How to Start a Vegetable Garden from Scratch: A Complete Guide 2020

Starting a vegetable garden is an easy way to produce homegrown food without chemicals and preservatives. Growing your own veggies can give you some delicious and healthy food. It feels so great to go out into your garden and harvest some vegetables to eat straight away. In this article, we will learn How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch.

How to Start a Vegetable Garden from Scratch

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How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch

This guide is not limited to large backyards and intensive maintenance. This guide is for beginners and professionals with large or little space. After going through the guide you can select what method is best for you. So How To start a vegetable garden from scratch ? We must first 

Select The Right Location 

Choosing the best possible location is the absolute key for a vegetable garden. Sunlight has a direct role in the quality of vegetables. You want at least 6 hours of good sunlight for your vegetable patch. Proper sunlight ensures better taste and larger vegetables.

If you are serious about growing the best vegetables, you can use white walls and mirrors to reflect sunlight into the garden. Although it may not look like much, it still makes a difference. If your house or shed has multiple structures around the gardening area, then think about the shade as well. You want direct sunlight for your vegetables.

The soil should be free from any contaminants. If the soil is contaminated or unfit for growing, do not stop, you can try a raised garden bed. A raised garden bed is perfect for growing on contaminated and unfit soil. Check out my article on how to build a raised garden bed.  

The soil structure should be fine enough to allow easy penetration of roots. You can significantly enhance the nutrition level of the soil by adding organic compost and mulch. You can make compost and mulch at home with household materials. You can learn how to make compost at home and learn what is mulching and how to mulch. The right soil conditions lead to proper drainage of water to allow adequate aeration and percolation

If you live in an area with rainy climate, find a location where your plants will be safe from rain splash. The soil should not be susceptible to flooding. The roots and stems can get damaged due to the presence of excessive water. Additionally, it will increase the chances of pathogenic and disease attack. 

Similarly, in summer conditions, the soil should not tend to dry very quickly.

Selecting The Right Size

I recommend a small garden rather than a larger one for easy management, but I am an urban gardener myself, and I am usually tight on space. If you do have space and an excellent location with enough sunlight, do go for a more extensive vegetable garden. For beginners who want to start small, the size of the vegetable garden should be at least 16×11 feet or even smaller. Try to grow easy vegetables that require less care and maintenance. We will get into what we can produce a few steps down below. 

Watering The Plants 

Sometimes, watering the vegetables by hand can be time-consuming, I recommended watering the vegetables with sprinkler or hose. Never let your plants go dry; otherwise, it is difficult for vegetables to recover after a permanent wilting point. Using drip irrigation for watering the vegetables is also a great way to water. Cover the drip irrigation system with a few inches of straw mulch. The pressure of water in drip irrigation should not be too high or low.

During summer, you need to use a soaker hose in addition to the drip irrigation. This will keep the surface of the soil wet during hot climates. For smaller vegetable gardens, watering by hand is perfectly fine.

how to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Regular watering will keep your vegetables growing and healthy

Wind Management 

If there are stormy conditions, then the effect of strong winds on vegetables should be monitored. Vegetables may tolerate an occasional storm, but exposure to winds daily can directly affect their growth and yield. Avoid planting vegetables in areas that would suffer from direct strong wind. If you cant prevent wind you can wrap the planting area in a landscaping fabric to diffuse the wind.

Maintaining the Fertility Status of Soil 

Organic fertilizers are the best solutions for increasing the fertility status of the soil. Organic fertilizers increases the population of microorganisms in the soil and dramatically improves the soil structure and its nutrient providing capability. Various mineral nutrients and organic fertilizers should be periodically added to the soil to maintain a well-balanced and healthy soil.

Organic fertilizers can be added in multiple forms, such as animal manure, shredded leaves, and compost. Organic matter continuously provides the nitrogen and all other essential elements to the plants. Additionally, it is a rich source of food for the microorganisms, which in turn carries the processes of decomposition and decay. 

If you have an indoor garden you can use liquid fertiliser.

Gardening in Raised Beds, Containers and Soil

All these options have their worth and impact on the quality of vegetables. The vegetables can be directly grown in the garden if there is no problem of fungal diseases in the soil. Vegetables can best grow in the ground if the soil is fertile and soft. For extensive gardens, growing in soil is the best way to get maximum production with the optimum level of management. Gardening directly in the soil is most beneficial and sustainable as there is no restriction for root growth, and the plants retain more nutrients and water from the ground.

Growing vegetables in containers is also a good approach as the location of these containers can be easily changed, and you do not have to worry about wild weed growth. Containers are great if you are trying to build a vegetable garden in a tight space. Though container gardening is less messy and requires less care, container gardening needs more water and nutrients compared to others. By selecting the right size of containers, you can produce a lot of vegetables. Check my article on what is container gardening for an idea of growing plants in containers.

Raised beds are also a good option for a vegetable garden, as they can be customized according to the needs of a vegetable garden, such as filling the raised bed with proper compost and soil. Raised beds can be constructed almost anywhere, on top of landscape or uneven ground. However, it is a costly setup, and limited space is available for the growth of plants. 

If the soil health is good and space is enough, then vegetable gardening should be done in the ground. But if you do not have space or quality soil I recommended you use Square foot gardening method to grow a variety of vegetables in a small space, more information on that below.

Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is intensive growing of plants and vegetables in a tight space. So if you do not have a lot of space or the soil isn’t right for a vegetable garden don’t stop, try the square foot gardening method.

Square foot gardening is essentially making a raised bed and dividing the raised bed into blocks of 1 square foot each. You plant each vegetable into one block and since they are quite close to each other you grow a lot of vegetables in a small space. It requires less maintenance and the soil stays loose since you wont be stepping in it.

But I know of something even more easier than square foot gardening and it takes up even less space too. Green Tower Project have a vertical planter in which you can grow a massive 50 variety of vegetables organically.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Green Tower Project is a vertical rotating container garden with inbuilt composting. It does not get more organic than this. You add in organic compost in the middle of the vertical planter and its nutrients are passed on to 50 different vegetables. Green Tower Project is your one stop shop for your organic vegetable gardening. Check out the video to see how it all works.

What do you do with this planter during the winter ? Green Tower Project says ” Garden Tower’s were born in Indiana and our designed to stay outside. All you have to do is turn over the 2 gallon drawer at the bottom. We also suggest moving your worms to a simple storage bin where they will stay above freezing for the winter away from excess moisture. They don’t require much food at low temperatures, so that’s what we do in Indiana!

Do check out their store for more gardening products.

Bonus Tip

Check out the info graphic below made by goodtobehome for some ideas for your vegetable garden. Goodtobehome also let you create a personalised vegetable gardening cheat sheet with your location and time of month for gardening. Click here to create your own personalised cheat sheet. You can select your climate, what you want to plant and where you want to plant so do check it out.

How to Start a garden from scratch
How to start a vegetable garden from scratch: Vegetable Garden Planning

Methods and Practices For a Successful Vegetable Garden

After selecting the best location for your vegetable garden, the next step we will look at is the best management practices to follow. These growing methods and practices will greatly help to grow vegetables in the best possible ways. Each growing method will depend on the space and location you have available. You might prefer a smaller space or you may even prefer to grow vegetables indoors.

Even if you are not a beginner or already have a vegetable garden, some of these methods might come in use to you.

Growing Vegetables

You must provide proper space between vegetables to allow healthy growth. If the plants are too close, then competition for sunlight, air, water, and nutrition is increased.

You can select seeds or seedlings for growing vegetables, but seeds are cheaper as compared to seedlings. The seeds should be pure and free from any contamination. Paying a little extra for quality seeds can result in healthier production of vegetables.

Water your vegetables regularly, but too much or too little watering can result in diseases and pathogenic attacks. The plantation and harvesting of vegetables should be at the right time. Planting and harvesting dates are different for all vegetables. I recommend a garden calendar to keep notes of all your vegetable planting and harvesting dates. 

how to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Growing Onions in a Vegetable Garden

Suggested Vegetables to Plant for Beginners

Initially, people should grow vegetables that grow in a shorter duration and are easy to manage. You can grow tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, blue beans, carrots, beets, lettuce, chard, bush beans, and radishes. The management of these vegetables is easy, and the chances of failure are minimum. 

If you want something straightforward and do not want to commit a lot of space yet check my articles on how to grow bell peppershow to grow tomatoes from seed, and how to grow potatoes. You can grow all these in a couple of containers. What’s great is that you can grow them indoors too and during any time of the year.

how to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Carrots are easy to Grow

Growing Up but Not Growing Out 

Certain Vegetables grow vertically upward and will need support. It is, in fact, best to grow your vegetables vertically since they are reaching out towards the sun, which lets them take in more sunlight.

The fence of the garden can serve this purpose very well. You can build supporting structures for your vegetables with metal or wood. Use something sturdy that will last outdoors in all conditions. Even before the plantation of vegetables, the supporting structures need to be in their specific places. For some vegetables such as melons and tomatoes, there is a need to tie the plants to the support gently, or sometimes careful weaving is essential soon after the start of growth. 

Crop Rotation 

In vegetable gardening, crop rotation means planting any specific vegetable at the same place once in every three years. It dramatically helps to improve soil fertility and productivity as the same vegetable will not always deplete the same nutrients from the soil. It also helps to reduce the chances of diseases, insects, and pests attack, that might be present in the soil even after the harvesting of vegetables.

In a rotation system of three years, the proper location of all vegetables in the garden should be pre-planned. However, unless you are container gardening, I do not recommend to grow many vegetables at one time as it will be a difficult task to manage all the different planting and harvesting dates. 

Keep a calendar as I mentioned earlier, and note down what you might think may be of value. Watering, planting, and harvesting schedule. Anything that you notice might be important because you can use this calendar next year, and it will be a go-to guide for you to grow even better vegetables.

Continuous Harvesting

You can grow a ton of different vegetables. Select vegetables to grow according to their climatic condition needs. If you plan right, you can have a continuous harvest of vegetables all year.

Succession of planting vegetables is the most suitable way of maximizing the plantation area in the garden and growing vegetables throughout the year. 

What is succession planting?

Succession planting is planting vegetables one after the other to prolong your harvest. Here are the ways for succession planting.

  1. You plant the same vegetable every couple of weeks. For example, you plant tomato seeds, and after two weeks, you plant more tomato seeds. In this way, when you harvest your first tomatoes, you know you can harvest another batch two weeks later.
  2. Replace each vegetable after harvesting. Some vegetables take a short time to grow. You can harvest these vegetables and replace them with different ones.
  3. Many vegetables have different maturity rates. If you choose your vegetables wisely, you can have a vegetable garden with vegetables that mature from early, mid to late season. The seed packets may have the maturity dates written on the back. 
  4. Two or more crops are planted together with different maturity dates. Check out my vegetable companion planting guide to select the best vegetables to plant together.

Succession also allows the natural thinning of vegetable cover, and crops will get elbow room. Early, in the spring, one can grow, green, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and peas. Soon after harvesting the winter crops, summer vegetables can be planted, such as eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and in the fall season, kale, cabbage, and potatoes can be harvested. 

Some tips for succession planting :
  • Make sure you have enough seed for the whole planting season. Some vegetable seeds last for years, but some vegetables need fresh seed for germinating. Have a plan in your calendar for this.
  • Between harvest and planting new crops, add mulch and compost to rejuvenate the soil.
  • Do not wait to harvest the crop when they are in their prime. It’s best to use your healthy vegetables when they are at their best. So pull them out, use them, and plant something else.

Intensive Gardening

One can substantially boost up the productivity of vegetable gardens by intensive gardening, which aims at planting at least 3-4 plants in a bed at about 4 feet. It is using every inch of your garden space to grow a vegetable. This approach is well suited for almost all kinds of vegetables, but not for vines.

Intensive gardening needs very rich soil, and raised beds are perfect for this. You can make a permanent bed and fill it with rich soil and organic compost. Compliment this method with companion planting, and you are looking at a thriving vegetable garden. But in intensive gardening, it is recommended to remove any unwanted weeds manually.

Before the establishment of intensive gardening systems, the soil should be leveled and well prepared. Clear all debris and weeds from the planting area. Add 3-4 inches of compost, organic matter, chopped leaves, grass clippings, and any kind of nutrient-rich materials.

The organic materials should be added to the soil at least one month before planting. You can also add mulching material to prevent the loss of fertile soil due to wind and rain. Plastic sheeting can also be used for pre-warming the soil before sowing of seeds or transplantation of seedlings. 

Read my mulching guide for more details on how you can make organic mulch from household materials.

Companion Planting

Flowers can be planted in the vegetable garden or even with other crops. 

Growing flowers next to vegetables can give you many advantages. For enhancing the soil fertility, different plants can be grown in rotation but after proper planning. Some plants deplete a massive amount of nutrients from the soil, but some plants take only a few nutrients. Plants like cover crops, peas, and beans are categorised as soil builders as they help to improve the fertility and nutritional status of the soil. 

There should be a proper rotation between heavy feeders and light

feeders. Plants included in the category of heavy feeders are corn, tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, beets, leafy crops, cabbage, and broccoli. Whereas, peppers, onion, garlic, turnips, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and rutabagas are light feeders of nutrients. 

My vegetable companion planting guide will give you all the information you need for companion planting.

Row cropping

Row cropping is plants placed in a single row, with 8 inches minimum distance between the plants. Your plants won’t have to compete for nutrition because of the distance between each other. Row planting is a way of growing plants in the straight line. 

An extensive area is required for row planting as it is necessary to establish wide rows. There should be equal distance and space

between the rows. For larger plants, the distance should be greater. Visually the gardens with more row spacing are more appealing.

Row planting enhances the looks of the garden, and the garden looks a lot more organized and cleaner. Additionally, there is enough space to move around the garden. 

Bigger plants such as cucumber, carrots, squash, and corn often grow better in the single rows as these plants have longer roots and vines, so they need more space for growth.

how to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Single Row Cropping

Double Row Planting 

Twin row or double row planting is a good variation of planting in a single row. It follows the same basic principles however, in a double row, a single bed has two rows about 8″ apart. By using this technique, you are making the most use of available space.

Additionally, a more significant number of plants can be planted or harvested.

how to start a vegetable garden from scratch
Double Row Cropping

How to Make Rows In Your Garden 

Before making the rows, the soil must be smooth and even. At both ends of the bed, it is recommended to place stakes. You can adjust the space between rows according to the requirements. Typically, for broader rows, a spacing of about 12-18 inches is enough. Between the two stakes, tie a stretched twine, this twine or string will be your guide to make a straight row. After that, you can use the tip of a hoe to create shallow furrows along the lines of the twine or string.

If some seeds require deeper planting, then the corner of the hoe blade should be used. You can use wheel hoes to make furrows too.

Create a 4-inch deep trench on every side of the furrows. This trench functions for collecting any surplus water. This collected water directly seeps to the soil and root zone, so plants can efficiently uptake water according to their requirements. After this sow seeds according to the recommended instructions for each plant variety and soil type. The seeds should be covered, and remove the stakes and twines safely. After planting, water the rows according to the requirements. 

Indoor Vegetable Gardening

If you find that you do not have the right space or the soil or the weather in your area makes it impossible to start a vegetable garden from scratch, you can consider growing a vegetable garden indoors. It might be a lot smaller than growing outdoors, but you can still grow the best veggies ever.

Indoor Vegetable Gardening has its advantages like:

  • requires less maintenance.
  • it is less messy. 
  • and you do not have to worry about weather conditions. 

Since its always warm indoors, you can grow all year round too. Read my article on indoor vegetable gardening for beginners to get started with gardening indoors. 

Don’t have a green thumb, want something easier and save you more time? You can start with an Aerogarden indoor growing kit. Growing kits do most of the work for you. The kit comes with 9 seed pods including 9-Pod Genovese Basil (x2), Thai Basil, Curly Parsley, Chives Dill, Mint, Italian Parsley, and Thyme. These non-GMO seeds germinate without soil hence less maintenance and dirt for you. You can fill water in the kit and it will feed your vegetables or herbs water periodically. So you can go for vacation and not worry about your indoor herbs/vegetables.

The Aerogarden indoor growing kit has grow lights and liquid fertilizer to boost your vegetables/herbs further. It has smart technology that informs you when you need to add in water and switches grow lights on and off.

Gardening is not all about getting our hands and feet dirty. If you don’t like getting dirty or do not have a green thumb you can still garden in different ways; modern ways. There is nothing wrong about it. Its still all natural, organic and eco-friendly.

Organic Methods to Deal with Garden Pests and Insects in a Vegetable Garden

Garden pests and insects can be a real problem for your lovely vegetable garden. Since vegetables can be quite delicate and the goal is to consume them, using pesticides and chemicals is a big NO to deal with pests and insects. We should just stay away from any chemicals and keep our vegetable garden 100% Organic. 

How to start a vegetable garden from scratch: Organic vegetable garden

Why Organic Methods?

There are various reasons for controlling insects, pests, and diseases by non-chemical means. Organic control reduces any chance of an allergic reaction due to the use of chemicals. Additionally, you are protecting children too from harsh chemicals. We grow veggies to consume them, and there is a high risk of chemicals affecting the produce. There is a chance we may even consume some of the chemicals, and that can be quite harmful to our bodies.

If organic practices to deal with pests, diseases, and insects is done right; it can be a lot more effective than chemicals.

No garden is completely free from diseases and pests. There is always an occurrence of Beetles, caterpillars, and fungal infections. But the damage caused by their population can be significantly reduced by using organic practices for pest control. Let’s take a look at organic methods and practices to deal with pests, insects, and diseases.

Use of Beneficial Insects 

All flying and crawling critters are not bad for the gardens; many of them can be very beneficial to your vegetable garden. Without beneficial insects, probably, your vegetable garden will fail.

The use of beneficial insects is a sustainable approach as these insects feed on harmful pests. For example, ladybugs are extremely important for controlling the attack of aphids. Ladybugs, hoverflies, praying mantis, honeybees, lacewings, and dragonflies are best for controlling harmful insects. Beneficial insects also help pollinate the garden and create a natural environment. 

Using chemicals will also kill any beneficial insects. 

Check out my article on a detailed guide on how you can attract beneficial insects to your garden.

Use of Fences 

Almost all plant species are more susceptible to diseases and pest attacks at tender and young stages. It is because the leaves are known to have a better taste for pests during the early stages. We are talking about pests like rodents and other small animals.

One of the best ways to deter these pests is to stop their unwanted entry by physical barriers. Implement these barriers by installing a secure and safe fence at ground level. The fence should also be extended in the downward direction to stop the entry of rabbits by digging the soil. It would help if you had taller fencing for larger pests like deers.

Planting in Row Covers 

Row covers are lightweight sheets of fabric used as hoops for covering the plants. It is essential to allow proper penetration of light. It is common to see this concept used in the commercial nurseries for protecting tender plants from intense frost, and smaller insects and pests. It is best to use row covers during the early stages and remove them after your plants have reached a more mature stage.

Use of Oil Sprays Insecticide

It is the most effective way of controlling the pests as they directly hit the pests. Oils are very effective in suffocating insects and stops them from breathing, thus killing them. Additionally, they do not cause any harm to the plants.

Oil Sprays are not chemical, you can make Oil Sprays at home with a few teaspoons of vegetable cooking oil, mild soap and mix it with water in a spray bottle. Limit the spray to smaller areas to avoid any damage to beneficial insects. I recommend spraying oil on the plants in the early morning when the bees and other beneficial insects are not very active. If there is any plan to release or introduce beneficial insects soon after the spray, then it should be avoided. 

Use of Insecticidal Soap 

In insecticidal soaps, long-chain and unsaturated fatty acids are present. The origin of these fatty acids is animal-based, and they can easily dissolve the skin of insect, sounds like horror doesn’t it. The insecticidal soaps are different from the herbicidal soaps. These soaps are only effective when they are in contact with the insects in liquid form. When the soap is dried, then they are not useful for killing pests. 

It is also necessary to apply the optimal amount and concentration; Otherwise, these insecticidal soaps may cause the plant leaves to burn. So, before spraying on the whole garden, the effects of these soaps should be tested on some individual plants. 

If you do not observe any damage to plants after 48 hours of spray, then you can use this approach for the whole garden. You can buy insecticidal soap, but please check the ingredients to make sure its organic. The one I listed below is available on Amazon, and it is organic.

Use of Pheromone Traps 

Pheromone traps use a unique scent to attract insects. Nowadays, these scents are used as a trap to kill the insects. Pheromone traps are known to reduce the mating of insects, thus decreasing insect population.

Pheromones are available for controlling the diamondback moths, corn earworms, cabbage loopers, armyworms, cutworms, and tomato pinworms. 

Use of Sticky Traps 

Sticky traps attract insects with their color. Insects fly to the traps and get stuck. These traps should be hanged close to the plants and at the plant height. These traps are more effective at the height of about 3-5 feet. Winged scales, fruit flies, whiteflies, midges, and leafhoppers are attracted to the yellow traps. While other insects are attracted to different specific colors. 

Companion Planting (Again)

I told you companion planting has many advantages.

One of the significant advantages of companion planting is that certain plants can repel harmful insects. You can read more about companion planting in my companion planting for a vegetable garden guide. You can grow different vegetables and keep pests away too.

By using all the above practices, you can control pests without causing any potential damage to the plants, environment, and life. It is so important to stick to organic methods when you home garden.

Another info graphics by anglianhome highlighting why companion planting can be beneficial

How to start a vegetable garden from scratch: Benefits of Companion Planting by anglianhome

Dealing with Diseases

Fungal attacks and diseases can be greatly reduced by controlling the amount of irrigation. Most diseases happen when there is too much water, and the plants are too damp all the time. Reduce water when you notice the garden is already moist. If there are any symptoms of disease or fungal attack on plants, they should be immediately taken out and thrown in the trash. Watch your garden every day and spot any changes. Catching a Disease or fungal attack early will reduce the disease from spreading to other plants. If you keep a compost bin, then do not add in the infected plant, rather just throw it away. 

Gardening Tools

Before you begin make sure you have gardening tools to work with. Gardening tools will make your life a lot easier and help you make that perfect vegetable garden you are looking for. These tools will be used through out your whole garden experience from start to maintenance so its really worth the investment.


And that wraps up my guide on how to start a vegetable garden from scratch. I’ve tried to list every detail for starting and succeeding in growing a vegetable garden. I hope you find all the information useful and can use this guide if you are starting a vegetable garden from scratch or even if you already have a vegetable garden set up. 

Besides vegetable gardening being a wonderful hobby it teaches is how to produce food which is extremely important for our survival. We all must try our hand at making our own food, so share this guide with your friends and get them into growing a vegetable garden. Are you going to start a vegetable garden or do you already have a vegetable garden ? Share your experience and thoughts with us, we would love to hear from you.

Below is a massive info graphic that will further help you create your successful vegetable garden.

Simple Vegetable Garden Tips for Every Size Garden

From Visually.

Besides vegetable gardening being a wonderful hobby it teaches is how to produce food which is extremely important for our survival. We all must try our hand at making our own food, so share this guide with your friends and get them into growing a vegetable garden. Are you going to start a vegetable garden or do you already have a vegetable garden ? Share your experience and thoughts with us, we would love to hear from you.

Check out our eco-friendly products that you can buy from our amazon shop too.

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