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Starting Your First Vegetable Garden: A Beginner’s Guide

Starting a vegetable garden can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! This easy-to-follow step-by-step guide has all you need to start growing a thriving garden full of fresh, healthy vegetables.

You’ll learn how to set up your garden and where to get soil, discover some plants that are easy to grow, learn how to care for your plants, and get plenty of tips and tricks to help you along the way. Are you ready to get your vegetable garden going? Let’s get started.

vegetable garden

Step One: Choose a Location

The first step to starting a vegetable garden is to choose a suitable location. You need a spot with plenty of sunlight, meaning at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

Ideally, your garden location should be close to a water source to make watering easier. You also want the area to be well-draining. If the soil stays soggy, plants won’t be able to thrive.

Step Two: Get the Soil Ready

Soil is the foundation of a healthy garden in more ways than one! The health of your soil can make or break the success of your garden, so it’s important to get it right.

Healthy garden soil is rich brown in color, has a balanced pH near neutral, and is full of organic matter to feed your plants.

Raised Garden Beds

The easiest way to fill raised beds is to purchase high-quality soil from a nursery or landscape supply store. Soil is available by the scoop or by the bag. Many places will deliver a truckload of soil for a modest fee.

To save money, you can build healthy soil yourself. Just know that this method can take time to develop rich, healthy soil.

Building Your Own Healthy Soil

  • Fill the bottom of a raised garden bed with sticks and rotting logs
  • Add a layer of dry leaves and other decaying plant matter
  • Top the mixture with compost

You can plant in the top compost layer right away. Over time, as the materials break down, the soil becomes richer and healthier.

In-Ground Gardens

Clear the space for your vegetable garden and remove any grass, weeds, or other plants.

For compacted soil, use a tiller to loosen it up. If you have good, healthy soil already, you may not need to do much to get it ready for planting.

If you’re not sure about the health of your soil, it’s a good idea to have it tested through your local extension office. Based on the results, you can amend the soil to adjust the pH or add nutrients.

Step Three: Choose What to Grow

Know Your Zone

To help you choose plants that are well-suited to your climate, it’s a good idea to know your USDA hardiness zone.

Easy to Grow Vegetables

  • Herbs
  • Green beans
  • Radishes
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Cherry tomatoes

Grow What You Like

To get the most enjoyment out of your garden, choose plants you want to eat.

Just because certain vegetables are easy to grow doesn’t mean everyone should grow them. If you hate green beans, grow something else!

vegetable garden

Step Four: Planting a Vegetable Garden

When to Plant

The best time to plant vegetables varies depending on what you’re growing and where you live. Generally speaking, it’s best to wait until after the last frost of the season.


Follow the directions on your seed packet or potted plants when planting in the garden. Make sure to provide the recommended amount of space between plants.

Keep the plants well-watered as they’re getting established. Seeds need moisture to sprout and grow.

Add Mulch

Once plants are in the ground, add a layer of mulch over the soil.

Mulch helps to keep the soil moist and adds some protection from pests. Natural mulches like straw, crushed leaves, or compost add nutrients to the soil as they break down. This provides even more benefits for your plants over time.

Step Five: Caring for the Plants


Different plants have different water needs. Check our plant guides to see how often to water the varieties you’re growing.

As a general rule of thumb, soil should stay moist but not soggy. You don’t want it to dry out, but you don’t want it to be sopping wet for too long either.


Even with rich soil, many plants benefit from regular applications of fertilizer.


Pull any weeds that pop up around your plants.

Weeds can steal nutrients and crowd out your plants. They grow quickly and can get out of hand before you even realize it, so it’s best to get rid of them as soon as you see them.

Tips for Growing a Successful Vegetable Garden

Start Slow

It may be tempting to start with a huge garden, but don’t try to do too much too soon, or you could get overwhelmed. Start with a manageable size for your first vegetable garden, then build on your success as you go.

Don’t Crowd the Plants

Proper spacing for plants is easy to overlook, but it can make a really big difference for the health of your vegetable garden.

Plants need space to stretch and grow. When plants are too close together, they end up competing for resources like light and nutrients in the soil. This leads to stressed plants that aren’t as productive.

Check on the Plants Regularly

Keep an eye on your vegetable garden by checking on the plants every few days. That way, you can catch any problems quickly.

Make sure the soil is staying moist and look for any signs of distress like yellowing leaves, brown spots, or pests.

If you see anything that doesn’t look right, you can take steps to treat the issue before it becomes a major problem.

Consider Companion Planting

Companion planting is when you pair certain plants together. Plants that complement each other can provide benefits to each other as they grow.

For example, beans add nitrogen to the soil, which is beneficial for tomatoes. Planting a few bean plants around your tomato plants is a good way to promote healthy soil and encourage growth in your tomato plants.

Vegetable Garden

Time to Start a Vegetable Garden

You’re going to love having your own vegetable garden! There’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh, homegrown vegetables.

As you get started, you don’t have to go it alone. Minneopa Orchards is here to support you every step of the way. We have resources on the gardening page to give you the help you need and answer all your planting and growing questions.