Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: The Complete Guide (2024)

This comprehensive guide covers how to start a vegetable garden from scratch, which vegetables to grow, and when to plant what. We’ve also added a “starter” garden plan consisting of easy-to-grow vegetables, companion planting techniques, and some lovely flowers! Let this year be the year that you grow a successfulgarden!

Vegetable Gardening forBeginners

Why garden, you ask? How about enjoying the best vegetables and fruit you’ve ever eaten? If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh food, you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant textures. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which youcan!

It may seem daunting initially, but gardening is a very rewarding hobby. On this page, we’ll highlight the basics of vegetable gardening and planning: how to pick the right site for your garden, how to create the right-size garden, and how to select which vegetables togrow.

Pick the RightLocation

Picking a good location for your garden is absolutely key. A subpar location can result in subpar veggies! Here are a few tips for choosing a goodsite:

  • Sunny spot:Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. A few veggies (mostly leafy ones) will tolerate someshade.
  • Drains well and doesn’t stay wet: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 weakerplants.
  • Stable and not windy:Avoid places that receive strong winds that could knock over your young plants or keep pollinators from doing their job. Nor do you want to plant in a location that receives too much foot traffic or floods easily. Plant in a location that would makeGoldilocks smile—somewhere “justright.”
  • Nutrient-rich soil. Your soil feeds your plants. You’ll have poor, unhealthy plants if you have thin, nutrient-poor soil. Mix in plenty of organic matter to help your plants grow. See how to prepare your soil for vegetable plants.

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Choosing a Plot Size: StartSmall!

Remember: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a bigone!

One of the most common errors beginners make is planting too much too soon—way more than anybody could ever eat or want!Unless you want to have zucchinis taking up residence in your attic, plan your garden with care. Start small, and only grow what you know you and your family willeat.

Size ofGarden

  • If planting in the ground, a 10’ x 10’ garden (100 square feet) is a manageable size. Pick 3 to 5 of your favorite vegetables and buy 3 to 5 plants of eachone.
  • If planting in a raised bed, a 4’ x 4’ or 4’ x 8’ is a good beginner size.See our Raised Garden Bed Guide,which covers the benefits of raised beds, how to build a raised bed, and what type of soil to fill a raised bedwith.
  • If you want to go bigger, a 12’ x 24’ garden in the ground is probably the biggest a first-timer should go. For example, agarden that feeds afamily of four 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 eggplants, 6 basil, 1 rosemary, and a few low-growing herbs such as oregano, thyme, andmarjoram.
  • Whatever the size of your garden: Every four feet or so, make sure that you have paths that allow you to access your plants to weed and harvest. Just ensure you can easily reach the row or bed center without stepping on thesoil.

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ChoosingVegetables

As a beginner, start by choosing easy vegetables that are also productive.Below, we’ve listed some of the easiest vegetables for beginners. Most are best started by seeds planted directly into the soil, unless noted.

However, it would also be wise to contact your state’s Cooperative Extension Service to find out what plants grow best in your area. For example, if you live in an area with extremely hot weather, vegetables that prefer cooler temps maystruggle.

Top 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow
(Tip: Click on a veggie’s name to see its detailed GrowingGuide.)

  1. Lettuce
  2. Greenbeans
  3. Radishes
  4. Tomatoes(by transplant, i.e. small nurseryplant)
  5. Zucchini
  6. Peppers (by transplant, i.e. small nurseryplant)
  7. Beets
  8. Carrots
  9. Chard, Spinach, or Kale
  10. Peas

Mix in flowers such as marigolds—which discourage pests, attract pollinators, and add somecolor!

Five tips for choosingvegetables:

  1. Choose what you (and your family) like to eat.If no one likes Brussels sprouts, don’t bother planting them! But if your kids love green beans, put more effort into growing a big crop ofbeans.
  2. Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat. Be careful not to overplant, as you will only stretch yourself thin by trying to take care of tons of plants!(You could always give excess veggies away to friends, family, or the local soupkitchen.)
  3. Consider the availability of veggies at your grocery store. Maybe you want to grow tomatillos instead of cabbage or carrots, which are readily available in your area. Also, certain veggies are so far superior when homegrown that it’s almost a shame not to consider them (we’re thinking of garden lettuce and tomatoes). Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than grocery-storeherbs.
  4. Be prepared to take care of your plants throughout the growing season.Going on a summer vacation? Remember that tomatoes and zucchinis grow strongest in the middle of summer. If you’ll be gone for part of the summer, you need someone to look after the crops, or they will suffer. You could also just grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veggies during the cooler months of late spring and earlyfall.
  5. Use high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants, but if seeds don’t germinate, your money—and time—are wasted. A few extra cents spent in spring for that year’s seeds will pay off in higher yields at harvesttime.

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Where and When toPlant

This process is easy if you are simply growing two or three tomato plants. But if you planto grow a full garden, you need toconsider:

  • Where will each plantgo?
  • When will each vegetable needto beplanted?

Here are a few guidelines for arranging yourvegetables:

  • Not all vegetables are planted at the same time.“Cool-season” vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, and peas grow in the cooler weather of early spring (and fall). “Warm-season” vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers aren’t planted until the soil warms up in late spring andsummer.
  • Plant tall veggies (such as pole beans on a trellis or sweet corn) on the north side of the garden so they don’t shade shorter plants.If you do get shade in a part of your garden, save that area for small, cool-season veggies.If shade is unavoidable in parts of your garden, save those areas for cool-season vegetables that appreciate shade as the weather heatsup.
  • Most veggies are annuals (planted each year). If you’re planning on growing “perennial” crops such as asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs, provide permanent locations orbeds.
  • Consider that some crops mature quickly and have a very short harvest period (radishes, bush beans). Other plants, such as tomatoes, take longer to produce but also produce for longer. These “days to maturity” are typically listed on the seedpacket.
  • Stagger plantings. You don’t want to plant all your lettuce seeds at the same time, or all that lettuce will need to be harvested at around the same time! Stagger plantings by a few weeks to keep ‘emcoming!

When to PlantWhat

Every region has a different planting time based mainly on the weather, and every vegetable has its temperature preferences, too.See the Almanac’s Best Planting Dates—a gardening calendar customized to your local frost dates. Just enter your zip code (or postal code inCanada)!

For specific planting information, see our individual Grow Guides for over 100 popular vegetables, herbs, and fruits.For each crop, we provide specific information about how to plant, grow, and harvest, including watering, fertilizing, and pestcontrol!

A Starter Beginner GardenPlan

To help beginners, we thought it may be useful to see a garden design. Here is an example of a starter family garden using thecommon easy-to-grow vegetables listed above.It also features companion planting (placing plants that thrive together next to eachother).

You’ll see that we have given the garden decent-sized paths and mixed in afew herbs and flowers, too. Frankly, ifwe had grown this garden in our very first year, we would have been thrilled! By planning the garden this way, we have made it much easier for you tosucceed.

Click here to see the full plant list, number of plants, spacing, and spacing inrows.

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Garden PlanningTool

The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers an excellent online garden planning tool that makes your garden planning fun and easy. With this tool,draw your garden plan on the computer and drop in your preferred vegetables, and it automatically calculates the proper spacing for each type of crop!This way, you don’t waste seeds or crowd your plants. The Garden Planner automatically pulls in the frost dates for your specific location, identifies easy vegetables, and even identifies companion plants. Then, you can print out your plan, and the tool reminds you of your seeding and harvesting dates for everyvegetable!

Plus, you’ll see many free garden plans for inspiration!Over time, you’ll see that this tool also provides “crop rotation” so that if you plan a second season, you can properly reposition your plants to avoid pests anddisease.

With new gardeners in mind, we offer a FREE week to try the Garden Planner—ample time to plan your firstgarden.

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Any questions or advice about starting your garden? Check out some of the comments below. Many of your questions may have been answered already by our Almanac community, or you are welcome to add your own comment. Happygardening!

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: The Complete Guide (2024)

FAQs

What is the easiest vegetable garden for beginners? ›

Some of the easiest veggies to grow include lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, beans, garlic, cucumbers, and peppers. Tomatoes are a little more challenging, but they're prolific if you give them the right conditions.

What is the best size vegetable garden for a beginner? ›

It is easy to bite off more than you can chew when you are a first-time vegetable gardener. As a rule of thumb, you should start small then add if needed. A good starting size for a garden would be between 75 and 100 square feet.

What is the best layout for a vegetable garden? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

What is the quickest vegetable to grow? ›

Radishes. One of the fastest-growing vegetable plants you can grow is radish. Some types are ready to eat in as little as 3 weeks from seeding. They are a cool-season vegetable, meaning they do best in spring or fall, before or after the heat of summer.

What vegetables grow well together? ›

Which Vegetables Grow Well Together?
VegetableCompanion PlantDon't Plant Together
OnionsBeets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, peppersAll beans and peas
PeasBeans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radish, turnipGarlic, onions
PotatoesBeans, corn, peasTomatoes
SquashCorn, melons, pumpkinsNone
11 more rows
Jun 26, 2021

How do I start a budget vegetable garden? ›

Here are 10 ways to garden without breaking the bank.
  1. Be on the lookout for plant swaps. ...
  2. Shop for plants in the off-season. ...
  3. Start from seeds. ...
  4. Save seeds. ...
  5. Accept cuttings from friends. ...
  6. Build a raised bed from found materials. ...
  7. Make your own soil amendments. ...
  8. Find free mulch.
Jan 14, 2022

What is the first thing a gardener sets in a garden? ›

The first thing a gardener typically puts in the garden is soil or a growing medium. The quality and composition of the soil are essential for plant health and growth. Gardeners may prepare the soil by amending it with compost, organic matter, or other nutrients to improve its fertility and structure.

What plants grow well together chart? ›

Vegetables and Herbs Companion Planting Chart
PlantGood Together
PotatoBush Bean, Cabbage, Carrot, Corn, Horseradish, Onion, Parsnip, Peas
RadishBeet, Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Carrots, Cucumber, Lettuce, Parsnip, Peas, Spinach, Squash
SpinachCelery, Corn, Eggplant, Cauliflower
SquashCorn, Onion, Radish
15 more rows

What vegetables are the easiest to can? ›

The Best Vegetables to Can for Beginners
  • Learn about some of the best types of vegetables to can. Food preservation is easy. ...
  • Cucumbers. Cucumbers are a great stepping stone into the world of canning vegetables. ...
  • Green Beans. ...
  • Asparagus. ...
  • Tomatoes. ...
  • Beets.
Sep 8, 2023

How long do cucumbers take to grow? ›

Cucumbers are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days from planting, depending on the variety. Depending on their use, harvest on the basis of size. Cucumbers taste best when harvested in the immature stage (Figure 2). Cucumbers should not be allowed to reach the yellowish stage as they become bitter with size.

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