The Easy Way to Start a Vegetable Garden (hint: just do it!)

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
— Lao Tzu

Early this spring, I decided that I wanted to start a vegetable garden. I had no prior experience with gardening, except the few herbs I have grown on the windowsill.

I didn't read any books on vegetable gardening, figure out what crops grow best together, study the pattern of sun in our backyard. Nope, I didn't do a lick of research. I just jumped right in! A lot of times, it's important to do your research before making a decision. However, sometimes you need to JUST.DO.IT. And that my friends, is exactly what I did. How did I do it? Read on...

Step 1) Determine where you are going to put your garden/dig it up

For us, there was a patch of flowers alongside the west side of our house that I dug up but left the pavers in. You could also put in a boxed garden, although you'd have to take the extra step to build the box. 

Step 2) Get some dirt/compost

After your dig up your garden patch, you may have to add some dirt. I recommend adding a few inches of compost (you can buy at a local garden/hardware store or maybe get free through your city/county) to bring added nutrients to your soil. 

Step 3) Buy your seeds/seedlings 

Rather than starting with seeds, I bought a few seedlings from the farmer's market and an urban garden store. Zucchini, yellow squash, strawberries, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccolini, onions, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, two types of kale, cucumbers and asparagus.

Step 4) Plant your seedlings (after the possibility of a frost disappears)

Again, not a lot of rhyme or reason to where I planted things. I ran out of room in my garden so decided to grow my zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers vertically in pots (it was a fail, as I forgot to punch out the drainage holes in the bottom, and completely flooded my plants - I also think you need to have large enough pots which I did not) and the butternut squash went in a different spot where we tore out an old fire pit. It is recommended that your plants that grow taller are not going to shadow your smaller plants, but again, I just read the directions of how far they should be spaced, grabbed a measuring tape, and went to work.

Step 5) Protect your plants

I put up a small fence around my garden to try and keep the rabbits out. Also - did you know that squirrels LOVE strawberry plants? I surely did not. We got about five strawberries out of the plants before the squirrels took over. Next year I will plan on covering the plants so the squirrels can't dig them up!

My very first strawberry!

My very first strawberry!

Step 5) Weed and water

In the early weeks, it's important to keep your garden weed-free and watered (I've heard of some people putting down mulch for weed protection, or newspaper on top of the grass works for boxed gardens). I made sure to swing out there every day or every other, to pick a few weeds, and give it a good water (5 minutes or so - depending on how much rain we had recently gotten). The weeding will really pile up if you aren't consistent!

My vegetable garden. In all its glory.

My vegetable garden. In all its glory.

Step 6) Reap what you sow, and then let the rest go

I had a TON of success with the broccolini (if you tip them over, the side shoots activate all summer long) kale and hot peppers (the asparagus is looking good for next year too!), but only got one cauliflower (out of 6 planted), zero sweet potatoes (that I can find), and the Brussels sprouts are struggling. The point? It's your first year. Enjoy what worked, and let go of what didn't! Also - Google is great for determining what to harvest when. :)

Kale and peppers and broccolini - oh my!

Kale and peppers and broccolini - oh my!

And that's how you start a vegetable garden. Until next time, I'll be trying to cool my mouth from all those hot peppers.

And next year, I'll be making a bigger garden.