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Vegetable Garden: Tips for Beginners



I’ve learned a few things in my little gardening journey and thought I’d share a few tips that I wish I had known when I was starting out. But first, an update on my own plants:

Broccoli is getting bigger every day


Onions are looking good!


Red lettuce is …very red


New plant alert!




Baby Kale. Awww


More babies: carrots this time


Arugula is adorable


and here’s my three beds now:

BED #1 {so far}  : Arugula, Kale, Spinach and Carrots


BED #2 {so far} : Italian Basil, Lemon Basil, Thai Basil, Italian Parsley and Cilantro


BED #3 {so far} : Yellow Onions, Italian Basil, Red Lettuce, Ice Leaf Lettuce, Poblano Pepper, Broccoli and Cilantro


Now, here are the promised tips for those of you just getting started with gardening

a.k.a.  Things I Wish I Known When I Started A Vegetable Garden

  • If possible, buy local or heirloom plants from a Farmers’ Market or co-op. Those giant tomato plants that Walmart has in February? Yeah, chances are they were grown in a greenhouse thousands of miles away so they won’t adapt very well to your soil and climate.
  • Add mulch around base of plants *new for me this year!* Mulch helps keep water in the soil, moderates the soil temperature, and prevents weeds from sprouting.
  • Water early and often. Vegetable plants are not like house plants. They need almost constant watering in the beginning and sometimes twice a day in extreme heat. The best time to water is early morning, but I water just before sunset a lot as well.


  • Plant tomatoes deep. Pinch off all but the top two sets of tomato leaves and bury the tomato all the way up to the (now) bottom set of leaves. Tomato plants get really heavy when full of ripe tomatoes, so they need a good, deeply rooted base.
  • Companion planting. Plant flowers (pollinators in garden lingo) to ward off pests. Good ones are marigolds and nasturtium and dill.



Many veggies need support to grow well. Peppers and eggplants (although I’ve never grown the latter) do well when individually staked. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans prefer to climb up and through trellises and cages.

Place stakes and cages around new vegetables right after you plant them. Once the roots begin to grow, it’s harder to maneuver around them. Tomatoes especially have brittle stems and are hard to wrangle after they start growing



Pick vegetables when they’re ripe to keep the plants producing. Tomatoes and peppers turn colors when they’re ready. Pick zucchini when the flower on the end of the fruit starts to wither.

Lettuce, kale and other greens can be picked from the outside in, until they start to flower. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should be picked when the heads swell and still look tight.

Pick herbs from the top and outside. With all herbs, you want to cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. If you don’t trim basil aggressively, it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil gives you a nice sturdy plant.

“When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb’s growth. Once your plant is big enough to sustain a decent harvest, keep on taking from the top, as you have been when you were pruning. That way you get all those tender new herbs that are so tasty, and your plant gets to keep its well developed solar power system in place. Plus, if you pluck from the base and leave the top intact, you get a tall skinny plant that will flop over from its own weight (and yes, I know this from experience). When you pluck from the top, instead of clipping off just below a pair of leaves, you want to clip off just above a pair of leaves. It is a bit counter-intuitive as a novice, but trust me it works. The place where the leaf joins the stem is where new growth will occur when your plant sends off new stems in a V.” –source

Two of my favorite sources for tips and information:

this book:

Beginner’s Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Techniques to Help You Get Started

and Emily’s My Square Food Garden blog.

I hope this helps! Feel free to send any gardening questions my way. I’ m no expert, but I’ve picked up a few tricks along my raised bed gardening journey.

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  • Alex April 23, 2012, 5:15 pm

    Eek! You’re baby broccoli is so dadgum cute! And that’s a LOT of lettuce. I sure hope you aren’t able to eat it all and have to give some away to your favorite neighbor :)
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  • backyard landscape design program free June 5, 2013, 8:19 am

    Draw a rough outline of the yard and house, indicating entrances, driveways,
    sheds, etc. When a person starts living in a new house, generally, some planting will have already been accomplished.
    Many big thinkers over many years have come back again and again to humanity’s desire
    to make sense of the hugeness of the universe by making small imitations
    of it in which to live – the garden, which directly refers
    to the ultimately terrifying wildness that used to sit outside every cave in the world,
    is probably the ultimate example of this urge.
    backyard landscape design program free recently posted..backyard landscape design program freeMy Profile

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