The time has come to clean out the dark corner of the garden and roll up your sleeves, ready to build a fully functional and eco-friendly DIY vegetable garden.
Through this simple step-by-step guide to farming for beginners, we will explore together the basics of cultivation, trying to identify the vegetables and herbs that are worth growing in the beginning.
If you are passionate about sustainability and want to immerse yourself in the rewarding experience of do-it-yourself gardening, you have come to the right place. Get ready to discover useful tips, practical hints and all the information you need to successfully start your own vegetable garden.
Let’s get started!
How much space is needed for a beginner’s vegetable garden?
The size of a beginner’s vegetable garden can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of plants selected for cultivation, the space available and personal preferences.
If you have enough space in your garden, you could opt for a traditional vegetable garden. In this case, the size can vary greatly depending on your needs, but a ‘standard’ sized vegetable garden has a surface area of around 10-15 square metres; enough space to grow a significant variety of vegetables and herbs.
If, on the other hand, you are trying to figure out how to create a vegetable garden in limited space, these are some useful tips for making the most of every available inch:
- Potted vegetable garden for beginners
If space is limited, it is possible to start with a small potted vegetable garden. This option is ideal for those with a balcony, terrace or small yard. The pots allow the cultivation of herbs, cherry tomatoes, chillies and various other types of compact plants;
- Raised vegetable garden:
Raised vegetable gardens are a popular choice among beginners, especially because they can be built on soil and a paved surface. Generally, a standard raised vegetable garden is about 1.2 square metres in size, while the recommended depth is at least 20-30 centimetres;
- Balcony vegetable garden:
For those living in a flat with limited space, a terrace or balcony garden can become the ideal option. Containers, hanging pots and vertical structures can maximise the use of available space and turn your balcony into a perfect city vegetable garden.
When planning the size of your vegetable garden, also take into account the layout of plants, sun exposure and ease of access for watering and plant care. It is always advisable to start with a small vegetable garden and then gradually expand it as you gain experience and confidence in your growing skills.
How to start a vegetable garden for beginners?
Now that we understand how much space is needed to create a beginner’s vegetable garden and what the different options are, we can get started and get our hands ‘dirty’.
So here is a step-by-step guide on how to get started and what the secrets are to a functional and ecological vegetable garden:
- Choose the right location:
Find an area that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day, as most vegetable plants thrive in good sunlight. At the same time, make sure that the vegetable garden is easily accessible for watering, avoiding areas that are too shady or hard to reach;
- Plant choice and planning:
In the beginning, opt for plants that are easy to grow – such as tomatoes, courgettes, lettuce, basil and chillies. Start with a few varieties to simplify management and plan the layout of plants considering crop rotation. In other words, avoid growing the same type of vegetable in the same place for two consecutive seasons;
If possible, conduct a soil analysis to assess the pH and composition of the soil. This type of process will help you determine which nutrients are needed and which fertiliser is worth investing in to improve the soil structure. Finally, remove weeds, stones and excess debris;
- Purchase materials and equipment:
Before planting, take care of the purchase of basic garden tools such as a spade, trowel, rake and watering can. If space is limited, also purchase containers and pots of various sizes;
- Choose the cultivation method:
Choose the right cultivation method before you even start. Remember that some plants can be sown directly in the ground, while others can be grown in a seedbed and then transplanted. Treat the vegetables as required and you will get ripe, juicy fruit in no time.
What are the best plants to grow in a beginner’s garden?
Farmers tend to rely on a special garden sowing calendar, a ‘diary’ that collects all the names of vegetables and their ideal growing period in the garden. We talked about the sowing calendar in a previous article, explaining which vegetable and herb varieties are worth growing in autumn, winter, spring and summer.
Today, let’s talk about easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs that are perfect for growing in beginner gardens.
Ready to get started?
Simple vegetables to grow in the vegetable garden
If you are a beginner or have very limited space available, the advice is always to start with simple-to-grow vegetables that are ideal for those who want to get closer to the world of horticulture.
Among the easiest vegetables to grow and quickest in growth, cherry tomatoes definitely occupy first place. You can plant the seeds in pots or containers, making sure to provide them with enough sunlight and well-drained soil.
The sowing schedule for cherry tomatoes varies depending on your climate zone, but it is generally recommended to sow in late spring;
In addition to cherry tomatoes, you can consider growing other simple vegetables. Spinach, for example, is robust and grows quickly, adapting easily to most soils.
Always sow spinach in spring or autumn, avoiding periods of excessive heat;
Radishes are a perfect option for those who want to see results quickly. Their fast growth allows them to be harvested within a few weeks of sowing. Plant the seeds directly in the soil, following the spring or autumn sowing schedule.
Another vegetable suitable for garden cultivation beginners is the courgette. We are talking about a plant that grows vigorously and produces abundant harvests.
Plant it in a place with at least 6 hours of sun per day and use compost to improve soil fertility. Since courgettes require a lot of space, be sure to plant them at least 90 cm apart;
Herbs to grow in pots
Growing herbs on the balcony is a great solution for those with limited space. The versatility of pots makes it possible to create a small aromatic garden on balconies, terraces or windowsills.
To get started, here are some ideal herbs to grow in pots:
Basil is an essential herb in the kitchen, with an intense fragrance and unique flavour. Plant basil in pots, making sure to place it in a sunny spot and water it regularly;
Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, parsley is a great addition to many dishes. It adapts well to growing in pots, requiring moist soil and a moderately sunny location;
With its enveloping scent, rosemary is ideal for flavouring meat, potatoes and Mediterranean dishes. Plant it in a pot in a sunny location, ensuring effective drainage;
Mint is perfect for herbal teas, cocktails and summer dishes. As it can be invasive, grow it in a pot to contain its growth. Be sure to keep the soil moist;
Thyme is a hardy aromatic plant that is well adapted to growing in pots. The soil should be well drained, with good sun exposure;
Sage is one of the easiest herbs to grow and store once mature. Grow it in pots in well-drained, sunny soil.
Irrigation tips for the vegetable garden
Proper irrigation is crucial for the health and productivity of your vegetable garden. To beginners, this might seem complex, but with a few basic tips, it is possible to keep plants hydrated effectively.
One of the most important watering tips for beginners’ gardens is to study the water needs of individual plants. Every plant has different water needs: some prefer drier soil, while others require constantly moist soil. Find out the specific needs of your plants in order to adapt your watering regime.
When it comes to timing, watering in the morning is generally the best choice. Water can be absorbed by the roots before the sun gets too hot, reducing the risk of fungal diseases and evaporation and optimising water uptake.
A very common mistake is to water plants too frequently. Constantly saturated soil can damage the roots and encourage the development of diseases.
Always check the soil before watering to ensure that it is actually necessary. The general advice is to use drip irrigation systems or sprinklers, which provide even moisture to the entire soil. These systems are in fact widely used, precisely because they help reduce water waste and provide more targeted irrigation.
If your soil is particularly dry, you can consider applying a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, reduce evaporation and control weeds. Be careful, however, not to cover the stems of the plants too closely to avoid problems with rot. In such cases, good drainage is crucial to keep annoying water stagnation at bay. Always make sure that the soil is well drained, all the more so if you are growing in pots or containers.
Finally, try to plant the plants at a correct distance from each other. Proper spacing allows the plants to get an even amount of water without overlapping. Remember that watering is a fundamental part of plant care, and learning how to respond to the specific needs of your crops takes time and practice.
Observe your plants carefully and adapt the watering regime according to their responses.
Vegetable garden maintenance is essential to ensure healthy plant growth, maximise production and prevent problems such as diseases and pests.
We have already seen how important irrigation is, but there are other equally important elements to consider when it comes to garden maintenance for beginners:
Remove weeds regularly to prevent them from competing with cultivated plants for water and nutrients. At the same time, apply a layer of mulch around the plants to reduce weed growth, retain moisture and improve soil structure;
Use natural fertilisers to ensure that the plants receive an adequate amount of essential nutrients. Also consider using compost or manure as natural fertilisers and soil improvers;
Practice crop rotation to prevent the growth of pests and diseases specific to the type of vegetable. Therefore, avoid growing vegetables of the same family in the same place for two consecutive seasons;
Remove diseased or infected leaves to prevent the spread of diseases and prune plants as needed so as to stimulate growth and improve plant shape;
- Disease and insect control:
Inspect plants regularly for signs of disease or insect infestation. Promptly deal with diseases or infestations using natural methods or, if necessary, specific, garden-safe products;
Provide support to plants that need it, such as tomatoes or climbing beans, using branches, cages or special structures. Then try to harvest the fruit regularly to stimulate production and prevent overloading of the plants;
- Monitor weather conditions:
Protect sensitive plants from late frosts by covering them with non-woven fabrics or similar materials. In case of intense heat, provide temporary shade for sensitive plants.
Observe your plants carefully, learn from successes and mistakes, and adapt your maintenance practices according to the specific needs of your vegetable garden. Garden maintenance requires dedication and perseverance, but with careful care you will enjoy a thriving and productive vegetable garden.