Growing your own garden vegetables to use in your favourite recipes gives your dinner table the extra boost to take them from tasty to fantastic. Whether you’re new to growing your own food, or have already started to dabble in homegrown delicious we have some tips for how to upgrade your favorite staples like spaghetti sauce, salad, and stir-fries from good to great with garden ingredients.

When you’re just getting started with growing veggies, there’s a lot to consider. The important thing, though, is to just take everything one step at a time and enjoy the process. To help you dive in, we’ve put together this super handy guide to get you started on your vegetable gardening journey.

Getting Started

If you’re brand new to gardening of any kind, starting a vegetable gardening is an ambitious project – and that’s a good thing! The harder you work on your veggie garden, the more rewarding it will be when it’s time to harvest.

Before you can get to work, however, you’re going to need a plan. Taking the opportunity to make a solid plan will take tons of the guesswork out of your garden and help you work more efficiently through the growing season. Here are the very first things you’ll need to plan out when starting your vegetable garden:

  • Plot your plot. Make an area of your yard your designated garden plot and mark it off. Now, admire this piece of land – this is going to be your garden! You might even want to snap a quick photo so you can compare your garden plot today to your harvest-ready garden down the road.
  • Choose your veggies. For first-time gardeners, it’s best to stick with plants that are easy to grow. If you have some gardening experience, you might want to start with something more challenging. Use our veggie guide below for reference.
  • Enlighten yourself. Now that you know which veggies you plan to grow, take stock of what kinds of light each of them need and make sure your garden plot can accommodate all the needs of your future vegetables. Your garden should be in a spot that gets a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Check your calendar. Most veggies need to be sown or transplanted after the risk of frost has passed. Seeding calendars are great tools for figuring out the safest dates to plant your crops. Check out ours at heeman.ca!
  • Toil over your soil. Check out the soil requirements for each of your veggies. Group together veggies that have similar soil and pH needs. You can use a soil test to get an idea of what kind of soil you have in your yard.
  • Soak in some watering knowledge. Each plant will have a slightly different preference for how much moisture they need and how often. Some may also do better with ground-level watering rather than overhead watering from a hose. Make a watering schedule for each of your crops and keep it handy!

Preparing the Soil

To prepare your garden plot, start by digging out the perimeter of the area. Shovel out the top layer of lawn, gravel, or any other debris in the way and once you’ve gotten into the soil, use a soil test to see what you’re working with – testing and building a good foundation is easier before you start growing than after!

You’ll also want to use a roto-tiller or cultivator to break up the soil and add in some long-term fertilizer to feed your plants. There’s tons of options to choose from, but we particularly love Sea Compost and RapidGrow Compost for unbeatable results.

When you get the results of your soil test, you might find that some of your veggies need soil that doesn’t quite match what you have in your garden. Don’t lose all hope just yet, though! Soil that isn’t ideal doesn’t mean it won’t grow anything – it just might not perform as well as the perfect fit. You can also use soil amendments and topsoils to accommodate your veggie varieties to “fix” your soil before planting.

Planting & Moisture Management

When you’re ready to start planting, refer to the packages of your veggies for all the important information on how to plant properly, including how much space each seed or starter will need. The packaging will always provide any specific information you need to know about growing that plant, so you won’t have to stress too much about figuring it out!

Some plants may need to be left longer between waterings than others, and some may need to stay pretty saturated on a consistent basis. Mulching means using a layer of organic material, like compost or dried leaves, to trap moisture into the soil for those plants that need it most. Compost mulch is great for veggie gardens, and breaks down over time to make your soil even richer for future years. Use mulch on veggies that need a lot of moisture to keep them from drying out on hot summer days.

Managing Weeds & Pests

Weeds and pests are a fact of life when it comes to veggie gardening! Try growing some naturally pest-deterrent plants, like marigolds, around the perimeter of your garden or between rows to naturally deter unwanted guests.

When it comes to weeds, pulling them manually and discarding them into a trash bag, while tedious, is the most effective way to control their existence in your garden. If not controlled, weeds will leach nutrients from the soil and make your veggie plants weaker and less productive. Staying on top of weeds and pulling them when they are small makes weed-pulling less of a chore, so pull them when you see them! If you feel like things are getting out of hand, you can also always talk to one of our Daymakers for options.

Veggie gardening is a skill that can take years to master, so don’t worry if things don’t quite as planned in the first year. Gardening is an art and not a science – the more experienced you’ll become and the more fertile your garden will grow! Keep at it, get messy, and most importantly, enjoy the fruits (or veggies!) of your labour.