There are few things as rewarding as creating a sustainable vegetable garden that provides a steady supply of fresh produce. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how you can go about conceptualizing, planning, and maintaining a garden that will both provide you with an abundance of tasty veggies and last for years to come.
Garden Tool Must-Haves
To make your garden a reality, there are a handful of tools you’ll want to have on deck. Like any hobby, the deeper you get into the gardening world, the more specialized tools you’ll need, but the tools listed below will get you through 95% of everything your first garden will throw at you.
- Garden Hoe
- Garden Gloves
- Garden Shears
- A watering Can or a hose
- Pruning Shears
- Garden Fork
- Compost (and maybe your own compost bin)
- Materials to make your garden (more on this below)
While there are upfront costs associated with getting your garden going, many of the tools (shovels, shears, rakes, wheelbarrows, etc.) will likely last for many years.
Decide What Kind of Garden You Want
The first step in creating your garden is deciding what kind you want to build. The two most common types of gardens for beginners are in-ground and raised-bed gardens. As you may have guessed, in-ground gardens are planted directly in the soil, while raised-bed gardens are constructed above the ground level and filled with soil. There are three main things you’ll want to consider when choosing between the two of these: 1) Soil quality (which can vary vastly from region to region), 2) Budget, and 3) Aesthetics. While raised-bed gardens offer higher up-front costs, the raised-bed design allows for better drainage and more control over soil quality and nutrient levels. Raised beds are also ideal for small spaces, as they take up less space than traditional in-ground gardens. Keep in mind, however, that if you decide to go the raised bed route, there will also be costs associated with the construction of the beds. Want to start brainstorming some raised bed options? Check out this handy guide here.
Map Out Your Space
Perhaps the most important thing here is ensuring your garden plot gets roughly five or six hours of direct sunlight. On top of this, it’s important to choose a spot that gets decent drainage. That is, try to steer clear of grass that consistently gets saturated and soggy when it rains.
Prepare Your Garden Plot
Once you have an idea of what kind of garden you’d like to build and where you want to put it, the next step is to prepare the garden plot. The steps to this will differ depending on if you’re using raised beds or in-ground, but for both, you’ll want to make sure that your area is free of weeds or debris and has soil ready to accept plants. This will include tilling and loosening the soil and having any necessary soil amendments on hand (like fertilizer and compost).
Look Up Your Growing Zone
Growing zones (also called plant hardiness zones) are geographic areas that tell which plants are most likely to survive where you live. Knowing your growing zone will also tell you when it’s best to plant your vegetables. To find your growing zone, take a look at this website and enter your zip code. In addition to telling you your zone, it will also tell you how to go about thinking through your planting strategy.
Test Your Soil
Soil testing kits have become incredibly cheap these days. While both in-ground and raised-bed gardeners would benefit from having one, they’re especially important for in-ground gardens, as soil composition can vary greatly from one spot to another. Testing kits will tell you what your soil has or lacks on a nutrient level, allowing you to make any necessary amendments.
Seeds or Transplant Seedlings?
There are two main ways of starting your garden: seeds or seedlings. Put simply, the main difference between these two methods is that with seeds you’re starting from scratch, and with seedlings, you’re getting a head start. While seeds are cheaper than seedlings, they can present hurdles such as germination rates, pests, and diseases. Seedlings, on the other hand, often come with a guarantee of healthy growth and can jumpstart your garden much faster. For first-timers, seedlings are likely your best bet. Care to see an example of a garden plan for beginners? Click here.
Once you’ve planned, bought, learned, and built everything mentioned above, it’s time to start your garden! Remember: gardening is a skill that requires patience, dedication, and lots of practice. Your first garden is sure to run into hiccups along the way, but so long as you keep at it, it’s sure to pay dividends in the years to come.