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How to Start a Garden

Starting a vegetable garden in your backyard can be good for both your mind and your body.  I've had my own backyard vegetable garden for a few years. There's nothing better than going out my back door in the morning to pick my vegetables for dinner.
Don't start your backyard garden thinking it will save you a lot of money.  It's best to view your garden project as a hobby that will help you to:

Salad greens from the garden
Salad Greens from My Garden
  • Make better choices about the food you eat.
  • Control the chemicals and potential contaminants you might ingest from your fresh vegetables.
  • Get more regular exercise.
  • Relax and de-stress in a natural setting.
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in your results.
  • Boost your mood.

If this will be your first vegetable garden you'll want to keep a few tips in mind.

Five Tips For Starting Your Garden

  • Start small.  You may want to start with a few pots on your deck or patio.  You can have great success planting herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers in pots.  Raised beds will give you a little more space and allow you to control the quality of the soil you use.
  • Talk to other backyard gardeners in your neighborhood.  Find out what vegetables they are growing successfully.
  • Plan how you will control the impact of backyard critters and pests.  How will you keep rabbits and woodchucks out of your garden?  How will you control insects?  You'll want to avoid the disappointment of seeing your hard work destroyed by these garden pests.
  • Choose a good location with at least six hours of direct sunlight.  Shade is not good for your garden.
  • Be ready for both success and failure.  I have found my gardening to be a trial and error activity that varies in success from year to year.  Keep a gardening journal so you can refer to it from year to year and adjust your plans based on your gardening experience.
A backyard vegetable garden
My Vegetable Garden

Four Steps To Starting A Vegetable Garden

Once you decide that a backyard garden is right for you can get started by following these four steps.

Step 1.  Decide how big your garden will be.  Will you have an in-ground garden, raised beds, or patio containers?  I started with three 4x4-foot garden boxes and have since expanded to six 4x4-foot boxes.   If you choose to start with patio containers you'll want to be sure you select large pots with good drainage.

A spring vegetable garden
My Raised Garden Beds
Step 2.  Decide where you will plant.  Where will the garden have the best light and water access?
I had to give careful consideration as to where to place the garden in my tree-lined backyard.   A sunny location is most important.  If you don't have enough sun your results will be less than ideal.

Step 3.  Decide what you will plant?
Gardening catalogs and online sites have been great resources in helping me choose which vegetables I will plant in my garden.  You'll also want to consider which vegetables you and your family like best.  Keep your space limitations in mind.  Some plants need a lot of space to grow and won't work in a small garden.

Ordering seeds from a catalog
A Seed Catalog Can Help You Choose
The vegetables on my planting list include green beans, eggplant, leaf lettuce, peas, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, radishes, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes. It seems like the selection of seeds is limitless.  It's fun to peruse the many seed options and make your choices.

Seeds at the store
Seed Packet Display
Step 4.  Decide when you will plant.
A planting guide that is local to your area can be a great help.  This is a sample planting guide for my area. Talk to other backyard gardeners. You'll need to get started sooner when planting seeds.

Whether you decide pots or a raised bed garden is best for you, you'll want to get the wheels in motion.  Start with a plan and go from there.

Before you go.....Never miss a Just One Donna post by signing up to receive posts in your email or your favorite RSS feed.  Links are in the sidebar.

Happy gardening!



  1. Donna! I just forwarded this post to one of my colleagues. A couple of weeks ago we were talking about starting a little garden and our respective homes. The problem is that we are both Brooklyn girls and never had a garden; hence, we had no clue where to start! So glad you shared your expertise. P.S. I miss your reading your blog!

    1. Hi ProDiva. I hope you do start a garden. You can start with a few pots this year and then expand as you gain confidence. Just like anything, it takes a little practice. I'm back on the posting wagon again. You'll find me in your feed a couple of times a week going forward. Happy to see you are back again.

  2. We've got a little garden my husband planted last year. He recently heard about square foot gardening - a new trend he's all excited about this year.

    1. There is so much satisfaction in a garden. Square foot gardens are a great use of a small space. I hope your hubby has good luck.


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