Not too long ago I was a novice gardener with no real experience with how to start a vegetable garden. My knowledge didn’t extend past knowing the basics and I felt slightly intimated by all the different information on the internet. After getting over my initial fear that I wouldn’t be able to grow anything, we started a small little patch in our old suburban home. That first season we grew strawberries, leeks, chilli and carrots in abundance.
That season I learned that anyone can be a green thumb.
When we moved to the farm I could picture my perfect garden. Rows of lush, green vegetables hiding delicious food under their leaves. I could feel the sun on my back, smell the dirt as I worked the soil… but planning a large plot is different to starting small. It requires a bit more planning, the cost is more to set up (like wow, a lot) and more equipment and time is required. And that’s all before you even start to plant.
And I realised I would fail over and over again at getting this garden thing right… Yet it’s totally worth it though.
It’s worth the sweat on your brow, the learning that takes place within yourself and your children. It’s worth the hard work, the crop failures, the pests, the early mornings and working out solutions to problems. It’s worth the investment of money and time.
If you are up for the rewarding challenge of growing your own organic food, up for the amazing tastes and experience of cultivating a kitchen garden to add depth to your children’s home education journey then I hope this simple step by step guide helps you in the process.
I’ve created this FREE printable PDF to get you started too…
3 steps to start your own vegetable garden.
It all depends on your individual situation and how you choose to garden. Ideally plants love 6 hours of sunlight to really thrive.
You could choose…
- Raised beds
- In ground planting
- No dig beds
- Wicking beds
Once you have decided on where you will be planting then you can move to soil condition.
If this is your first garden project pick a sunny spot in the garden (keep your eye on the place you would like to plant for a day, watching how long the sun lights up your chosen place) and try a square-meter raised garden bed.
If you have good soil you’re good to go.
There are many ways to achieve healthy, living soil to plant in. Get lots of organic, well rotted material in your soil – you want your soil to be alive. And Loamy. Here in Perth we have notoriously sandy soils. If you aren’t already gifted with gorgeous loam soil to plant in, your garden may take a while to get going to the point where it really thrives and gives your family a good output. Be patient – you will get there! You can purchase soil, composted materials etc or you can build the soil up yourself.
For us, we made a huge mistake of going to our local gardening center and getting “soil conditioner” for our first season of planting. It was organic but really lacked in nutrients our sandy soil needed and it cost a small fortune. We had a slow beginning of the season, most of our plants didn’t take off and the ones that did struggled. Around end of January we chose to pull out the veggies that weren’t doing well and we tilled in composted manure, 3 huge cubes (Thanks to gumtree for that amazing find!) and now our veggies are taking off!
Now we have some nutrients in that sandy soil we plan on using the No Dig Method.
Don’t be discouraged if something isn’t working – just keep going, learn from your mistakes and I promise you will get a garden your hoping for. You want to aim for a 50/50 mix for compost or composted manure to plant in. Leave the soil to settle before planting, ideally a few days to a week.
If you’re planting in ground check the PH of your soil. We brought a PH soil kit from Bunnings for about $15.
Choosing a raised bed or containers is a great way to plant crops in urban areas. Pretty much all you need to purchase is a high quality vegetable soil mix to get growing. This works really well if your doing a square meter raised bed. Make your raised bed, use cardboard on the base (to stop pesky weeds or root knot nematodes coming into the soil you have purchased for growing in) then pile up your soil mix and water in. Easy Peasy.
Plant what you love to eat
There is no point in planting leeks if you really don’t like their flavour. Plant what you enjoy eating and you will find you’ll be more passionate to get out in your garden everyday. Pick a few varieties of veggies that you enjoy eating to start out with. I like to use Gardenate to determine what I should be sowing here in Australia.
We personally prefer sowing seed over buying seedlings for a few reasons.
- Firstly, we like to buy non-GMO, organic seeds.
- Organic seedlings are expensive, you only get a 6-8 plants for what you pay for and sometimes they have been so sheltered in nursery life when you plant them out to the garden they really struggle, wilt and even die!
- If your choosing seedlings “harden them off” before planting will dramatically help them. “Hardening off” is the process of moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights.
- If you do choose to plant seeds, the kids really love this process. Germination is like pure magic to a child and a great real life learning experience. Keep your seeds or seedlings moist and watch them take off!
Seed packets, Gardenate or your seedlings will have information on spacing. It helps to write down all this information once planted (I’ve included a FREE 5 page garden planner printable to get you started! Download your copy below.)
- Sowing date
- Germination date
- Approximate harvest date
- Any notes about the plant (whether they like frequent dressings of a liquid fertilizer like worm wee or a seaweed solution, whether they need pruning at a certain stage etc)
Expect to have a few losses, learn for them and keep going. Soon you will have a wonderful harvest and be eating the yummiest and freshest vegetables nature can offer.
Don’t worry to much about making the prettiest veggie garden when you first start. Download the planner, get some seeds, get your soil prepped. What a wonderful way to learn life skills with your children and add depth, deliciousness and delight to their education (and yours too! We’re ALL life learners!)
Happy gardening, j x
Download the planner