How to Grow a Vegetable Garden for Beginners
Both of us are garden girls at heart! We grew up with mothers and grandmothers who loved to get their hands dirty and grow as much of their food as they could. Our fond memories of watching our elders in the garden have been passed down to us and we wanted to share some of the vegetable garden ideas and tips we have learned along the way with all of you!
When you live in a cold climate, fresh veggies are sooo good after a long winter and Spring of eating fruits and veggies with little taste. So let’s go over our favorites and some tips for getting the best garden possible.
Rules that Britt’s Grandma passed onto her were: don’t plant vegetables that have a similar leaf type next to each other. For example don’t plant dill and carrots beside one another or potatoes and squashes next to each other. Think about vegetables that you would naturally eat together and plant them next to each other like peas and carrots.
Don’t Stress! Some years are better for growing certain vegetables than others. Last year squashes grew poorly, whereas the year before that squashes were plentiful! So go easy on yourself and keep trying even if you have a year where nothing grows.
Early Season Vegetable Garden Ideas
The first vegetables that will pop up in your garden are spinach and radishes. Both of these are easy to grow and can handle some of the chillier summer mornings.
Radishes need to be pulled from the garden within about a week of becoming full size as they become wormy and woody (course texture) quite fast. For this reason, we like to plant radishes beside plants that will become larger later in the season.
For example, peas and potatoes are slower to start, but get large later on so when the radishes are done it gives more room for these plants to grow. Keep this tip in mind when planning out your vegetable garden ideas!
If you love radishes and spinach you can replant and get a second feeding from them, however they don’t do well in extreme heat.
Fresh garden salads are a staple in our homes. Almost any kind of lettuce can be started from seed and thrive. Romaine, Butter crunch, Brentwood (a new kind Britt tried last year and loved), mixed greens, Arugula or Rocket lettuce are all great to mix into your garden.
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Includes a list of our favourite seeds and supplies check list.
There are so many varieties of pea plants and they can produce such different results. We love the green arrow pea plant as it produces longer pods with sweeter peas. Edible peas are also delicious.
Snap peas are also a tasty and easy variation for the summer season. You can eat the entire shell of this pea so it makes it a fun variety to have for a quick snack.
psst… Britt built these raised garden boxes all by herself! If she can do it, so can you! HERE is how she did it.
You can never have enough carrots! Start these from seed and you will have a bountiful garden. Plus you can let them grown into the fall and they can store in the fridge, cold room or covering them with sand for MONTHS! Britt has found that carrots are harder to grow in her raised garden beds. Carrots like a cooler temperature and the soil in the garden boxes gets way hotter than a garden on the ground.
There are so many variations of carrots now a days, Deb likes to plant a few different colours of carrots to make for fun salads or roasted veggies at the end of the harvest. She has also mixed her radish seed in with her carrot seed in the past to reduce the amount of thinning needed for her carrots. The radish with mature faster than the carrots and as you pull the radish you will give ample room for your carrots to grow.
Deb also makes pickled carrots for her family to enjoy every year. If your wanting a great recipe try her Crunchy Homemade Pickled Carrots
Red or white potatoes? Britt prefers Red Pontiac Potatoes over a white potatoe. White Potatoes are good for keeping to grow for larger baked potatoes in the fall. Red potatoes are sweeter and more tender. Deb has also grown Vitelotte potatoes in the past that she was given by her neighbour from France. She kept a few potatoes each season as seed for the next year. This variation is very yummy and easy to cook with. Sometimes it’s fun to try new variations like this.
When potatoe plants get approximately 8-10 inches tall they must be “hilled.” Mount the dirt up around the plant as this is where the potatoes will grow. Potatoes hardly grow down so they require this dirt to produce.
Robbing Potatoes??? After your potatoe plant has flowered (usually light purple or white flowers will bloom on the plant) you may find a few potatoes to rob. Gently use your hand to dig around the plant and feel for small potatoes and pluck them out. You will not hurt the plant by doing this. However, if you feel a potatoe and you rip it from it’s root then you must pull it as it won’t continue to grow once this happens…so just enjoy eating it! If you are gentle you can feel around for the bigger potatoes and pull those ones.
Some herbs are easier than others to grow. Dill, parsley and chives are very easy for us to grow. For Britt’s zone other herbs like basil, oregano and thyme will require growing in a pot as in her zone the growing season is too short for them to grow. Deb however, grows thyme and oregano as a perennial in her herb garden. Both have to be controlled as they do spread and will take things over if not weeded each year.
Deb is also able to grow a large amount of basil in her herb garden each year from seed as it is well protected and has almost all day sun. She also grows rosemary, tarragon, sage and cilantro each year in the garden too.
Like a Radish this root vegetable is a great addition to your garden and easy to grow. Unlike the radish it takes time to grow and has a milder taste than the radish.
We have had success growing zucchini straight from seeds or starting it early in small pots in the Spring. This plant needs room to grow so you need to give it space! When planting Zucchini, you want to make sure it gets enough water for the first 7-10 days and a warmer growing season will really help as well.
Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts
These varieties of vegetables are becoming hardier allowing us to grow it! Both require a lot of sun and warmth however it can easily become wormy or full of Cabbage White Butterfly that eat the leaves.
Beets are a great root vegetable garden idea to add. You can eat the greens of beets early on before they become tough. Have you ever grilled beets? Baste them in extra virgin olive oil and seasoning and then put them on the BBQ until slightly tender and they are so sweet!
Swiss Chard prefers rich, well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Plant this colourful plant seed in early spring to midsummer for a fall crop. Harvest and sauté in truffle oil or butter for a quick summery green or if your wanting to try one of Deb’s all time favourite recipes, Swiss Chard and Sweet Italian Sausage Lasanga.
Due to our short growing season it is best to buy large plants already established if you want to enjoy tomatoes before the late summer. They require lots of sun, warmth and water! Fertilizer or compost soil can really help your tomatoes to grow. If you have a green house… even better!
Or if you have the room start your seeds indoors in March or April before taking them outdoors!
Pumpkins need to be started indoors in our climate. We will start them in Late March or Early April and transplant them when the ground warms up and the frost stops. A few of the variations we love to grow that are a bit different then your standard orange pumpkin are:
- Sugar Pumpkin
- Blue Jarrahdale
- Baby Boo
- Fairytale (best tasting and for cooking of the bunch)
- French Cinderella
- Indian Doll
We also love to cook with the pumpkins we grow. Check out a couple of our fav pumpkin recipes HERE.
Our friend Hannah from We Lived Happily Ever has the most amazing pumpkin patch and you can read all about her best secrets here!
Vegetable garden ideas and tips
Fertilizer for Vegetable gardens
Unlike flowers that you fertilizer high in potassium, you do not want this for vegetables. If you did this you would have vegetables with tones of leafy tops and little below. Pick a fertilizer where the 3 numbers (Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) are close to the same.
We also recommend adding some form of natural fertilizer like horse or sheep manure or compost to the garden each year as well! Just make sure to check the correct ratio for the compost mixture as it can burn or kill your seed if you add to much. Adding about a 10% compost mixture prior to planting will really give your garden a boost each year!
Deer Tolerant Plants
Sorry to say, but we don’t know a truly deer resistant plant. We are both lucky to not have deer problems so we don’t have the best advice for this topic. In the town near Britt the deer are out of control and because people have fed them, the deer will literally eat anything. The only thing you can do is to put up fences to keep them out.
If you are starting your garden from scratch or building garden boxes then you can use cardboard to line the base of your garden. The cardboard blocks the sunlight killing the weeds and then decomposes over time. The next best thing is to pull your weeds. If you keep your garden maintained each year you will find you have fewer and fewer weeds.
We hope this run down on vegetable garden ideas gives you a good idea of what to plant this year. Ordering your seeds in the early Spring is the perfect time of the year to get them here in time to start them indoors for the season. We would love to hear your favourite vegetable’s and varieties that you plant in the garden each year. Leave us a comment below or send us an email!
Now that you’ve got your veggies all figured out, it’s time to plant your flower garden! We have a whole list of Great Gardening Plants and Flowers HERE!