Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

The Basics of Planting and Growing a Vegetable Garden

December 17, 2019

Ready to jump into gardening? It can be daunting at first, but gardening is an incredibly rewarding hobby to get into. 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, and only grow what you know you’ll eat.

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16x10 feet (or smaller) 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.)


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
  2. Zucchini squash
  3. Peppers
  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!


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:

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!


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!

Reader Comments

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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:
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.

hello, i'm new to gardening

i'm new to gardening and have a very limited site that gets good drainage but is somewhat shaded by large oak trees. what vegetables can you recommend for a newby?

In my experience, some plants

In my experience, some plants produce surprisingly well even near trees, but maybe not on the north side of large trees.
In partial sun (near trees), try squash, greens, beans, cucumbers, and potatoes.
If you want corn, tomatoes, or peppers, I think they will need full sun (far from trees).

Hello, I plan on starting my

I plan on starting my first vegetable garden this spring. I have a small cat problem though. The neighbours cats, while friendly, already make use of my flower garden in the front. Could anyone suggest a safe method of keeping the cats out of the veggie/herb garden?

A large

A large keeps all the neighborhood cats away.

I have heard that sprinkling

I have heard that sprinkling citris peels onto the dirt keeps them out.

Chicken wire around plants

Chicken wire around plants and other areas you don't want dug into. The cats will not like scratching into it and will find another place.

I am attempting my first ever

I am attempting my first ever vegtable garden and want to go all organic, I seem to have red ants EVERYWHERE around my raised garden beds, does anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of them organicly?

Try a light sprinkle of boric

Try a light sprinkle of boric acid. It is a light white powder sold at hardware stores in the pesticide dept. just use a light sprinkle. they walk through it an when they groom they ingest it and it poisons them. it should not hurt flying bugs as it has to be picked up and eaten. it also works on roaches. it should be organic, but check to make sure. But if you just leave the ants alone and work around them, you should be alright. They are considered benifical.

I hard that some plants

I hard that some plants compliment other plants and should be planted next to the one
that compliment the other in order to help pollination. Is this true & if so do you have a planting guide?

I am currently doing research

I am currently doing research on this as well. If you look on-line there are numerous sites which suggest,"companion plants" for all different kinds. Also lots of flowers to attract bee's, like honey suckle and bee balm. Happy planting!

A good companion planting it

A good companion planting it the "three sisters" first passed to early settlers by Natives. It's corn, squash, and beans. The plants will grow in the needed order to protect the others and they are nitrogen neutral when planted together. Little weeding should be necessary after the plants emerge and less water is needed in the tight pattern that mulches itself.

Book by Louise Riotte called

Book by Louise Riotte called Carrots love tomatoes &roses love garlic is a superb book for companion planting

For Grudge: Sounds like you

For Grudge:
Sounds like you have cut worms. To protect the corn that has not been cut yet, make cuffs for all the surviving plants. You can take paper cups, cut out the bottom and cut a slit up one side. Slide the cuff over the plant, tape the slit, and push the cuff down into the ground about an inch or two. This should keep the cutworms from gaining access to the plant shoot until the danger has past. You could also use plastic cups which would last longer, or make tubes from plastic water bottles. If you find any grubs while doing this work, especially ones with pincers on them, destroy them! Hope this helps!

I am doing my very first

I am doing my very first vegetable garden this year with my oldest son and we have bought tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, okra and 2 kinds of hot peppers and i have a 12X16 garden. I have yet to put anything in the ground because i have been getting the spot ready and this morning i woke up to blue jays in my garden. How or what can i do to keep them out of my garden and not eat my plants?

The blue jays and other birds

The blue jays and other birds aren't eating your plants, they are eating the insects that eat your plants. So, birds are always welcome in my garden.

they may be eating some

they may be eating some insects but mostly they are eating worms that are good for your soil and they and other birds will eat your seed and sprouts after you plant. An owl decoy will help, I also use two black hoses, the kind that are used on the back of a washing machine , but any black or brown hose about 2 or 3 feet long will work. I place them in my garden in a way that resembles a snake and move them to different locations about once a week. This works great.

Thanks for the information.

Thanks for the information. But, how do you keep birds away from eating your corn?

see my above reply to the

see my above reply to the bluejay problem. I discovered this because of a crow problem. The owl decoy will not work on crows they will attack it but the fake snake does work.

fake snakes made from rubber

fake snakes made from rubber or plastic work on people also some people are scared of snakes it keeps them away from your vegges

I see where marigolds

I see where marigolds discourage bunnies from nibbling on your young plants. What do you do about squirrels? We have a real problem with squirrels in my backyard, and that is why I've not planted a garden before now. This year I want to try one. What do I do about the squirrels, short of shooting them?

Get a cat, but then you have

Get a cat, but then you have the cats messes to deal with. Fence them out is another option. There are also electronic rodent repellers which work well for keeping mice out that will probably work for squirrels.

Look for coyote urine at your

Look for coyote urine at your garden supply store or online. Rodents won't come within yards of the smell. It's also good for fending off deer and other nuisance critters without harming them.

i would like to know if you

i would like to know if you can plant veggies in pots,and if so why didnt my garden grow?

May be your plants are not

May be your plants are not getting the necessary light or may be you need to fertilize the mud of your garden if you say than I can arrange you some cheap fertilizers from I Got some contacts their;-)

Maybe the pots you used were

Maybe the pots you used were too small. Remember 50% or more of any plant grows underground.

The size of the pot is def a

The size of the pot is def a factor I grew some Basil in a pot and some in the ground the Basil in the ground was amazingly better..if say triple the yield