How To Start an Organic Vegetable Garden
Time to read 6 min
Time to read 6 min
Growing and harvesting homegrown veggies and herbs is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. But, there’s a lot to figure out when you’re starting out. You might be wondering… “How much time does it take to start a garden? Where do I put a garden? Can I grow veggies in pots or do I need to have a yard? When can I plant, how do I choose what to grow, or even what gardening zone am I in?” In this post, Arber’s Master Gardener shares advice on how to start a garden and her best veggie garden tips.
Choose a spot in your yard that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Ensure that the area has good soil drainage and is easily accessible for watering and maintenance. You can also grow herbs and some vegetables in containers on a patio or porch if you live in a condo or an apartment. Be sure that your patio area receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day and has a water source nearby, such as a faucet or spigot.
Select vegetables that are well-suited to your climate and the time of year you plan to grow them. Temperate climates can grow cool season crops (such as broccoli, cabbage, or brussel sprouts) in the winter and warm season crops (such as tomato, pumpkin, or zucchini) in the summer. Climates that experience a true winter and frosts can grow cool season crops in the spring and fall, and warm season crops between their average last frost date in spring and their first frost date in the fall.
Next, you’ll want to consider the space available, your personal preferences for vegetables, and the time you have for maintenance. It's a good idea to start with a few easy-to-grow vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, or zucchini.
To know when your average frost dates occur for your area, (or in other words: your hardiness zone) go to the USDA hardiness zone map website and enter your zip code. Your hardiness zone will tell you your gardening zone so know what plants can be grown in your region and when.
Before you start planting your organic vegetable garden, you need to understand the space you’re working with. Consider the available space and what vegetables you want to grow. Make a sketch or plan of your garden layout, taking into account the height of the plants, their mature size and how much space you’ll need around each plant and if you need any trellises to support their growth.
If you’re growing in containers, then you’ll need large containers for large plants. More compact veggies and herbs can be grown in medium sized pots. If you’re a beginner and want to grow easy veggies in containers, then I recommend growing lettuce and leafy greens, radish, herbs, and peppers in medium sized pots.
Clear the area of any grass, weeds, or debris. Remove any rocks or large hard clumps of soil. If you’re growing in a raised bed, build your frames then add a 50/50 mixture of organic raised bed potting soil and high-quality organic compost. If you’re growing directly in the ground, add organic matter such as organic compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil fertility and structure.
Amending the soil is an important step. Compost and organic matter feeds the soil and adds life and nutrients to the soil. Veggies consume a lot of nutrients to help them grow and produce a harvest so they need soil that is very rich and full of life. Many people till compost into their existing soil, but tilling can harm the life and soil ecosystem. It’s better for the health of the soil to simply layer 1-2 inches of compost on top and let microbes, bacteria, and nutrients percolate down into the existing layer overtime.
Decide whether you want to start your vegetables from seeds or purchase seedlings from a nursery. Some vegetables, like carrots and beans, need to be directly sown into the ground as seeds because transplanting is too rough for their delicate roots. Others, like tomatoes and peppers, are often started indoors from seeds and transplanted as seedlings. If you’re just starting out, I recommend buying seedlings to transplant.
Follow the planting instructions provided on seed packets or by the nursery for seedlings. Plant the seeds or seedlings at the appropriate depth and spacing. Cold climates should start their garden after their average last frost date in Spring. Temperate climates can grow cool season crops during winter and warm season crops in summer.
Master Gardener Transplanting Tip:
Dip the roots of seedling plants into the solution before planting it in the hole.
This immediately boosts the immunity of the plant, gently stimulates root growth, and proactively prevents pests and diseases. In about 1 week after seedlings have settled, fertilize with Arber Organic Plant Food.
Water transplants immediately after planting and continue to water them every few days, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged. Use organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. If you’re growing in the ground, install a timed drip line irrigation hose to water your garden. If you're growing in pots, simply watering manually will be fine.
If you're growing climbing or vining vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, or beans, provide trellises, stakes, or cages for support. This will help keep the plants off the ground, increase airflow, and make harvesting easier.
Keep an eye out for common pests (such as fungus gnats) and diseases (such as powdery mildew) that may affect your vegetables. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of damage or infestation, such as holes in leaves or discolored spots. Do your Arber Organic Immunity Boost & Defense Routine every other week:
Spray the foliage on all sides and drench the soil around the plant.
This prevents pests and disease in your organic vegetable garden, boosts plant immunity, and stimulates root growth. Shop Organic Outdoor Kit
Continually water your garden a few times per week during the cool evening or morning hours.
Do your Arber Organic Feed Routine every other week; alternating weeks with your Immunity Boost & Defense Routine.
Mix 2 oz of Arber Organic Plant Food into 1 gallon of water
Drench the soil around your plants. Do not spray foliage.
This nourishes plants from root to shoot with key nutrients and minerals which inspires greener leaves, more blooms, and a more abundant harvest. Shop Organic Plant Food
Harvest your vegetables when they are ripe and ready to be picked. Enjoy the fruits of your labor by incorporating fresh, homegrown organic vegetables into your meals!
Remember, gardening requires patience, observation, and learning from experience. Don't be discouraged by setbacks or challenges along the way. With time, you'll gain more knowledge and confidence in growing your own organic veggie garden.
Shop Organic Holistic Kit to get your garden started today. Happy Gardening!