Vegetable gardening for beginners – Ideas for small vegetable gardens

One hundred pounds of tomatoes on just 100 square feet. Twenty pounds of 24 square foot carrots. Delicious vegetables from a 15 by 20 foot lot. Believe it or not, it’s not impossible to grow your own vegetable garden with yields like this. All it takes is patience and smart tactics to get the most out of your backyard space. Follow these tips and tricks to plan your dream vegetable garden.

Develop a practical plan.

The first step in cultivating a healthy garden is to mark exactly where you want the flower beds to go. Consider the size, shape, and location of your garden to find the best setup for you. Keep in mind that it can always be changed over time if needed.

Plant in raised beds with rich soil.

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Expert gardeners agree that soil construction is the most important factor in increasing yields. Deep soil rich in organic matter encourages the growth of healthy, extensive roots that can reach more nutrients and water. The result: extra-luxurious, extra-productive growth above the ground.

The fastest way to get that deep layer of fertile soil is to make raised beds. Raised beds yield up to four times more than the same space planted in rows. This is due not only to their loose and fertile soil, but also to efficient spacing. By using less space for paths, you have more space to grow plants.

Raised beds also save you time. A researcher tracked the time it took to plant and maintain a 30-by-30-foot flower bed garden and found that he only needed to spend 27 hours in the mid-garden. May to mid-October. Still, he was able to harvest 1,900 pounds of fresh vegetables. That’s a year’s supply of food for three people from about three days of work in total!

How can raised beds save so much time? The plants grow close enough to each other to crowd out competing weeds, so you can spend less time weeding. The reduced spacing also makes watering and harvesting more efficient.

Round the floor of your beds.

gardener preparing raised beds with rake in the vegetable patch

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The shape of your beds can also make a difference. Raised beds save space by gently rounding the floor to form an arch. A 5-foot-wide rounded bed on its base, for example, could give you a 6-foot-wide arch over it. This foot may not seem like much, but multiply it by the length of your bed and you will see that it can make a big difference in the total planting area.

In a 20-foot-long bed, for example, a mound of soil in the middle increases your total planting area by 100 to 120 square feet. This is a gain of 20% of planting space in a flowerbed that occupies the same floor space. Lettuce, spinach, and other green vegetables are perfect crops for planting on the edges of a rounded bed.

Consider the worm casts.

Worm casts, aka poo, are a natural fertilizer that can stimulate plant growth. It also helps the soil retain water, which is essential for a healthy vegetable garden. Work through the worm droppings as you turn and break up clods. If you don’t already see a lot of earthworms in your soil, be generous with the casts. Your local garden center can advise you on how much to add.

Try to plant crops in triangles rather than rows.

carrot growing in the vegetable garden

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To get the maximum yield from each bed, pay attention to the way you arrange your plants. Avoid planting in squares or rows. Instead, stagger the plants by planting them in triangles. By doing this, you can put 10-14% more plants in each bed.

Just be careful not to space your plants too much. Some plants won’t reach their full size – or yield – when crowded. For example, when a researcher increased the spacing between romaine lettuce from 8 to 10 inches, the crop weight per plant doubled. (Remember that the weight yield per square foot is more important than the number of plants per square foot.)

Too tight spacing can also stress plants, making them more susceptible to disease and insect attack.

Try climbing plants to make the most of the space.

plants in a garden

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No matter the size of your garden, you can grow more by going vertically. Grow space-hungry vines, such as tomatoes, green beans, peas, squash, melons, cucumbers, etc.

Growing vegetables vertically also saves time. Harvesting and maintenance is faster because you can see exactly where the fruits are. Fungal diseases are also less likely to affect ascending plants due to improved air circulation around the foliage.

Try growing vines on trellises along one side of the raised beds, using sturdy end posts with nylon netting or twine in between to provide a climbing surface. Tie the growing vines to the trellis. But don’t worry about getting heavy fruit. Even squash and melons will develop thicker stems for support.

Pick the right couples.

yellow corn cob with the kernels still attached to the cob on the stalk in an organic corn field

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Intercropping compatible crops also saves space. Consider the classic Native American combination, the “three sisters”: corn, beans and squash. The sturdy corn stalks support the green beans, while the squash grow freely on the soil below, shading competing weeds.

Other compatible combinations include tomatoes, basil and onions; leaf lettuce and peas or crucifers; carrots, onions and radishes; and beets and celery.

Know how to time your crops.

Directly Above View of Fresh Garlic in a Wicker Basket

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Succession planting allows you to grow more than one crop in a given space during a growing season. This way, many gardeners can harvest three or even four crops in one area. For example, follow an early harvest of leaf lettuce with fast maturing corn, then grow more greens or overwintered garlic, all in one growing season. To get the most out of your succession plantations:

  • Use transplants. A transplant is already about a month old when you plant it and ripens much faster than a seed sown directly in the garden.
  • Choose varieties that ripen quickly.
  • Replenish the ground with a ¼ to ½ inch (about 2 cubic feet per 100 square feet) layer of compost each time you replant. Work it in the first few inches of the ground.

    Cover the beds to extend your season.

    landscaping mulching

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    Adding a few weeks to each end of the growing season can save you enough time to grow another successional crop – for example a leaf lettuce, kale, or turnip plantation – or to harvest more late-season tomatoes. season.

    To get those extra weeks of production, you need to keep the air around your plants warm (even in cold weather) by using cold mulch, bells, row covers, or frames.

    Or give heat-loving crops (like melons, peppers, and eggplants) a very early start in the spring by using two “blankets”: one to warm the air and one to warm the soil. About six to eight weeks before the last frost date, preheat the cold soil by covering it with infrared transmitting mulch (IRT) or black plastic, which will absorb heat.

    Then cover the bed with a slit transparent plastic tunnel. When the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees Farenheit, set up plants and cover the mulch with black plastic straw to prevent it from trapping too much heat. Remove the clear plastic tunnel when the air temperature warms up and all danger of freezing has passed. Install it again at the end of the season when the temperatures cool down.

    But remember the disadvantages of mulching seedbeds with straw.

    One downside to straw mulch is that it provides a hiding place for slugs during the day. Suze Bono, an accomplished farmer, enjoys hand-collecting them at night with a headlamp and a tub of soapy water to throw them in. Planting alliums, which naturally repel slugs, is also a good idea.

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