Wondering how to start a vegetable garden from scratch? Follow these four simple steps.
If you are a beginner gardener, first of all, congratulations! You are making an excellent decision to start a vegetable garden from scratch and also undertaking something healthy for yourself, family, and friends.
Why you don't have to be nervous about starting a vegetable garden from scratch
Don't be worried by the lack of knowledge or experience. Some gardeners who started "Victory Gardens" during the wartime 1940s did not know which end of the hoe to use. By the end of 1943, these small gardens on balconies and in backyards provided 40% of the vegetables eaten by civilians. Black and white video footage depicts people outside during lunch breaks in heels and business suits weeding gardens.
Being outdoors and caring for something is vital for mental health.
If weight loss is your goal, gardening not only burns a lot of calories but also encourages you to eat more vegetables.
Fun Fact: One hour of light gardening burns more calories than one hour of walking at a moderate pace.
You can plant immune-boosting vegetables
A diet containing a wide variety of vegetables provides an abundance of vitamins and minerals, which strengthens your immune system. Different colors of vegetables provide different nutrients. Consuming a combination of colorful garden vegetables provides you with the immune-boosting power of vitamin C, vitamin A, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Some simple vegetables for a beginner gardener to grow:
Grow from seeds
Dark leafy greens, lettuce, different varieties
Grow from starter plants from a greenhouse or grocery store
Herbs, such as parsley, chives, basil, and cilantro
It can be motivating to watch your vegetables grow. Lettuce seeds will show their green leaves within two to eight days. Also, starter herbs can be used as healthy salad toppings the same day you bring them home.
Here are 4 Steps to follow for a successful beginner vegetable garden
Step 1: Create
For a beginner gardener, the key to a positive experience is to start with just a few seeds and starter plants.
Decide how much space you have and what types of vegetables you want to grow. If you have a balcony, try a container garden. My balcony garden in Germany was stupendous because it was so close --- I never forgot to water my tomatoes!
Start with 3-4 vegetables you like to eat, and decide which ones you should plant from seed versus "starter" plants already started at the greenhouse.
Have you ever considered a garden theme?
When our daughters were younger, we enjoyed planting a pizza garden with tomatoes, basil, and onions.
Salad bowl garden
Plant side-by-side rows of different types of leaf lettuce for a nutritious and colorful salad mixture.
Plant tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, and peppers for a flavorful salsa.
Plant herbs such as parsley, chives, rosemary, cilantro, and basil to add nutritious and delicious toppings to your dishes. What a great way to increase your immunity with natural phytochemicals!
Step 2: Prep
Garden soil preparation creates a healthy environment for your seeds and plants to grow.
Determine the approximate date of the last spring frost (dates vary per location). If the soil is too cold, then your seeds will not germinate. They need the sun's warmth.
On a nice day, when the ground is dry, prepare your soil.
Spade the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches. Remove stones and break up clumps so the ground is lump-free. We learned quickly why our city was called "Boulder". We had to remove a lot of rocks when creating our small backyard garden!
Depending on the soil, you may need to mix in some nutrient-rich soil. This is sold in bags at a grocery or hardware store. When living in South Dakota and Omaha, the soil was "black", which meant it was already nutrient-rich. In Colorado, I mix in soil amendment with the real dirt at about a 50:50 ratio.
Step 3: Plant
Straight rows make your vegetable garden more attractive and easier to keep weed-free. For a straight row, put a stake in the ground about a foot high at the end of each row. Then, attach a string to both ends so you know where not to step. Use the seed packet to label the row.
Read directions on the seed packet. Pay special attention to planting depth and seed spacing. Small seeded crops, such as carrots and lettuce should only be planted about 1/4 inch deep. Cover seeds gently so you don't move the seeds. Larger seeds like beans or sweet corn should be planted about an inch deep.
Can I really sprinkle seeds on top of each other?
If you want both carrots and radishes in your garden, make a furrow about 1/2 inch deep. First sprinkle carrots seeds, then sprinkle radish seeds on top of them. If you want lettuce and carrots, first sprinkle carrots seeds, then lettuce on top of them. Cover gently with a 1/2 inch of soil. Since carrots take a long time to germinate, you can pick your lettuce or radishes first and not disturb the soil for your carrots, which you will harvest later in the fall.
Step 4: Pick
The best part of a garden is the joy of picking and eating your own vegetables. If you plant radishes, you can harvest in about 3 weeks when the roots are about one-inch in diameter. Chop up a radish in a salad or chop fine and add to low fat cottage cheese for a morning snack. Since lettuce likes to grow in a cooler climate, plant early in the season and pick in about a month. If you want to continue to harvest lettuce throughout the season, just cut the lettuce top off with a scissor and leave one-inch of the stem for future salads. The lettuce will continue to grow.
Tips from experienced gardeners*:
Dilute a little fertilizer with water and use this every two weeks to give your plants a nutrient boost.
Thinning - When the first seeds are about one-inch tall or more, pull extra shoots so that your plants have room to grow.
Rumor has it that if you plant marigolds beside lettuce and tomatoes, insects will eat the marigolds instead of your vegetables. Sometimes the insects get mixed up, so watch your plants.
If snails like your tomatoes, pour beer into a lid of an empty peanut butter jar with a rock on it so it doesn't blow away. Rumor has it that snails like the beer better than the tomatoes. My German husband doesn't doubt that.
You now know how to start a vegetable garden from scratch by following these four easy steps of planning, prepping, planting and picking. If you are a beginner gardener, start with just three to four plants so that you feel successful. Next year you will want to plant even more!
Please share your own gardening tips with the MyNetDiary community!
*I would like to thank my mom, who grew up on a farm in Colorado, my 84-year-old friend Eleonora in Switzerland, and 94-year-old Aunt Lotte in Germany. They are still finding joy in gardening.
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