The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

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Picking lettuce from gardenThere are many different types of gardening that draw people in but one of the most common, aside from herb gardening, is vegetable gardening. Vegetable gardening is one of the more popular types of gardening particularly because the fruits of labor can be consumed after their growth. In fact, many individuals who vegetable garden on a large scale, do so in order to save money as well as ensure that their vegetable products remain pesticide free. Certainly as a beginning vegetable gardener it is unlikely that you will be producing enough vegetable stock to supply your family without depending upon the grocery store; however, you will be able to cut down on the grocery bill as well as the amount of pesticides that your family consumes on an annual basis. Whether you choose to grow your vegetable garden for fun, to cut costs or to try to eliminate the consumption of pesticides and other chemicals by your family, vegetable gardening is a fun and relatively easy way to begin gardening.

The Benefits of Vegetable Gardening

As mentioned above there are a great many benefits to growing a vegetable garden but one of the biggest for the novice gardener is that growing vegetables is not only much easier than growing particular flowers but it also carried a great number of health benefits. When talking about the health benefits of vegetable gardening we are not just addressing the fact that vegetable gardening allows you to grow pesticide free vegetables, but we are also talking about the other benefits that come from the growing process. Research has shown that there are a great number of other advantages to growing your own vegetables and these include: saving money, taking on a hobby, the benefits of gardening on your mental health, the beauty of having a vegetable garden to look at daily, the exercise involved with the gardening process and the consumption of fresh chemical-free produce. Some of these benefits may sound a little strange, particularly the benefits of gardening on your mental health; however, being able to utilize gardening as a hobby has been shown to decrease stress and the pride of having a growing garden to show off is enough to boost anyone’s spirits!

How to Start Vegetable Gardening

Starting a vegetable garden is much like most other types of gardening in that before you endeavor to grow anything you must first address the soil that you will be growing your vegetables in. In order for soil to produce any type of vegetable it must be fertile and easy to work with so that you can plant your vegetables without too much trouble. When soil is too sandy or infertile planting can be extremely difficult and despite the amount of work that goes in to the planting process, the chances of getting anything back in return for your labor are slim to none.

Preparing Your Soil

In order to grow vegetables you will need to prepare a plot of land that is flat and fertile. Since vegetables require sunlight to thrive this plot of land also needs to be in sunlight. After determining where you want to plant your garden you will need to begin to prepare your soil. Very seldom is soil naturally fertile enough to grow a lush garden, this means that you are going to have to test your soil to see which nutrients it is lacking and which nutrients it already contains. In order for anything to grow in your vegetable garden your soil must contain all necessary nutrients in a well balanced formula so testing your soil will allow you to find out what types of nutrients you will need to add to your soil to make it conducive to vegetable growth. In order to test your soil you will need to take soil samples from the plot of land that you have chosen to grow your vegetable garden in. Ideally all of the soil within this plot of land is similar soil so you will take a clean container and fill it with between one to two cups of soil samples taken from various areas of your growing area. Soil samples should be taken when soil is dry; however, if you find that your soil samples are a little damp you can set them out and allow them to air dry prior to delivering your sample to the local laboratory that will be testing it. There are a few different options when it comes to getting your soil sample tested, as a novice you want to avoid testing the soil sample yourself with any do it yourself types of kits, instead you will want to consult a professional. Looking online or through a yellow pages will reveal a number of nurseries and privately owned gardening centers that may offer soil testing services, additionally various labs and your local county extension center can perform testing for you as well. Some of these locations will provide testing free of charge and others will charge a small fee.

Getting the Soil Test Results Back

After getting back the results of your soil test you will be able to determine what nutrients if any that your soil is missing. In order to grow healthy vegetables it is important to have a well balanced soil that offers all of the nutrients that your vegetables require so once you find out what your soil is missing you will need to compliment the soil with an additive. Adding a fertilizer that is specialized to your needs is the best way to provide full nutrients to your vegetable garden, depending upon your gardening method of choice you may choose to use store bought fertilizer or natural fertilizer and this decision is completely up to you. As long as your garden is going to be receiving adequate nutrition it really is a personal choice as to how that nutrition is added. Some people believe that utilizing natural fertilizers results in a much healthier vegetable garden but again, the choice is up to you. Applying fertilizer of any kind should always be done gingerly, ensuring to follow the instructions given to you upon purchase and making sure to store all fertilizers in a secure location when you are finished using them in order to protect children and animals from ingestion.

Read our Organic Fertilizer Reviews

After Fertilizing the Soil

After soil has been properly fertilized you will want to determine what vegetables you want to grow, this is important since various types of vegetables require different space allotments to grow. Some vegetables can flourish in close quarters; however, other vegetables require much more space to grow in to healthy plants. Keep in mind when you choose which vegetables you want to grow that some vegetables are easier to grow than others and as a beginner you really do not want to select the harder to grow vegetables for your first time vegetable garden. You should also keep in mind that it is enjoyable to be able to consume the fruits of your labor so generally you will want to choose vegetables that you enjoy eating. If you are at a loss when deciding which vegetables to include in your garden you can always do a little research. There are a great number of books and online resources that can help you to decide which vegetables might be the right vegetables for you to plant in your garden but it is always more helpful to consult a professional as well. A professional at a local garden center should be able to give you more accurate advice on which vegetables are the best option for your new garden. While at your local garden center you can also purchase the seeds for your new garden to be so that you can begin planting!

Planting Your Vegetable Garden

There are two main planting seasons when it comes to vegetable gardening – warm and cool. Warm planting takes place in summer and cool planting takes place in spring or fall – for obvious reasons there is no winter planting for vegetable gardens. Depending upon the vegetables that you have chosen to grow in your vegetable garden you will find that you need to plant your seeds in either or both of these two planting seasons. Most people choose to utilize seeds when planting their vegetable gardens because growing your garden from seeds is a much more rewarding process; however, other people choose to grow their vegetable garden from saplings that can also be purchased at local garden centers. Again, whether you choose to grow your garden from seeds or from saplings is up to you; however, if you are on a limited budget you will likely want to begin your garden from seeds since it is a much less expensive process. Generally seeds will be sewn right in to the ground; however, you will want to read up on each of the vegetables that you have chosen to ensure that each will thrive with this planting method. Keep in mind here that if you do choose to plant your garden from saplings rather than from seeds, you will want to purchase the saplings only once your gardening plot has been prepared to accept the seedlings since they will dry out quickly and will not thrive for long out of the ground.

Growing Your Vegetable Garden

Most first time vegetable gardeners become impatient and want to know when they will begin seeing results from their plantings; however, the answer to this question varies depending upon a variety of factors. Some vegetables will grow considerably faster than others and even then the growth rate depends upon other influences. The nutrients that are available in the soil are a big factor in determining how fast and how well your garden will grow. As plants begin to mature they may leach all of the nutrients from the soil, so it is important to monitor the health of the soil in your garden to ensure that appropriate nutrition is being given to each of your crops. The weather also plays a significant role in determining how fast and how well each plant will grow. Despite general weather patterns, most regions experience abnormalities in weather that can greatly affect your garden, for example late frosts can damage or destroy plants completely and excessive heat can dry them out. There are steps that you can take to protect your garden; however, including covering plants for impending frosts and installing an irrigation system that can keep your plants well watered to prevent drying from excessive heat.

What to do if Nothing is Growing

Sometimes newcomers to vegetable gardening – or veterans of vegetable gardening as well – can experience the hopeless feeling of a barren garden or crop. There are a great many reasons why certain plants may not be growing or thriving in your garden and it is important for you to try to establish why this is so that you can grow other crops either now or in the future.

Check Your Seeds

One of the most common reasons that nothing grows from a planting by novice vegetable gardeners is improper storage of seeds. In order for seeds to produce healthy vegetable gardens they must be stored properly so that they can remain healthy and are not damaged. Seeds can become damaged by heat or moisture or even direct sunlight. Planting damaged seeds or seeds that have been stored improperly will seldom result in the growth of anything and it is important to be able to rule this out as a cause of poor growth results. After planting you should generally have some seeds left, if you are questioning whether your seeds were damaged prior to planting, take the remaining seeds in to a gardening center or a nursery and ask a professional if they can see anything wrong with the seeds. If you have much smaller seeds it may be extremely difficult to determine whether anything is wrong with the seeds at all and you may want to rule out other limiting factors in growth before examining the seeds health.

Check Your Soil Nutrient Levels

Soil health is another big contributing factor to healthy vegetable gardens. Even though you may have tested your soil previously there are a number of things that can take place that affect the nutrient availability in your soil that can alter the growth opportunity for your garden. If you find that nothing is growing at all, try taking a second soil sample to be tested to determine whether there is still a lack of proper nutrients in the soil. Just like any living, growing thing, plants cannot grow without nutrients. It is possible that the overall environment of your soil has changed due to some contributing factor or it could also be that the test results from your initial soil sample were incorrect. Testing soil for a second time may reveal that your soil is still in need of an important nutrient and this can be remedied by fertilizing the ground with an appropriate fertilizer to balance out nutrients once again.

Check Your Soil Moisture Levels

Just as nutrient levels are important to growing a healthy vegetable garden, so too are moisture levels. All plants require an adequate supply of moisture in order to thrive and if your soil is too dry there is no way that your plants are ever going to be able to grow in to a healthy garden. Moisture levels can be dry upon planting if you do not check them prior to planting your seeds, or they can become dry as a result of other factors such as an unusual increase in heat or neglecting to offer an adequate water supply to the soil.

Check Sunlight Levels

Sunlight levels are another important factor in growing a healthy garden of any sort. Certainly, different crops require different levels of sunlight exposure; however, with no sunshine at all, your garden is not going to thrive. If you find that the area you have chosen to plant your vegetable garden in does not receive enough sunlight you are going to have to either alter elements of the plot to ensure better sun exposure or choose another plot and begin the planting process again.

Check Weather Patterns

If you have yet to come up with a reason as to why your vegetable garden has not grown, take a look at weather patterns to find out if there has been an unexpected frost or whether it has simply been too hot for your chosen crops. If weather patterns are to blame for ruining your vegetable garden you will want to try planting again but this time remain more vigilant about monitoring weather patterns that can affect the overall health of your garden.

Vegetable Gardening is a Great Choice for Everyone!

Whether you are a retiree looking for a pastime, a child looking for a new way to learn or a housewife looking to better the overall health of the foods that her family eats, vegetable gardening is a pastime that everyone can enjoy. Not only does vegetable gardening offer a true learning experience, but it also offers a number of other benefits as well! The simple joys of watching something grow from a tiny seed to a full blooming plant that offers nutritious food that can be eaten is an experience that everyone should have at some point during their lives. Not only should vegetable gardening be enjoyed for the educational experience; however, but it should also be enjoyed for the opportunity to spend time out in the sunshine, the chance to eat pesticide free foods, the beauty of growing the garden itself, the money saved through providing for your own family, the sense of well being and accomplishment that comes from growing food from scratch and the stress relieving properties of being able to walk through a freshly grown garden that is filled with the aromas of healthy and ripening food. It is said that if all the citizens of the United States were to eat one locally grown meal a week that oil consumption of the country would reduce by some 1.1 million barrels of oil every week…if that’s not another great reason to begin gardening, what is?

There Are Various Vegetables that Can Be Grown in All Types of Gardens

Updated on February 28, 2012

There are many different vegetables that can be grown in the average garden but it is important to know which vegetables grow best in specific conditions. Some of the vegetables that are most commonly grown include: leafy vegetables, root vegetables and fruiting vegetables.

Choosing the Right Vegetable For Your Garden

There are a few things to consider when deciding which types of vegetables you want to grow in your garden. Many people begin by deciding which vegetables they want to grow based upon which vegetables they like best. This is a perfectly normal approach to narrowing down the vegetable options there are to choose from, but it is also important to understand the growing needs of individual vegetables. Choosing vegetables based upon likes only is impractical simply because planting something you like the taste of that is not going to grow and flourish in your land is a waste of time and energy.

Leafy Vegetables

There are many varieties of leafy vegetables to choose from, these include endive, lettuce, cauliflower, celery, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, radicchio and collard greens.


Endives grow to between three and nine inches tall and between six and twelve inches wide. These leafy greens prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.


Lettuce can grow between two to twelve inches tall and between two to twelve inches wide. These favored leafy greens prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.


Cauliflower can grow between eight to thirty inches tall and between eight to thirty inches wide. These tasty vegetables prefer to grow in the complete or partial sunlight.


Celery can grow between eighteen to twenty four inches tall and between twelve to eighteen inches wide. These crunchy greens prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.


Spinach can grow between three to fifteen inches tall and between three to fifteen inches wide. These healthy greens prefer to grow in the complete or partial sunlight.


Kale can grow between twelve and twenty four inches tall and between twelve and thirty six inches wide. These lesser grown greens prefer to grow in the complete or partial sunlight.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts grow between two and three feet tall and between one and two feet wide. These unique looking plants prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.


Raddichio grows between four and twelve inches tall and between six and eighteen inches wide. These purple leafy vegetables prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.

Collard Greens

Collard greens grow between twenty four to thirty six inches tall and between eighteen and thirty six inches wide. These popular southern greens prefer to grow in complete or partial sunlight.

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are another popular vegetable for growing in the back garden. Some of the more favored root vegetables include: potatoes, carrots, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot.


Potatoes grow between one to two feet tall and between one to two feet wide. These commonly grown root vegetables prefer to grow only in direct sunlight.


Carrots grow between six and fifteen inches tall and between six and fifteen inches wide. Carrots prefer to grow in direct or partial sunlight.


Radishes grow between two and six inches tall and between two and six inches wide. These brightly colored root vegetables require partial or complete sunlight to grow.


Rutabagas grow between twelve and eighteen inches tall and between eight and twelve inches wide. These hybrid vegetables – a cross between a cabbage and a turnip prefer to grow only in complete sunlight.


Parsnips grow between six and eighteen inches tall and between six to twelve inches wide. These less commonly known root vegetables require direct sun or partial sunlight to grow.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes grow between twelve and thirty inches tall and between twelve and forty eight inches wide. These newly popular root vegetables require complete sunlight to grow.


Beetroot or beets are they are more commonly known, grow to between four and twelve inches tall and between two and eight inches wide. These iron packed root vegetables require complete or partial sunlight to grow.

Fruiting Vegetables

Fruiting vegetables are vegetables that grow as the fruits of the plants on which they grow. There are quite a few popular fruiting vegetables that are commonly grown including: tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, peas, sweet corn, watermelon, peppers and cucumber.


Tomatoes are by far one of the most popularly grown vegetables. These fruiting vegetables grow between one to ten feet tall and between one to four feet wide. These bright red fruits require complete sunlight to grow.


Eggplant grows to around one to three feet tall and between one to two feet wide. These bright purple flowered vegetables require complete sunlight in order to grow.


Pumpkins grow between one and two feet tall and between ten to twenty feet wide. These giant vegetables require full sunlight in order to grow successfully.


Peas are another particularly popular fruiting vegetable. Peas grow between one and seven feet tall and between six and twelve inches wide. These favorite vegetables require complete or partial sunlight to grow successfully.

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn or corn is not just a commercially farmed vegetable, these veggies can be grown at home. Corn grows to between four and eight feet tall and between one and three feet wide. Corn requires direct sunlight in order to grow.


Watermelon can grow to between one and three feet tall and between five and twenty feet wide! These tasty fruiting vegetables do require complete sunlight in order to grow.


3 peppersBell peppers are a great vegetable to grow in the garden. These colorful vegetables grow between six and thirty six inches tall and between eighteen and twenty four inches wide. These vegetables also require complete sunlight in order to grow.


Cucumbers are an easy to grow vegetable making them a favorite among new vegetable gardeners. These fruiting vegetables grow between one and six feet tall and between one and two feet wide. Cucumbers require direct sunlight in order to grow.

Choosing More Colorful Vegetables for your Garden

Updated on March 5, 2012

While many people choose to plant vegetables that suit their cooking needs, others have no real preference for particular vegetables and instead choose to grow more colorful vegetables. Growing colorful vegetables is a great way to brighten up a garden for those who suffer allergies to heavily pollinated flowers. In addition to providing a nice splash of color, these edible fruits of the earth will also provide freshly grown food for the household. Some of the most popular colorful vegetables include: broccoli raab, chard, hot peppers, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, lima beans, kohlrabi, melon, radish and Malabar spinach.

Broccoli Raab

While broccoli raab is another green vegetable to add to the garden, it has a much brighter color to it than traditional broccoli and has a more unique flavor. This light green vegetable grows to between ten to twenty inches tall and between ten to twenty inches wide. Broccoli raab prefers to grow in complete or partial sunlight.


Chard is something of a different vegetable in terms of both taste and appearance. With newer types of chard being created with more rainbow appearances to them, these tasty greens come in a variety of bright colorful varieties to give a splash of color to any garden! Chard grows to between ten to thirty inches tall and between ten to thirty inches wide. Chard prefers to grow in complete or partial sunlight.

Hot Peppers

Hot peppers are a fun and colorful vegetable to add to any garden even if you aren’t a fan of spicy foods. These brightly colored spicy peppers can be added to dishes with moderation or they can be sold directly at farmers markets! One of the biggest appeals of these vegetables is that they can have a variety of different colors on a single plant. Hot peppers can grow from six to forty eight inches tall and from eighteen to thirty six inches wide. These spicy plants require complete sunlight to grow.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke is not a well known vegetable and as such it is rarely considered for vegetable gardens; however, these tuber-like vegetables do add a nice splash of color. The yellow daisy like flowers that bloom above ground add a colorful stripe to any vegetable garden, while the edible tubers grow under the ground. Jerusalem artichokes can grow between three to eight feet tall and between two to four feet wide. These unusual flowering vegetables require full sunlight in order to grow.


Leeks are not so much different in color as they are different in appearance since the bright white portion of leeks grows under the ground. The unique leafy portions at the top of leeks are what can be seen above the top of the soil and they certainly add a unique texture to the average vegetable garden! Leeks can grow between eight to twenty four inches tall and between one to two inches wide. The leek does require complete sunlight in order to grow.

Lima Beans

Lima beans are another green vegetable that add more in terms of texture to your vegetable garden. Lima beans grow in pods much like other beans; these bright green pods add more in terms of adding height and unique looking vegetables than they do in terms of color. Lima beans can grow between twenty four and thirty six inches tall if they are bush lima beans or between eight and twelve feet tall if they are pole lima beans. The average width of a lima bean is between 18 to 30 inches wide. These tasty vegetables require full sunlight in order to bloom.


Kohlrabi somewhat resembles cabbage in terms of the center of the vegetable but it has offshoots that grow leaves making it look like a satellite. The lighter green almost whitish color of the center of this vegetable really helps it to stand out in the darker greenery of most vegetable gardens. Kohlrabi requires milder weather to grow and will come out unfavorably if grown in environments that are too cold or too warm. This unusual vegetable grows to between nine and twelve inches tall and to between nine and twelve inches wide. Kohlrabi grows in both full sunlight and in partial sunlight.


Melon or cantaloupe makes a great addition to any vegetable garden not only in terms of color but in terms of providing delicious summer snacks as well. There are a number of different melon varieties that can be grown in your vegetable garden and each different type of melon has its own requirements in terms of heat that determine when it is best to grow them. Most melons will grow to around one foot tall and between three to twenty feet wide. Melons do require complete sunlight in order to grow.


Bundle of radishesRadishes appear green from the topside of the soil but these uniquely colored vegetables have a hot magenta color to them once they are picked. Most of the addition that radishes bring to a vegetable garden is in terms of filling out bare spots with lush greenery rather than adding a splash of color. Radishes are well known for being very fast growers and for being extremely easy to grow. The average radish will grow to between two and six inches tall and between two and six inches wide. These easy to grow vegetables require complete or partial sunlight in order to grow.

Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach is a much more colorful form of spinach with dark red stalks underneath the lush green leaves. As a vining plant, Malabar spinach can fill out spaces in the garden while its heart shaped leaves add a unique texture and a lighter green than most other green leafy vegetables in the garden. One of the most appealing factors to Malabar spinach is that it is able to withstand the blazing heat of summer while other greens tend to wilt once the mercury rises. This variety of spinach can grow between five and eight feet tall and to a width of two to six feet wide. Malabar spinach requires complete sunlight in order to grow.

Plant a Vegetable Garden in Limited Space

Small plant and hand over white backgroundMany people feel that they do not have enough room to plant a vegetable garden. This is simply not true. Small space vegetable gardens can produce a harvest large enough to provide fresh tasting and healthy vegetables to your family. In fact, the small gardens are often easier to maintain and the healthier plants produce more.

Vegetables can be grown in containers on porches and patios if there is no room to put a garden in the back yard. Plant a salad garden in a hanging basket or decorate your entertainment areas with pots of green peppers.

It’s important to remember that if you are planting a large number of containers with vegetables, you have to have a good support structure. Some containers, like those made of stone or cement can be quite heavy. When you consider that they will absorb moisture and be filled with a planting medium that will be well watered, the weight increases significantly. Make sure that the weight of a water drenched container garden is not too heavy for the location, and then plant your favorite vegetables so that you can enjoy fresh produce from right outside your back entry way.

Container gardens are good options for renters who are unable to get permission from the land lord to dig a proper garden. As long as they don’t interfere with pathways and are well planned so that they don’t create a safety hazard, most owners will allow tenants to set out pots of plants.

Take advantage of the extra gardening space that walls, fences, over hangs and out buildings provide. Well placed sturdy shelves can hold containers used for growing vegetables. The use of trellises and slings can expand the choices of vegetables that you can grow, giving added support to the heftier produce.

An alternative to the container garden is a raised bed garden. These small space gardens can be created in out of the way places in the area. It’s surprising what can be grown in a tiny area. They are easy to maintain because they can be planted and maintained from either side as long as there is an ample pathway around the garden space.


A lot of vegetable growing space can be added by using portable raised garden beds. These are similar to container gardens, but are larger than the containers and pots on the market for plants. A portable bed that is gaining in popularity is the EarthBox.

An EarthBox and products that are similar to it have reservoirs at the bottom and a watering tube. Container gardens tend to dry out more quickly than vegetable gardens that are planted directly into the soil, so the self watering features of the boxes will cut down on gardening tasks that have to be done on a regular schedule to keep the plants healthy. Of course, as the plants grow larger they will use more water, so it’s important to check it to make sure additional water is added when necessary.

You can add wheels to the EarthBox to make it even easier to move. This is a great help if you need to move the portable garden to protect it from the weather. Imagine a vegetable garden with the reduced risk of high wind, hail or extended high temperatures or drought conditions.

Another portable garden is called Woolly Pockets. They are available in versions for inside gardens as well as outside and for the environmentally conscious gardener, they are constructed of recycled materials.

The portable gardens can be placed on platforms or tables. You can even add legs to them. This makes it easy for even the vegetable gardener who would otherwise have to give up the experience of growing their own produce because of physical limitations a chance to show off the green thumb.

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