7 Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners
Starting a vegetable garden is extremely rewarding, and, with a few tips and tricks, it can even be manageable! We’ve compiled a list below with a few pointers that will get your vegetable garden off to a great start!
1. Soil matters.
Soil is the source of all plant nutrients. Without nutrient-rich soil with organic matter, your plants won’t thrive. Whether you’re growing in raised beds or right in the ground, start with the right soil mixture to ensure a better yield.
We love starting with some of our favorite brands: Happy Frog, Espoma Organic, or Missouri Botanical Garden’s raised bed compost (all available at Garden Heights!). Our Missouri Botanical Gardens compost includes options for both raised beds and trees + shrubs.
For soil amendment, we have earth worm castings (the rich digested soil that earthworms leave behind), Missouri Botanical Gardens compost and many other Espoma soil amendments such as blood meal, kelp meal, and bone meal.
2. Plants need light, right?
It’s obvious that plants need light in order to grow. But how much? Most vegetables need about 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, but not all do! To make your garden planning easier, we've made some quick lists of how much sunlight is needed for common vegetables:
3. Plant densely and weed thoroughly early on.
If you’re growing in raised beds with plants that are closer together (but be sure not to overcrowd), you’ll spend less time weeding seeing as planting densely leaves less room for weeds to grow and spread. The majority of weeds will pop up in the spring, and by the end of summer your plants will be large enough to prevent nearly all weeds from finding their way into your successful, lush garden.
4. It’s okay to start small.
If it’s your first or second year gardening, starting small is perfectly fine and will give you time to discover just how long it will take you to maintain your garden. Plant your favorites and staples, and expand year by year.
5. Monitor your water and plant near your hose.
Easy hose access is time-saver and will make watering less of a hassle. Your watering frequency will depend on the type of soil you are planting in and if you are using compost. Compost helps store moisture and make sure plants have water consistently.
To check your moisture level, stick your finger in the soil about three inches deep. The soil should be moist but not soaked. (Plants sitting in water for weeks may drown.)
Lastly, on the hottest days your plants may wilt during the day. Although you’ll be tempted to water right away, check the soil first to ensure that the moisture level is indeed low before watering. (Some plants wilt slightly during intense sun in order to direct water mostly to the roots.)
6. Use cages, bamboo stakes, and partitions.
Cages, stakes, and partitions are great space savers and give your plants the support they need. They also help keep your garden organized and make harvesting so much easier!
Tomatoes especially benefit from strong support and should be either staked or in cages at least eighteen inches wide at the top. This provides more control for the branches, better sunlight penetration to all parts of the plant, and keeps the plant from sagging so the fruit is accessible, clean, and free from rotting. (Learn how to stake your tomatoes using bamboo stakes here!)
Other plants that need support or could be grown with cages, stakes, or partitions include pole beans, cucumbers, melons, peas, and peppers. With these effective space and support solutions, your plants will have more space than they know what to do with!
7. Pick compatible pairings. Some plants help each other and some plants hurt each other. Get a greater yield, protect from pests, and provide the right nutrients for growth by planting friendly plants together. Basil helps tomatoes produce a greater yield and also repels pests like flies and mosquitoes. Beans use cornstalks as natural stakes. And onions repel the carrot fly. Use our companion planting guide below for quick reference while planting this spring!
Have questions or want help deciding what supplies you’ll need? We have an amazing staff ready to help you make just the right choices for a fruitful garden.