Gardening is one of the most fulfilling hobbies for me, and I consider it a form of self-care. If you’ve ever considered starting your own vegetable garden but didn’t know where to begin, this blog post is here to help!
I started my own small vegetable garden a few years ago with very little knowledge or experience and now have an incredibly thriving space filled with plenty of homegrown fruits, vegetables, herbs, plants & flowers.
In this blog post, I’m going to share all the tips and tricks that worked for me so that you can start on your own journey towards cultivating delicious produce as part of your regular self-care routine.
…but first, can I tell you a secret about gardening?! It’s not just for people with a green thumb.
You can start a garden that produces delicious fruits and veggies without spending all your money or time in the garden. You don’t even need a lot of space!
The goal of gardening is NOT to be the perfect gardner (at least that’s not my goal!). My goal is to cultivate a space that allows seeds to grow, bloom and be harvested… sorta like our dreams and goals!
How to start a small garden in your backyard
1. Prepare your garden
Preparing your plant bed will probably be the most tedious thing you have to do (thank goodness!) when it comes to your small garden.
You want to ensure you have prepared the plant bed by removing any debris, sticks, leaves, weeds, and trash.
If you’re starting your garden from complete scratch, you want to make sure to choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight and is in close proximity to your water source.
Finding the right location for a small garden in your backyard is essential to ensuring its success.
Ideally, you should choose a sunny spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
If you have limited space available, consider positioning the garden against a south-facing wall or fence, which can help make the most of the available light.
You will also need to consider the soil type and drainage in the area – look for areas that have well-draining, nutrient-rich soils.
If necessary, you may need to add compost or other organic material to improve soil fertility.
It is important to think carefully about how your small garden will be laid out.
Consider planting taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front, so that each plant gets an adequate amount of sunlight.
If you have different types of plants, it can be helpful to group them together according to their needs.
For example, vegetables may need more sunlight than flowers, or certain herbs may require more water than others.
Additionally, you should consider pathways and seating areas so that you can easily access and enjoy your garden.
Finally, choose plants that are suitable for the climate and soil conditions in your area.
Remember to consider their level of maintenance, as some plants may require more care than others.
If you are new to gardening, it is a good idea to start with smaller plants or vegetables that are easy to manage and maintain.
2. Prepare the soil
Give your plants a jump start by having nutrient-filled soil by using compost, natural fertilizers, and/or soil from the store.
You will want to break up the soil (aka till it) so the dirt is easier to manage.
Make sure the soil is moist. You do not want it completely wet or super dry. You want the soil to have a little moisture to it and be easy to move around.
One thing I recommend when starting your easy vegetable garden is having the right tools. Here’s a garden tool set that includes pretty much all of the tools you’ll need as a beginner gardener.
How to prepare the soil?
Prepare the soil to start a small garden in your backyard. Dig up the ground and remove any rocks or weeds.
Add fertilizer and water to help your plants grow. Use a rototiller to break up large clumps of soil and mix in additional compost or manure.
If you have sandy soil, consider adding some peat moss for added water retention. Till the soil to a depth of about 12 inches; this will help promote drainage and aeration.
Use stakes and strings to mark off your garden’s boundaries. Next, spread a layer of mulch over the soil to help retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.
3. Plan out what you will grow
One of the biggest mistakes new gardeners make is not researching what they want to grow.
So you want to grow lettuce? Awesome! However, lettuce doesn’t do well in extreme heat, so if you were to grow lettuce in the summer in Florida, it wouldn’t do well.
A lot of beginner gardeners would chalk this up to not having a green thumb when in reality, they simply just aren’t informed.
When you plan out what vegetables you want to grow, be sure to research the best times to grow it, and the necessary conditions needed for the plant to thrive.
Easy vegetables to grow as a beginner
Some crops are easier to grow than others, such as beans, cucumbers, and peppers. I grow bell peppers every year because they love the heat (I live in Florida) and are pretty low maintenance when it comes to growth for me.
Starting off, I recommend looking into crops that *cue my hunger games voice* the odds will be in your favor.
Here’s a list of easy vegetables for beginners from dogwoodpondfarms.com:
Another thing I HIGHLY recommend you look into is companion plants.
Companion planting is growing different crops in close proximity to help with pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing the use of space, and/or increase crop productivity. It’s basically growing fruits and vegetables together that will have a working relationship.
Companion planting is a great way to boost your harvest for your easy vegetable garden especially if you have a smaller garden and want to plant a ton of things.
For example, did you know planting tomatoes and basil next to each other enhance the flavor of the tomato as well as deter pest such as the tomato hornwork?
Did you know planting potatoes and tomatoes together will prevent the tomato from growing well because it makes it more susceptible to mold such as Phytophthora?
Additionally, tomatoes and potatoes will fight over nutrients, causing both not to grow well.
Knowing which fruits and veggies grow better together will truly help you reap a large harvest.
Here’s a list of few friends and foes when it comes to companion planting:
Add flowers to your easy vegetable garden to attract bees
Bees are one of your garden’s best friends because they help pollinate your plants which gives you vegetables and fruits.
One way to have a bee loving garden is to plant bee-loving flowers in your garden!
For example, I like to plant flowers next to my eggplants and zucchini plants because I find it helps pollinate my plants and thus gives me a larger harvest.
Adding flowers to your garden is an excellent way to attract bees and create a vibrant outdoor space.
With a few simple steps, you can create a beautiful garden that blooms with color and life.
When selecting flowers for your garden, consider the type of bee that you want to attract. Different species of bees prefer different types of flowers.
Consider the sunlight available in your garden, as well as whether you want to create a seasonal or year-round display of blooms.
4. Start Planting your Garden
Once you have the soil prepared and know exactly what you want to plant (because you know the best times to plant)… it’s time to plant!
You can plant via seed or starter plant/transparent. Depending on my mood and budget, there have been seasons where I planted only by seed.
However, these days I’m running a full business, so I prefer starter plants (or plugs).
There are pros and cons to each… here are a few:
Pros and cons: Seeds vs Seedlings
Some pros to growing via transplant
- Faster growth
- You can harvest sooner
- Plant at a later time
- Not as much of a learning curve
- Your garden starts out stronger
Some cons to growing via transplant
- Plants are more expensive than seeds
- Not all plants do well being transplanted from one garden to the next
- It can introduce bugs and diseases into your garden that you did not have
Some pros to growing via seeds
- The cheapest way to garden as seeds are inexpensive
- Can choose different varieties of a plant
Some cons to growing via seed
- There can be a learning curve to growing via seed
- Takes longer to grow
- It may need additional nurturing
- You have to plant during the “right” time for the specific plant.
5. Water your garden often
How often you water your garden depends on your season, region, and location.
Because I live in Florida and I’m gardening through the spring/summer, I water every morning. When the weather is cooler, I may water every other day if need be.
I like to water in the morning or late in the day when the sun is not scorching.
Why? This allows the water to run down into the soil and reach the roots of the crop without too much water evaporating from the heat.
This also provides available water to the plants throughout the day so that the plants will be able to deal better with the heat of the sun (heat stress is real).
Remembering to water your garden can be hard, so I have worked it into my routine. Every morning when I go downstairs for breakfast, I make sure to open up all of my windows and water my garden.
BONUS: Add a bee water fountain
Bees are so important not just to the world but also to your garden. I do everything possible to ensure my garden is bee-friendly by NOT using harmful pesticides and investing in bee-loving flowers like bee balm.
Please try to never, ever kill bees. They are super beneficial to your garden and generally only sting you as a last option.
Another way I make my garden bee-friendly is with a homemade bee water fountain.
Planting bee-friendly plants and creating an attractive habitat for them should be enough to welcome them into your yard.
In your garden, place a shallow dish or bowl with some rocks in it that sits above clean water. This is just enough to give bees a drink of water.
The point is to create a source of freshwater that has places for the bees to perch as they drink and collect water. I’ve even witnessed butterflies taking a sip water at the fountain (which is great because butterflies also help pollinate your garden!)
6. Feed your plants
In the same way, you can’t survive just off of water… neither can your plants!
Ensure you are feeding your plants with plant food that provides nutrients. While plants use the nutrients in the soil to feed themselves and stay healthy.
Over time, the plant’s soil eventually needs plant food to help replenish the depleted nutrients.
Feeding your garden plants with plant food is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure that your plants remain healthy and productive.
By providing them with essential nutrients, they are able to grow properly and produce lush foliage, blooms, and fruits or vegetables.
Plant food can be either in granular or liquid form, although many professional gardeners prefer the liquid form since it is easier to apply and faster acting.
When applying plant food, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on dosage and frequency of application.
Fertilizing too often or with too much can cause your plants to become “burned” from over-fertilization.
Additionally, adding too much fertilizer can lead to nutrient runoff, which will pollute nearby water sources. Therefore it is important to use plant food sparingly and carefully.
In addition to plant food, you should also consider adding organic matter such as compost or aged manure into your garden soil.
This will add beneficial nutrients and help maintain good soil structure and drainage. Additionally, adding organic matter can help attract earthworms and other beneficial organisms to your garden.
7. Maintaining your garden
You will need to ensure that your plants have everything they need (and everything they don’t need) for optimal success!
Weeds can compete with your plants for nutrients and water, so it’s best to get rid of them before planting.
After the soil is ready, you’ll need to decide what type of plants you want in your garden.
Weeds steal nutrients from your plants. Pull them when you see them.
Removing snails and snugs
One of the most important aspects of keeping your garden healthy is preventing snail and slug damage. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep them away and protect your plants. Here are a few ways to get rid of snails.
Snails are not your garden’s friends. Get rid of them when you see them.
Having a garden is all about learning through experience and research. If you see a problem, google it or call your local garden nursery!
I’ve made many mistakes in my garden and I’ve killed plenty of plants (oops!). Gardening teaches you patience and also that failure is often necessary for success.
8. Harvest what you’ve sowed
Once your vegetable garden starts producing, reap the benefits of it. You’ve worked hard for it…. treat yo’ self!
The proper timing for vegetables is key for both getting the best flavor out of them as well as achieving maximum yield from the crop.
Knowing when to harvest vegetables from your garden depends on each particular vegetable, so make sure you read up on the specific requirements for each vegetable in your garden.
Depending on the vegetable, harvesting can be done either by hand or with a tool such as a scissor, knife, pruners, or even an axe.
When harvesting vegetables, you should aim to select those that are fully mature and at the peak of ripeness.
With some vegetables, such as tomatoes, you may even have to taste test them in order to determine the right time for harvesting.
Additionally, be sure to harvest your vegetables at the right time of day – generally early morning is best.
It is important that after harvesting your vegetables, you take proper storage and preservation measures. This will help ensure that the vegetables stay fresh for longer and maintain their flavor.
Depending on the vegetable, this may mean refrigerating them, drying them, freezing them, pickling them or canning them.
Harvesting your vegetable garden is both a rewarding and delicious experience that you can enjoy year after year. With careful preparation, timing and preservation techniques, you can ensure that your vegetable garden continues to produce high yields of fresh and delicious vegetables for many years to come.
So this is how to start a small garden in your backyard. Do you have any questions? Let me know down below in the comments!
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