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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The problem you are having

The problem you are having sound like you have cutworms. They eat the corn at the base of the plant, making it look like their are no roots. They feed at night, so you may not see any. Try digging around the root area and inspecting for a dark to black grub.

I have a garden that is 12x20

I have a garden that is 12x20 with tomatoes and hot peppers. I have 24 tomato plants and about 72 hot peppers. But I was just wondering about the watering of the tomatoes. I hear that you need 2 inches of water a week for tomatoes. How do you know how much to water in the morning? e-mail me at dcmartorano@comcast.net thank you.

Yes, you should give your

Yes, you should give your tomato plants 2 inches of water per week. Water your plants 2 to 3 times a week, giving them about 3 to 4 liters (roughly a gallon) of water each time. If it's really warm out, you can give your plants extra water.
You can also look at our tomato plant page for more growing tips.
Hope this helps!

I want to plant a vegetable

I want to plant a vegetable garden, my very first. I need to make a raise bed garden as I need to sit while gardening, what is the best frame for a garden? Cinder blocks, wood?

I do not know much about

I do not know much about raised gardens. However, I have used the following to create my own self watering container garden. It took a little over an hour to build one. The tomatoes in the self watering containers resisted the first frost and kept producing until mid December.

link to PDF file
http://www.seattleoil.com/Flye...

Hope this helps

I have a 5x12 16" deep that I

I have a 5x12 16" deep that I framed with non-insulated vinyl siding. Staked it with 2x4"s cut to size, screwed them into siding and added plastic ties for more support. Durable and inexpensive

Wood is mostly used, but DO

Wood is mostly used, but DO NOT get pressure treated wood.

Why shouldn't I use pressure

Why shouldn't I use pressure treated wood?

Pressure treated wood has

Pressure treated wood has toxic chemicals, such as arsenic and copper, in it that will leach into the soil and into your plants.

UH, OH ! Just finished

UH, OH ! Just finished planting in my new raised beds made from pressure treated wood ! Any suggestions?

Don't worry about the

Don't worry about the pressure treated wood. They don't use arsenic anymore and the chemicals that are used are much safer. Also, many tests have been done to show that the amount absorbed into the food you grow is absolutely minuscule and cannot possibly pose any harm.

If you want a permanent bed

If you want a permanent bed cinder blocks work fine and last longer than wood. Treated wood is OK for growing things you aren't going to eat.

It depends on where you live.

It depends on where you live. We got compressed wood because we get so much rain. But here is an ideas, this company offers triple raised beds, that might be easier for you.http://www.hooverfence.com/vin...

If you want a good raised bed

If you want a good raised bed on the cheap check out cedar fence boards at your local lumberyard. They are usually limited to 6in x 6ft and are dogeared on one end, but a little creative design with some cedar 2x2 stakes made from deck spindles can give you a great raised bed on a budget.

We are going to use

We are going to use galvanized stock water troughs for our raised beds. Generally 2x4x2. How to use tips are on the web.

Make it out of timber . I

Make it out of timber . I used deck boards, but make sure it is not too wide you can manage to reach across from one side to the other without excessive travel for sowing and watering.
More ideas on gardening tips

I have a problem with Morning

I have a problem with Morning Glories. They choke 60 % of my garden. I have a large Garden of about a half an acre. I am growing pretty much all the veggies that you recommend. How do I control these? Also what is a good deterrent for deer?

We have quite a few deer in

We have quite a few deer in our neck of the woods. See if your local barber will save a bag of hair clippings for you, scatter it around your garden, and you should see less deer...

Hair clippings do help. Also

Hair clippings do help. Also randomly placing old knee high stockings containing Irish Spring soap shavings helps, as does hanging pie pans around. I think the key to any of these home remedies is not to use the same method for too long at the time. Rotate the remedy when you see deer venturing back into the forbidden territory.

If the flowers are white,

If the flowers are white, then the plant here in the northwest is called choke weed. First, do NOT pull the weed up! Just little tips of root can and WILL spring forth again with a new plant. You need to use a good herbicide on the plant. When I found this out, it was springing back after my vegetables had already sprouted, so I couldn't just spray the whole plant without losing what I wanted to grow. I got an old child's paintbrush and painted all of the leaves of the new choke weed sprouts. Make sure that it has not rained or received water for a couple of days before either spraying or painting so that it will absorb the herbicide right away and completely. If the major portion of the plant is far enough away from your garden I would spray that with a heavy dose to get down to the major roots. If the plant is originating on someone else's property, you may have to install a deep enough barrier to prevent the roots from traveling onto your property, as they can travel some distance before springing up elsewhere.

Hi, I have heard that if you

Hi,
I have heard that if you put a bar of Irish Spring soap in your garden the deer will not come near it. I would assume that with 1/2 an acre you would need a few.
Good luck!

Hello My name is Jeremy

Hello My name is Jeremy Boyett i am new at planting Butter beans When is the best time to plant Butter beans?

Thanks for your question,

Thanks for your question, Jeremy.

A good rule of thumb is to wait at least two weeks after the last frost. These beans need to be planted in soil temperature of at least 65 F. This time will vary depending on your location.

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

I have a lot of deer, I

I have a lot of deer, I found that by planting rosemary helps but I also found rosemary oil which is fantastic for keeping the deer away from my veggies and flowers

Deer hate fishing pole

Deer hate fishing pole string. They can't see it so when they feel it scares them off. If you put up poles around the edge of your garden and string it around it should take care of the problem.

I found the best thing for

I found the best thing for deer is human hair. This is very easy to get and free. You can go to just about any salon and ask for clippings. The longer hair works best. Then you just decorate like tinsle on a tree. The hair smells like us. This helps with just about any anilmal. Slugs can't cross hair either.

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