Our guide covers how to start a vegetable garden from scratch, which vegetables to grow, and when to plant what. We’ve also added a garden plan consisting of easy-to-grow vegetables, companion planting techniques, and some lovely flowers!
A Beginners Vegetable Gardening Guide
How about enjoying the best vegetables you’ve ever eaten? If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh food, you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavours. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, grown by yourself.
Gardening is a very rewarding hobby. On this page, we’ll discuss 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 to grow.
Picking a good location for your garden is absolutely key. A slightly good location can result in slightly good veggies!
Tips on a good location:
Choose a sunny spot: Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. A few veggies (mostly leafy ones) will tolerate some shade.
Good soil drainage: If you have poorly drained soil where water pools, plant veggies in a raised garden bed 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.
Not too 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.
Rich in nutrients soil. Your soil feeds your plants. You’ll have poor, unhealthy plants if you have nutrient-poor soil. Mix in plenty of organic matter to help your plants grow.
Choosing a Plot Size: “Start Small”!
Note: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated with a big one!
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 will eat.
Size of Garden
If planting in the ground, a 10’ x 10’ garden (100 square feet) is a manageable size. Pick 3 to 5 of your favourite vegetables and buy 3 to 5 plants of each one.
If planting in a raised bed, our PT25= 2’ x 5’ or PT26=2’ x 6’ is a good beginner size.
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 rows or the center of the bed.
As a beginner, start with growing easy vegetables that are also productive. We’ve listed some of the easiest vegetables for beginners below. Most are best started by seeds planted directly into the soil, unless noted.
Top 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow
Tomatoes (by transplant, eg. small nursery plants)
Peppers (by transplant, eg. small nursery plants)
Mix in flowers such as Marigolds—which discourage pests, attract pollinators, and add some colour!
Five tips for choosing vegetables:
Choose what you (and your family) like to eat. If no one likes Brussels sprouts, don’t plant them! But if everyone loves green beans, put more effort into growing a of beans.
Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat. Be careful not to over plant, as you will only get tired of trying to take care of tons of plants!
Consider the availability of veggies at your grocery store. Maybe you want to grow tomatillos instead of carrots, which are readily available in your area. Also, certain veggies like tomatoes and lettuce are far superior when homegrown that it’s almost a shame not to consider them. Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than grocery-store herbs.
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 garden, or your plants will suffer. Or, you could just grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veggies during the cooler months of late spring and early fall.
Use high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants, but if seeds don’t germinate, your money—and time—are wasted. Possibly start your seeds early in doors then transplant them to your garden when the ground temperature becomes suitable.
When & Where to Plant
This process is easy if you are simply growing two or three tomato plants. But if you plan to grow a full garden, you need to consider:
Where will each plant go?
When will each vegetable need to be planted?
Here are a few guidelines for arranging your vegetables:
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 and summer.
Plant tall growing veggies (such as pole beans on a trellis) situated 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.
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 for their beds.
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 seed packets.
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 the crop coming!
When to Plant What
Every region has a different planting time based mainly on the weather, and every vegetable has its temperature preferences, too.
For specific planting information, see our individual Grow Guides for popular vegetables, herbs, and fruits. For each crop, we provide specific information about how to plant, grow, and harvest, including watering, fertilizing, and pest control.