How to Grow Vegetables for Beginners with these 8 Awesome Tips

how to grow vegetables

Learning to grow vegetables isn’t as hard as you might think. However, there are a few basics that will help you get started right. This blog post is going to give you 6 essential tips on how to learn how to grow vegetables and start your vegetable garden today!

When I first started gardening, all of the information out there was so overwhelming and confusing. I didn’t really know where to start to figure out how to grow vegetables in my backyard. I tried container gardening, then in-ground gardening, and finally a no-dig garden. There were successes and failures in all of them! Here are answers to six common questions beginner gardeners have when learning gardening 101 and how to grow vegetables.

how to grow vegetables

Just a heads up that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase anything I recommend, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. 🙂

What vegetables should I grow when learning how to grow vegetables?

When you’re learning how to grow vegetables, start with asking yourself one question. Which vegetables do I want to grow?

You can check off the lists of easiest vegetables to grow and plant all of them, but if you don’t love eating them or feel excited about harvesting them, then what’s the point? That doesn’t mean you have to love eating everything you plant. Some veggies might look beautiful and be fun for you to grow, but you don’t love the taste. That’s ok! I’m sure you have a friend or neighbor who will help you do the eating.

But you get my point, right? Learning how to grow vegetables takes work, time, patience, and a little help from mother nature. That’s why I recommend first and foremost picking something you are excited about so that you have that passion to keep you committed to the process of growing your own food.

That said… Here are a five easy to grow vegetables you might want to start with when learning how to grow vegetables:

  • Radishes – They only take a month or so to be ready to harvest! So a quick payoff for beginner gardeners.
  • Lettuces – You can harvest lettuces from the time they sprout as microgreens all the way until they form nice heads of lettuce and any time in between! They don’t love super hot weather though. So best in the spring or fall.
  • Kale – Similar to lettuces you can harvest them fairly early and they will continue to product leaves to harvest for a long time.
  • Beans – An awesome vegetable to grow that’s low maintenance and produce lots of food.
  • Cucumbers – If you want to dip your toes into canning and preserving food, then cucumbers are perfect. They are easy to grow, produce a lot, and making pickles is so easy!

How do I prepare my garden for planting?

If you want to learn how to grow vegetables, you’ll need somewhere to plant them. There are a few different styles of gardening you can try, and this will determine how to prepare your garden to grow vegetables.

I talk through the different kinds of gardens you can start here. But whichever method you use, you’ll need to check out your soil to know how to grow vegetables.

Good soil will be generally be dark, hold moisture easily, and have lots of critters in it, especially earthworms! If your soil is really dry, rocky, or doesn’t seem rich, then you’ll probably want to amend your soil with compost or other fertilizer.

I use a no dig method for my garden which means I add a couple inches of compost on top an area I put down a weed barrier like cardboard or paper. Then I also add an inch or two of mulch or wood chips to help keep weeds out and help the soil retain moisture.

That’s about it. You can test your soil to see what your pH is and if you need to amend it with any specific products, but I have never personally needed to do that.

Where can I buy seeds and plants?

Seeds and plants are available all over the place! Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere from big box stores to your local hardware store to grocery stores, and of course there are thousands of online retailers.

I purchase most of my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have so many beautiful (and delicious) varieties of vegetables, and I love that they are heirloom seeds.

But I also have purchased seeds from Amazon with great luck too! I love the Sustainable Seed Co products you can find on there, including some perfect seed collections to get started with how to grow vegetables. They even include lots of extra info in the collections about how to grow vegetables.

When is the best time to plant my vegetables?

The best time to plant vegetables will depend on where you live and what you are planting.

Find your growing zone with this free tool from Farmer’s Almanac. This will let you know the growing zone, your first frost date, and last frost day.

Know your first and last frost date is essential to know how to grow vegetables where you live when to plant, and when they need to be harvested. Different plants have different tolerances to heat and cold you’ll need to know for how to grow vegetables.

For example, brassicas like broccoli and cabbage like cooler weathers, so you can plant them in the early spring or late winter in many places. Tomatoes and peppers on the other hand prefer hotter weather and are frost tender, meaning a cold weather will kill them.

When you are looking for vegetables to grow in your garden, check the online listings and/or seed packets to see what the insurrections are, the growing temperatures, how long it takes to harvest, and the zones it does best in. This will help you determine how to grow vegetables in your area effectively.

So for example, I live in zone 6b. Our last frost date is around the last week of April. Plants that can tolerate some cold weather will be planted before that last frost date, like brassicas, carrots, turnips, peas, and lettuces. However, tomato plants, pepper plants, beans, sunflowers, and other warm-weather crops will be planted or sowed after that last frost date.

I also loooooove this tool. Clyde’s Garden Planner is always handy when I’m planting my vegetables and seeds. It’s a must-have for how to grow vegetables.

How to Plant Vegetable Seeds

Every type of vegetable is unique and will require different ways of planting seeds. While the general idea is the same for all of them, sow the seed in the ground, add some water and sun, and let it grow, there are variations in how exactly you do that. It isn’t a one size fits all for how to grow vegetables.

Besides seeds needing to be grown at different times, which we covered above, seeds also will need to be sown at different depths and with different spacing. In general, the larger the seed or plant, the deeper it will need to be planted and more space you will need to leave between them.

Just like you checked the seed packet or listen for directions on when to plant seeds and how to grow vegetables, there should also be information on depth and spacing for planting them on the seed packet as well.

If for whatever reason you don’t see this information on the seed packet, try a Google search. Chances are there is more information out there than on a seed packet, and the reviews on seed distributor websites are like gold! Many times the reviewer will say what zone they are in and how the plant did plus any tips or tricks they found for success. Scouring the review sections has helped me avoid big mistakes in the past.

I’m also super excited to read this book from Jessica Sowards, one of my fav YouTubers, to pick up some more tips!

You might also be wondering, how many seeds do you plant? Most of the seeds you plant should germinate, but I always plant a couple extra just in case. So for example, if I am planting a cucumber plant in a space, I will drop 2-3 seeds into one space even though I only want one plant. Then if all of them germinate, I will then it down to one place. Though I am a little heavy handed with the seeds even now that I know how to grow vegetables. I just can’t help it. I love sowing seeds.

How often to water your vegetable garden

Your weather and climate will determine how often you need to water your vegetable garden. Also, some plants prefer dryer soil, while others prefer wetter soil. So be sure to check the individual varieties you are growing. But the advice below applies to most times types of plants when learning how to grow vegetables.

For example, I live in zone 6b, which is fairly moderate. We have hot weather in the summer, but usually plenty of rain. So I can sometimes go a couple of weeks without watering my garden once it is established and well mulched. But if you live in a hotter and dryer climate where you don’t get much rain, you may need to water nearly every day.

Check on local gardening groups, Facebook has tons of them! Local gardeners will have lots of good info on how to grow vegetables in that zone and how often to water vegetables.

But personally I always just check my soil and my crops to see how they are doing and whether watering is needed. Typically I will just stick my finger a few inches into the soil to see if it is moist. If it is, then it’s probably ok without additional water. If it feels dry even a couple of inches down then it is time to water. Also, if my plants look a bit droopy and sad… it’s time to water.

There are techniques for watering like drip irrigation, and some plants will do better if you don’t get the leaves wet but just the ground underneath. However, if you’re just learning how to grow vegetables, don’t get too stressed out about this. Just showering your veggies with water from your hose or watering can should work just fine, and is what I do.

They biggest key to watering your vegetables is to water them really deeply, but not too often. You might have heard you can overwater your plants. This usually means that you are watering them too often. It is best to give plants a really good soak when watering, and then give them plenty of time to drink that up and remove the water from the soil before watering again. It’s a bit of an art and a science, but you start to get a feel for it after you get used to how to grow vegetables.

When to harvest your vegetables from your garden

Every type of vegetable will have a slightly different length of time they need to grow and ripen. Radishes can sometimes be harvested in as little as a month, while pumpkins might take 100 days. It varies from plan to plant how to grow vegetables.

Can you guess where I’m going to tell you to check on when to harvest your vegetables? If you’ve read this far you probably know… it’s the seed packet! This will give you an idea of how long it takes for the plant to start being harvested. Then once you have that general idea of timeline, you’ll have to keep an eye on the plants to see when they are ready.

For most vegetables you will probably be able to tell when they are ready to harvest without must research. You probably know what a ripe tomato looks like, or when a cucumber is about the size it should be to pick. But if you are in doubt try checking in your local gardening groups and do a Google search to see any tips or tricks for harvesting individual varieties.

To help you get started with how to grow vegetables here are a few tips on knowing when your vegetables are ready to harvest:

  • Root vegetables – Many root vegetables like beets, radishes, or carrots will start to poke through the top of the soil when they are getting ready to be harvested. You’ll be able to see the tops of them and how big they are, or just brush a bit of soil off the top to see if they’re getting close. Then harvest when they are the size you want.
  • Tomatoes – Tomatoes come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. But one thing to keep in mind is that tomatoes can continue to ripen even after they come off the vine. So if you aren’t totally sure if a tomato is ready, it might be better to pick it and allow it to finish ripening on your kitchen counter to prevent it from over-ripening or getting eaten by pests outside.
  • Lettuces – You can plant lettuces with a good amount of spacing and allow them to form heads you harvest all at once, or you can plant them in thick bands and harvest them as baby greens. If you want baby greens you can start harvesting them as soon as they are the size you want. Just try to pick a little from all over so you don’t pick too much from one plant and stunt the growth.
  • Melons – To be honest, I just hope and pray when I pick them. (massive LOL here). Seriously, I have a hard time getting these just right. But this article does a good job of giving a few tips that I will have to print out and laminate so I don’t forget this year.

How to store your vegetables

For short-term storage, the countertop or the fridge will work well to keep your veggies fresh for while. I try not to harvest more than I need at one time so that I don’t have to store much, and that way I don’t risk it going back before I can eat it. Better to let it out in the garden than spoiling in my fridge is my philosophy for how to grow vegetables.

For example, with my lettuces, I won’t pick more than I plan to eat that day, and I try to do this with all of my crops unless they will go bad without being picked.

But at some point you’ll have to harvest all the crops, and then what do you do with them? Unless you want to share with friends and neighbors (which I do a lot too!), you will need to figure out how you want to preserve them.

There are a few ways to preserve your vegetables.

Freeze vegetables to enjoy all year

I love freezing any and everything, and was my first attempt at storing food when learning how to grow vegetables! It’s the easiest method of food preservation that I’ve found. For most vegetables and fruit all you have to do is wash it, cut it up if necessary, throw it in a ziplock bag, and freeze! We even invested in a separate freezer just to store our vegetables.

The benefit of freezing is that it preserves the flavor for some vegetables and fruit more than canning and it is much easier than canning. However, the texture is changed on a lot of vegetables when you freeze it. For example, cucumber becomes a bit mushy after being frozen, but I just use it in smoothers, juices, or cucumber water so it doesn’t matter to me.

The biggest negative of freezing is that if your power goes out you might lose your stash of veg. So if emergency preparedness is your reason for preserving food then you might want to pick a different preservation method.

Learn how to can

I am no expert canner, but I have dipped my toes in the water of canning making pickles, tomato sauces, corn salsa, apple cider vinegar, and a few other items. Canning your fruits and vegetables will keep them good for a long time, but it is quite labor-intensive and you will need special materials like cans, lids, and other canning supplies.

The in’s and out’s of canning require a much longer and in-depth post than this one, and I recommend getting a book about canning to learn how to do it properly. If you don’t follow the rules you do risk food poisoning. As much as I love just winging it, this is one place that I try to go by the book. This is important to keep in mind for how to grow vegetables and preserve them.

Dehydrate your vegetables

I have never tried this method personally because I don’t have a dehydrator (though this one looks nice), but I know a lot of people use this method and love it.

The closest I’ve come to dehydrating the plants and vegetables I grow is drying herbs and flowers. But I do that just by hanging them upside down, laying them out on screens, or pressing in books.

Learning how to grow vegetables is so much fun! It’s super rewarding to be able to harvest something you grew all by yourself, and you’ll also learn life lessons with how to grow vegetables.

These 8 tips for beginners are just the beginning of what you can do to learn how to grow vegetables. If you want more, head over to our blog where we have a ton of resources and articles on gardening that will be sure to teach you everything from planting your first vegetable garden all the way through harvesting!

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