How to Start a Beginners Vegetable Garden

Overview

The easiest vegetable garden for a beginner to try is a container garden. Many vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, radishes and peppers, are happy to grow in containers. If you can provide a fence for climbing near the container, vine cucumbers will also well in a container. Grow boxes are special containers that have a water reservoir on the bottom that supplies moisture to the soil from the bottom up, ensuring the vegetables receive an even and constant amount.

Step 1

Place the containers in a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sun a day. Dark, leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach can do well with less sun, but most require full sun to do well. Try to locate your containers in a south-facing direction to get the most sunlight out of the day.

Step 2

Fill the containers with potting soil, then mix in some of the organic soil mix. Many potting soils come with fertilizer mixed in. If yours does, do not add more fertilizer; if it doesn't, add some slow-release vegetable fertilizer into the potting soil. Some fertilizer comes in pellets you mix into the soil or sprinkle on top. Others are in the form of spikes you press into the soil.

Step 3

Read the fertilizer package to make sure the fertilizer is compatible with the vegetable you want to plant. Some fertilizers are sold as a general formula "for all vegetables," while others are for a specific vegetable only, such as fertilizer spikes for tomato plants.

Step 4

Add water to the soil to settle it into the container and remove air pockets. Check that the containers have good drainage from the bottom.

Step 5

Select one type of vegetable for each of your three containers. Good vegetables for beginners to start with are tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, radishes and peppers, but the most important thing is to pick a vegetable you like to eat.

Step 6

Plant the seeds according to the package directions for depth. In a container, they can be planted a little closer than described on the seed packet. A container that is 2 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 feet can have two tomato or eggplant plants, six melon or squash, eight spinach, peppers, beets or onions, or ten peas, carrots, beans or radishes.

Step 7

Plant seedlings in the same numbers per container as described in the previous step if you choose to start with them instead of seeds. Plant them deep enough to cover the root and up to the first set of leaves if they have them. The soil should be mounded around the stem so the water will not pool too close to the plant.

Step 8

Water the containers again to settle the seeds or plants and remove air pockets. Add a thin layer of mulch to the containers with seeds. Add more mulch as the seeds emerge. Add an inch of mulch to containers with seedlings. This keeps the moisture in the soil longer.

Step 9

Water the plants daily when there is no rain. Water early in the morning so the plants have a chance to absorb the water before the heat of the day removes it. With grow boxes, all you need to do is keep the reservoir filled. It should be checked on a daily basis, especially in very hot weather.

Things You'll Need

  • Three containers or grow boxes
  • Potting soil
  • Organic soil mix
  • Slow-release vegetable fertilizer (optional)
  • Watering can or hose
  • Vegetable seeds or seedlings
  • Mulch

References

  • Miracle-Gro® Guide to Growing Delicious Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs, Editor, Denny Schrock, Meredith Books, 2005.
  • Colorado State University: Sun for Vegetable Crops
  • Texas A & M: Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Who Can Help

  • Purdue University Extension: Container and Raised Bed Gardening (PDF)
  • Colorado State University: Container Gardens
Keywords: beginner vegetable garden, vegetable container garden, vegetable garden grow box

About this Author

Katelyn Kelley worked in information technology as a computing and communications consultant and web manager for 15 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2003. She specializes in instructional and technical writing in the areas of computers, gaming and crafts. Kelley holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and computer science from Boston College.