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Vegetable & Herb Gardening Tips for Beginners

The freshest produce, right from your own garden. Growing your own vegetables is a fun and rewarding experience, but it does require some work. Here are tips to help create a garden that's uniquely yours.

Small and Sunny

Start small and sunny

One of the biggest mistakes first-time gardeners make is planning an area that's too large to maintain. When you have success in your first attempt with a small garden, it's easy to expand. Start with an area about 6 feet by 8 feet (1.8 metres by 2.4 metres) and build from there.

Pick a spot that gets as much sun as possible (at least six hours each day). You'll have to water your vegetable and herb garden regularly, so close proximity to a water spigot is ideal, whether you use a garden hose or watering can.

Don't worry if you don't have a yard! Many vegetables and herbs are excellent in large containers and patio pots. You still need plenty of light, so choose a sunny balcony or porch. Look for varieties with “bush” on the plant tag, or choose determinate varieties like Bush Early Girl tomato, any kind of peppers or trellised cucumbers.

Dig in and create your garden space

Once you've selected the location, it's time to dig in - literally. Use a garden spade or metal pitchfork to dig into the ground and break up soil. Be sure to remove as many stones as possible, as well as all grass and weeds so you're starting with a clean slate. Adding compost and other organic materials will enhance your soil texture and increase harvests.

Person gardening.
Person holding freshly picked vegetables.

Pick plants and supplies

When selecting plants for your vegetable garden, consider how large they'll get and choose veggies and herbs you'll actually use in recipes. Here's a list of vegetables for easy gardening success:

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Sage
  • Peppers
  • Thyme
  • Lettuce

It's always a good idea to grab a bag of compost and peat moss to provide an organic boost. Apply an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer twice - once when planting and again halfway through the summer. This will provide enough feed for a great harvest.

Watch 'em grow

Watch 'em grow

The key to growing a successful vegetable garden is keeping an eye on it. Watch for signs of disease like discolouring or wilting. Also be on the lookout for insects, as they can damage young plants. Stake large plants as needed and keep air flowing around lower leaves. Pick fruit when ripe to ensure continuous production. If you have animals like rabbits around, a light-gauge wire mesh that's tall enough to discourage jumping is usually all you need for protection.

Most importantly, keep your veggies and herbs (in gardens or patio pots) hydrated. Because an ideal garden is in full sun, your plants will need plenty of water. Water when the soil an inch (2.5 cm) below the surface is dry - every two or three days in summer. The easiest way to tell if your plants need water is to stick your finger in the soil and see if it feels dry.

Harvest and enjoy

Don't be shy about picking your produce! Use a sharp pruner to remove fruits and vegetables, and shear herbs as cleanly as possible to keep your plants healthy and productive. The general rule? If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is.

To get the full flavour and health benefits from your vegetables and herbs, harvest them when ripe, use when fresh and don't overcook.


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