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How to Create a Vegetable Garden From Scratch

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

If you want to save money and provide your growing family with fresh, nutritious food right in your own back yard, you can easily create a vegetable garden. Even if you have poor soil, lots of weeds or lawn that you don’t care for, you can start a vegetable garden in fall, winter or early spring by creating a rich environment for your veggies.

Creating a Vegetable Garden From Scratch

Make a plan on graph paper. Your garden doesn’t need to be large because the amendments you’ll be adding will create such a rich environment that you can plant your veggies close to each other. Don’t forget to allow for access, both in terms of creating paths as well as making bed areas that you can reach into from both sides.

Mow or weed whack all weeds and plants you do not want. Then leave them lying on the soil surface. You don’t need to pull them out by their roots because they won’t come back after you finish building your garden beds.

Spread a thick layer of newspaper or flattened cardboard over the areas you want to turn into a vegetable garden. Beds that are about 4 feet wide by 8 or 10 feet long are recommended, because you’ll never need to step on the soil in the beds, which will keep it loose and well aerated.

Pile up organic materials in layers on top of the cardboard or newspaper. Materials that work well include peat moss, sawdust, fresh and dead leaves, compost, topsoil (if you have any to spare from other areas), grass clippings, wood ash, manure and straw or hay. Make your beds as deep as you want—normally, about 6 inches deep is all you’ll need because the plants’ roots will penetrate the cardboard or newspaper and find their way into the soil below.

Sprinkle some blood meal, bone meal, or both, on top of your bed and then water it well.

Plant immediately if you want, or let the area sit over winter to thoroughly break down and cause all ingredients to blend. When you plant, use a trowel to dig a hole for your plant or seed. You can poke through the cardboard or newspaper if you are planting a larger plant that needs more root space.


Things You Will Need

  • Pencil and graph paper
  • Lawn mower or weed whacker
  • Newspaper or flattened cardboard
  • Organic materials such as peat moss, compost, and/or wood ash
  • Bone and/or blood meal
  • Trowel


  • If you want to create a vegetable garden on old lawn, you don't need to dig it out when you use this method---simply lay cardboard or newspaper over it, and it will die because it is smothered.


  • During the first year of your garden, root crops such as carrots and beets might not produce well, but as the cardboard under your bed decomposes and the soil below becomes nourished by all of the goodies you laid on top of it, succeeding years will cause root crops to produce larger, better produce.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.