Planting a garden has several benefits. It gives you full access to an abundance of delicious vegetables and herbs whenever you like, it helps you eat healthier, and it saves you money when you grow what you like to eat yourself. Of course, those who have no experience with gardening may not know where to start. Our beginner’s guide to planting your first vegetable garden can help, giving you all the information you need to get started. In this guide we’ll look specifically at planting an indoor vegetable garden, but the general ideas apply to gardens outdoors as well as for other types of plants like herbs.
Choosing a Location
The first step to any successful garden is to choose a spot that can allow your plants to thrive. By far, the most important thing to consider is how much sun your location gets. As we’re talking about vegetables, you want to ensure you choose a spot that gets a good amount of sun. While the exact requirements vary by plant, most vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunlight per day to grow properly.
The amount of sunlight you get in your home generally depends on the direction your windows face. We put together a more in-depth guide on lighting, but your sunniest spots will often be south facing. This is usually a good place to start when deciding on your plant’s location.
Other Location Considerations
Outside of lighting, there are a couple of other location specific considerations you should be aware of.
While often not a concern indoors, temperature is something you should still keep in mind. In particular, you want to make sure that the temperature remains fairly consistent and doesn’t have large swings.
These large swings in temperature are often the result of being too close to a heating or cooling fixture, or a drafty window. These types of temperature changes can damage your plant. Make sure you place your plant away from these areas for best results.
Humidity is another concern, although this is often not too big of an issue when growing indoors. When it becomes an issue is usually during the winter when the air is dry. If you’re concerned about humidity, check out our guide to help improve it around your plants.
You also want to be sure to check how much space you have and how much space your chosen plants need. Space concerns can vary quite a bit, so make sure that you understand how large your plant is going to grow. This also applies to container sizes which we’ll touch on next.
Choosing Your Plants and Containers
Once you have a good location picked out it’s time to figure out what you’re actually planting. While this is largely a personal decision, your location should be the primary driver for narrowing down your choices. The larger your area is, the more options you have.
You also should keep in mind the container you’ll be growing in. Certain vegetables will need larger containers, so keep that in mind when selecting your plants. If you’d like to learn more about container gardening check out our guide.
Also, always make sure that whatever container you use has proper drainage. Store bought containers made for planting usually have holes in them for this exact purpose. If you’re using a non-traditional container you may need to add these yourself.
With all that in mind, here are a couple of vegetables that are the easiest to grow as well as ones that are suitable for smaller spaces.
Easiest To Grow in Small Spaces
This is a very incomplete list, so don’t let it limit you if you have other vegetables you want to grow. If however, you are new to indoor gardening, then these vegetables are great choices to start with.
Other Plant Considerations
Outside of the physical constraints, here’s a couple of other questions to ask that can help you choose the right plants.
What Vegetables Do You Like?
Most gardeners are looking to harvest and eat their veggies so it only makes sense to grow what you like. If that sounds like you, think about which plants you’d enjoy eating and look to start with those.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Another important consideration is how much time do you want to invest in your plants. Some vegetables are much more time consuming than others and require regular care. Others can be left alone for days at a time and be perfectly fine.
Keep this in mind, and choose a plant that fits the amount of time you have to commit. Any of the recommended plants above are relatively low maintenance and should fit in most gardener’s schedules.
Seeds Vs Seedlings
Once you’ve decided what you’re growing you’ll likely come to a choice of either starting with seeds or seedlings. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
Seedlings are small, immature plants that have already sprouted and grown a few leaves. These are typically what you’ll find in the spring at hardware stores and nurseries.
The primary benefit of starting with a seedling is that it’s generally a little easier to grow. Seeds can be tricky, and seedlings bypass that whole process.
They are also quicker to produce edible vegetables. As you’ve already passed the seed stage you get a leg up on starting from seeds.
The big downside of starting with a seedling is the cost. In terms of absolute dollars they are much more expensive than simply buying seeds.
You’re also limited to what that particular store has in stock. While they might only have a specific selection of seedlings, they are likely to have far more varieties of seeds to choose from.
Seeds are your other primary options for growing your plant. You can often buy seeds year round from hardware stores or even online.
Seeds can be a bit trickier to grow and do require some specific care. While it’s not difficult, it is a little more time consuming and takes a bit more care. For a more in-depth look at starting from seeds check out our guide.
They will also take longer to produce edible vegetables than a seedling started at the same time. If you’re moving your plants outdoors you can offset this by starting the seeds sooner than you would plant and then moving them later outdoors. Indoors though this isn’t really a concern as you can grow at any time.
Overall, it’s a personal choice where to start and both are good choices. For the easiest time start with a seedling, but don’t be afraid to try from seeds once you have a little experience. There’s nothing quite like growing a plant all the way from a seed and seeing it flourish.
Start Planting Your Vegetable Garden
Finally, it’s time to start planting! This is where the real fun begins, and you can officially call yourself a gardener.
In most cases, the instructions for how to plant will be on the container or packet. For seeds it will usually list how deep to plant them and spacing, as well as timelines for sprouting and transplanting.
Seedlings should have similar instructions, and will tell you where they should be planted for best results and the spacing between them.
Your best bet is always to follow the directions on the packets, at least to start. Once you have a little more experience you can go off book a bit, but for beginners it’s best to not get too fancy.
Caring For Your Plants
Once you’ve planted your plants you’ll get to enjoy the relaxing pastime of gardening as you watch them grow. Most plants are fairly easy to take care of, and will generally only require a little effort on your part. In this section we’ll touch on watering, feeding, and pruning, 3 of the essential tasks to growing a beautiful garden.
Before we jump in though it’s important to note this will all be general advice that should be broadly applicable to most plants. Your plants have specific needs, and you should certainly read up on them to make sure you understand them. Take what’s written here as broad advice, and always take more plant-specific advice over it.
Watering is the care step you’ll be doing most often, and can be a bit tricky depending on the plant. In general, most vegetables like soil that is kept moist, but not soaking wet. This usually means watering once the top inch of soil is dry, and doing so until water begins to leak from the drainage holes in the container.
Watering can be a bit tricky, but most plants are hardy enough to survive a bit of underwatering. What often kills plants is overwatering. Too much water will wash away the nutrients in the soil, and can lead to root rot. This is particularly a problem for container gardening as there is nowhere for excess water to go.
Fertilizing is another important step to plant growth. Most potting soils will come with some nutrients to start, but this will quickly run out.
Most vegetables will need additional fertilizer added to help them grow. For containers, look to dilute water soluble fertilizers or use a slow release fertilizer to provide nutrients without shocking the plant. You can also look to use vegetable specific fertilizers
While all vegetables have different needs, you likely won’t be fertilizing more than once per month. Do spend the time learning about your plants and how often they need to feed.
You’ll also likely not need to fertilize during the winter. Unless you take specific actions, most plants will slow down growth in the winter, and therefore won’t need to be fed as much.
Pruning is often forgotten, but is no less important. Proper pruning encourages growth, and keeps your plant healthy. It also makes your plant less susceptible to pests.
Pruning is often plant specific, but you should always be on the lookout for dead or dying parts of the plant. You should also be looking to harvest mature vegetables as needed. Even if you don’t plan on eating them this will encourage the plant to continue growing.
Lastly, we wanted to just touch on a couple of tools you can use to get started. While these aren’t all absolutely necessary, they are great tools to have for any garden.
Clay Pots - A very popular choice, clay pots are one of the many options you have for containers. Clay pots will whisk away water, which makes it good for those that tend to overwater.
Water Tray - Essential for indoor gardening. These catch water and dirt. They keep your house clean and floors free from water damage.
Gloves - Keep your hands clean when you’re gardening, good for indoors and essential for outdoors.
Garden Shovel - Great for digging out areas to plant, as well as for digging up plants to transplant.
Potting Soil - Soil made specifically for containers. Normal garden soil is too compact and will not provide proper drainage. You don’t have to use this brand, but make sure your soil is specifically made for containers.
Planting Your First Vegetable Garden
Hopefully this guide has taught you a thing or two about planting your first vegetable garden and you’re excited to get started. The world of gardening is vast, and we’ve only briefly touched on the mounds of knowledge out there. We encourage you to explore the rest of our site, and also ask us questions. We’re always happy to help aspiring gardeners!
5 Tips To Success
To round things off I just wanted to briefly touch on 5 quick tips to help you succeed.
While we all have grand ideas off our garden when first starting it’s best to start small. Choose a few varieties to start with and go from there. This helps keep things more manageable and ultimately a few plants are much easier to care for.
Plant What You Like
It’s much easier to get excited about gardening when you like what you’re planting. When starting, choose plants that you’ll enjoy eating or looking at.
Create a Schedule
An important part of a garden is routine care. Making a schedule and sticking to it is a great way to keep up with your plant’s needs. This can be as simple as setting aside 5 minutes in the morning to give a spot check to your plants and water them.
Do Your Research
This guide has been fairly broad and it may have glossed over some finer points of your plant’s care. Make sure to research your specific plant to figure out the best way to care for it.
Enjoy The Ride
Lastly, I think it’s important to remember that gardening is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Enjoy the time you spend with your plants, and don’t get upset if something goes wrong. We’ve all lost plants, it’s part of growing. Make sure to learn from your mistakes and take everything in stride.