How to Start a Vegetable Garden: 8 Easy Steps

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Everyone comes to gardening from different paths.

My journey is destiny- it’s a part of the fabric of who I am.

I love plants and nature and it’s not only my hobby but my career.

However, vegetable gardening and knowing how to start a vegetable garden became more important to me later in life as I intensified a battle I had fought since I was a child- my weight.

My struggle is too deep and multifaceted to go into detail in this article, but needless to say it has been one that is hard to put into words.

I was the fat kid that was teased. Today they call it bullying or body shaming.

Back then it just what you got for being chubby.

My struggles continued into my adulthood.

I finally realized that until I got extremely serious about eating healthfully, I was never going to be at a healthy weight.

One major component of my success in losing weight was my vegetable garden.

As everyone knows, healthy eating and some movement (exercise) must be a part of weight management.

Gardening checks both of those boxes.

Fresh vegetables in a basket
Fresh vegetables are a part of a healthy lifestyle

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One of the lost aspects of vegetables is how flavorful and delicious they truly are.

Unfortunately, most of the varieties sold at grocery stores have thick skins.

These are preferred because they ship without bruising or damage.

Many varieties that are superior for flavor may not be the best for shipping long distances. Therefore, flavor and taste are sacrificed.

When fresh homegrown vegetables are available, often the difference is unbelievable.

I must admit that it is hard for me to eat certain vegetables that are not homegrown- I am spoiled!

These easy steps will give you the foundation to start a vegetable garden that will bring health, happiness and joy to your life.

Vegetable Garden
Vegetables grow best in full sun

Step 1- Location

When starting a vegetable garden, location is the most important consideration.

Most all vegetables and herbs grow best in full sun. Choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun each day.

For most backyards, this would be a spot that faces west or south.

Trees, buildings and other structures could influence your choice.

It’s always best to watch the movement of the sun throughout the day before selecting the spot.

Another consideration is access to water.

Most vegetable gardens will need supplemental water throughout the heat of the summer.

Be sure that a hose will reach or there is another means of accessing water.

Lettuce growing in a raised bed vegetable garden
Lettuce growing in a raised bed vegetable garden

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Step 2- Soil

Next to location, the next most important aspect of vegetable gardening is having loose, well-draining, nutrient-rich soil.

Depending on your location, this could be a challenge. Many native soils have a lot of clay or rock.

There are several options in these situations.

First, organic soil amendments such as peat moss, composted manure, compost etc. can be added to the soil.

Another option is to create a raised garden bed in which new soil is used that is ideal for gardening.

Finally, container gardening is another option.

This is a trend in which vegetables are grown in large containers rather than in the ground.

Vegetable growing in a rectangular container
Vegetable Container Garden

Step 3- When to Plant

Once the location is prepared and ready, the next step is to plant.

Each area of the country is different in the planting timing. This is known as zones.

Each zone has an estimated frost-free date for spring planting.

Click here to find your zone and when you can plant specific vegetables in your city.

Many vegetables also grow well in the fall.

Examples include spinach, lettuce, arugula, and kale. These can be planted in summer and harvested in fall.

Step 4- When to Plant a Vegetable Garden

Vegetables can be planted either by seed or by small plants known as seedlings.

If you are just starting, I recommend going to your local garden center to find the plants that are available for your area.

Traditionally, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and herbs are best purchased as plants.

Vegetables that are easy to start by seed are corn, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, green beans, peas, pumpkins and cantaloupe.

The seed packets provide the instructions for planting depth etc.

Vegetable garden with a garden hose going through it
Watering is an important part of a successful vegetable garden

Step 5- Watering a Vegetable Garden

A general rule of thumb is that most vegetable plants will need at least 1-1.5 inches of water per week.

I recommend using a rain gauge to have an accurate rainfall measurement.

When natural rainfall doesn’t supply this, it becomes advantageous to supplement with a hose or other method of irrigation.

The best time to water is in the morning. This hydrates the plants first-thing and prepares them to use the heat of the day for growth.

One of the best ways to minimize leaf diseases is to apply water at the soil level, keeping the plants dry.

Most leaf diseases are a result of excess moisture on the leaf that doesn’t evaporate quickly, especially in humid weather.

Cabbage growing with flowers in a garden
Well-fertilized cabbage and flowers

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Step 6- Fertilizing

The best way to fertilize a vegetable garden is to have organically rich soil.

This can be accomplished by adding well-decomposed compost, manure, leaves, grass clippings, or other organic material.

I have produced a bountiful garden for many years using this method and have not needed any other additional fertilizer.

However, it does take time to create soil of this quality.

As a beginner, your garden may not be to that point. In that case, I recommend using organic fertilizers specifically designed for vegetable gardening.

There are quite a few different brands available either online or at your local garden center.

Vegetable Garden

Step 7- Vegetable Garden Maintenance

Weeds will just be a part of vegetable gardening.

No matter how much you try, they will find a way! I suggest that you prepare to accept that they will be a part of the garden- it is just a matter of how much.

I have always liked to create a natural mulch around my plants with grass clippings.

This adds organic matter to the soil and helps prevent weed seeds from germinating.

However, for the areas that the weeds pop through, I find that hoeing is the best way to remove them.

It is also a great form of exercise. It’s therapeutic for me and if I do a little every couple of days, I keep the garden in good form.

One other advantage of being in the garden regularly is that you can keep an eye out for any insects, diseases, or problems.

Most issues can be minor and inconsequential especially if caught early.

A local garden center is a great resource for troubleshooting.

Persons hands holdingn tomatoes

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Step 8- Harvest

The most satisfying process of starting a vegetable garden is harvesting the first ripe vegetable!

There is an indescribable joy that comes from this accomplishment!

As the season progresses and more ripen, there is also a sense of a better quality of life. Fresh food tastes better, makes us feel cleaner, healthier.

The physical feeling transcends to the emotional and spiritual.

This is when a transformation takes place.

Gardening can become more than a hobby. It becomes part of a lifestyle- a healthy lifestyle; one that produces benefits for the mind, body, and spirit.

Vegetables in a wooden tote
Harvesting vegetables is very satisfying

Regardless of your reason for starting a vegetable garden, these steps will give you the foundation for a bountiful harvest of produce.

First, a sunny location with good soil is ideal for growing vegetables.

If needed, amend the soil with organic material to add nutrients and improve its quality.

In spring, once the chance of frost has passed plant with seeds and seedlings.

Water, fertilize, and weed the garden regularly to yield satisfying results!

Finally, enjoy the harvest of not only produce but of a healthy lifestyle- mind, body, and spirit!

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