It’s hot, it’s trending, and all your friends are posting pics of tasty-looking garden veg on their social media pages. You’d love to get started with a veggie garden and enjoy the fresher-than-fresh produce plus the exercise, fresh air, and relief from stress that gardening brings – but you’re feeling a bit intimidated. Just how should you go about planning a veggie garden?
Relax. We’re here to help you succeed with seed – and that includes giving you the basic info you need to get started. So, this blog post will be all about the basics with absolutely no bells and whistles. Just follow these easy steps to get going.
1. Pick a Spot (or Spots)
Picking a spot to grow veggies may seem tricky, especially if you have a relatively small garden. You have heaps of options, though. You can go for the old-fashioned kitchen-garden with several beds dedicated to veggies or you can even add them to your ornamental garden.
Who said veggies can’t be pretty? If all you have is a patio or balcony, you can go for pots, and you can increase your space by going vertical – either with a basic shelving setup, or with one of the many ideas for vertical gardening that range from DIY “plant walls” built from scraps to fancy factory-made vertical gardening setups.
The main thing that most of your veggies will want from a location is sunshine – plenty of it. A bit of morning shade shouldn’t be a problem, however, and very light, dappled shade is fine too.
2. Prepare your Soil
There are many ways to go about preparing soil for your veggie garden, from the perfunctory to the comprehensive. For the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to the very basics. Veggies want good drainage, but they also want a soil that holds at least some moisture. Clay and sand are the two conditions you’ll want to ameliorate unless you’re lucky enough to have a light, loamy soil. Fortunately, any kind of soil will benefit from compost, so we don’t have to go too heavily into the soil science just yet.
The simplest way to prepare soil is to dig it over to at least a spade’s depth, mixing in one spade of compost to every two spades of soil. If you’re going for traditional beds, dig a trench and move the soil you dig out to the far end of the patch. Now, dig a trench right next to it, throwing the soil back into the first trench and adding that compost. The soil from the first trench fills the final one when you get to the end of the patch. Naturally, the volume increases because you’re adding compost. That’s fine. If the soil in your beds is higher than ground level, it drains better.
While you’re at it, remove any really big stones, but don’t worry too much about smaller ones unless you have more stones than soil. In that case, you’ll have to add sieving into the equation, but do remember that plants like a variety of soil particle sizes to thrive and don’t make it too fine.
3. Plan Your Crops
With your soil prepared, you can now leave the beds to settle for a week or two and start planning your crops, sowing those that you want to germinate in containers meanwhile. Apart from your personal tastes, the season and your local climate will dictate your options. We’ve suggested sowing months by climate for all the veggies we stock, but you can also play around a little to see what works for you.
You probably won’t want all your veggies to be ready at the same time, so consider spacing sowing out a little throughout the sowing season. Two weeks is usually a good guideline. Check the desired plant and row spacings to know how much space you should allocate to each crop and remember the importance of crop rotation between successive crops.
As a broad guideline, grow a legume followed by a leaf crop, a root crop, and a fruit crop before repeating the process.
4. Choose your Varieties
Now that you have a broad idea of what you’re going to grow in your veggie garden, it’s time to have fun! Choosing your varieties and going for a few unusual ones means that you present some really interesting ones to your friends and family. How about purple carrots? Purple black tomatoes anyone?
I like a mix of the unusual together with a few market-garden favorites. Even common variety veggies are nicer when they’re fresh out of your own veggie garden!
5. Sow Your Seeds
Sowing seeds is always an odd time. I always look at the dried seeds and wonder if I’ll get anything out of them at all. But, sown at the right depth, and with the right amount of water, a little miracle happens, and up they pop.
We recommend a sowing depth and this info is on your seed packets. Now, it’s just a matter of watering them in with a fine spray of water so that they stay where you put them.
6. Thin and Space
Once your seedlings are up and growing, it’s important to ensure that they have enough room to grow. Retain the strongest plants and thin out the rest to the recommended spacing. If there are patches where the seeds didn’t germinate so well, you can transplant the thinned plantlets into them – but this doesn’t work quite so well with certain crops – carrots come to mind
Most veggie crops are relatively low-maintenance, but some will like a little pruning or staking. If your plants are growing slowly, feeding is probably also needed. The best bet is to just assume that the young plants will want some liquid feeding. Later on, they’ll “tell” you if they’re hungry, and you can add top dressings of fertilizer as needed. Remember to water well after using dry fertilizers and to keep granules away from the root-stem junction.
Mulch ( a soil covering of bark or compost) is great for reducing watering frequency and for keeping weeds down. Consider using this pro gardening trick to make your life easier.
While tips and instructions are nice for getting you started, your own observations will be particularly important. The weird thing about plants is that what works for you may work less well for your neighbour. Even small differences between one garden bed and another can affect your plants’ performance.
First prize is to keep a gardening diary so that you can track the best successes and try repeating the formula next time you grow them. Your less successful efforts are valuable too. If you didn’t succeed, try to think of reasons why this may have happened. Perhaps you watered the plants too often, or a downpour of rain washed seeds away. You may have sown seeds too deeply, or a certain variety wasn’t too happy with the fertilizer you gave it.
Over time, your observations combined with the new things you try to overcome challenges will help you to develop the perfect recipe for growing each of your favorite types of veg. Soon, you’ll be the one boasting of gardening success while your friends line up to get advice from you!
Do remember that this post doesn’t cover all the possible options you might want to explore. It’s meant to be a simple guide for beginners that will get them started with veggie gardening easily. There are many tips and tricks you can try over and above these basics, but you should be good to go! Enjoy your gardening experience. We hope that the fruits of your labour will exceed every expectation!