A backyard vegetable garden can provide plenty of fresh, healthy produce for your family. Get started by visiting your local garden center or nursery and asking questions. Find out when the growing season starts, what small vegetables grow best locally and when they can be planted. The garden center will also be able to help you with seed and supplies. Begin with a small garden of a few hundred square feet that you can manage easily. Vegetables such as carrots, onions and lettuce don't need much room. Expand your garden as you gain experience and confidence.
Select a small level plot that has well-drained soil. Vegetables need plenty of sunshine so choose an exposed area away from shade trees. Be sure the garden is within easy reach of a water supply. Mark out the plot by placing wooden stakes at the corners.
Clear all plants and debris from the plot. Lawn turf is easily removed by cutting it into small sections with the spade and then lifting the pieces out with a garden fork. Save the turf as it makes great compost material when chopped up. If you don't have a compost pile, now is the perfect time to start. Every vegetable garden can use a steady supply of fresh organic material like compost. Loosen the top few inches of bare soil and spread 4 to 6 inches of manure or compost over the plot. Water lightly and allow the plot to settle for three or four days before planting.
Turn the soil and organics lightly with the spade and then rake the plot level. Use stakes and string to mark out rows spaced 18 inches apart. Orient the rows north to south to maximize light exposure. With the hoe, pull the soil into a 6-inch mound along the center of each row.
Plant your seeds by following the spacing and depth instructions on the packages. Taller vegetables like pole beans should be planted on the north side of the garden to avoid shading other crops. Cool-season varieties such as onions, beets and cauliflower should be planted early in the season. Get local advice for the correct planting dates for your area.
Water your garden regularly and always during the coolest times of the day. Your garden will need a minimum of 1 inch of water every week. If you live in an area with high rainfall, reduce hand watering accordingly. Avoid getting the plants wet when watering. Wet leaves are more attractive to insects and disease.
Remove any weeds that appear as soon as possible. Weeds typically have deeper roots and can easily starve young vegetable plants of nutrients. Check your plants often as they grow for any signs of insects or other damage.