How to Start a Veggie Garden at Home

This beginner-friendly guide includes every step you need to turn a basic backyard into an epic food-growing oasis. Garden expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey digs into the quickest and simplest ways to start a garden, even if you don’t have a green thumb (yet!)

Start veggie garden. View of a veggie garden with various crops growing in raised and low beds in a sunny garden. Plants such as kale, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and strawberries grow in the beds. On one of the raised beds there is a large metal watering can.


You don’t need thousands of dollars or extensive knowledge of plants to start a veggie garden at home! Any suburban yard can be turned into an epic veggie garden with a modest upfront investment in beds, soil, seeds, tools, and a day’s work. If you’ve always wanted to grow a garden but feel confused about where to start, this is the super simple step-by-step guide you’ve been looking for.

We’ve taken care of all the logistics for you, so you don’t have to worry about wasting money or time. This guide includes the quickest, easiest, and most effective methods to get started growing food right away. Even if you don’t have a “green thumb,” this garden setup will lay the foundation for success so you can learn to grow your own food while avoiding common beginner mistakes.

Let’s dig into the 6 steps to start a veggie garden at home!

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6 Steps to Start a Veggie Garden

Close-up of a raised bed with fennel and beet growing in rows in a sunny garden. The beet plant features a stout, succulent stem of bright purple-pink with vibrant green, heart-shaped leaves that grow in a basal rosette. The leaves, characterized by their deep green color and prominent veins, are smooth and glossy, with slightly serrated edges. Fennel is distinguished by its feathery, fern-like foliage and tall, erect stems.
Starting a backyard veggie garden is exciting.

Your first backyard veggie garden may seem daunting, but it is an exciting way to dig into a new hobby and grow delicious, nutritious food for your family. Gardening can be quite simple as long as you lay a strong foundation for success and avoid common beginner mistakes.

Even the most advanced gardeners started at square one! Before I farmed dozens of acres of rainbow organic produce for huge farmer’s market stands, I started with a humble backyard garden of wooden raised beds and reused materials I found at a local Habitat for Humanity store. 

Fortunately, I had the guidance of a humble German gardening couple who steered me in the right direction. Walt and Marielu gave me advice on the best wood, hardware, soil, local resources, and garden design. They clued me into local arborist connections to get free wood chip mulch dumped at my house, and they made sure I didn’t build my beds in a place where they’d get shaded by my house. These simple steps made a huge difference in my initial gardening success. I would’ve wasted so much time, money, and headaches without their advice! 

Consider this article just like having a grandma gardener (or an epic veggie garden YouTuber) as your personal guide. Follow along in this video where Epic Gardening founder Kevin helps his brother build a garden in their suburban backyard:

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Close-up of a raised bed with various crops growing in a garden. The raised bed is made of wood and houses crops such as onions, radishes, strawberries and lettuce planted in squares.
Choose a sunny location near your kitchen for veggie gardening.

You’ve probably heard real estate pros repeat, “location, location, location!” Location is a key factor in your veggie growing success. Most crops prefer 6-8 hours of full sunlight per day, so you must orient your garden so it receives as much light as possible. 

Moreover, you should build your garden as close to your kitchen as you can. This keeps your veggies easily accessible when you want to snip some basil for a garnish or harvest a fresh salad for dinner. Consider both of these factors as you assess the light exposure in your yard.

Understanding Solar Exposure

Close-up of red and green lettuce growing in a raised bed in a sunny garden. The lettuce plant produces rosettes of oval leaves in bright green and purple-red hues with slightly jagged edges.
Choose a sunny spot away from trees.

Put your garden in an area with as much light as possible! One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when building a garden has to do with sun orientation. If your garden is shaded by your home or neighboring trees, it won’t receive enough light to fuel strong plant growth.

It’s vital to assess the sun’s direction in your yard before you get started. While some ornamentals and vegetables can grow in the shade, full sun is best for most vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers.

Solar aspect describes how the sun moves through the sky at different times of day and different seasons throughout the year. Do not build a garden before considering the solar aspect of your yard. If you construct beds on the north side of your home, you may not harvest any juicy tomatoes or savory zucchini because your garden will be in the shade for most of the summer.

To determine the solar aspect of your yard:

  1. Use a compass (or your phone) to identify north, south, east, and west.
  2. Observe the arc of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.
  3. Notice where the sun casts shadows over your yard at different times of day.
  4. Notice where neighboring buildings, fences, trees, or large shrubs cast shade.
  5. Consider how sun exposure will change during the summer and winter.
  6. Locate your garden in the most south-facing, bright area possible.
  7. Optionally, create a garden map or use stakes and rope to mark the margins.

To improve an extra shaded area on the ground (for example, a fence casts a shadow at ground-level), consider how a tall raised bed could elevate the plants out of the shade. 

If most of your yard is shaded, it may be better suited to native shade plants than vegetables. Consider growing a patio container garden or renting space at a local community garden.

Pro Tip: Use apps to discover where certain areas of the yard are shaded or exposed to full sunlight during different parts of the day and year.

Choose Your Beds

View of a wooden raised bed in a sunny garden. Various vegetable crops such as lettuce, onions, radishes, fennel, beet and others grow in the garden bed. These crops grow in rows.
Use raised beds for easier maintenance.

Beds are not just for sleeping– they are the place where vegetables are grown. Growing beds make it easier to maintain your garden by keeping the plants contained. Pathways running between the beds ensure continuous access and easier weed management.

The two most common types of garden beds are:

Raised Beds

Growing areas that are higher than ground level, often surrounded by a metal or wooden frame to hold the soil in place

In-Ground Beds

A place to grow plants in the native soil at ground level, as is common on many farms

Raised beds are the most accessible for beginners, so that’s what we will cover here. If you have nice native soil, use this guide to create in-ground beds or try out a no-dig garden bed

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Benefits of Raised Beds

Close-up of several metal raised beds in the garden. Crops such as Rhubarb, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers grow in the beds. Green grass grows between the beds.
Choose raised beds for easy maintenance and better aesthetics.

Elevated growing areas, or raised beds, are the most popular types of gardens. They are aesthetically pleasing, easy to care for, and suitable for areas with poor soils. You won’t have to bend over and hurt your back as often because the plants are elevated off the ground. Raised beds also warm up more quickly in the spring, making them ideal for regions with cold winters.

If you have heavy clay, excessively sandy soil, or a compacted lawn, raised beds will make starting a veggie garden so much easier. Instead of digging into the ground below, elevated beds allow you to build soil up on top of the surface. This will improve the drainage (flow of water) through your plant roots, preventing problems like diseases or compaction. 

Here is a quick guide to choosing the best-raised bed for you:

  • Quickest, Easiest Option: For the easiest installation with very few tools or building skills, purchase premade raised bed kits that can be assembled in less than an hour.
  • Most Durable Option: If you want to garden for years or decades to come, choose rust-proof metal raised beds that won’t decay or fall apart over time.
  • Cheapest Option: DIY homemade raised beds with upcycled materials can cost under $100 per bed but require the most time and building skills.

If you have absolutely no building skills, don’t worry! The easiest way to get started is with Birdies Metal Raised Beds. Built to last 20+ years, these beds are constructed of aluzinc steel and include a modular design for easily square-foot garden spacing. They are available in varying heights, widths, and shapes to fit your yard. Different colors of food-safe, non-toxic paint help you match your garden to your house for a long-lasting aesthetic appeal. 

The all-inclusive kits mean you can construct several raised beds in less than a couple of hours! Each bed includes:

  • Corner panels
  • Straight sheet panels
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Bracing kits
  • Vinyl safety edging
  • Hand wrench
  • Instruction manual

Raised Bed Sizing

Close-up of a wooden raised bed with growing lettuce plants in a sunny garden. There are two types of lettuce growing in the bed, one of which forms a rosette of wide, round, bright green leaves with a smooth, waxy texture. And another type of lettuce has a rosette of curly, bright red-purple leaves with a glossy surface.
Choose dimensions wisely for comfortable access and optimal space utilization.

Customizable sizing is important to help you fit your raised beds to the garden area. Whether you choose a wooden or metal raised bed, you will need to consider the dimensions of the bed. You don’t want to constantly reach across a giant five-foot-wide bed and hurt your back, but you also want to maximize the space. Most raised beds are somewhere between 1.5 to 4 feet wide and 4 to 10 feet long.

Here are some common raised bed sizes:

  • 2’x8’
  • 4’x2’
  • 6’x4’
  • 8’x4’
  • 10’x4’

Common raised bed heights include:

  • 12” Tall: Great for shallow-rooted crops like lettuce, radishes, or spinach.
  • 15” Tall: Ideal for medium-rooted crops like peppers, kale, cabbage, carrots, and zucchini.
  • 29” Tall: Best for deep-rooted crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. Ideal for gardeners with back pain or limited mobility.
  • 30”+ Tall: Amazing for reducing back pain, but can require a lot of soil to fill.

Pro Tip: Bracing is an important detail to help your bed hold its shape and prevent outward bowing once it’s full of soil. Bowing is common in raised beds because wet soil can force the material outward, causing misshapen beds that can fall apart over time. Our Birdies Beds include strong metal bracing across the center of each bed, but you can also use a 2×4 or piece of rebar to reinforce home-built beds for long-lasting durability.

Placement and Pathways

View of wooden raised beds with growing potato, lettuce, pepper, beet and other plants. There are mulched paths between the beds. The potato plant is characterized by its sprawling habit and compound leaves. The leaves are palmately lobed, with five to seven leaflets arranged symmetrically around a central stem.
Optimize bed spacing for accessibility without wasting garden space.

The arrangement of your beds determines how easily you can access them to plant, weed, harvest, and water. You want to leave enough space to move between beds, but you don’t want to waste your valuable garden area with massive pathways. 

If you’ve created a garden map, you can experiment with different layouts in advance. Otherwise, you can move beds around to see how they look. If you have taller raised beds, it’s generally best to keep those on the far northern side so they don’t shade out lower beds on the southern part of the garden.

When planning your walkways, leave at least 30 inches of space between each bed. This allows you to easily between your raised beds and use a wheelbarrow when needed. Gardeners with reduced mobility or children can widen the walkway area.

Wood chips are a very popular mulch option for walkways because they suppress weeds and add a nice aesthetic. If you are growing organically, avoid any synthetically dyed or treated mulches. Instead, source untreated wood chips from a local arborist or garden store. 

You can also mulch walkways with straw, leaves, or gravel. Synthetic options like landscape fabric are available, but beware that they can break down over time and are not biodegradable. 

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Fill Your Beds

Once you’ve constructed and arranged raised beds, how do you fill them!? Fortunately, you don’t need to buy a hundred bags of soil from the garden store. If you are using taller raised beds or planting a lot of beds, it is not usually economical to fill them all with potting soil. 

Instead, you can use our special adaptation of “lasagna gardening” to save on soil and boost microbial activity in the raised bed for long-lasting fertility. But first, it helps to calculate the volume of your raised beds so you can estimate how much material you’ll need to fill them.

Soil Volume

Close-up of a raised bed with fresh soil in a garden. The raised bed is rectangular, tall and made of wood. The soil is dry, dark brown, slightly lumpy.
Calculate soil volume using length x width x height multiplication.

To calculate the volume of soil and filler materials you’ll need, use a simple length x width x height multiplication from middle school math. For example, a 2×7 foot raised bed would have a volume of about 35 cubic feet:

  • 7 feet (length) x 2 feet (width) = 14 square feet
  • 14 square feet x 2.5 feet (height) = 35 cubic feet 

Repeat this soil volume calculation for all of your beds, and then add the numbers together. The total volume is how much soil, compost, or organic materials you need to bring in to fill the beds.

How to Reduce Your Soil Bill

Close-up of a gardener's hand touching fresh soil in a raised bed in the garden. The soil is loose, dark brown. The gardener is wearing a dark green long-sleeve sweater.
Build a self-sustaining soil ecosystem using layering techniques for raised beds.

It can seem intimidating to fill a tall raised bed with pure topsoil. Potting mix and compost can be very expensive, especially if purchased in bags from a garden store. Lasagna raised bed gardening involves layering biodegradable materials on top of each other to create a self-sustaining soil ecosystem that actually gets better with time. As the materials break down, they nurture the soil with nutrients, minerals, and beneficial microorganisms. This improves the drainage, fertility, water retention, and overall plant performance. 

This technique is based on an ancient German technique called hugelkultur, or mound culture. Instead of digging into the soil below, you are building soil from the top down, creating a rich loam over time. 

This method is especially effective for vegetables since crop roots typically only reach 12-18” deep. Only the upper layers need to be luscious topsoil or compost. The lower parts of the bed can be filled with rougher decomposable materials like logs, twigs, leaves, and straw that can decompose over time.

First, Fill the Bottom with Logs or Twigs
Hügelkultur Gardening. Close-up of many logs stacked tightly together in a rectangular shaped hole dug in a garden. The logs are large, of different sizes, with slightly peeled bark.
Fill bed bottom with untreated logs for aeration and decomposition.

The first step is to fill the bottom of your bed with logs. You can find logs around your property or purchase firewood or scraps from an arborist. Be sure that the wood is untreated because you do not want any chemicals leaching into your garden soil!

Fill the Rest of the Bottom Half with Twigs, Leaves, Straw, or Manure
Close-up of a male gardener filling a raised bed with various dry branches, dead vines and leaves. The raised bed is made of wood. The gardener is wearing gray and black trousers, gray and black gloves and a dark green sweatshirt.
Add finer carbon materials like twigs, leaves, or grass clippings.

The next “layer” of a lasagna bed is finer carbon-based materials like twigs, shrub prunings, leaves, or straw. If you have access to it, you can also add manure blended in with one of these high-carbon ingredients. Grass clippings are another useful option here. Be sure to only fill up to the halfway point with these materials.

Now, you have officially cut your soil volume number in half!

Fill the Rest with Quality Soil
Close-up of a man filling a raised bed with soil in a garden. The raised bed is made of wood and filled with a layer of hay mulch. A gardener pours soil out of a black bag. The gardener is wearing gray trousers and a gray sweatshirt.
Choose soil with fertility, drainage, and water retention for raised beds.

The upper half of your raised bed should be filled with quality soil that is ready to plant into! But when you get to a nursery or garden store, the amount of soil selections can be absolutely overwhelming. Let’s simplify it, shall we? Quality soil has three key characteristics needed in approximately equal amounts:


Compost or organic matter that delivers nutrients to plants, such as feather meal or kelp meal


Particles and pore space that help water move through the soil, such as sand or perlite

Water Retention

Woody or mossy materials to hold onto water, such as peat moss or coco coir

To narrow things down, look for soil bags labeled as a “raised bed soil blend” or just a standard “potting mix.” Avoid soil blends labeled as “mulch,” “amendments,” or “improving soil texture.” You don’t want to just plant straight into a fertilizer or amendment. Do not buy filler materials labeled as generic “garden soil.” If you want to grow organically, avoid any synthetically dyed mulches or soil blends with synthetic nitrate fertilizers.

Soil Ingredients 

Look for ingredients like:

  • Compost or composted green waste
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Coco coir
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Organic fertilizers (feather meal, bone meal, kelp meal, fish meal, blood meal, etc.)
  • Mycorrhizal fungi (inoculants that help plants “eat” the organic fertilizers added to soil)

How to Read NPK Labels

Close-up of woman's hands holding a handful of fresh soil against a blurred background of soil in the garden. The soil is loose and dark brown.
Choose a soil blend with balanced NPK ratios.

Most bagged soil blends will have an NPK analysis, which tells you the nutrient ratios in the bag. These are the “big three” nutrients that plants need in the greatest quantity:

  • N= Nitrogen is most important for early leafy growth into a mature plant
  • P= Phosphorus is most important in the flowering and fruiting stage  
  • K= Potassium is also more necessary in the reproductive stage, enhancing flavor and yields

Once you’ve picked a soil blend that works for you, make sure you get the right amount of bags to match the volume calculation you did above! Pour them on top, rake them smooth, and you are ready to plant!

Pro Tip: If you have a budget for your garden, spend most of it on your soil! If this means choosing in-ground beds over raised beds or growing plants from seed rather than start, do it! Soil is the crux of your garden’s success because it is the literal foundation.

Choose Your Plants

You probably know what veggies you want to grow because you know what you like to eat! But should you start from seed or buy seedlings at a nursery? Seeds are easy to buy in packets, but seedlings come pre-grown and ready to plant.

However, with so many plant varieties to choose from, a seed catalog or nursery display can be overwhelming. Let’s explore the pros and cons of starting from seed versus buying seedlings and which option can be better for certain crops.

Starting From Seed

Close-up of a gardener's hands sowing seeds in a garden bed. The bed has an even layer of rich, loose, dark brown soil. A gardener places small pink seeds in a thin horizontal trench in a garden bed.
Growing from seed is cost-effective and enhances gardening skills.
Why Start From Seed

Starting from seed is the most economical way to start a garden because you save way more money compared to purchasing pre-grown seedlings. A $2-4 seed packet could contain a hundred seeds, while a $7 pack of veggie seedlings only includes 6 plants. Sowing seeds also allows you to grow your plants from start to harvest, so you know every fertilizer and input used on them.

Other benefits of starting from seed include:

  • Buy all your seeds at once: You can purchase your summer crops in advance rather than rushing to the garden store right after the last spring frost.
  • More diversity: Seeds offer a much greater diversity of cultivars, including specialty heirlooms and rare varieties that aren’t often available in nurseries.
  • Greater quantity: A packet of seeds supplies dozens or hundreds of potential plants.
  • Healthier transplants: Once you master seed starting, your seedlings may be much healthier and stronger than those you purchase at a nursery.
  • Timing flexibility: You can start seeds indoors and transplant them at a time that works best for your garden and weather.
  • Headstart on planting: Starting seeds indoors in late winter and early spring ensures you have relatively large seedlings that are easy to transplant and ready to take off growing.
  • Advance your gardening skills: Starting your own seeds is a crucial step for graduating from a beginner gardener to a more self-sufficient grower. It helps you tune into the lifecycle of your plants and grow stronger crops with complete control of the conditions.

However, seed starting requires a bit more investment in startup infrastructure to help your baby plants develop properly. You will need:

  • Seed starting trays: 4-Cell Trays or 6-Cell Trays are the most common pots for sowing seeds.
  • Bottom trays: The bottom tray holds your cell trays, so they are easy to water and transport.
  • Seed starter soil blend: Fill your cell trays with a soil blend specifically formulated for starting seeds.
  • Labels: Use popsicle sticks and a permanent marker to label the varieties and planting dates.
  • Lights or a bright windowsill: Grow seedlings in a warm area at about room temperature. When the seeds sprout, move them to a spot with 8-12 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Germination heating mat: While optional, a heating mat can speed up germination. 
  • Watering can or fan hose nozzle: Use a watering contraption that spreads out moisture over the top of the seeds so you don’t blast them with a hose and displace them.
Planting Seeds

If you are unsure about how deep to plant your seeds, use this general rule of thumb: Plant seeds twice as deep as they are wide. You can create a light depression in the center of each cell, place the seed inside ¼ to ½ inch deep, and cover it with only enough water to bury the seed at twice the depth of its dimensions. Tiny seeds like lettuce and basil should be planted very shallowly, while larger seeds like squash and cucumbers can be planted deeper.

Some seeds, like onions, can be sown in little bunches in each cell. Others, like peppers or kale, can be planted with 1-2 seeds per cell. But you will need to thin them to one plant per cell after they germinate.

Pro Tip: To properly time your seed starting, consider your expected last frost date and the recommendations on the seed packet. If the seed variety recommends planting indoors six weeks before your last frost, use a calendar or Google search to count backward from your expected last frost date, which you can find here.

Generally, peppers, tomatoes, onions, leeks, and greens are perfect for early spring sowing. You should wait to plant fast-growing warm-weather crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, and winter squash until later in the spring.

For example, tomatoes often grow in a seed tray for 1-2 months before they go into the ground. This means you can start tomato seedlings as early as 6-8 weeks before your expected last frost date and grow robust seedlings while you wait for the weather to warm. However, you may need to up-pot the plants (move them to a larger container) if they overgrow their cell trays.

Buying Nursery Seedlings

Close-up of young lettuce seedlings being transplanted into a bed in a sunny garden. The gardener holds one seedling and a garden trowel in his hands. Lettuce seedlings form small rosettes of small, wide, rounded leaves that are bright green with purple hues.
Buy seedlings for a quicker start and a higher success rate.

Impatient gardeners should skip growing from seed and purchase established seedlings. Planting pre-grown nursery seedlings is more expensive but saves you the most time. With lettuce or kale, you may save 1-2 weeks by purchasing seedlings compared to starting from seed. When purchasing established tomatoes, you can get a head start of up to 1-2 months. With herbs like sage or rosemary, you can save yourself 2-3 months of waiting for seeds to germinate.

This is generally easier for beginners because you don’t need to create a seed-starting setup or worry about messing up your seed germination. With seedlings, you get a quicker reward and higher chances of success because you begin with established plants. All you have to do is pick out healthy plants from the garden store and transplant them into your new garden at the right time.

When picking your seedlings, always check for:

  • Verdant green leaves: The foliage should be a healthy green without yellowing or browning on the leaves.
  • Upright plant growth: The stems should stand up on their own without flopping over (unless it’s a vine, such as a vining tomato).
  • Bushy or multi-stemmed growth: Strong bushing or many seedlings clustered in a pot means you get stronger starts that can sometimes be separated into more plants.
  • No flowers: Most plants, like strawberries or tomatoes, are best purchased without flowers so they can prioritize root and leaf growth directly after planting.
  • No root binding: Hold the plant from the base and shimmy it out of the pot to check if the roots look healthy. If they are tightly winding around in the shape of the pot, avoid these plants because they will have more trouble recovering after you transplant.

Pro Tip: To save money, grow your annual vegetables (like tomatoes, greens, and zucchini) from seed. These plants are quicker and easier to start on your own. Prioritize a larger portion of your budget for purchasing pre-grown seedlings of perennial herbs (like sage, rosemary, thyme, or lavender) and fruits (like strawberries or blueberries). These plants tend to grow slow from seed or may be challenging for beginners to start from seed.

Plant Themed Beds

Planting is the most exciting part of your first garden! After so much work planning, building, and filling your beds, it is exhilarating to finally get crops planted in the fresh new soil. But where should you plant each species? And should you combine different plants together in the same bed? Here’s everything you need to know.

It’s helpful to “theme” your garden beds to make caring for them easier. In other words, you want to arrange plants to grow alongside like-minded neighbors. After all, nobody wants to be stuck next to someone who prefers completely different conditions than they do. Use the following “themed” bed ideas to properly group and space your plants in a way that maximizes yields while making the most of small spaces.

Herb Bed

Herb Bed. Close-up of a gardener's hand in a pink glove putting wooden plate with the inscription "Herbs" in a raised bed in a sunny garden. Mint, rosemary and basil grow in the garden bed.
Group Mediterranean herbs together for easy care and harvest.

It’s easy to group together Mediterranean herbs because they like the same bright sun exposure, well-drained soil, and drier conditions. Most of them are also perennials, which is ideal because you plant them once and don’t regularly rotate the bed like you do with annual vegetables. These plants are best planted in a bed near the kitchen so you can regularly harvest herbs when cooking:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Basil (technically an annual, but works great in this themed combo)

These herbs do best with 18-24” of space between them. Plant taller species toward the back (northern part) of the bed so the lower-growing species can hang out in the brightest exposure without getting shaded. In the above example, rosemary and sage would be best in the back of the bed, while thyme and oregano can creep along the edge and spill over.

Pro Tip: As you plant seedlings, notice if any have a foul smell coming from the roots. This means they may have gotten rootbound from being in a small pot for too long. Anaerobic (non-oxygen) bacteria grow in these compacted, tight conditions, leading to bad odors and an imbalance of soil organisms.

To fix this, use your fingers to loosen the root zone of the seedlings before planting. Gently tear apart lower root hairs so they aren’t so tightly bound. This will incorporate oxygen and make it easier for the seedlings to adjust after transplanting.

Strawberry Bed

Close-up of Strawberry Bed in the garden. The Strawberry plant is recognized by its trifoliate leaves, white flowers, and vibrant red fruits. The leaves are dark green, serrated, and comprised of three leaflets arranged in a clover-like pattern on long petioles. The plant produces small, white flowers with five petals and yellow centers. These flowers give way to juicy, red berries with small seeds embedded on their surface.
Easy-to-grow strawberries thrive in low beds.

Shallow-rooted strawberries perform excellently in a low bed. These biennial or perennial fruiting shrubs are perfect for beginners because they grow prolifically and can yield in abundance just a few months after planting. 

The two main types of strawberries are:

  • June-bearing: These varieties put out one big flush of fruit in late summer when the day length shortens around the Summer Solstice.
  • Everbearing or day-neutral: These varieties yield continuous quantities of fruit throughout the season, from spring to the first frost.

Strawberries are best planted 12-24” apart in a staggering pattern so they can grow outward. Be sure you don’t plant too deep, as the crown of the strawberry can easily rot if it gets buried in soil. To find the crown, look for where the new leaves are sprouting up at the base of the strawberry. You want to keep the soil level below this point. 

To properly plant strawberries, make a hole about the same depth as the current root ball point and place the strawberry seedling in the hole. Gently tamp down the soil around the base to remove air holes and tuck the new plants in.

Pro Tip: Remove any flowers at the time of planting! Use scissors or pruners to snip off any flowers at the time of planting. You can cut the flowering stem as close to the base as possible, leaving the roots and crown in place. This may feel weird, but trust me, it helps your plants grow more flowers and fruits later on!

In the early stages of development, you want the young seedlings to put their energy into growing strong roots and leaves. Removing the flowers signals them to focus on “vegetative” (leafy) growth before they start developing flowers and fruits. They will have plenty of time to regrow new flowers several weeks down the line when the spring weather is warmer, and the roots are established in place.

Salad Bed

Close-up of a wooden sign with the caption "Salad garden" on a blurred background of a bed with various salads growing. The lettuces form rosettes of broad, slightly wavy leaves in bright green and purple colors.
Easily grow lettuce and greens with staggered planting for continuous harvests.

Lettuce and greens are extremely easy to grow because they grow rapidly and don’t ask for much specialty care. Start by gently removing your seedlings from their trays and laying them out on the bed surface how you want. You can mix and match the plants or plant the same species next to each other.

You can be really loose with the spacing of a salad bed. If you plant lettuce seedlings very close together, they will yield “baby greens” that are easy to harvest young. But if you want full-size heads of lettuce (for example, larger romaine lettuce), you’ll want to widen the spacing to about 8-12” between plants. The same goes for kale, mustards, spinach, or other fresh-eating leafy crops. 

Use staggered spacing (a zig-zag alternating pattern) to provide more room between plants. This provides an extra few inches of space for the greens to leaf outward without running into their neighbors.

Pro Tip: If you want a continuous supply of salad greens, you should plant seeds or seedlings every one to two weeks to stagger your harvests throughout the spring. Unless you are having a huge party, you may not want to harvest huge amounts of salad at a time. It is easier to plant smaller quantities that you can cut as needed. As one round of greens reaches the end of its lifespan, your next succession of lettuce will be sprouting and growing to size. Learn more about succession planting to maintain an abundance of greens all season long.

Brassica Bed

Close-up of Kale growing in a sunny raised bed garden. The Kale plant is distinguished by its sturdy, frilly leaves that form a dense rosette. The leaves are green with a purple tint, with a slightly wrinkled texture and ruffled edges.
Brassicas like kale, cabbage, and broccoli need proper spacing for success.

Cole-crops or brassicas are the familiar mustard-family crops such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Interestingly, most of these vegetables are actually variations of the same species. 

Over time, gardeners and plant breeders have prioritized certain traits by cross-pollinating flowers and saving seeds to develop plants that look and taste a certain way. This process is similar to what dog breeders do to perpetuate certain traits and develop different breeds of dogs from the same wolfy ancestors. For example, kale is bred for its frilly leaves, while broccoli is bred for an enlarged central flower. Cabbage is bred for a large rounded central head, while Brussels sprouts have lots of tiny cabbage-like heads growing along a stalk. 

No matter which brassica plant you’re growing, spacing is very important for success with these plants! As a general rule of thumb 18-24” is the minimum spacing for brassicas. If you’re using the square foot gardening method, this means 1.5 to 2 squares per plant. 

If you don’t provide brassicas enough space, they won’t form a proper “head.” For example, cabbage plants grow out in big florets, and then the center leaves curl together to form a dense head of cabbage. But if there isn’t enough space between plants, the cabbage will fail to “head up,” which means you’ll end up with measly cabbages or only leafy growth reminiscent of collard greens. 

Pro Tip: After transplanting any type of seedling, water your beds right away! This is called “watering in.” The plants need a nice drink to help them adjust to their new home and take off growing. The upper inches of soil should be wet but never soggy. Allow water to drain into the root zone, and monitor the plants every few days to see if they need more moisture.

Young, newly transplanted seedlings are the most vulnerable to drying out. Regularly stick your finger in the soil to check that it feels moist, like a wrung-out sponge. If the soil is too dry, use a hose or watering can water near the base of each plant every few days, depending on the weather conditions. If it rains, you don’t have to do anything! 

Final Thoughts

With so much nerdy plant info on the internet, gardening can seem overwhelming, but there is no shame in starting simply. Building a home veggie garden can be as easy as these six steps:

  1. Choose a bright, south-facing location with 6-8 hours of sunlight.
  2. Buy or build raised beds for a quick start, even if your soil is poor.
  3. Arrange raised beds with at least 30” of walkway space between them.
  4. Fill the beds with logs and twigs on the bottom and quality potting soil on top.
  5. Pick out your favorite crop varieties. Store-bought seedlings are the quickest and easiest, but starting seeds on your own is cheaper.
  6. Create themed beds so plants with similar needs can grow together in the same space.

Remember, every gardener started out with zero experience. Learning and growing with your garden is part of the fun! You can always dig deeper into the nuances of different crops as you experiment, observe, and problem-solve. Plants are quite resilient, and many crops are forgiving, even if you space them too close or forget to water a few times. Just don’t forget to taste the harvest and savor your successes!

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