How to start a vegetable garden for beginners – If you are planning on a new hobby or considering how to keep busy no that you are retired, I’m sure gardening would have popped as an idea but you keep waiving it off as a bad idea because you’d imagined you don’t have the skill required to start a garden.
Newsflash: the best gardener is still a learner at some point because, in gardening, each day brings newer experiences to learn from. Some of the best gardeners you know still doubt their ability, the only difference between you and them is that they got started. Gardening is not a novel you try to edit before publishing, but the art you learn the more you get involved. So be prepared for mistakes, and sometimes repeated ones, but as long as you learn from them you are good to go.
With my gardening experience and tips gotten from fellow gardeners around, I’d like to share tips on how to start your vegetable garden as a beginner.
Gardens, like buildings, starts from finding the right location and drawing out a plan for the structure you intend building. So, let’s get straight into this.
How to start a vegetable garden
One of the most important stages of gardening is finding the perfect spot to grow your plants. A perfect spot means enough sunlight, water availability, good soil, and most times, enough space. Be it a small garden space or a large one, you have to ensure that your plants are not starved of their basic needs.
You know, gardening is like parenthood, you are tending to nature, watching plants come alive after being buried which is a great privilege and as a mother prepares for the arrival of a child, you need to ensure that all things are in place in that new location you are picking for your garden.
Once again, in finding a perfect spot for your garden, ensure it is exposed to sunlight (not shaded), close to a water source, (plants need to be watered frequently), choose a level area to prevent erosion and waterlogging and ensure that there is enough space for your plants to breathe. Crowded plants are majorly susceptible to diseases.
Having the big picture of what you want your garden to look like and how you’d manage it is key to having a well-planned garden. to draw out your garden layout, you should put into consideration the size of the garden, the kind of vegetables you intend planting, the location of each vegetable and how much spacing will be between rows if you’d consider interplanting or successive planting and the date or time for planting each crop.
The size of your garden shouldn’t be too big so it won’t become boring and burdensome but you can start with a small size which you can gradually grow into something bigger. That’s the rule for most tasks in life, isn’t it? Choose vegetables that can grow well in your area and the kind you enjoy with your family. Don’t be tempted to plant too much, I know it can be tempting at times seeing the beautiful plants in a catalogue would make you think, “oh well, I could as well get all” but resist the temptation.
Garden supplies and equipment
Knowing the basic tools you need for gardening as a starter will not only save you a lot of money but also make gardening easy and fun for you. Asides these, the less bulky tools you have, the easier it is to properly maintain them. I’ll list some essential tools you need on your garden as a beginner and explain the function of each.
- Garden gloves: except you are carving a garden space for sightseeing, but if you will get down and dirty working on your garden, you might as well need to protect your hands from splints, thorns, blisters or stings by wearing garden hand gloves. Your choice of garden gloves should be one that fits perfectly, water-resistant, breathable and durable. At times gloves with long cuffs are preferable as they protect your wrists and keeps soil from getting in through the opening.
- Hand trowel: trowel is an essential garden tool for transplanting young seedlings safely from the nursery to the main garden.
- Garden fork: used for turning the soil inside out especially when preparing the soil for a new planting season. Efficient for mulch scooping and turning compost heaps.
- Spade: great for digging plant holes, moving dirt, lifting clods and edging
- Rake: when you weed your garden, the rake is used to pack the dirt together in one place leaving the garden neat.
- Garden Hose: every garden needs water at one point or the other. A garden hose is perfect for spraying your garden each time the plants need to be watered. A garden hose should be long enough so it can reach from its place of attachment to the tap to your garden. A garden hose with an adjustable nozzle is preferable to keep the water regulated when spraying.
- Wheelbarrow: somethings need to be moved from the garden to the house or the other way around, and the wheelbarrow serves that function of moving garden supplies, soil, compost or seedlings around. This reduces the clumsiness of moving garden stuff in your hands and prevents mix up in the garden.
- Fencing materials: some gardens require fencing, while others don’t. if your garden is to open or exposed to animals or trespassers, you might need to consider a garden fence. Other times, garden fence serves are support to plants especially the ones built as a trellis for climbing or vine crops. Your choice of fencing material depends mostly on what purpose it serves in the garden.
Other garden supplies you would need to get from stores or farm market include garden seeds or young seedlings, pesticides, insecticides, compost, mulch, fertilizers and garden pots.
Knowing what to plant in your garden is a great step towards successful gardening. As a beginner, it’s best to start with easy, fast-growing plants that require little effort. The yield or turnout will serve as a motivation in subsequent gardening. It is not advisable to try out every plant you see and admire. Once you know what to plant in your garden, you may need to read up on plants to combine on your garden. Some plants go well together in the garden (Tomato and Basil) while planting other types together exposes your plants to pest and diseases (Tomato and Potato). Where you buy your seeds is very important as well as knowing when to plant and harvest your plants.
- When to plant: the time you plant largely depends on the vegetable you have chosen to plant and the climate of your area. While some plants are adaptable to weather conditions and seasons, others cannot survive a rise or drop in temperature. So, you may need to read up vegetable charts to choose a safe planting date for your veggies.
- How to plant: when its time to plant in your garden, ensure that you choose disease-free seeds and plant in straight rows. It is necessary to plant your seeds in proper depth and cover up with soil. When the seeds start to sprout, you’d also need to thin the new sprouts to reduce overcrowding.
- Pest control: to reduce the risk of pest and diseases in your garden, ensure that your seeds or plants are disease-free. You can also get disease-resistant seed variety in stores. Other ways to reduce or totally prevent pests and diseases in your garden is to sow sparsely and at a proper distance. Also be sure to remove weeds whenever they show up, don’t leave them for long because they breed pests and diseases. Crop rotation is also a great way to keep your garden free of pests and diseases.
Plants get their nutrients from the soil and poor soil quality will definitely affect the proper growth and development of plants. Before planting, the garden soil needs to be prepared to ensure proper plant growth. How do you prepare the soil?
- Soil tilth improvement:
Good soil should be easy to work on, be loose and have good aeration. Good soil also has water holding capacity as well as drainage. The soil quality can be improved on by adding organic matter.
Organic matter can be compost, green manure or animal manure (cow dung, stable, poultry droppings etc).
- Soil Acidity: vegetables thrive well in slightly acidic soil. A soil test is required to determine the pH of your soil. If the soil is acidic, you may need to lime the soil to regulate its acidity.
- Apply fertilizer: most organic farmers frown at fertilizers and there are organic ways to keep your garden soil fertilized. The essence of applying fertilizer is to give your plants a good start. Fertilizers often replenish the soil with Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, the three main elements needed for plant growth and development.
As your plants grow, there will be weeds growing together to compete for nutrients with them. You need to have a plan for consistent and regular weeding of the garden so as to keep your plants well protected. At times the growing plants may need to be pruned at the tips to allow for proper growth.
Plants need a regular dose of water while growing, so do no starve them. As they grow, the need for water would reduce except in the dry season when the rains are not coming as frequent. Identify the plants that need much water from the ones that need little so you don’t overdo it.
This is the best time of every planting season. It is a time that shows how you have carefully nurtured your plants from seed or seedlings to maturity. So, enjoy the garden-fresh bounties with your family and don’t forget to keep planting.
Starting a garden is really not as tasking as some do think. With these tips on how to start a vegetable garden for beginners, I believe you are well on your way to the garden. don’t stay a minute longer. Trust me, it is an adventure.