Tips & Tools for Your First Vegetable Garden

Organic vegetable garden

Ready to start your first vegetable garden?

The three essentials for an easy vegetable garden are:

  • Full sun (at least 6-8 hours)
  • Convenient water supply
  • Good soil

Add some basic supplies and you'll be off and growing.

X Marks the Vegetable Garden Spot

Ideally, prepare your garden bed in full sun (minimum of 6 hours of direct sunshine in the spring and summer). Just because a garden spot gets strong sun at noon it might not get 6 hours worth. Good soil is the source of nutrients for your plants. Now is the time for a soil test, to see if you need to amend your soil with key ingredients. For detailed information on soil testing, check out our video and article.

It's All About the Soil

The young roots of vegetables need loose soil so they can spread out fast. Break up the soil in your new garden area with a broadfork or a tiller. Soil is not just dirt, it's an active ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and macroorganisms that encourage and interact with the roots of your vegetables. To enliven your garden soil, add compost, which is full of living things. You can make your own compost (see our video and article about how to do that), but if you need a fast supply, we have compost ready for you to dig in. After you have dug in the compost with a shovel, smooth the surface of the garden bed with a rake. Later on you can use the rake tines and handle to mark planting rows for seeds and seedlings. Once your garden is planted you'll need to spread mulch for two reasons: to keep the precious water from evaporating, and to deprive the weeds of sunlight.

Watering & Weeding

Water your soil to boost the life activity of the compost you added, and to germinate the weeds. Hook up some drip irrigation and a timer to make your garden easy to maintain. Guess what? We have a video about drip irrigation too! When the young weeds sprout, cut them off quickly with any kind of hoe -- either a traditional hoe, a colinear hoe, or a stirrup hoe (also called a hula hoe for the back and forth motion in its jointed blade). A hand tool that is gaining fans all over the country is a Hori Hori blade for weeding and planting. Watch out! It's sharp!

Deer Proof Gardening

We assume you're growing vegetables to eat yourself, not as fast food for the deer. If you have deer in your area we have a quick and inexpensive solution for you. As you saw in the video, Tricia unrolled lightweight, strong deer fencing and attached it with zip ties. Done! The deer in your neighborhood will have to go to someone else's house for lunch.

Feed the Plants

After your vegetables are growing, give them a natural power drink with our Liquid Kelp and Liquid Fish solutions. The plants will absorb these best if you spray the liquids on their leaves. If you don't have a sprayer, you can pour them around the plants as a soil drench.

Tool List for Your First Garden

Must haves: Shovel Rake Irrigation (hose, sprinkler or drip system) Hoe or hand weeding tool

Nice to have too: Sunlight calculator Broadfork or tiller Deer fencing Sprayer.

Raised Beds and Containers

You can garden on top of lousy soil, or even concrete, with raised beds or containers. When you garden with these you don't need to do soil testing, just fill with good, fast draining, potting soil from the get go. We have kits for many sizes of raised beds and they are built so you can put them together fast, and even expand them in the future. A brand new version of a raised bed is the Smart Pot Big Bag Bed which is 50" in diameter. Ideal for renters who want to be able to take their garden with them. If you prefer smaller containers to set on the ground, deck, or patio we suggest our Smart Pots. In black or tan fabric, with or without handles, we have just the size you want.

Organic Seeds for Your First Vegetable Garden

How to choose from the dazzling array of seeds to plant? My First Garden seed collection has our favorite easy to grow vegetables. The 10 resealable seed packets come in a sturdy tin, for secure storage. It makes a welcome gift, too, for a new gardener. For more information for beginning gardeners, choose one of these reliable, classic gardening books: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. If you're growing edibles in containers, you've got to have The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible.

Watch our videos and read our blog articles for research-based organic gardening information on a range of topics. 

Congratulations on starting your new garden! Let us know when you have questions throughout the year.

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