Do you want to get into growing some of your own food and embracing a healthier lifestyle? That’s great! Since you’ve come to my article on vegetable gardening tips for beginners, I assume you want to start your first garden or at least you don’t have much experience with vegetable gardening.
In your enthusiasm for your new hobby, you need to be careful not to get carried away and start to feel overwhelmed. It happens to me too every year when I’m reading gardening and seed catalogs.
So my first guideline for you is to slow down, take a deep breath, and think about your garden. Think about what you want to grow and what space you have available. Watch the sun. The sun and shade will change with the seasons. The amount of sun your garden gets is the most important factor in which vegetables you can grow successfully. You need a plan.
Choose Vegetables You Like
First make a list of the vegetables you like to eat and regularly buy. It’s no use growing the most delicious vegetables in the world if no one in your family will eat them. On the other hand, try something new sometimes. Getting children involved in growing their own food, can get them to eat more green veggies.
Choose Easy Vegetables
These vegetables are among the easiest to grow:
- Pole beans
- Greens (chard, kale, spinach)
- Yellow squash
- Bell peppers
- Hot peppers
- Scallions, Chives
Add some herbs that go with them. For example, basil with tomatoes. Most herbs are very easy to grow, being mostly like weeds in their hardiness.
Make sure the vegetables and varieties are suited to your local climate and also to your own garden area, especially for the amount of sun you have.
Buy Seedlings instead of Seeds
Starting plants from seeds adds a whole other thing to learn and do. And they need to be started in the middle or end of winter, so it may already be too late. For your first garden, I recommend buying as many seedlings from your local garden center as possible. Buying seedlings will give you a head start on the season, ensure the plants are suited to your area, and free up your time for other gardening activities such as preparing the soil and composting.
If you have time, you can also start some seeds. This will give you two or more harvests as your seedlings will be ready early in the season and the plants you start from seeds later. This type of planting called succession planting works particularly well with salad greens that grow quickly. If you plant seeds every couple of weeks, you can eat fresh salads until it gets too hot. You can also start some seeds in late summer for a fall harvest.
Square Foot Gardening
In my opinion, square foot gardening is the easiest vegetable gardening system for beginners. You can grow more vegetables in less space with less work than in conventional gardens. Because you are growing in a raised bed filled with new planting mix, there is no digging, roto-tilling, soil-testing, soil-conditioning or any of the other things you have to do when you try to garden in the ground with ordinary poor soil.
I’m using it this year for most of my small apartment garden. I choose this system to make the most efficient use of my small space. And because the soil in my yard isn’t very good. My neighbor (a very nice young man) suggested I double-dig it. Which is what he did. But I want something easier, so I started looking at raised beds and found Mel’s book.
If you’d like to try the square foot gardening method, I recommend that you read Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening. In addition to telling you how to plan your garden and build your beds, he offers many vegetable gardening tips for beginners and improvements to his original system that make it even easier.