Eating vegetables you’ve grown yourself can be really satisfying. Not only is it healthier and cheaper, but it can taste better, and it’s more eco friendly. The hardest part of learning to grow your own is knowing how to start your first plot. In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to start your vegetable patch successfully.
Pick the right location.
The location of your vegetable patch is key to growing good fruit. The best place will have:
- 6 hours of sun – your vegetable plot will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. You should also avoid setting up under a tree or in the shadow of your home.
- Moist, well-drained soil – water pools in badly drained soil and this can end up killing your plants. Consider using a raised bed or raking your soil to get better drainage.
- Calm spot – avoid places that receive strong winds that could knock over your plants or keep pollinators away. Try to avoid areas with high footfall and places that are known to flood.
- Have a nearby water source – your vegetables will need a lot of water before they are ready to harvest. You should place your plot near an outdoor tap or water source if you don’t want to carry it all. Consider setting up a water butt closeby is possible.
Choose a plot size
How big should your first vegetable patch be? For a beginner, we would suggest starting small and manageable. You need around 200 sq. ft (about the size of a one-car garage) to feed one person for most of the year. If you can start with this size, great, but a veg trug or small raised bed can also get great results. For more control or if you are only looking to dip your hand into home growing, why not consider starting by growing your veg in a container.
Set up your Plot
Before you start planting your first veggies, you should take a few steps to make sure you are planting them in the best conditions possible.
- Remove any weeds
- Dig over the soil to about one spade deep
- Break up the soil to aerate – remove any stones or weed stems
- If using a raised bed fill will good quality well-draining soil
Now your soil is ready, divide your bed into sections (you can mark these out with string if you want). Try to keep one crop in each section and stagger them between sowing, growing, harvesting and being empty to get a constant yield.
Choose your crops
Knowing what to grow in your first vegetable patch can be difficult as there are lots of choices.
Good vegetables for beginners to grow
But ultimately the decision is up to you. No matter what you want to plant always consider a few things before making your choice.
- Choose what you (and your family) like to eat – If no one likes brussels sprouts, don’t bother planting them. But if your love green beans, put more effort towards growing a big crop of beans and nothing goes to waste.
- Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat – Be careful not to overplant, as you will find yourself with too many plants on your hands.
- Consider whats in the shops – Your favourite veg not in your local shop? Why not grow them instead of carrots and tomatoes. Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than those you buy in-store.
- Growing times – Planning a summer holiday? Some veg like tomatoes and courgette grow strongest in the middle of summer. If you’re gone, you will need someone to look after them, or they will suffer. You can also grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veg during the cooler months of late spring and early fall.
Where and when to plant
The success of your vegetable patch will depend a lot on when and where you plant your vegetables.
- Plant for the season – There are “cool-season” vegetables that grow in spring (e.g., lettuce, spinach, root veg) and “warm-season” vegetables that aren’t planted until the soil warms up (e.g., tomatoes & peppers). Plant cool-season crops after spring frost and warm-season crops in the same area later in the season.
- Plant tall vegetables on the north side of the garden – So they don’t shade shorter plants. If you do get shade in a part of your garden, save that area for small, cool-season plants.
- Annual or Perennial – Most vegetables are annual (planted each year). Asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs are perennial. If you’re planning on growing, these make sure you provide permanent locations or beds.
- Maturation time – Some crops mature quickly and have a very short harvest period (radishes, beans). Other plants, such as tomatoes, take longer to produce but will do so for longer. These times are usually listed on the packet, and you should aim for a combination of both.
- Stagger plantings – If you want a constant supply of vegetables, you don’t want to plant all your seeds simultaneously, or they will need to be harvested at around the same time!. Stagger plantings by a few weeks to keep a constant supply.
Planting your vegetables
You have a couple of choices regarding getting new plants to grow in your garden; you can buy nursery plants ready to go or grow from seed. Each has its own advantages.
|Starting From Seed||Nursery Plants|
|Can control how your plant is grown from the start||Easier to grow|
|More Varieties to choose from||Takes up less space|
Planting a nursery plant is simple. Follow the instructions on the plant label, and you’re ready to go, be careful to give each plant enough space to grow in the future.
Growing Vegetables from seed:
Growing from seed can take more time, but you have much more control over how your plants end up. Starting your plants indoors gives them a higher survival rate than those grown indoors.
- Make sure your containers have drainage holes – You can use recycled pots, egg boxes or yoghurt pots. Seed trays and flats are good choices and can be reused year after year. Biodegradable pots are great too.
- Plant seeds at the proper depth – Check the seed packet for planting depth. Be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions – a good rule is to plant the two-to-three times as deep as the seed is wide.
- After sowing, put your container somewhere warm – On top of a fridge or near a radiator are good spots. Check your pots every day for signs of growth.
- Keep seed-starting mix moist – Seedling roots need both air and water. Keep the mix moist but not wet.
- As soon as seedlings emerge, place pots in a bright location at room temperature – A sunny window will do
- Once seedlings have two sets of leaves thin out – You want one seedling per pot. Choose the healthiest, strongest-looking seedling to keep.
- Plant outside when you have three of four full-sized leaves.
Vegetable Care Tips
Use a diluted all-purpose fertilizer before planting and once in the middle of the growing season.
Apply mulch in the spring after the soil has warmed
Getting your watering right is a key skill in getting your vegetables to grow as well as they can. A moisture meter is a handy way to help yourself out. It also helps to know the signs of under or overwatering.
|You’ve underwatered if:||You’ve overwatered if:|
|Dry soil around the stems||There is soaked soil around plant stems.|
|Stunted Growth||Mould or moss is growing on the soil.|
|Dead Leaves||Yellowing of leaves|
|Brown Leaves||Dead leaf margins|
Common pests and how to treat them
|Aphid||Small sap-sucking insects that can be found on the leaves of your plant. Spray with a steady stream of water or plant safe soap. You can also release predatory insects such as ladybugs or prune off the most heavily infected leaves.|
|Cabbage Worm||Best Picked off by hand and use a floating row cover to keep the adults from laying eggs on crops.|
|Corn Earworm||Tilling in the spring and autumn will expose pupae to predators, weather and wind. Pesticides will also work.|
|Cucumber Beetle||Handpick beetles frequently. Adults can be sprayed with a botanical insecticide. After harvest, remove garden debris to reduce sites for overwintering.|
|Cutworm||Use toilet roll tubes to make collars and place around the stems of seedlings ( half above and half below the soil). Beneficial nematodes can be added to the soil and hand remove caterpillars after dark.|
|Flea Beetle||To avoid peak populations of flea beetles, avoid planting your crops until later in the season. Add beneficial nematodes to the soil and use floating row covers to keep pests off plants.|
|Slug & Snail||Edge garden beds with copper tape to deter slugs and snails. Shallow pans of beer placed in the garden will trap them, then collect and destroy daily.|
|Squash Bug||Check the undersides of leaves, and hand remove squash bugs. Keep plants off the ground with trellises. If the infestation gets too bad, use floating row covers and a botanical insecticide.|
|Tomato Hornworm||Check the leaves for large green caterpillars) and hand remove. Till gardens in the fall to destroy pupae in the soil.|
Wet weather, inadequate air and low and poor drainage are all causes of plant disease. You can prevent disease on your vegetables by
- Choosing disease-resistant plants
- Water and fertilize plants properly.
- Rotate crops
- Keep your growing area clean.
Some common diseases include:
Bacterial Leaf Spot: Mostly affecting cabbage-family crops, peppers and tomatoes. Infected foliage has small, dark brown or black water-soaked spots. These spots will dry up and crack, leaving holes and leaves may drop prematurely. Apply copper-based fungicides every 7-days when symptoms first appear to prevent from spreading. Control can be difficult in wet weather.
Clubroot: Caused by a soil-inhabiting fungus and infecting cabbage-family plants (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). Infected plants have swollen, misshapen roots and wilt in the heat. Older leaves turn yellow or drop off. Plant disease-resistant varieties and rotate vegetable crops.
Common Rust: Reddish-brown powdery spots that rub off when touched appear on leaves. Prune plants and remove weeds to provide good air circulation. Hand-pick infected leaves and remove and destroy seriously affected plants. Apply sulfur fungicides to plants early to prevent infection or to keep light problems from spreading.
Late Blight: Mostly affecting tomato and potato plants, this disease appears late in the growing season. Look for water-soaked, grey-green spots on leaves. As the disease matures a white fungal growth may form on the undersides. Select resistant varieties when available and dispose of all infected plant parts. Water in the morning to give plants time to dry out during the day. Copper sprays can suppress some outbreaks.
Mosaic Virus: This disease appears as mottled green or yellowish coloured plant tissue. Plant growth is often stunted, and leaves may curl. There is no cure for the mosaic virus so remove infected plants immediately. Plant disease-resistant crops and reduce the number of disease-carrying insects (aphids, leafhoppers) can spread the virus.
Wilts: Affecting many vegetable plants, causes wilting and yellow blotches on the lower leaves. Choose resistant varieties when available and control garden insects, such as cucumber beetles, who are known to spread the disease.
It can be a steep learning curve when first learning how to plant your own vegetables, but as soon as you harvest and cook with your first crop, you will realise how satisfying it can be and be hooked. Find everything you need for a successful home garden here. We’d love to see what you’re doing with your home garden so let us know how your homegrown vegetables are doing on Facebook or send us a picture on Instagram with the hashtag#MyPrimroseGarden for a chance to be featured.