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5 Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

5 Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

With spring just around the corner, you may find yourself getting the urge to start your own vegetable garden as magazines and newspapers are full of gardening stories. There are plenty of places to learn the step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

But, after teaching and writing about gardening for the past decade, I have come up with some common sense tips that new gardeners should consider before they even start to plant. Here are just a few of them.

Plan ahead. Whether you grow from seed or from transplants, things take time; you have to plant at the right time, in the right place, and with the right conditions. Pick the location that will work for what you want to grow. Is there enough sun? What about your soil and what else do you have in that area that might interfere or help you grow there? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, find out. Nothing frustrates and discourages beginning gardeners more than having things die unexpectedly. Use your enthusiasm to your advantage by taking the time to learn.

Which brings me to this: get educated, learn as much as you can, and never stop learning. When are your favorite vegetables in season? When do they need to be planted to be ready in this season? You can’t expect bushels of corn in July if you only planted them in June. Or, do you want to grow your own Halloween pumpkins? Then you need to plant those pumpkins months before October, usually no later than June 15. Not finding out the most basic things about what you are growing is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment.

Resist the urge to overdo. Start small. You don’t have to use the entire space you have available, or plant everything all at once. In your enthusiasm to start gardening, did you request a copy of every seed catalog you found online and then order way more than you’d ever eat? Or, did you make a trip to the local nursery and couldn’t resist all the great bargains they have for spring planting? Once you buy all those seeds or all those plants, then you have already committed yourself to planting them all. Even if you use succession planting, you may still feel overwhelmed. Instead, choose one small site in your garden, and pick one or two of your absolute favorite veggies and start with them.

Think of your garden as a test garden. Experiment. Test out your sun, soil and skills. That’s how you learn. If things didn’t grow as well as you expected, don’t think of it as a failure, or that you have no “green thumb.” Take the time to analyze what might have been missing, and what you could have done better. Take notes and keep track of what worked for you and what didn’t. I always say that there are no failures in gardening, just failure to prepare.

Have fun, enjoy what you are doing! If you make it a chore, or work, you will not want to keep gardening. Do not overdo or over buy; you run the risk of overwhelming yourself. Remember why you wanted to grow your own food in the first place. Aside from eating better, or saving money, part of the reason most of us garden is to play in the dirt. Never stop playing.

Read more: Green, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, Outdoor Activities

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


+ add your own
8:44PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Being the month of November all I can do is dream of the months ahead as in April and May...the long months to get through before I can begin working on a new garden again. Filling the earth full of seeds and seeing delightful and very tasty plants bearing veggies/herbs is delightful.

Some Bee Balm and other flowers nearby is wonderful as well and there are certainly some flowers that are edible and can be included in salads as well. I am hoping that Winter fast forwards ahead and Spring comes soon, but in my part of the world we have a long wait until the warm weather comes once again.

8:20PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Thanks for the tips. I did buy too many seeds!

7:17AM PDT on Aug 16, 2013

When I stepped into the showroom, I felt like I was in Provence. The scent of lavender and the sound of running water from the antique limestone fountain along with the incredible selection of French garden antiques were really impressive. If you are looking for very large garden ornaments, French planters, etc. this is the showroom to visit. A total of 15,000 square feet of the most incredible French garden antiques, French limestone fountains, fireplace mantels and the most selective collection of planters from France with immediate availability. Each piece feels real, the atmosphere is so calming and rural. A true and unique gem to be found in West Palm Beach! Their website is

6:54PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

thanks wishing the snow would melt so I could start.

4:15AM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

thank you for sharing

2:32AM PDT on Mar 26, 2013


2:07AM PDT on Mar 26, 2013


7:30PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

I need to remember to start small. When I finally start creating a vegetable garden I am going to be tempted to plant EVERYTHING.

9:57PM PDT on Mar 22, 2013

keep learning, its never-ending with growing such a wide variety of plants

2:51AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Thank you :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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