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How to Start Your First Garden

March 2, 2022


For Your Garden

You’ve been thinking about starting your own vegetable garden and the time has come to dig in and discover how to start the garden of your dreams. 

Most veggies and herbs need at least 8 hours of sun to thrive. Pick a site that drains well and absorbs water. If you have poorly drained soil where water pools, plant veggies in a raised bed or raised row for improved drainage. Wet soil means wet roots, which can turn into rotted roots. If you have rocky soil, till and remove the rocks, as they will interfere with root growth and make for weaker plants.

Avoid places that receive strong winds that could damage young plants and choose spots with the best topsoil, avoiding any buried boulders.

A soil test will indicate your soil’s pH level. Soil can be acidic, alkaline, or neutral. Most plants like soil with a pH close to neutral. However, some, like blueberries prefer acidic soil.

To test your soil, you can purchase a do-it-yourself kit or send it to a laboratory. You can also contact your local university extension service for information about soil testing. When testing the soil, take slices of soil about 6 inches deep from several locations.

Consider The Space

Planting Your First Garden

After you have your site chosen, think about how big to make your new garden. When considering how to start a vegetable garden you should also think about how much time you have to care for it. 

We suggest a 10 foot by 10 foot or 12 foot by 12 foot garden to start with at most. This will give you enough room to grow some staple crops without getting too far in over your head. Start smaller if you live alone or you’re worried it will be too much work. You can always make it bigger in subsequent years. It doesn’t have to be a perfect square either; any shape will do. Mark off the area with string or rope.

Removing the Sod

If you’re planting in a lawn, and you want to save the grass to put somewhere else, use a sod cutter. Sod cutters are available for rent in most home and garden centers. They’ll remove the grass in strips with the roots still attached.

Most plants prefer a deep, well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Plant roots need good garden soil to produce good vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

After digging, spread on compost, which will bulk up the soil with organic matter and energize the soil. We prefer Bumper Crop Soil Builder for its blend of manure and high organic nutrient content of shellfish compost, dark, rich earthworm castings (adds minerals and biology), kelp, peat, aged bark, and lobster – inoculated with endo and ectomycorrhizal fungi to improve root function. If possible, you’ll want to cover your new beds 4 inches deep with compost.

Garden Soil

Planting your seeds

The first step in determining the best plants to grow in your region is to check the USDA hardiness zone map. Once you’ve identified your hardiness zone, simply match your growing zone to the zone number printed on any seed packet or plant tag. For cool climates, kale and carrots are a great choice, and sweet potatoes or hot peppers are ideal for warmer growing zones.

When planting seeds, read the package for specific planting directions, but the general rule for planting seeds is at a depth 2 to 3 times their diameter. Plant your seeds in small furrows that can be made with a hoe edge, a stick, or your finger. 

Vegetable rows should run north-south to give the plants equal exposure to the sun. The rows should be far enough apart to allow space for the full-growth plants. 

If you are planning to walk through the rows, leave an additional 12 to 24 inches for a path.

The best vegetables to plant from seeds include lettuce, carrot, radish, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, swiss chard, beets, beans, peas, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, corn, collards, salad greens, kale, melons, spinach.


If you want to save time, start with young plants and put them in your garden during the growing season (after all danger of frost in your area has passed). Some veggies, such as tomatoes, are sensitive to the cold and shouldn’t be grown outside until temperatures are reliably warm. Learn how to start your own seeds indoors to transplant in your garden. 

The best plants to transplant: 
Tomato, eggplant pepper, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, artichoke, & tomatillos.

Easy to grow

Beets, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and green beans are some of the easiest vegetables for beginners to grow. Summer and winter squash are also good choices for first-time gardeners. If you grow zucchini, a type of summer squash, you’ll probably pick so many, you’ll wind up leaving them on a friend’s doorstep.


Some of our favorite tips

• You don’t have to plant all your vegetables at once. You can stagger your planting times, and re-sow most vegetable seeds every couple of weeks. This extends your harvest, so you can keep fresh veggies on the table throughout the season.

• Water in the late afternoon or early evening, so plants can spend the night recovering from the day’s stresses with an ample supply of water.

• Soak only the roots and keep the leaves dry to avoid leaf spots and other fungal diseases.

• Never grow the same type of veggies in the same plot of soil two or more years in a row — instead, rotate them so your soil stays rich with the nutrients for each specific type of plant.

• Consider companion planting as you plan: particular plants may help keep another’s pests under control, and others just naturally grow well together.

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