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Vegetable Garden: How To Start A Garden From Scratch

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by Helen
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figuring out where to begin? Starting a garden may seem daunting, but it can be simplified by following a few steps. Here are all the steps needed to start a vegetable garden from scratch.

I remember when we started our first garden: a small container garden on the patio of our first home. We grew some of our vegetables and a few strawberries and tomatoes. It was wonderful to have fresh garden produce right from our patio.

How To Make A Vegetable Garden and Keeping Dogs Out Of It

It was a great way to start our gardening adventure. And now have a moderately sized backyard garden that produces food for us and enough to share with family, friends, and neighbors.  However, we store our vegetables properly to extend their shelf life.

When planning a garden, it's essential to consider any furry friends roaming around.  Dogs, in particular, tend to dig up plants and trample on delicate flowers.  It's necessary to create a designated area for them to play, do their business and keep them away from the main garden area.  Consider adding pet-friendly plants, such as catnip or mint, to their play area to keep them occupied and discourage them from venturing into the central garden.  Last year, my dog Addi, our Aussie, ate the leaves off of our green beans.  On the other hand, Belle, our Catahoula, likes to plop herself on the raised beds to catch some sun.  This year, my green beans are protected from her with some cattle panels, which they can also use as a trellis to grow vertically.

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How to Start a Garden From Scratch

Adding lighting to your garden can be a great way to enhance its beauty and functionality.  Depending on your preferences, you can choose from a variety of lighting options, such as string lights, pathway lights, spotlights, and more.  With the right lighting, you can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in your garden and also make it safer to navigate at night.  You may want to consider solar-powered lights, which are energy-efficient and require little maintenance.  Whatever your choice, adding lighting to your garden can be an excellent investment that you can enjoy year-round.  We placed solar lights in our raised beds along the border of our garden, pointing towards our trees and more.

Sitting under our pergola, which we do often at night, is relaxing, and the ambiance is amazing.

If you're excited to start your first garden, follow these steps to enjoy fresh produce from your backyard in no time!

The first thing to consider is what you'll be growing.  Sure, that is super important, but first, you must decide where to locate your garden.  

Picking the Best Location To Start Vegetable Garden For Beginners

When searching for a home, the location is the crucial factor to consider. Similarly, while setting up a garden, choosing the appropriate spot for it to thrive is vital. The ideal location for a garden is an area that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Most vegetable plants require around 6 hours of full sunlight to grow well. Typically, the south-facing area of the yard is the best spot for a garden, but it's necessary to examine your garden to determine the perfect location.

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How do you know how much sun a spot gets?

If you're looking for a sunny spot in your backyard garden, the best way to find one is to watch the sun. It would help if you considered a few things while observing it. For instance, note the time the location receives sunlight in the morning, how long it remains sunny before getting shaded, and if any structures might block the sun at particular times of the day. Doing so lets you find a suitable spot that receives the most sun for your plants.

Finding a sunny spot will be easier if you have a yard with lots of sun and few trees. However, if enormous trees or the house shade your yard, it might be harder to find an excellent location. In such cases, you should think outside the usual spots and consider using containers on a patio. That's how we started our very first garden.

Once you've found a sunny spot, it's time to consider other factors such as soil type, drainage, water availability, and suitable plants for that particular location.

Water, Everything needs Water

It's essential to ensure that your plants have enough water to grow. Consider having a water source close to your garden, or invest in a long hose to bring the water to the garden if it's far away. If watering becomes difficult, it can quickly become a chore. Therefore, it's essential to have a simple and efficient way to get water to your garden.

When starting a produce or flower garden, the first thing to consider is the soil.

How To Grow A Garden

Soil, the Earth that Feeds the Plants

You can plant directly in the ground if you have good soil that drains well and is light and loamy. However, if your soil is poor, like our clay and rocky soil, it's better to create a raised bed or plant in containers. This way, you can improve soil quality and start your plants better. 

I recommend using a mixture of compost, vermiculite, peat moss, or premixed organic soil for a raised bed. This combination will give your plants the best growing conditions. If you can't find vermiculite, you can replace it with potting soil. Additionally, make sure to use compost from different sources to provide the soil with all the necessary nutrients.

Start Your Own Garden: Start Small

Starting a big garden right away can cause garden burnout. If you're new to gardening, starting small and increasing the garden size is better as you gain more knowledge. This approach will allow you to have garden success without feeling overwhelmed with watering, weeding, and harvesting tasks. You can grow plenty of food with a few pots and a small plot without it taking over your entire summer. Then, depending on the time you have to dedicate to it, you can decide if you want to expand the garden or keep it the same size next year.

Grow What You'll Eat

After selecting the perfect spot for your garden and ensuring the soil is ideal for growing, the next step is choosing what to grow. This is the fun part of gardening, but avoiding getting carried away with too many seeds or plants is essential. The key tip to remember is to cultivate only what you eat and the quantities you consume. If you are a fan of tomatoes, consider growing several different varieties. 

However, if zucchini doesn't appeal to you, it will only go to waste, even if it's an easy crop to grow. If you have fresh vegetables that have gotten bad, toss them in your composter. You can compost outside in a bin or something compact that can sit on your kitchen counter. When starting a new garden, growing vegetables you typically purchase from the store is wise. 

Are you looking for some easy-to-grow vegetable ideas? Check out the best plants to grow in containers, as these are perfect for container gardens or raised beds.


Start a Garden With Seeds or Starts

Once you have planned what you will be growing and where you will plant in your garden space, it's time to decide whether to grow from seeds or starts. 

Growing from seeds gives you access to a wider variety of plants and is less expensive. A whole packet of seeds costs about the same as 1-2 plant starts. Many vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes, beans, peas, and kale, are easy to grow from seed. 

However, growing from starts has a few advantages. When you start from seed, some seedlings may dampen off or die before planting, resulting in a loss. With starts, the plant is already established and ready to go into the garden. It's like having an instant garden without waiting for seeds to sprout. 

In areas with shorter growing seasons, planting starts can help get you to harvest sooner. But often, there are fewer varieties to choose from, so you are stuck with what your garden center has. 

If you are new to gardening, it's recommended to go with starts for vegetables like zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. Go with seeds for easier-to-grow vegetables like lettuce, kale, radishes, peas, and beans.  I like to buy my seeds from Botanical Interests.  I have had great success with their seed products.  Botanical Interests also has a whole section on their website for Organic Gardening.

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Grow Organic Vegetable Garden

When I started growing vegetables, I also found it challenging to find organic starts, and they were typically more expensive than non-organic ones. That's when I decided to learn how to start my seeds indoors.

There are many places online where you can find organic, GMO-free, and heirloom seeds. These seeds are often less expensive than organic starts, and you have a wider variety to choose from. Plus, starting seeds indoors gives you a head start on the growing season and ensures your plants are free from harmful chemicals.  Growing an organic garden allows me to eat healthier for less.

Grow Vertically 

If you have a small garden, you can increase the growing area by growing vine plants vertically instead of along the ground. You can grow vegetables like cucumber, squash, and pie pumpkins by setting up a garden trellis. 

You can make your own garden trellis. However, plan where you'll be growing plants vertically so that you don't block sunlight and shade other plants in the garden.

Succession Planting

Your garden is doing great so far! If you've already harvested some of your crops in one area, don't let that space go to waste. You can plant something new immediately to maximize your garden's production or inter-plant faster-growing vegetables with slower-growing ones to make the most of the available space. 

For instance, you can plant lettuce around the tomatoes so that you can harvest the lettuce before the tomatoes grow to take over the space. This is just one example of how you can inter-plant to make the most of a small garden.

Raised Garden Bed with Trellis


Harvesting Your Vegetable Garden

Congratulations on your thriving garden! Now, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. My grandkids help me harvest our fresh produce. We are making great memories while they learn about being more sustainable. Whenever you spot a ripe vegetable, pick it up immediately. Picking up encourages the plant to produce more. Leaving vegetables on the plant for too long will signal the plant to slow production, specifically beans and peas. 

Also, if you leave cucumbers and zucchinis on the vine for too long, their insides can get pithy, affecting their flavor. Therefore, pick your produce daily or every other day to ensure you enjoy your fresh harvest at its best.

Final Thoughts: Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch

Starting a vegetable garden from scratch is easy if you find the right spot and provide your plants with the necessary resources to grow. This will ensure a successful garden. Happy Gardening! Let us know how your garden did and what you planted.

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