If you’ve been toying with the idea of turning your backyard into a vegetable garden, it’s time to go for it. Gardens provide a wonderful aesthetic to your home and are also beneficial as an extra food source.
With this guide, you will learn how to turn your backyard into a garden as well as imperative information that will help you succeed. Read on to find out everything you need to know about turning your backyard into a vegetable garden.
What You Need to Create the Perfect Garden
You can use all sorts of materials for your garden depending on what you want to grow and how you want to fashion your garden. Some like simple designs, while others enjoy something a little flashier. The materials below are ideal for creating a basic raised garden in your backyard:
- Wood and screws
- Garden soil
- Cardboard boxes or dried leaves
- Hand rake
- Seeds or starter vegetables
- A yard
You will first need wood and screws to create a raised bed. Then, you can refurbish the things you have around the house as well. Pallets or railroad ties, or even extra stones from a previous project can be used for your garden, too!
Backyard gardening has enabled many people to create their own sources of food, minimize their stress level, improve their mood, exercise, maintain good mental health, create relationships and a community, and so many more. Here are 12 reasons why backyard gardening is important.
How to Turn Your Backyard into a Garden
Turning your backyard into a garden is not difficult and can be achieved in a matter of hours. Here are the steps you need to take to do so:
- Research your vegetables
- Pick the ideal location
- Make a raised bed for your garden
- Use the right soil
- Map out where to plant your vegetables
- Plant your vegetable seeds
- Maintain your vegetable garden
- Reap what you sowed
Let’s get started!
Research Your Vegetables
Research is key to making a successful garden. You don’t want to go to a store, buy a bunch of seeds, and then learn that they may need special instructions that are out of your expertise.
You don’t want to plant a vegetable that doesn’t do well where you are located either. For example, pistachios only grow in three different areas because the conditions to grow a pistachio tree are unique. Meanwhile, oranges need humid and hot climates. Similarly, some breeds of apples can’t survive cold temperatures.
With that in mind, it is important to research vegetables that can grow in your climate. Many seed packets indicate the ideal areas for the seeds to be planted, as well as their environmental requirements.
If you live in a place where temperatures can be quite cool, you may want to rethink growing plants that die in low temperatures or make it easy for you to move them inside. The same goes for hot temperatures.
Pick the Ideal Location
Location is key to your garden’s success. Your garden will need a lot of sunlight so the plants can obtain enough energy to produce vegetables and fruits for you. This area needs to get about 8 hours of sunlight daily.
The best way to determine whether or not the area you chose gets enough sunlight is to use a sunlight calculator. This tool will measure how much sunlight the area gets and let you know if it is a prime spot for your garden.
Another way to determine if the spot you chose gets enough sunlight is to take notes to see if any shade falls on the area throughout the day. If you know for a fact that this area receives enough hours of sunlight throughout the day, then you have found your perfect location!
Make a Raised Bed for Your Garden
The raised bed is one of the most important parts of your garden. It needs to be raised about six inches above the ground to allow water to run out of your garden rather than pooling and make stagnant water.
You can make a raised garden using wood, stones, palettes, and other materials that you may already have around the yard. It is your chance to be creative! Although, if you have to buy wood, make sure it’s not treated as treated wood may harm your plants.
If you want something a little fancier, you can build raised gardens that are off the ground. Some people use large tin basins to plant their produce. You can even make a hanging garden using old gutters. The possibilities are endless!
Once you assemble your frame, you can either lay dead leaves or cardboard boxes at the base of the garden. This needs to be done before you dump any soil into the frame. This step will help keep weeds and grass from growing in your garden and is only necessary if you are making your raised garden directly on top of the ground.
Dead leaves and cardboard boxes are biodegradable so that they won’t harm the environment. Thus, you won’t have to worry about digging them up and throwing them in the trash.
Use the Right Soil
Using the appropriate soil can make a crucial difference for your garden. You don’t want to add too much fertilizer but don’t want to add too little either. If your garden doesn’t receive enough nutrients, you’re going to find that you don’t have much to gain in the end.
Depending on which vegetables you choose to grow, your soil composition may vary. As a rule of thumb, your soil generally needs to contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you need these specific nutrients, adding fertilizer can increase this composition.
Trace nutrients are important as well but can get quite complicated. You should be fine using garden soil or adjusting the pH with different types of fertilizers. If you are worried about the pH (which should be somewhere between 6 and 7), you can order a kit online to test it.
Map Out Where to Plant Your Vegetables
Some plants don’t work well together. For instance, broccolis don’t grow well with tomatoes. Therefore, you need to map out where you are going to put your plants. If you don’t, you will find yourself with plants that just won’t grow or won’t bear any vegetables.
One of the easiest ways to map out your garden is to organize your areas by plant groups. If a specific group doesn’t do well with another, make sure they are far away from each other.
Plant Your Vegetable Seeds
Now that you have built your garden, made the perfect mix of soil, and mapped out your garden, you are ready to plant the seeds. When you buy your seeds, make sure to look at the information on the packet as some seeds need to be grown inside for the first weeks, while others should be put directly in the soil. Don’t just assume they all work the same way.
Seeds are individualistic. Since they come in different sizes and shapes, they don’t all get planted the same way. Some need to be inserted into the soil at 4 inches, while others are required to be planted even deeper. Just keep this in mind as you start growing in your garden.
Maintain Your Vegetable Garden
A vegetable garden isn’t hard to maintain, but you will need to invest some of your time every day to succeed. For example, you will still need to water your garden and prune any weeds that may have found their way into your garden.
Don’t water your garden every day. It isn’t always necessary to do so depending on the weather and the location of your garden. An easy way to check to see if you need to water your plants is to stick your finger into the soil. If it is moist and cool, then you are good to go. But if it is dry and warm, you will need to give your soil more water.
Look out for possible pests as unwanted visitors may come and harm your plants. If that happens, take note of any damage that has been caused and figure out who it is so that you can find the solution to keep those pests away.
Reap What You Sowed
Now, it’s time to pick your vegetables! Each one should be a specific length before you pick it, so make sure to be aware of these time frames but enjoy the hard work you put in!
Best Vegetables to Plant For Beginners
There are many vegetables to choose from when growing a garden. Not everyone has a green thumb, and some may therefore find it more difficult when starting. Some vegetables are a little harder to grow than others, while others are not as easy to kill. Here are the best beginner-friendly vegetables and plants:
- Scallions or green onions
- Starter plants instead of seeds
These vegetables and plants may vary depending on your location but are great to start. They generally work well with many different areas and environments!
Tomatoes are quite an easy plant to grow. If you get a disease-resistant tomato breed, you won’t have to prune the plant, and it will stop once it has fruited a bunch of tomatoes.
Be careful with the breeds though, as some tomatoes can grow large and take over the garden, thus suffocating the other plants. Also, try not to plant too many tomato plants as each will give you plenty of food throughout their lifespan.
Peppers are easy to grow in a pot and even easier in a garden. They don’t require much maintenance nor nutrients. These also grow well among many other breeds of vegetables, so you won’t find your peppers dying when paired with some friends.
Some gardeners even suggest starting growing the peppers inside first, and then moving them to your garden. Doing so may make it easier in the long run.
Scallions or Green Onions
If you are not great at keeping plants alive and need something simple to start, scallions are the perfect vegetables for you. These make a great addition to your new garden! You could even grow them in a glass of water, and they would last!
There are many types of lettuces or salad bowls to choose from; some better than others. The most popular one is the salad bowl.
This one will make you feel great sooner rather than later. You can obtain results in a little over a month, usually in 30 to 40 days. You can plant this type of lettuce multiple times throughout the season and make yourself a nice little salad.
One insect you do have to watch out for when planting lettuce is beetles. They can come in at night and eat your plants up. If you are aware of an increase in the beetle population in your area, you may put your lettuce in a mini greenhouse to protect them, so you don’t have to use pesticides.
Basil is one type of herb that is easy to grow. You can even grow some in pots if you don’t want to commit to a full garden. This herb, as well as other herbs like sage and mint, is easily maintainable and doesn’t require much effort.
Potatoes are some of the easiest plants to grow, especially if you are just starting. They can even grow within a restricted space and don’t need many nutrients to do so. You may have noticed this when buying a bag of potatoes. They start growing without any water or soil.
The best thing about growing potatoes is that you can store potatoes for long periods. They don’t spoil as quickly as most of the other plants and vegetables do once you pick them.
This vegetable plant isn’t too fussy about growing, so you don’t have to give it any special treatment. It is also quite hardy and will last in cooler temperatures, in case you get one final frost.
Starter Plants Instead of Seeds
Some people, especially beginners, are not the best when it comes to starting with seeds. If you can relate to this, you may want to buy starter plants from the store instead. Although those may be a bit more costly depending on how old the plant is, using start plants could save you money and provide more success in the long run.
It can take several weeks for a seed to sprout from the ground, so if you are late to the game with planting your garden, starter plants are the way to go. Sometimes, the seeds won’t bloom before the weather doesn’t become ideal.
Gardening is one of those hobbies that require a lot of patience for you to truly and fully immerse yourself in the activity. There is no way around it, it just takes a long time for plants to grow. With that being said, how long does it take for plants to grow?
Bad Vegetable Garden Habits to Avoid
There are several things you could do that may cause the failure of your garden. For instance, you don’t want to:
- Plant your plants in the shade
- Over-fertilize them
- Use pesticides
- Crowd plants
- Overwater them
The list could go on, but these are the most common mistakes for those creating their first garden.
Plant in the Shade
Your plants need sunlight to survive and thrive. Thus, you don’t want to put your garden in the shade, where it won’t get the nutrients it needs to acquire energy to grow big and produce food.
One way to tell your plant is not getting enough sunlight is to examine the plant. If it starts to droop or if the leaves begin to turn yellow, you may need to move your garden or the plant into a better-lit area.
Over-Fertilize Your Plants
This may seem like something that doesn’t happen often, but it does. Over-fertilizing your plants can harm them. If you think your garden has a nutrient deficiency, you can add fertilizer, but not in abundance. Sometimes, over-fertilizing can lead to other nutrients deficiencies.
Plants only take what they need when they need them. They don’t store the nutrients in fats like humans and feed off it if there are no other available nutrients. Because of this, you don’t have to provide “extra” fertilizer for later. It will only be wasted, and your money would be better used elsewhere.
Bugs can be a pesky problem, but pesticides can be even more damaging for you and your plants. First, you don’t want to kill beneficial insects, like bees or ladybugs. In fact, bees have become endangered and are needed to pollinate specific plants.
If you have problems with a pest, the best way to resolve the issue is to first figure out what is eating or destroying your garden. Once you have found that out, it will be easier to implement the best solution to get rid of the culprit. Many organic solutions and barriers can help you do that.
Some plants can grow in a cluster. For example, succulents can be put into a crowded pot without starving, but some plants could take nutrients away from others. This could cause you the loss of those vegetables.
Therefore, try not to crowd plants. Tomato plants that are not determinate can take over your garden and destroy nearby plants. This can also cause nutrient deficiencies in your plants, and if they aren’t getting enough food, they won’t produce any vegetables.
Overwater Your Plants
You may think that watering your garden every day is required, but it isn’t always. Some plants need dryer conditions than others, and too much water can, in a way, drown them.
Sometimes, when you overwater a plant, it can get root rot, meaning the roots decay and can no longer absorb nutrients from the ground. This particularly applies to rosemary. Indeed, this plant is more prone to get root rot if you water it too often.
Overwatering your plant can also make your garden more dependent on you. The roots won’t go as deep because they will get enough water on the surface. Therefore, if a drought or extremely dry weather occurs, it can kill your plant as its roots won’t be deep enough to absorb the required amount of water to survive.
We are all busy, so maintaining a garden can be a little daunting. There exist many automated irrigation systems that you can add to your garden to relieve some of the maintenance duties from your to-do list.
Ways to tell if you are overwatering your plant are similar to those implemented to figure out if your garden is getting too much shade. The plants will begin to droop and may turn brown or yellow. If you know shade is not the reason for your plant decaying, this may be the next reason to consider.
Tips to Make Your Garden Successful
You now know how to make your raised garden and the best vegetables for beginners. You also understand what not to do. Now, here are some tips that can help you increase your chances of obtaining an abundance of produce from your garden:
- Keep your first garden small
- Know the frost dates
- Know your seeds
- Find the best plant combinations
- Use pest control
- Save money on produce
Keep Your First Garden Small
If you are a first-time gardener, it may be best to keep your garden pretty small. Although it won’t take much more time to maintain your garden, it will take some. Thus, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself and get disheartened.
If you don’t know whether or not you are quite ready for a garden, make one inside. Because vegetables don’t need to be pollinated, you can easily grow them indoors, in a pot. In fact, many gardeners have a window garden of herbs that they can pick from the pot when they need some for cooking.
Know the Frost Dates
This is a crucial tip to remember. A few plants, like broccoli, for example, need to be planted before the last frost. Some seeds will die if planted before then. Make sure to read and learn all about the vegetables that you want to plant.
Some vegetables may die if you plant them before the first frost, and you won’t even get any growth. You won’t even realize it until a few weeks into growing the plant, which can set you back slightly.
Of course, sometimes, frost is unexpected since nature and the weather can be fussy at times. But luckily, there are ways to insulate your garden if this occurs:
- Lay down some mulch to keep the topsoil warm.
- Give your garden a blanket.
- Use old plastic milk or water jugs as a mini greenhouse for your young plants.
- Water your plants during the day, when the sun is at its peak, rather than at night, as water reduces the soil temperature.
If the frost does end up harming your plants, wait until warmer weather snips off any dead branches or leaves.
Some of the vegetables that can survive a frost due to their hardy characteristics include:
Although many more plants can withstand frost, these are the easiest ones to start growing in your garden as they don’t require much care.
Know Your Seeds
This goes with your research. Make sure you understand how to plant your seeds and what you need to do afterward. Some seeds may need to be wrapped in a wet paper towel and grown indoors the first few weeks before transferring them to your garden while others don’t.
Some seeds also need to be planted in specific types of soil. Blueberries need more acidic conditions to grow, for instance, while some vegetables may not need this acidity. There are quite a few factors that need to be taken into consideration before planting a seed.
Find the Best Plant Combinations
Many plants don’t grow well with each other, but others grow great! You can find vegetable combinations that grow well together and will help each other thrive instead of fail.
One of the trifectas that many gardeners know about is corn, beans, and squash. They work in almost perfect harmony, making the soil ideal for each other. Basil and tomatoes make another well-functioning duo. Finding these pairs can better the soil quality and help your vegetables thrive.
Use Pest Control
Pests can become a problem, but most insects will be your friend. Here are some things you can do to help keep these harmful insects from getting a meal in your garden.
Plant parsley. If you already have planted some, plant some more. This will keep butterfly larvae away from your other vegetables. You can also wrap aluminum around the base of your tomato plant to keep cutworms from eating at the stems.
If you have issues with rabbits or small rodents, building a small fence around your raised garden may help. Make sure to use chicken wire or something with small holes so that the rabbit or rodent doesn’t get through the fence. This will also keep larger animals, like deers, away.
Save Money on Produce
If your goal is to save more money thanks to your garden, make sure you plant the most expensive vegetables as they will save you the most money. Besides, some of these vegetables and herbs are easy to maintain.
Some “expensive” products you can plant include:
- Other herbs
Planting herbs in your garden is easy and provides results pretty quickly. All you need to do is pick them and dry them out. Then, you can add them to your spice rack or the recipe you need them for.
Gardening is a learning process. Sometimes, you won’t get everything right on the first try. There may also be obstacles along the way, but like everything else, you learn from experience. There is no harm in trying, especially when you can taste your success!
We wrote this article to help you get started with your vegetable garden and to increase your confidence when it comes to this activity as well. You have everything that you need to know about starting a vegetable garden in this article. As long as you remember the information that we discussed and the tips that we shared, you are one step closer to having the vegetable garden of your dreams.