25 Tips for Starting a Small Vegetable Garden
Whether you’re looking for ways to save money, eat more healthily or just enjoy working the land, a small vegetable garden is a great idea.
You can do quite a lot with a small amount of space, so there’s no need to have a huge backyard.
Once everything is set up, the actual work is minimal.
It definitely helps if you enjoy gardening, but you might learn to enjoy it after reaping the benefits.
1. Choose a Sunny Spot in the Yard
Choose the sunniest spot in the yard for your vegetable garden.
If your entire yard is shaded, your options are going to be pretty limited.
Lettuce and spinach do fairly well in shady conditions, but most other vegetables do not.
If possible, have the trees trimmed in order to get more sun into your yard.
If the side of the house is sunnier, you might want to start your garden there.
2. Map it Out
It’s a lot easier to get the right arrangement when you make clear plans ahead of time.
You don’t have to be an artist to do this.
Just grab a sheet of paper and start with a square.
Map out different quadrants for different vegetables.
It’s smart to start small, so stick with just a few things at first.
Now is not the time to be overly ambitious.
3. Start Seedlings Indoors
Waiting for seeds to sprout in a vegetable garden can be frustrating.
It will leave you wondering whether you’ve done it right or not.
A great way to alleviate this problem is by starting seedlings indoors before warm weather is here for good.
You can monitor their progress to make sure they are growing properly.
When the time comes, just transplant them out in the garden.
4. Invest in Excellent Tools
You may be tempted to buy the most affordable gardening tools possible, but that’s a mistake.
You’ll have a much easier time working in your garden when you have decent tools.
It’s well worth it to spend a little more for quality.
Begin with a basic assortment of tools.
As you work on your garden, you may need to buy additional tools.
Eventually, you’ll have everything you need and will be able to keep up with the maintenance of your garden with ease.
5. Use Trellises
Plants like cucumbers and beans are tasty, but they take up a lot of valuable space.
You can still grow them, though.
You just need to set up a few trellises.
You can find affordable trellises at the local big-box hardware store.
Make sure they are secure.
As the vegetables grow and ripen, they will put a lot of strain on the trellis and could break it.
6. Start a Compost Pile
One of the best ways to have great soil for your garden ready to go is by starting a compost pile.
This also gives you a way to reuse old scraps of food and other items.
Do plenty of research before starting a compost pile.
There’s a definite science behind it.
Whether you build a bin for your compost pile or invest in a composter, you will love having ready access to great soil.
7. Devote a Section to Herbs
If you normally use dried herbs while cooking, you’re in for a real treat.
Devote a small section of your garden to herbs and start planting.
You will love how much more flavorful your dishes are when you use fresh herbs, and most of them are quite easy to grow.
Options like chives, cilantro and dill are all popular, but you can successfully grow just about anything.
8. Position Your Garden Near the Kitchen
It’s not always possible, but you should try to position your garden so that it’s close to the kitchen.
Use pavers to make a nice pathway from the back door to the garden.
While you’re in the kitchen dreaming up meal ideas for the night, your garden is sure to inspire you.
It’s nice to just dart out to the backyard for freshly grown tomatoes, carrots and other ingredients.
9. Have a Water Source Nearby
Make it as easy as possible to water your garden.
Most vegetables need a lot of water to thrive.
If you have to drag a garden hose from around the side of the house every time, you’re going to dread watering your plants.
Buy an extra hose if necessary to make it as easy as possible.
You’ll thank yourself later.
10. Buy Seedlings from a Nursery
There’s no law that says you have to start all of your vegetables from seeds.
Plants like tomatoes are actually easier to grow from seedlings, and there’s nothing wrong with visiting a nursery to get what you need.
Whether you strictly plant seedlings or do a combination that includes plants grown from seeds, the point is to grow fresh vegetables in your backyard.
How they begin is inconsequential.
11. Make Sure the Soil is Vegetable Friendly
Take the time to make sure that the soil is suitable for growing vegetables.
All too often, people assume that all soil is the same, and they are crestfallen when their veggies don’t thrive.
Ideally, your soil should be well-drained, moist and mixed with plenty of organic matter.
Compost and peat should be used liberally.
You don’t have to perform a chemical analysis of the soil, but you should do what you can to make it as suitable as possible.
12. Grow Flowers around the Perimeter
Your garden will look even lovelier when you plant flowers around its perimeter.
The sky’s the limit, but many people like to grow things like morning glories, which crawl up chicken wire and other fencing materials to add a lot of charm to a vegetable garden.
This is especially nice when your fence is a little on the unsightly side.
13. Soak Seeds before Planting Them
Always check the directions that come with seeds you buy before planting them.
However, it’s usually fine to soak them for a while before planting them.
This can help speed things up a lot.
Many times, specific instructions on soaking the seeds will be included.
Some seeds need to be soaked for a few days while others just need to soak overnight.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more quickly they produce plants.
14. Choose Productive Plants
Some vegetables thrive better in some areas than in others.
Also, some plants produce more vegetables than others.
Maximize the output of your garden by selecting plants that are highly productive in your neck of the woods.
It’s usually better to have a few plants that produce vegetables throughout the year than it is to have plants that only produce edible veggies once or twice.
Speak to someone at a local nursery to get advice.
15. Grow Vines on Tepees Too
If you’re not a fan of trellises for whatever reason, a tepee is another good option.
That doesn’t mean you should build a tent over your garden.
It means you should grab six to eight poles that are about 6 feet in length and position them in a tepee shape.
Plants like beans and cucumbers can then grow up them, and you can plant other things below them.
16. Study, Study, Study
In the months leading up to planting season, do as much research as possible about vegetable gardening.
Thanks to the Internet, you don’t even need to leave the house to do so.
However, you might also want to buy at least one or two decent books on the subject.
Read them from cover to cover to learn as much as you can.
This knowledge will pay off later.
17. Rent a Rototiller
There’s something to be said for working the soil with your bare hands.
It loses its charm quickly when you’re trying to set up a vegetable garden for the first time, though, so you should plan on renting a rototiller.
You can usually rent one by the hour, and you’ll only need it for part of the day.
This tool will quickly churn the soil to make it ready for your seedlings or seeds.
18. Use Fertilizer
It’s great to want to have an organic vegetable garden, but fertilizer is crucial if you want to have a real stab of growing veggies on an ongoing basis.
Luckily, there are ways to fertilize a garden without using harsh chemicals.
This is another example of something you should research before the time comes.
When you’re ready to plant, have a few different options for fertilizing everything.
19. Share with Other Gardeners
You probably know at least a few other people who have vegetable gardens.
Talk to them to see about pooling your resources.
One person might actually own a rototiller, for instance, and another might have a nice selection of spare seeds.
You can also trade seedlings with each other and turn to each other for advice and guidance.
As an added bonus, you can share the bounties of your respective gardens later in the year.
20. Use Mothballs to Keep Critters at Bay
Nothing is worse than discovering that a rabbit or other critter has gone to town on your veggies.
Bunnies dig beneath fences, so you can’t rely on them alone.
A great idea is to sprinkle mothballs below where your fence will be placed.
The scent of the mothballs will scare away many critters, and they won’t try to burrow beneath your fence.
21. Improve Drainage with Compost and Other Materials
It’s crucial to make sure that your soil is adequately drained.
Otherwise, your plants will become waterlogged and won’t thrive.
Test the drainage of your soil by soaking it and then digging up a piece a day later.
If it’s still soaked, you have drainage issues.
Add more peat and compost to the soil to help it drain better.
Keep testing it until it is properly drained.
22. Use Newspaper and Straw between Rows
Drainage is important, but you need to keep the soil moist too.
You also need to work continually to keep weeds at bay.
Shred some newspaper and lay it between the rows of your garden.
Mix in some straw too.
It may not be the prettiest thing, but it is a very effective way to help the soil retain moisture, and it will do a lot to keep weeds from growing.
23. Use Pavers and Chicken Wire to Keep Critters Out
In some areas, critters aren’t a major problem.
If you already see bunnies and other critters in your yard, you’re going to need to plan accordingly.
A simple chicken wire fence is a great starting point.
However, many critters dig beneath fences to gain access to vegetable gardens.
Take flat pavers and bury them around the perimeter of your garden too.
Bury the chicken wire fairly deep as well.
24. Harvest Your Veggies Properly
As exciting as it is to see fresh veggies growing in the garden, resist the urge to harvest them prematurely.
Some vegetables need to be harvested at specific times.
Before planting something, find out when and how it should be harvested.
Some plants can be harvested at different stages, so do a little experimenting too.
You’re going to want to make the most of your delicious veggies.
25. Grow Veggies that You and Your Family Like
This may seem obvious, but many people are more concerned about choosing veggies that are easy to grow than with selecting veggies they actually like.
What’s the point of growing something if no one is going to eat it?
Even if it involves more work, it’s way better to plant a vegetable that you truly love.
Get the whole family in on the act and have each person select one veggie to grow.
At first, starting a small vegetable garden may seem like a huge chore.
By taking a methodical approach and keeping a few things in mind, though, it’s actually pretty easy.
Your efforts will really pay off when your table is piled high with fresh, delicious vegetables later in the year.