Planning and Starting a Vegetable Garden

Tomatoes growing on the branches
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If you've never vegetable gardened before, you are in for a treat on many levels. Fortunately, growing vegetables is pretty easy and the gardening basics of flowers still apply. People have been doing it forever.

Growing great-tasting vegetables and staying ahead of problems does take a little knowledge and effort, but the following lessons will get you comfortably up and running in no time. The rest you'll learn as you go, which is the real thrill of gardening; overcoming unexpected obstacles and ending the season with a hearty harvest. You literally get to eat the fruits of your labor. So let's start your first vegetable garden.

  • 01 of 10

    Placing Your Vegetable Garden

    Vegetable garden with seedlings
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    You want to make your vegetables happy. Stressed plants won’t give you bushels of great-tasting vegetables. Most vegetables enjoy the same growing conditions, so making them happy isn’t a huge challenge especially if you have a spot with full sun. But if your vegetable garden isn’t convenient, it’s going to be neglected. Here's what to consider as you decide where to put your vegetable garden and how much effort you are willing to put into it.

  • 02 of 10

    What to Grow

    Kale - Growing Vegetables
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    This is the fun part of planning a vegetable garden. It’s also deceptively difficult because our eyes are much bigger than our gardens. Everything sounds so luscious that it’s very tempting to try and squeeze in more than we should. You may not try 18 varieties of tomatoes this season, but here are some suggestions for deciding what vegetables will have a place in your vegetable garden.

  • 03 of 10

    Start From Seed or Buy Plants?

    Sowing of garden peas in a kitchen garden,
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    There are some practical considerations here. A lot of gardeners will start all their plants from seed just to have a greater variety of seeds offer over seedlings. But even if the idea of spending your winter pampering tiny plants in the basement is disagreeable to you, there are still vegetables that grow best if planted from seed. Don’t panic. These can be direct sown in your garden. Still, you'll need to know which vegetables you can buy as plants and which you’ll need to pick up as seeds.

  • 04 of 10

    Vegetable Garden Design

    Backyard vegetable garden


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    Aesthetics take a back seat in vegetable gardens. Your first concern should be placing the vegetables in their optimal growing conditions. You’ll also need to consider room for paths and space for working. But that doesn’t mean it can’t look great. Here are some tips for laying out your vegetable garden and some vegetable garden photos for inspiration.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Growing More Vegetables in a Small Space

    Raised beds in allotment
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    You don’t usually plant your vegetable garden all at once. Some vegetables will fade when the weather heats up and others can be popped into the opened space. Other vegetables only produce for a limited time and can be sown in staggered plantings to extend the harvest. There are several easy ways to make the most of your vegetable garden space.

  • 06 of 10

    Container Vegetable Gardening

    Close-up of purple cabbage plant in greenhose
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    Almost any vegetable can be grown in containers. Container vegetable gardening has certain advantages. First, you can control the soil and drainage. It’s a lot easier to have great soil when you’re pouring it into a pot and not breaking your back tilling in amendments. You can place your vegetable container gardens where they’ll get the most sunlight or even move them around to follow the sun. And raising your vegetables off the ground a few feet makes them harder for pests to reach. Of course, they’ll need more water and some of the larger vegetables won’t be happily cramped into a pot. Here’s a list of tips and suggested varieties to turn your patio into a vegetable patch.

  • 07 of 10

    Tending Your Garden

    Couple gardening together.
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    Now we’re ready to tackle more practical matters. A vegetable garden requires regular maintenance. Vegetables won’t wait until it’s convenient for you to water them, stake them or harvest them. Some tasks, like staking and mulching, can be done early in the season. Others, like watering, will be ongoing. The last thing you want to do is go through all this work starting your garden and then see your vegetables going to waste.

  • 08 of 10

    Pest Control

    Tomato pests
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    You knew it was coming. Pest control is a vital part of vegetable gardening. The last resort is to start spraying all kinds of concoctions on your food. The trick is to stay on top of the situation and take the appropriate steps when necessary. This is what we call Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

    And for tomato fanatics:

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  • 09 of 10

    Harvesting and Preserving

    Preserving Organic Vegetables in Jars
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    Finally. To savor the best, we need to know when to pick at peak. Some vegetables tell you, like the way a cantaloupe will slip off the vine. Others take a bit of finesse.

    Preserving Techniques

    It’s possible to grow only what you intend to eat fresh or give away, but it seldom happens that way. Besides, there are few winter treats as enjoyable as a pie made from your frozen blueberries or a jar of your crushed tomatoes.

  • 10 of 10

    Vegetables A-Z

    Basket full of organic vegetables
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    By now you must be raring to go. The only thing left to do is study up on what your vegetables want, so you can be sure to give it to them.