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5 Simple Steps to Start a Vegetable Garden

Kayla McVey
Latest posts by Kayla McVey (see all)

Spring starts on March 19th, 2024. Aren’t you excited? I know I am. There are many plants that can be planted beforehand! Plants like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage will need to be started indoors for a late March transplant in places like Zone 7 (where I’m writing this article from.) In “ 5 Simple Steps to Starting a Vegetable Garden” we cover companion planting, planting guides, prepping soil, and more. 

#1 Create a Garden Plan

  1. Look at your planting guide – This is one for Tennessee. Guides should be readily available for each state. Check with your ag extension agency if you can’t find one online – or reference the almanac. 
  2. Pick out what you want to plant for the season. 

When picking out what to plant, pay attention to what you cook with the most. Do you eat a lot of brussel sprouts? (start those now) Do you use an onion with almost every dinner you make? These are some questions to ask yourself when picking out seeds. Don’t plant tomatoes if you don’t eat tomatoes. Just because everyone else does it – doesn’t mean you have to. Mark dates on your calendar when you’re getting ready to plant. Picking up an almanac isn’t a bad idea either.

#2 Pick a Spot!

For me, the best spot in my yard is either behind my house or directly beside it in the largest part of my yard. The plot next to my yard used to be some kind of row crops and I intend on planting flowers there this year. Pick a spot that is going to have the most light throughout the day. If the soil is too rocky, full of clay, or other issues arise when trying to plant – use raised garden beds. We have an article that can help you decide where and how to plant! Read it here.

Another thing to consider when planting is vertical gardens. Plants like cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, and more often do very well when they have something to grow with. Plant tomatoes with netting or cages and plant cucumbers, squashes, etc on a fence or trellis so they can climb. They’ll be much easier to harvest as well. Drawing a map of your property is one way to ensure that your space is maximized and you can have an easy visual of what is going where.  

#3 Prep your Soil, Containers, and Raised Beds

This doesn’t have to be expensive. You can create your own compost bin, some farms will either give you or sell you manure to spread for fertilizer, and when creating raised beds, use organic matter like sticks and leaves to build up your bed before putting in soil. This will allow you to not have to bend over so far and the debris will break down over time. If you’re container gardening in a greenhouse or just around your yard, now is the time to be pulling out dead plants and prepping them for the spring. Make sure the soil is fresh, moist, and fertile to ensure that your plants are going to produce their best vegetables and fruits. 

#4 Add Companion Plants 

Companion plants will help your vegetables grow better with faster growth and higher yields. No one wants to lose all of their hard work to pesky pests and deer looking for a nice, little treat. We compiled a quick list for you to help you decide what to plant to keep the critters away. 

Some plants that help deter deer are:

  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias
  • Rosemary
  • Spider Flowers 
  • Verbena (good for ground cover and drought resistant)
  • Lavender
  • Wax Begonia (I LOVE these flowers.)
  • Chives
  • Cosmos
  • Coneflower

All of these plants are easy to grow and most can be used to plant a perimeter around your garden to help keep deer away. Marigolds are great companion plants for tomatoes. Mint deters aphids, flea beetles, and ants – DON’T PLANT THIS IN THE GROUND. You will regret it forever, unless you desire a yard completely covered in mint. Then go for it.

Basil deters moths, moth eggs become caterpillars, and caterpillars eat your tomatoes. Basil also enhances the flavor of tomatoes and helps them grow better.

Garlic repels a number of insects like onion flies, moths, and june bugs (japanese beetles).

Plant garlic by potatoes and plants like lettuce and cabbage – it will attract hoverflies. They love to eat aphids!

Sunflowers not only provide shade for plants like tomatoes (sometimes the Sun can be sort of rough on them) but they can also provide support for plants that like to climb.

Don’t forget about companion plants when planning your garden- they pay off in the long run. 

#5 Upkeep and Harvest

Upkeep is the most important part of gardening. A garden choked out by weeds isn’t going to produce a bountiful harvest. Raised beds and containers need food on occasion, and gardens need water at least every other day but in the heat of the summer, usually daily. Water early in the morning or late in the evening. Some plants don’t like water from overhead. Tomatoes get sunspots if they’re watered from the top. Water at their base if at all possible. 

Take harvest into account and space out planting to avoid having an over abundance of vegetables all at once. Even with canning, too many vegetables at once can be extremely overwhelming. Have a plan ready for your vegetables once they’re here. Prepare for any farmer’s markets, stands, or other ideas that may arise. Don’t forget to keep some for yourself, too!

Gardening is a lot of fun, hard work, and in many ways a gateway to homesteading. It can be very relaxing, and it’s not as hard as you would expect it to be as long as expectations are properly managed. 

Let us know what your plans are for your garden this year! We have a wide variety of articles available to you, along with a public Facebook group that we would love for you to join! We regularly post recipes, how-to guides, parenting advice, and more.

Our plans for The Homesteader’s Chronicle Facebook page is to be a valuable resource that can be easily shared and accessed. That’s where you come in! Posting questions or sharing your own homesteading journey gives the group the opportunity to grow and attract more members. We love it when our followers join in on the conversation, and it makes our days so much brighter when we see you guys get excited about things we share. Thank you for supporting us this far, and we are so excited to see what 2024 has in store for us! 

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