Gardening is an excellent hobby the whole family can enjoy. Even better, learning how to start a vegetable garden is a terrific way to connect with your food, save money, and enjoy nature.
Read our guide to learn about the best time to start a garden and everything you need to keep your plants healthy. You’ll also learn which vegetables grow best in a first time garden, tips for weeding, and more.
The Best Time To Start Planting a Vegetable Garden
Knowing how to start a vegetable garden includes knowing when to get started. First of all, what time of year are you thinking of planting your garden? Are you thinking of getting your outdoor space ready for early spring, or have you missed the hot weather and want to experiment with a winter vegetable garden?
The truth is, you can start and have a successful garden any time of year. Some fruits and vegetables thrive in warmer weather, while others grow their best during the fall and winter months. The key is prepping the environment where your plants will be growing, whether it’s a small outdoor garden or an indoor windowsill.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan:
- Pay Attention to Frost Dates: Unless you live in a climate that’s mild year-round, frost dates will influence planting times. Plant too early in the season, and young plants could be damaged by the cold or fail to properly germinate. Depending on how long your growing season is, you might be better off starting your plants indoors and transplanting them outside once temperatures warm up. Check out our free Back to the Roots grow calendar for a plan tailored to your region.
- Indoor Accommodations: Don’t let a lack of outdoor space deter you from starting a garden. Hydroponic gardens are self-contained and make it simple to grow herbs, tomatoes, leafy greens, and other vegetables indoors. You can use grow lights to offset the difference in natural sunlight and expect fewer pest issues than an outdoor garden.
- Check Out a Garden Planner: Garden planning apps are helpful for first-time gardeners and seasoned pros alike. Whether you need help deciding which plants should go where or you want to upgrade your landscaping or browse ideas for managing pests, they come in handy. While there’s usually a small fee, they can make getting your vegetable garden started a lot easier.
Organizing Your Garden Supplies
Now that you know a bit more about when you can plant your vegetable garden, it’s time to tackle the things that can make all difference between having a thriving veggie patch or waiting for the next season to try again.
Lay the Foundation
Knowing how to start a vegetable garden requires a strong foundation. Your plants will grow best in a nutrient-rich environment, whether that’s indoors or in a patio garden.
Keep your eyes open for the best organic soil you can find. A quality potting mix will have an array of nutrient-dense and organic matter such as worm castings, kelp and alfalfa meal, and beneficial bacteria.
You can also start composting. It’s a good way to cut down on kitchen waste and improve your garden soil.
Depending on the type of soil you have, you may need to do a little more prep work in your garden before you start planting seeds. If your soil is compacted or has a lot of clay, you might want to till it. Tilling can help break it up and makes it easier for your plant’s roots to take hold.
On the other hand, you might have a garden with loose, sandy soil. This type of soil is easily waterlogged, so make sure it has adequate drainage to keep it from harming your veggies. Raised beds are a good fit here, and you don’t always have to build one yourself. Our Back to the Roots Fabric Raised Garden Bed is a breeze to set up and helps your plant roots get more oxygen compared to ceramic pots. Even better? These lightweight garden beds are durable enough to last through multiple gardening seasons.
Psst: Back to the Roots will be launching organic potting soil in Spring ‘21. Check out your local Walmart Garden Center when it launches!
Selecting Your Seeds
When deciding what to plant in your garden, you might notice seed packets say “heirloom” or “hybrid.”
Heirloom seeds are plant or vegetable seeds that are more than 50 years old and open-pollinated, meaning they need help from nature for pollination. Birds, bees, butterflies, and even the wind can help make this happen.
Some vegetable gardeners like to harvest seeds from their crops for future seasons. If you find a variety of cucumbers or tomatoes you adore, you can look forward to growing them each summer if you do the same.
On the other hand, hybrid seeds can only be planted for a single season, so there’s no seed saving. They aren’t without their advantages, though. These plants can have better flavor, be more resistant to pests and disease, and have a higher yield than heirloom varieties.
Back to the Root’s organic seeds are always grown right here in the United States and are 100% organic. No matter which seeds you decide to plant, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you and your family are getting the best.
Managing Pests and Weeds
Unless you decide to start an indoor vegetable garden, you’ll need to be ready for pests and weeds.
Instead of turning to chemical pesticides to manage insects, try using insecticidal soaps. You can easily make them at home or pick them up at a garden center. Another alternative is to spread diatomaceous earth around your plants. The fine powder is safe around children and pets once it’s applied and does an excellent job of repelling bugs that aren’t welcome in your garden.
Nobody wants to spend extra time weeding garden beds. But what should you do if you’re going to keep chemicals out of your soil?
Try putting down a weed barrier. Mulch is an eco-friendly option that pulls double duty and minimizes pests, so it’s a win-win. There are natural mulch options too. Pine straw, wood chips, grass clippings, and leaves all work to keep weeds at bay.
How To Start a Vegetable Garden
We know you’re excited to roll up your sleeves, but there are just a few more details to consider before you start planting.
Whether you opt for a container garden or stick with a regular veggie patch, take a peek at your seed packets for info on where they should be planted. Some plants thrive in full sun, while others do best out of direct sunlight. Think about planting your vegetables in a location where they’re protected from wind and inclement weather as they grow.
Lastly, if you have any vining plants, set up a trellis for them. It can help protect your vegetable plants from pests and other critters.
Ok, now it’s time to get started in the garden! Here are some of our favorite veggies to grow:
- Leafy Greens: Trade grocery store salad mixes for your own garden greens. Chard, arugula, and other lettuces make great additions to any vegetable garden and are easy to grow in beds and containers alike. Enjoy more delicate greens during the warmer months, and look forward to kale and collards when temperatures drop.
- Zucchini and Summer Squash: Start scouring the internet for zucchini and squash recipes because you’re going to need them. These are fast-growing crops and work well in a variety of dishes. You can turn them into noodles, toss them on the grill, add to soup and salad, and even enjoy their edible flowers.
- Radishes: These little gems grow quickly and are right at home with your kale in a winter vegetable garden, but you can enjoy them earlier in the year too. Try roasting radishes, and adding them to salad, soup, and sandwiches.
- Tomatoes: Few things delight like a fresh summer tomato, so you might want to include tomato plants in your garden lineup. You can make them work even if you have a shorter growing season by getting them started indoors. Back to the Root’s Cherry Tomato Windowsill Planter includes everything you need to get started.
Psst: Check out our guide to the 11 easiest vegetables to grow for more garden inspiration!
Growing Your Own Veggies Is a Fun and Rewarding Hobby
Even if you aren’t sure how to start a vegetable garden, you can enjoy growing your own food with ease throughout the seasons with a bit of preparation and planning. Vegetable gardening is the perfect way to relax, connect with your food, and spend time in nature. Be sure and check out our other blog posts for more gardening tips and inspiration!