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How To Plan A Small Vegetable Garden for Beginners

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If you’re like many people, you are interested in growing your own vegetables but don’t know where to start. Gardening can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! In this post, we’re going to walk through the five steps of how to plan a small vegetable garden. We’ll focus on easy to grow vegetables that are perfect for beginners. So whether you’re new to gardening or just looking to expand your repertoire, read on for some helpful tips!

Step 1: Determine Your Space

The first step in how to plan a small vegetable garden is to determine how much space you have available. When deciding what to plant, it’s important to consider the size of the vegetables. Larger vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers will take up more space than smaller ones like peppers and lettuce. It’s also important to think about how often you’ll be able to harvest the vegetables. If you’re only going to be able to garden for a few months out of the year, then you’ll want to plant crops that can be harvested relatively quickly.

Raised beds have grown in popularity over the past decade. They are a great way to maximize space, and they’re also easier on your back! Some people prefer raised beds because they’re easy to work with. You don’t need to bend as much when planting or harvesting crops from them. This is especially handy for those that might have physical limitations that make it difficult to garden, but still want fresh produce from their own plot of land. However, building or buying a raised bed will increase your cost a bit. You can get a great sized garden without going the raised bed route. It’s up to you!

woman planting seeds in new vegetable garden

Step 2: Choose Your Vegetables

Once you’ve determined how much space you have available, it’s time to choose your vegetables! There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting vegetables. First, think about what you and your family like to eat. If you’re not sure, do some research online or ask friends for recommendations. (I have a post on quick-growing vegetables here.)

Second, choose vegetables that are easy to grow. There are many different vegetables available, but not all of them are suitable for beginners. Some plants, like squash, may require a lot of care and can sometimes be difficult to grow. Others, like lettuce, are very easy to grow and don’t require much maintenance.

When selecting vegetables, it’s also important to think about the climate in your area. Certain vegetables will do better than others depending on how hot or cold it is where you live. For example, tomatoes and peppers love the sun, so they would be a good choice for someone that lives in a sunny climate. However, if you live in a colder area, then you might want to choose vegetables like broccoli or carrots that can tolerate cooler temperatures.

As a beginner you may want to start mainly from plants bought from a local nursery. But if you’d like to start seeds, my two favorite seed companies are True Leaf Market and MIGardener.

basket of tomatoes, peppers, melons, and beans straight from garden

Step 3: Choose Your Soil

One of the most important, yet often overlooked, things to consider is what type of soil you have to work with. Not all soils are created equal! Some soils may be too sandy or too clay-like for certain vegetables. It’s important to choose the right soil and know what your native soil is like. Knowing your soil will give your plants the best chance of thriving.

If you’re not sure what type of soil you have, there are a few ways to find out. One way is to take a soil sample to your local gardening center. They will be able to test the pH level and tell you what type of soil you have. Another way is to do a quick internet search for ‘soil testing kit’. There are many different types of kits available, and most of them are very affordable.

Once you know what type of soil you have, it’s time to make any necessary amendments.

corn sprout in mulched garden

Step 4: Amend Your Soil

If your soil turns out not to be ideal for growing vegetables, don’t worry! You can amend it to make it more suitable. There are many different types of amendments available, but most of them fall into two categories: organic or synthetic. Organic amendments are made from natural materials, like manure or compost. They work to improve the structure of the soil and add nutrients that plants need to thrive. Synthetic amendments are made from man-made chemicals, and they usually work to increase the pH level of the soil.

If your soil needs an amendment, it’s important to choose the right one. Organic amendments are always a better choice, but they can take longer to work than synthetic amendments. It’s also important to note that not all plants thrive in soils with high pH levels. If your soil is too alkaline, you might want to choose a synthetic amendment to adjust the pH level. Different plants may prefer different pH levels.

flourishing vegetable plants in back to eden garden

Step 5: Plan Your Garden Layout

Now that you’ve selected your vegetables, amended your soil, and chosen a location for your garden, we’re finally to my favorite part of garden planning. It’s time to draw your layout! This is an important step because it will determine how much space each vegetable will need. If you love planning and designing like me, you’ll find this part very satisfying.

There are many different ways to lay out a garden, but one of my favorite ways is to use a simple grid layout that works well for small gardens.

Start by drawing a diagram of your garden on paper. Graph paper is my favorite! You can use any type of grid, but I find it easiest to use a square or rectangle grid. Once you have your perimeter drawn out, I would consider filling in the larger vegetables first. These plants will take up more space, so you’ll want to give them plenty of room. Check your seed packets for spacing ideas if you aren’t sure. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash are some examples of larger plants that are still easy-to-grow.

After you’ve filled in the larger vegetables, start filling in the smaller ones. These plants will need less space, so you can fit more of them into your garden. Lettuce, beans, and carrots are some examples of small plants.

This is the layout I sketched out for our large garden last year. We had a lot of rows, but you could definitely do something like this on a smaller scale:

sketched layout of community vegetable garden

Once you’ve planned your layout, it’s time to start planting! And don’t be afraid to make adjustments as needed. Feel free to reference back here for how to plan a small vegetable garden as you go along. I hope you enjoy your vegetable garden and have a successful growing season.

More Gardening + Homestead from Growing Dawn

How To Flourish In Vertical Gardening
10 Quick Growing Vegetables To Plant in September
Homesteading Without Land: How To Start
Start and Maintain a Community Garden

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  1. Every single year I have the intention of doing a really thought-out layout and planning session. And every year for one reason or another it never actually gets done. But this definitely looks doable! I’m going to come back to this! Thanks!