A Guide for Starting a Vegetable Garden for the New Gardener

Are you one of those people who buys plastic plants because you’re too afraid of actually having to take care of a real plant? Do you have the best intentions for a little indoor herb garden but come home one day to bone dry, brittle and long dead coriander and oregano?

Not having a green thumb is actually more common than you might think. Part of the issue is that we don’t need plants or gardens to survive as a human anymore, and haven’t for a very long time. Grocery stores supply us with all of our food, and restaurants cook for us when we don’t want to do it ourselves. We can even purchase fresh vegetables directly off a local garden by being involved in a co-op or other food sharing organisations.

The key here, is that we really never have to do any work to have fresh fruit and vegetables anymore, so many of us have lost any innate skills at gardening. With that said, it’s still possible to find your roots, literarily, and have an amazing vegetable garden even without a natural green thumb. This guide is a starting place for you, new gardener, to start up your very own vegetable garden and do your absolute best to not kill every plant that you started with.

  1. Choose your location

How many times have you heard the phrase, “location, location, location”? Countless, right? Which, is why it’s almost annoying that location is one of the most important ingredients of success for your vegetable garden.

Location is important because of your garden’s needs. Take a look at your yard right now, and take note of where and when the sun hits your yard. When it rains, think about if there is any shelter from the rain, or if water tends to pool in certain areas, like a lower part of your yard.

Most gardens need plenty of sunshine, and all day if possible. After you’ve scouted out the sun patterns and found a good, sunny spot, you’ll want to think about other details, like where your nearest water will be. You’ll be less inclined to take care of your garden if it is located far away from your home, and especially if you need to drag a hose all the way over every time you need to water.

  1. Use only high quality

Having high quality, well, anything, will almost always result in a higher quality end product. When you buy cheap materials to build a house, or purchase cheap clothing, you can expect it to fall apart much quicker and easier than high quality items of the same type. Finding high quality seeds will have the same result: better quality vegetables that are tastier and more likely to … live.

As a new gardener, this is especially important for you, as you need all the help you can get. As you become more and more experienced, you might be able to better care for cheaper quality seeds, but for right now, don’t be afraid to shell out the cash to make life easier for you.

Part of buying high quality may mean that you can only start with a few plants. This is absolutely fine, especially for a beginner. In fact, it’s recommended to start small in the beginning to focus on caring for one or two types of plants first before you try and expand your plant knowledge and get overwhelmed.

You’ll also want to buy high quality supplies, like garden mulch that will last at least the length of your garden season. High quality mulch will keep moisture in the ground and prevent weed growth. For vegetables like tomatoes, herbs, or peppers, you might want to have self draining pot rather than planting directly in your garden plot, as they require a little more attention.

  1. Choose easy to care for plants to start

When you’re choosing your small handful of vegetable seeds or plants, find ones that are easy to care for. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and simple salad lettuce are great starters, and don’t require too much expertise. Even for easy plants, however, you’ll want to do your research for caring for each individual plant, like this guide for successfully growing tomatoes.

In addition, some plants are extremely difficult to grow straight from seed, so either consider buying grown plants you can transplant into your vegetable garden, or skip them altogether in favour of easy seeds.

  1. Establish a schedule

By far, one of the hardest parts about having a garden is the upkeep. Many people who have never gardened before may ask themselves, wait, I have to water and weed almost every day? Unfortunately, nearly daily care is indeed incredibly important to a successful garden.

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of this, there’s a few options for you. For one, try a garden share with friends or neighbors. Find a garden plot close to both of you, and set up a schedule for who takes care of it and when. This way, you can take a week off to holiday but know that the garden is still being taken care of, and still reap the benefits of fresh garden vegetables.

If this isn’t an option, write yourself up a calendar for when you need to water, plant new items, or pick vegetables. Everything is easier once it’s a habit, so work on making your garden a habit by following a strict schedule so you know exactly when you should head out to weed or anything else. Obviously this will have to be flexible, but if you know you need to visit the garden on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for example, this will help you get in the habit, faster.  

Being a new gardener means probably messing up at least a few times. Try and remember that it’s okay and perfectly normal, especially starting out. Even the expert gardeners still have a bad year, and many times it’s beyond their control. Have faith, patience, and a little bit of creativity, and you’ll have that green thumb in no time.

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