Updated: Oct 27, 2022
Starting a garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do! It's a great way to bring fresh food to your table and you'll be saving money by buying less from the grocery store! Not only that, it's a fun way to get out in the fresh air and sunshine and
get a little exercise!
Never gardened before? No problem, it's easy to learn how to start a vegetable garden. Make your garden dreams a reality with these 10 easy tips:
Picking the right location.
Placing your garden in a part of your yard where you'll see it regularly (out of site, often leads to out of mind when gardening). That way, you'll be more likely to spend time in it. Follow the sun. Pay attention to how sunlight plays through your yard before choosing a spot for your garden. Most plants, including many vegetables, herbs and fruits need at least 6-8 hours of sun in order to thrive. Look for an open area, without a lot of trees around. Be sure that you are able to run a hose to your garden site, so you don't have to lug water to it each time your plants get thirsty.
If you have limited space, invest in raised garden beds, or build one of your own! Simple as placing it in its location and filling the bed with soil, you'll be able to skip some of the soil preparation steps and you won't hurt your back bending down so much!
Planning your garden.
Start small! It's better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a big one. Only grow what you know you and your family will eat, choose 8 to 12 different plant varieties depending on your garden size. It might be helpful to make a list of all the vegetables/herbs/fruits that your family will actually eat and enjoy (there's no use in growing something that won't get eaten). Be realistic about how many seeds/plants you need to put into the ground; vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and squash keep producing throughout the season, whereas carrots, radishes and corn can be harvested only once.
Choosing your soil.
When starting a garden, one of the top pieces of advice is to invest in soil that is nutrient-rich and well-draining: wet soil means wet roots, which can turn into rotted roots. Achieve a well-nourished garden by using our ready-to-go mixture of Garden Mix!
Starting from seed or purchasing pre-grown plants.
A key thing to consider while planning your garden is whether you want to start your garden from seeds or purchase pre-grown plants from a nursery (hint, hint.. Jetty's).
Each has its advantages and disadvantages; buying from a nursery and simply transplanting the plant into your garden is much easier and more convenient but if you want to save some money, and you want to grow a lot, start with seeds. It is usually cheaper to buy seeds rather than individual plants, and you have much more varieties to choose from of different vegetables/herbs/fruits that you don't always get from a nursery. You can start most indoors six to eight weeks before the start of the planting season (it is best to follow the plant start date on the back of the seed packet) and move your seedlings into the garden later.
But as a beginner, sometimes it's not a bad idea to start off with buying and transplanting pre-grown plants, then you won't have to stress over things such as timing, nowhere to store the growing seedlings and the care of them over the weeks of growing! Though that being said not all seeds need to be started indoors, some grow perfectly when started outdoors such as; beets, carrots, dill, beans, lettuce, parsley, peas and radishes, etc. So you can consider doing both methods to start off!
Try out OSC® Vegetable Garden Starter Kit, a value pack with 7 easy-to-grow vegetables!
Choose the right plants.
It's important to select plants that match your growing conditions. This means
putting sun-loving plants into a sunny spot, and giving ground-gobbling vines like
pumpkins and melons have plenty of elbow room (or a trellis to climb). Do your homework, check plant tags or ask the staff at a greenhouse to help you understand how much sun a plant needs! Choose what you, and your family, like to eat! The vegetables suggested below are common and productive plants that are relatively easy to grow in Ontario (as per Landscape Ontario) and will give you a range of gardening experiences!
1. Tomatoes 2. Zucchini
5. Green beans
Learn your frost dates.
One of the most common errors that beginner gardeners make is planting too soon – planting too early in the season can spell disaster for your garden. You need to know the last average spring frost date for your area so you don't accidentally kill plants by putting them out prematurely. I personally move/start my plants outdoors after the May 24 weekend.
When you're ready to start planting directly into your garden, use a garden shovel to make holes for your plants; make the holes at least two times wider and one time deeper than the container the plant is in but when putting the plants into the soil don't bury them any deeper than what they were in their containers.
Be sure to space plants accordingly, most seed packets/plant tags should have the desired spacing information, but most plants should be at least 2-3" away in their rows, and 2 - 3ft apart from other plants. Add trellises/stakes or garden netting around plants that need support like tomatoes, beans, and peas. Once everything is in the ground and planted, water the plants to help settle them in.
Vegetables are thirsty! Sometimes you can get away with watering your plants at least three to four times a week, but in the heat of the summer, you may need to water every day. When the weather is at its warmest, when watering your garden be sure to soak the soil (do not just sprinkle), in the early morning or late afternoon; so your plants have the opportunity to take moisture into their foliage through the heat of the day. Be sure to keep an eye on your garden throughout the day, however, and water whenever the soil begins to dry at least 2" below the surface as sometimes over-watering, can be just as bad as under-watering.
Weeds are inevitable when it comes to gardening and they sometimes can be a never-ending battle, but they are garden killers – they can suffocate the roots of your plants, and harbour pests, so it's best to pull them when you can so they don't start choking out your plants.
Caring for your garden.
Though you may have great soil, it could be beneficial to you and your garden to begin feeding your garden with plant food after at least a month after planting. It's important to determine what your plants need to help you choose the right fertilizer, there are three primary nutrients that all plants need; nitrogen (N) promotes healthy leaf growth, phosphorus (P) promotes healthy root development, and potassium (K) promotes flower and fruit development. You can buy a soil test kit to see what exactly your garden needs to help it thrive! Though there are pre-packaged fertilizers that are formulated to meet most nutritional needs and are sometimes the best to go with! Items such as Miracle-Gro® Shake n' Feed Tomato, Fruit & Veg, Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Plant Food, Black Gold® All-Purpose Fertilizer and SUPERthrive® Vitamin Solution are some of my personal favourites!
But besides prepacked fertilizers, there are individual amendments that can be used instead, such as cow or sheep manures, Acti-Sol® Hen Manure, Worm Castings, Ocean Blend compost, peat moss or even regular compost.
No matter what type of fertilizer you are using, it's very important to water thoroughly before/after to avoid burning roots and deliver nutrients to the plant more effectively! Always be sure to always follow label directions.