5 Key Vegetable Gardening Tips For Beginners
Are you thinking about starting your first vegetable garden but don’t really know where to begin? Have you been gardening for a few years and aren’t completely satisfied with the results? Are you just looking for a few tips to jump start your gardening mojo? I am going to share with you my 5 favorite vegetable gardening tips for beginners that you can utilize for your first vegetable garden or even apply them to your existing vegetable garden.
Gardening can be very simple yet it can also be very complex. It’s kind of like an iceberg…you see and think about the fresh tomato you want to eat but there is so much that goes into the process of producing that tomato that you can feel overwhelmed at just the mere thought of “is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?”.
I only started vegetable gardening about 7 years ago. I progressed gradually from gardening in containers to gardening in a couple of raised beds to gardening in about 15 raised beds. I have done things wrong plenty of times but thankfully, most of the time, I learn from the mistakes and make changes and do things better the next time. There is nothing I look forward to more than the first baby leaf lettuces and greens I can pick in April, then first strawberries in late May, or the first tomatoes in early July. It’s what keeps me gardening every year. And each year I am inspired, invigorated, and motivated to do things a little better and a little more efficiently and with that in mind I would like to share with you my 5 favorite vegetable gardening tips for beginners.
- SOIL-Start with great soil. Unless your lawn is fertile farmland, you really don’t want to dig out a patch of your grass and plant without a few initial considerations. Do you know the history of your land? Have you applied synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the past? You could start with a soil test analyzing for heavy metals and lead in particular, but an easier solution is to use raised beds and get good quality compost to fill the bed. Raised beds allow the soil to warm up more quickly in the spring time allowing for earlier planting, they give you a defined garden area which you will not walk into so that the soil stays nice and light for the plant roots to meander through, and the beds drain well so that your plants don’t sit in water-logged soil just begging for disease to proliferate.
- LOCATION-Choose a location for your garden that is as close to your home as possible. Ideally it is right out the kitchen door so you can see the garden growing and so that you visit the garden frequently. The closer and easier it is to get to ensures that you will maintain the garden and utilize its bounty at the peak of ripeness. When locating the garden it’s also important to consider…
- SUNLIGHT-All plants or general categories of plants have various sunlight requirements. Generally speaking, most vegetable plants require at least 6 hours of sun a day. Fruiting plants, like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and eggplant require the most sun are happy with ideally 8 hours plus. Roots, like radishes, carrots, beets, and turnips tolerate less sun, around 6 hours is fine. And leafy vegetables like lettuces, kale, chard, and arugula can tolerate even a little less.
- PLANT SPACING– This is probably a problem that a lot of people struggle with at some point in their gardening career. How close do I space my tomatoes, my radishes, and my lettuce? This could really be a lengthy discussion and I could talk about harvesting and pruning techniques, square foot planting, diamond planting, trellising, and lots of other space saving techniques. But I want to give you an actionable tip. Follow the seed pack or seedling tag for the recommended spacing. That sounds obvious, but how many of us actually read labels anyway. Another suggestion is to make sure to not shade out your plants with other plants. For example taller plants, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, should be planted on the northern side of your garden while lower growing plants, like lettuces, radishes, and carrots should planted on the southern side of your garden.
- PLANT WHAT YOU EAT– My final tip for you as a novice vegetable gardener is to plant what you like to eat. It’s great to have vibrant eggplant growing and ripening or okra growing because the flowers are absolutely beautiful, but if you don’t like eggplant or okra, then it really isn’t worth taking up your precious garden space to grow it.
Gardening isn’t difficult. Plants want to grow. It’s what they do best. We often times just get in the way. We water too much, or too little, or at the wrong time of the day, we add too much fertilizer or the wrong kind, we plant things too closely together, and we try to force tomatoes to produce in less than ideal situations. By following my vegetable gardening tips for beginners mentioned above your garden will have a great foundation for success.
So what are you waiting for? Get out your scratch paper and jot down what you would like to start growing, where you are going to put your garden, and check out our raised garden bed services if you need help. Happy gardening!
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