When we first moved into our home, I was excited about the potential of a huge, productive garden. And then, as I looked at it, I realized that I wasn’t sure where to start – and I was overwhelmed and stressed. So rather than letting that stress get to me each year, I sat down and made a list on what I’d need to do to start a vegetable garden.
And thankfully, the easy way to start your garden involves planning, knowing a few tricks like planting certain vegetables together and tapping into the knowledge of gardening gurus gone before us. That way, our home and garden spaces can be gorgeous and full of delicious vegetables.
Start Your Vegetable Garden – The Easy First Steps to Follow
Ready for step one? It’s to draw a map of your available gardening space.
- Keep your garden map to scale – as much as possible.
- Account for paths – you don’t want to be walking on your sunflowers!
- Decide where you’ll plant.
- Make note of areas that have full, partial, and no sun – this can impact what you plant where.
Got your map done? Fantastic! Now it’s time to decide which vegetables you want to grow.
Now, if you’re looking to grow a mix of vegetables and fruits, you’ll need more space. Why? Because most fruits grow on trees or bushes, so you’ll need to account for those fruit trees and berry bushes on your plan.
So for now, let’s keep our focus just on vegetables – I’ll write a fruit garden update later (adds that to my to-do list!).
So back to our vegetables-we-want-to-grow list. Make a list of everything you want to grow – and then evaluate how realistic those are. For example, some things just aren’t possible to acquire locally – or at all. So if you’re wanting to grow some exotic vegetable that’s not available in your country, cross that off your list now.
You may also want to consider crossing some commonly acquired vegetables off your list – if you can get them locally and for a good price. However, you may decide to go ahead and grow them yourself, especially if locally sourced tomatoes lack enough flavor for your tastes.
Next, it’s time to map out where you’ll put each plant in your garden. This is where I defer to the gurus – because while I know that some plants like to be near others, I can’t always remember which they are. And because I have a large enough garden that I don’t have to plant things super close together, I just don’t.
That being said, I’m sure that as my garden continues to grow each year, I will need to get better at being aware of things like which vegetables don’t like growing next to broccoli or cilantro – or how mint is a weed that’ll take over your garden and things like that.
PHEW. So that’s the first three steps. To recap, they’re:
- Map out your garden
- Decide what you want to grow
- Decide what you’ll plant where
Tips on Starting your Vegetable Garden
Ready for some more tips on your gardening?
Tips on Full Sun, Partial Sun, and Full Shade
Some plants love sun – and others prefer shade. And yet others like a mix of the two. For the best yield, it’s important that you plant each of your vegetables where they do best.
Thankfully, most seed packets clearly explain that on the back. And most already-started vegetable plants have a card stuck in the soil that gives that same information.
Use that information to help you determine which plant goes in which part of your garden.
Tips on Saving Space in Your Garden
If you’re low on space, use the co-planting cultivation methods.
For example, if you’re growing spinach and carrots, take one packet of each and mix them together.
Then, make a half-inch deep furrow in a row and sow the seeds – all mixed together. Cover, water, and wait. The spinach will grow quickly, while also opening up the soil so that your carrots germinate better.
After a month, you’ll be able to pick some delicious baby spinach for a salad – and make room for your carrots to finish growing more. In fact, by the time your spinach is done being harvested, it’ll be time to harvest those carrots! Pretty cool, right?
You can plant lots of pairs of vegetables together. Here are several more examples:
- Carrots and spinach
- Radishes with lettuce or parsley
- Turnips with lettuce
- Beans go well with corn
- Throw some squash seeds in with the beans and corn, too!
Tips to Make Shade When None’s Available
When you don’t have a lot of natural shade available, here’s a tip to make some.
Plant your vegetables in an east-to-west orientation. Then, put your taller plants on the northern end of your garden. Put sun-loving plants south of the tall plants so they get full sun. Put shade-loving plants north of the tall plants – to give them the partial sun they want.
That way, your taller plants will become the shade for partial-sun loving vegetables without blocking the sun for full-sun varieties.
Now, this can mean you use corn in the most northern part of your garden, as it’s one of the tallest plants. We grow sunflowers, too, so those go on the north end.
Or, you can use bushier plants, like bush beans or peas, to create shade.
This way, you can still grow shade-loving vegetables in your garden – without having to build fancy pergolas or whatever to get the shade.
Creativity goes a long way in helping you design and plant your garden, so feel free to get creative. That way, you can grow what you want – even if it’s things you hadn’t ever thought you could grow in your yard before.
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