thank you again for saving us from ourselves ! do you want us to sign a treaty for this information ?

Maybe the person isn't

Maybe the person isn't referring to native Americans.

I have a large area in my

I have a large area in my backyard that I rototilled up and planted vegetables that I knew my family woudl eat. The issue is that I think the vegetables I chose may not have been planted properly next to ones that would help them thrive. HOw do you know where and which plants to plant to one another to have the healtiest garden? I planted teh following but would love for someone to tell me what to plant to what for next year.
Tomatoes, Corn, Yellow Squash, Zuchhini, Green Beans, Orka, Green, Red Peppers, Jalapenio peppers strawberries and raspberries.
SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME~!

Hello frustrated

Hello frustrated grower, 
When an entire garden doesn't thrive, the reasons are usually related to a) sunlight.  Most veggies need a LOT of sun—6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight and b)  soil preparation. Soil must be nutrient-rich most of us have to supplement with plenty of organic matter/compost, c) watering, of course!
However, you are correct in saying that some plants grow better next to each other.  It's called "Companion Planting" and we do practice it.  Here are two beginner articles on this top which you may find useful:
http://www.almanac.com/content...
http://www.almanac.com/content...
Finally, to plant the veggies you want, we would suggest you try out our online Garden Planner for free. You can do a search for gardens in your area and find gardens that match your interests, too.  See:
gardenplanner.almanac.com
We hope this gets you started!  Gardening is a never-ending learning process—for us, too!

Good for you for trying to

Good for you for trying to grow veggies. I so firmly believe that home-grown, organic produce is best for me and my family.

I have not been a totally successful gardener myself. I've looked at various ideas and ways to change my garden into something truly fruitful and productive. I recently stumbled upon this information, which I'm going to try as soon as the snow melts. It has some great reviews. Check it out:
https://www.youtube.com/edit?o...

To the frustrated

To the frustrated gardener:
green beans and corn grow well together because beans release nitrogen into the soil and corn is a high nitrogen feeder. Also if you plant pole beans, they will climb the corn! Corn and tomatoes don't like each other. Tomatoes and peppers are safe together but carrots will increase flavor in peppers.

Is it safe to use a weed

Is it safe to use a weed killer in my garden? The weeds are just terrible this year and I can't keep up with them. I pull them out and they're back in a few days.Some weed killers state they are safe in vegetable gardens. Are they really?

Weeds need to be raked when

Weeds need to be raked when young; at this point, pulling weeds can be very difficult indeed and perhaps not worthwhile. You can try pouring boiling water or vinegar on weeds if you're seeking a homemade recipes. Ask your local cooperative extension about safe herbicides in your state.
Deterring weeds is mostly about soil preparation--all before you even plant the garden. At this point, we would suggest that you use an organic mulch to smother the weeds. Apply 3 to 4 inches deep around the base of veggie plants (not on the base). Materials are manures, bark chips, leaves, and even newspapers (shredded or in layers). Water plants right at their base, not on the leaves nor mulch.

Hi, We started a raised bed

Hi,
We started a raised bed for the first time. I plant some eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, spinach, corn, some beans. But I started all of them in mid may(may 15). We are in St.Louis now. Can I get the harvest within october or not?

And my other suggestion is I planted some ridge guard and bitter guard. The spacing for them is just similar to Pumpkins or not? I did same as the pumpkins. I want to make it better for the next spring.

Thanks.

Hi Padmini, You will find

Hi Padmini,
You will find that some of your vegetables will mature before others during the summer months and you may want to plant more for a second crop.
Ridge gourd (or luffa) can be planted in hills (3 seeds to a hill) about 6 feet apart. Use a trellis for the vines to grow up.

Ok, Thanks for the reply. I

Ok, Thanks for the reply.

I am so exited as this is my first vegetable garden. You are very helpful to the starters like me.

I have planted tomatoes and

I have planted tomatoes and green beans in pots. The tomatoe plants seem to begrowing very slow. I have used plant food. I water every morning and night. They get full sun.

Hi Tammy, Make sure the pots

Hi Tammy,
Make sure the pots are big enough for the tomatoes roots. Cool weather slows growth so hopefully with the warmer temperatures your plants will thrive.

Very helpful

Very helpful

I'm new to gardening and have

I'm new to gardening and have planted just three tomatoes, two peppers, six squash. Then I decided to plant some sprouted potatoes I had between the tomatoes. Now I read that tomatoes and potatoes shouldn't be planted together. Should I pull up the potatoes?

It is a risk for

It is a risk for disease/pests that attack both plants, but gardeners have done it before, as the plants require similar conditions. If the potatoes haven't started rooting, you might want to look for another spot, even a large container. But if they've developed roots/leaves, you might want to leave them. Make sure, though, that there is plenty of space between the potatoes and tomatoes; otherwise, you may disturb the tomato plant's roots when you harvest the potatoes underground.

Hello . I am wanting to start

Hello . I am wanting to start a raised garden. I have these seedling ready to go out but idk how to arrange them or what size gardeb I need ? 2 pumpkin plants , pack of corn seeds , pack of carrot seeds , lots of cucumber plants , lots of watermelon plants and some beans germenating indoors . can you please help me ? Ive tried on online planners to help me with creating a plan but nothing works on my cell :/

how can i start a vegetable

how can i start a vegetable plantation if my place is suffering from drought '//where should i get water to watered the plants? is there other plants that can survive without water

We know many folks have

We know many folks have drought conditions. The best solution is to dig in buckets of organic matter such as well-rotted manure. Better yet, garden in raised beds or plant in containers so that you can add your soil mixed with compost. Carrots, beetroot, parsnips and other root crops are probably the most drought tolerant. Avoid eafy vegetables and flowering vegetables. See more tips on a water-wise garden: http://www.almanac.com/content...

Very helpful post. I love the

Very helpful post.
I love the chart that helps determine when to plant certain seeds. Also, it never crossed my mind to consider the direction of the sun when deciding where to set up my veggie patch. Very handy tip with the Marigolds - I've got a couple of rabbits myself and they always seem to be hungry... Hopefully a couple of flowers will deter them!
Article is really well laid out and easy to follow. Many thanks for the tips!

This information has been

This information has been very helpful and your site is very simple and organised, which has really helped me to understand all your quality information. I am hoping to begin my first vegetable garden this week in my new house and your site has given me all the knowledge I feel I need to do so. However I do have a question, if I was to have a dog would I have to do anything different or should it be okay with the dog and vegetable patch?

Hi . wanting to start a

Hi . wanting to start a raised bed . I have cucumber plants (a lot! I didn't think every seed would make it but they did n I have like 25 plants ), watermelon plants ( same as cumcumbers ) , 2 big pumpkins plants , as well as green beans , yellow beans and carrots . im wanting to build raised beds . suggestions what size I should build? How I should set it up ? Should I make more then one ? Maybe a few different 4x4 beds to separate everything individually ? Ticks I thought the planning would be the easy part but it seems the growing them will be much easier then deciding where to put them :p

OK I'm going to start off by

OK I'm going to start off by saying I am BRAND NEW to this. We are a family of seven trying to eat healthy. I have RA so my husband made me a raised bed. I love it! It's 8 foot by 4 foot and about 12-14 inches deep, & about waist high off the ground. I know we need to plant very small amounts of things. Any suggestions on what to plant that won't take over the entire bed?

Congrats! Almost every

Congrats! Almost every vegetable can be grown in a raised bed so you just want to consider what you enjoy eating and perhaps start with some easy vegetables. See this article on which veggies are good for beginners: http://www.almanac.com/vegetab...
To plan your garden with the right spacing , try our online Garden Planner for free here: 
http://gardenplanner.almanac.com/
It will tell you the planting dates for your area, too. Good luck!

What's the difference between

What's the difference between a raised bed and an elevated bed (like a table w/ a trough) in terms of what you can grow and watering/maintenance?

A raised bed is placed

A raised bed is placed directly on the ground and holds moisture and warmth better than an elevated bed, plus it benefits from the action of worms and other soil fauna which help to keep the soil light and fertile. It can potentially also offer more root depth, depending on how high it is built and if you're growing directly onto the soil (rather than on a patio, say).
An elevated bed on stilts is great for people with limited mobility, and are often built to enable a wheelchair to get underneath for easy access. They will need more watering than a raised bed, and plants may need some protection in colder weather. Often you are limited to growing shallow-rooted crops but some raised beds are built in a V shape, so that deep-rooted vegetables such as carrots and parsnips can be grown in the centre while shallower-rooted ones can be grown round the edges. One other thing to consider is the height of the vegetables you want to grow--tall or climbing plants such as cucumbers and tomatoes may be out of reach!
 

Hi, thank you for the

Hi, thank you for the wonderful information on this site! My husband and I have been trying to start our first vegetable and herb and some Fruit garden this year. Therefore, we planted numerous seeds in small pots and kept out of the frost until after our last frost date for our area - however, it has now been approximately 1 month and we still have very few things that have started to sprout. I actually think I can count on 1 hand the number of seedlings that have sprouted from the possible 50 or more seedling pots we planted. I think we likely were not as diligent on maintaining the temperature and water for these in the earliest days - but I would like to know how much longer I should try to nurse these seeds before I decide to say its time to throw it away and start over - or with some already developed plants from a local nursery. We planted corn, tomatoes, carrots (planted some in an old spaghetti glass jar so our children could hopefully watch them grow & some in the seedling pots -- the ones in the jar are the only carrots that have sprouted), various beans and peas (have had a couple of purple hull peas and green peas sprout), cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, etc. and herbs such as: dill, lavender (have had a couple of these sprout), thyme (have had a couple of these sprout), oregano, rosemary, spearmint etc.
Any help/suggestions are GREATLY appreciated!!
We are not opposed to building a more formal green house inside our garage to start seeds in with grow lights - but figure that is probably something we would not need until later in the year... (??)
THANKS!!

Hi Sarah, It is sometimes

Hi Sarah,

It is sometimes tricky to start seeds indoors. You need warmth, plenty of light and the right amount of humidity. Go to our vegetable/herb pages and read about the specific veggies and herbs that you started from seed.
www.almanac.com/plants/type/ve...
www.almanac.com/plants/type/herb

A few of the vegetables that you started indoors are better seeded directly in the garden. Peas, beans and corn germinate quickly outdoors. Peas can be planted earlier than beans and corn. Carrots usually also do better if planted directly in the garden (they don't transplant very well).
Good luck!

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