How to Start a Vegetable Garden

Plant a small garden when you begin gardening.

Start out small, planting in beds of a manageable size. These young gardeners are planting in a 4 x 8 raised bed.

Looking to start a vegetable garden? Get ready to enjoy the best vegetables you’ve ever eaten.

Don’t try to plant a large garden during your first year of growing vegetables. Start out small, then expand in the coming growing seasons.

These days, most new gardeners have to clamor for space to grow, but even if you have a large area, resist the urge to plant this much your first year. In a few seasons, you’ll be ready to expand.

In many regions, vegetables will grow 3 or 4 seasons of the year. Warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, grow in the frost-free weather of late spring until fall. Cool-season vegetables, such as lettuce and broccoli, grow in the cooler weather of early spring and fall; most withstand light frosts.

When it comes to starting a vegetable garden, 3 things are absolutely crucial for success: full sun, good soil, and plenty of water. The next factors also make a big difference:

  • growing varieties adapted to your region
  • practicing good gardening habits
  • identifying and controlling pests

Because Bonnie plant varieties are distributed regionally, you will automatically have varieties for your area. Our web site can help with good gardening practices and identifying pests.

Relax with your first garden. You may make a few mistakes, but you’ll begin to understand what makes vegetables grow. Probably the biggest mistake first-time gardeners make is making the garden too big.

Your first garden should be a manageable size. A few containers might be way to “dip your toe” in the water. Or, a raised bed measuring either 4×4 or 4 x 8 feet, such as the ones featured in our raised bed section, will give you plenty of space to learn.  In the ground, the biggest that you might want to attempt is a 12 x 24-foot summer garden for a family of 4 that could include: 3 hills of yellow squash; 1 mound of zucchini; 10 assorted peppers; 6 tomato plants; 12 okra plants; a 12-foot row of bush beans; 2 cucumbers on a cage; 2 eggplant; 6 basil, 1 rosemary, and a few low-growing herbs such as oregano, thyme, and marjoram tucked in here and there.

When you grow vegetables, you and your kids learn a lot about nature, too.

Spending time in a garden will actually grow more than vegetables. You’ll be surprised how much you learn, and you can pass on that knowledge to little ones, too.

You’ll be surprised how quickly vegetables develop. Most grow from a tiny transplant to a full harvest in 30 to 90 days. Because of this, vegetables cannot be ignored. Overgrown zucchini will look like a baseball bat and over-mature okra are like cardboard. On the other hand, a garden-grown okra pod is usually flawless, not skinned and browned from shipping. Zucchini and other vegetables are the same way: Their flavor is fullest because they have been on the plant until the last possible moment, using the extra time to build flavors and sugars.

The first season is usually the hardest because of the time, cost, and work in setting up the garden. The next time you plant it will be much, much easier, as the main set-up will already be done.

Above all, don’t give up. As you learn how to start a vegetable garden, you will make mistakes. So did Einstein. A vegetable garden asks that you check it almost daily for water, pest control, and harvest. If you do that, you will discover a new dimension to living. What you see and learn in those regular visits will be as rewarding as the harvest.  Enjoy.