Starting a vegetable garden from scratch is exciting and terrifying. Do you wonder what is the best soil? Where should I plant? Do you start with seeds or direct sow? Here are six tips to help you establish a healthy bountiful vegetable garden this year.
How to Start a Vegetable Garden
Starting a garden is exciting. It’s important to pick the best spot with careful consideration. Take a walk around your yard in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Take notes of spots that get the majority of sunlight and how much shade. Depending on the types of vegetables you are growing, some of your plants will need more shade.
Planting your crops in a spot with full sunlight means more watering in the hot summer months.
I planted our vegetable garden right off the back side of our barn. This way it is getting afternoon and evening sun.
I like watering my garden in the morning after feeding the animals. I have until noon before the sun is above the garden.
Another tip for location is to keep it somewhere close to your compost pile. For me, I don’t want to haul all my compost on the other side of our yard. I have our compost pile is a few feet away.
TIPS FOR LOCATION:
- Where is the compost pile?
- How much sun will it get?
- Will you be able to water it?
- Does the area have standing water in Spring?
Prepare the Soil
The very first thing you will need to do is prepare the soil. If you are starting from scratch, the best thing you can do for your sanity with weeds is to rent a rototiller. The grass is a pain in the butt to remove.
We compared the cost of a one-day rental for a rototiller to purchasing one and it comes out cheaper to rent it.
Keep in mind if you remove the chunks of grass you can reuse them somewhere else.
I’m still considering making a temporary pallet pen with the pigs to root it up instead. Free is always for me!
You will need to use a spade or fork to dig up the soil if you aren’t going to use a rototiller.
In the past, I used this handy manual tiller tool to keep up with weeds or to prepare a small area.
As my time becomes less and my back hurts faster, I’m all for the tiller. Last year I had Bentley in the garden before I planted strawberries and he did a decent job tilling it up for me. I have to emphasize if you don’t till it up all the soil before you plant, your weeds will come with a vengeance.
With lots of weeds comes garden burnout.
Shovel up big chunks of the ground. You want to dig up the roots of any weeds currently there. If you have grass this is important because you need to get rid of it all.
After a couple of days of the big chunks of soil drying out. you will turn them and let them sit again.
Once the chunks have dried out and it looks to be the grass is dying, we remove those chunks.
Now you will need to find a local farm selling manure and fill your garden into ground level.
This is so important when starting a vegetable garden. If you must buy bags of soil it is going to cost you. We used a local farmer who was selling manure for cheap.
We filled up the bed of our truck and dumped it in. For $20 we had the garden full and ready to plant. Now since we live out in the country with more animals we are creating our own compost.
Tips for Soil:
- Rent a tiller
- Turn up all chunks of grass and remove
- Find a local farmer for manure soil to fill your garden
Pick Your Vegetables to Grow
This can be the most difficult part. Making decisions on what to grow. You can get carried away and try to plant everything or get so overwhelmed you only plant five things!
Even buying seeds can break your budget. The first thing is to make a budget and how much you have to spend on your garden. This will keep your focus on the foods you want to grow and not the ones that look like fun to grow.
Check out my five top free garden designer websites here.
Now that you have been out in your garden for a few days you have a better sense of the sunlight and the soil. It’s easier to pick your seeds after you have spent time working the garden.
Don’t go overboard. Think of the garden design and your location. Sign up for a free seed booklet so you can familiarize yourself with seeds and how much sunlight they need.
You can familiarize yourself with seeds and how much sunlight they need. It’s also a good idea to learn about companion planting and what veggies grow best together or apart.
The first way to start is to ask yourself what you know your family will eat. It’s usually not worth the time and effort if this if your first garden to grow things the kids won’t touch.
But, it can be a great time to try a new food for the kids.
Tips for Picking Vegetables
- Use a Free Garden Designer here
- Make a budget and stick to it
- Grow what your family loves
Decide if you are Going to Start Seeds Indoors or Direct Sow
When I’m starting fresh with seeds I wait for BOGO sales at our local farm store or Home Depot. Home depots BOGO seed sale usually starts in April.
Usually, in February, I pick a day to hit the library with the kids and grab as many gardening books as I can. I look through get inspired and design my garden there and pick any new seeds to grow.
We try to save our seeds each year to save on the cost of planting.
Look at your budget. Does your budget allow you to buy all the plants you wish to grow? Or can you get more bang for your buck with seeds?
Starting seeds can seem intimidating but with the tips I’ve shared on the blog here, I’m sure you can do it. Especially when you see how fast vegetable plants add up when you’re buying the plants at Home Depot.
Starting seeds indoors can be a fun family event too.
indoors can be a fun family event too.
Tips for Seeds
- Get a Seed Catalog Early
- Utilize the Library books for inspiration
- Save your Seeds each year
- Learn How to Start Seeds Indoors here
Put Plants in Garden at the Right Time
In New York state my go-to guide for when to plant seeds is the Cornell Cooperative Extension. You can go here to see your county and when to plant your first seeds and last.
The site has a great USDA Plant Hardiness zone chart here.
It can be hard not to rush our seeds but as a general guide plant warm season crops outside 2 to 3 weeks after average last frost when the soil has warmed and nighttime temperatures are regularly above 45°F.
Don’t plant when the sun is blazing down. Pick a cool time even a cloudy day is best to plant crops.
It is important to keep the plants moist for the first week or two to allow seedlings to establish roots.
Tips for Planting at the Right Time
- Utilize the free resources to see best planting times in your region
- Plant on a Cloudy Day if possible
Write down what you did and what works Keep notes throughout your gardening season. When I first started my vegetable garden I was sure I would remember everything.
I didn’t. Write everything down and keep it in a safe place.
I hope the tips above help you to get started with creating a vegetable garden from scratch.
Please share your tips or concerns in the comments below.