Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

The Basics of Planting and Growing a Vegetable Garden

September 6, 2019
Tomatoes
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Ready to jump into gardening? 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; are more susceptible to disease and pests; 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 state’s 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 Planning 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!

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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!

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Reader Comments

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I have looked at the best

I have looked at the best planting dates for my region and evidently I am late in my planting. I have the plants not seeds. Can I still plant and grow? When do I plant?

Hi I have just made a veggie

Hi I have just made a veggie garden I planted seeds in spots I had to dig up the soil and put it into planting boxes and re plant my other plants now all the seedlings are starting to come through everywhere is it bad having a cramped garden?

I have a question...Should I

I have a question...Should I soak all my seeds in water overnight before planting them in the garden or just certain ones? I have a variety of seeds I'm planning to direct sow both vegetables and herbs had read somewhere that I should soak them. Just wanting an "experts"advice. Thanks.

I just planted my first

I just planted my first garden using wood pallets, The bottoms and sides are covered with landscaping fabric. Don't know if the roots will go deep enough, but really wanted to try this as it is much easier than building raised beds. I put my tomato and pepper plants in livestock water tanks. We shall see........

horse manure... fresh or

horse manure... fresh or frozen lol.
I am going to rototill some fresh stuff into the whole garden except where the potatoes will be. good or bad idea.
thank you ahead of time.

Bad. Do not apply fresh

Bad. Do not apply fresh manure to beds in the growing season; apply fresh manure only in the fall, several months before planting.

How do you keep crows from

How do you keep crows from eating all your young corn plants???

Hi, EMT, If your rows aren’t

Hi, EMT, If your rows aren’t too long, consider making a V-shaped “tent” above the row to protect seedlings until they are rooted well enough to resist the crow pulling on it. Another idea from a reader was to put balloons between the corn rows! One oldtime cure was to soak a few quarts of dried corn in whiskey, and scatter it over the fields for the crows. All the best.

I had a treatment plant

I had a treatment plant instaled with a sprinkler system off of it. Can I water my veggie garden with this system safely.

The circumstances you

The circumstances you describe are general and require a specific answer. We are not qualified to give you a conclusive response to this, sorry. Consider getting the water tested and then talking to your cooperative extension service about the results and the viability of using the water on edibles. We champion the idea of recycling water but it may be that this water is best used on ornamentals and the like. We hope this helps.

I have a huge rabbit

I have a huge rabbit problem.....We have jack rabbits & cotton tails. My house sits accross from an open field. We have a large lawn area in the front yard, as well as several large planters. Little did my husband & I know we were opening a 24/7 buffet for the lil boogers when we started filling in these planters. For a brief time we had 9 beautiful purple fountain grass, 7 agapanthus nile lilies, 5 Day lilies, several calla lilies, tulips, & hiacinths, freesia & asiatic lilies among flowers. What the rabbits didn't eat down to nothing died from lack of h2O because the they chewed through my drip system hoses. There has got to be a solution! We are so tired of repairing the drip system & feeding the rabbits. We just want our pretty yard back & to survive these attacks. Please help! I am surrounded by dirt & need something pretty to look at. Any suggeststions on remedies & or rabbit proof plants, ground cover or flowers. we had rosemary at our old house, rabbits didn't seem to touch that....

Here are are a few flowers

Here are are a few flowers that rabbits may be less likely to eat: geranium, ageratum, wax begonia, bee balm, peony, Russian sage, salvia, daffodils, and ornamental onions. For vegetables try potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and squashes. Some larger shrubs may also work. Rugosa roses have thorns that will keep bunnies away. Have you considered putting up a fence?

This post is a good guide for

This post is a good guide for the gardening beginners...very good tips are shared here! Got to learn many important things which should be kept in mind for gardening! I must say that this is a must read post!

Hello, I am building my first

Hello, I am building my first tilled garden in many years and trying to do it right. when I till the garden flat, then make rows, do I plant in the mounded rows or in the valley? Sorry to be so dumb but been awasy from gardening for over 30 years. Thanks So Much

Hello, Thomas, For most

The Editors's picture

Hello, Thomas, For most veggie seeds, you just make rows but there is no need to created mounded rows. The seed packets will mention how deep the seeds need to be planted.
Those gardeners who mound their rows often have heavy soil with poor drainage, such as hard-packed clay soil; the rain just runs off it. Mounded rows can also help warm the soil faster in the spring.

If you do mound your rows, usually you plant on top, not in the valley. Make a depression in the middle to hold the water a little longer.
Of course, there are certain plants that prefer mounds such as melons and squash. See our Plant library for each plant's planting needs: http://www.almanac.com/plants

If you are putting a fence

If you are putting a fence around your garden what kind of fence would you put?

It depends on your purpose.

The Editors's picture

It depends on your purpose. Do you wish to keep out animal pests? In general, a simple 3-foot-high chicken-wire fence with 1-inch mesh keeps out rabbits and most small- and medium-size animals. You'll also need steel or rot-resistant wood posts. We'd suggest you visit a home improvement store for more advice, but hope this gets you started!

A low (2ft) wire mesh, such

A low (2ft) wire mesh, such as chicken wire, will deter small animals. If you have deer in the area place an additional high (3ft) wire or string 3ft outside the low fence and tie some rag flags to it. The deer will not jump the high fence and low fence both. Something about the combination makes them wary of being trapped.

I am new to gardening Last

I am new to gardening
Last year none of my green pepper plants had any growth
This year I had a lot of green pepers but they stayed small
They tasted great but also had a "brown rash" on the bottom
They were not touching the ground at all
Anyone know what this is?

Peppers and tomatoes are both

Peppers and tomatoes are both sensitive to calcium deficiency that is often caused by watering with fluoride laden water. Fluoride blocks calcium uptake into plants and causes "blossom end rot". Severe cases literally rot on the end opposite the stem. Less severe occurrences resemble the brown to black "rash" you described.

Check the soil for ph, and nutrient content and amend it with bone meal generously. Crushing a calcium based antacid tablet into the hole when planting is also good. Try to use rain water or allow municipal water to sit in a barrel to "gas off" for 48 hrs prior to applying.

hi what is the best veggies

hi what is the best veggies to plant in winter

It depends on where you live.

It depends on where you live. In the South, you have many options. The main concern is whether you have a killing frost in your region. For example, if you have a first freeze by late October, you could plant root crops by mid-August (early carrots, leek, turnips) as well as some leafcrops (early cabbages, winter cauliflower, Swiss chard). By mid-September, you could plant chives, radishes, spinach, and cover crops. Cold frames are a great way to grow fall and winter crops. See: http://www.almanac.com/content...

I also have a jay

I also have a jay problem.
They attack rubber snakes & owls & steal my tomatoes & strawberries.
The only thing I've found to stop them is a net!

I have used the hay that my

I have used the hay that my cows didnt eat as mulch in my garden now i have grass comming up every place that i used the mulch what should I do

Old-timers say that if you

Old-timers say that if you see weeds coming up through the hay you need to mulch more. Add another layer of hay. Another tip from a reader is to put the hay in the chicken yard first and let the chickens find all the seeds. Then use it as mulch.
The grass that comes up from hay is usually pretty easy to pull out by hand.

I have chipmonks and squirls.

I have chipmonks and squirls. Last year they ate ALL my tom and peeppers. Funny thing, they would eat them 2 days before I could even do a eary pic. I really dont want to cage thentire garden, any advice? By the, my tenant just moved in w/2 small dogs, maybe the wil keep vermen @ bay

I'm just starting my first

I'm just starting my first veggie garden, and because of the small back yard my husband and I have and my bad back, we isolated a spot and built up a raised garden bed. After reading these threads I realized that it was probably a bad idea that we used pressure treated wood.... what should I do now? Is the pressure treated wood going to stop my veggies from growing? will it make them dangerous to eat with the arsenic and copper that leaches into the soil and plants?

Hi Kimmie, It really depends

Hi Kimmie, It really depends how the type of pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated lumber sold in the US after 2003 contains no arsenic (and is no longer CCA-treated). The wood you bought should come with tags that identify how it's been treated and here's a page about types of treated wood: http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/pt...
If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378. To be on the safe side, they suggest lining the beds with plastic.

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