Calling all Central Virginia homeowners! Grow your vegetables in a home garden.
You may have never gardened before, but growing your own vegetables isn’t as hard as you think. You can start a home vegetable garden by
- Using seeds
- Using plants bought at your local nursery or garden center
- Use bare rootstock or bulk seed from a seed catalog.
Why Plant Your Own Vegetable Garden
There are many reasons why you may want to start your own vegetable garden. Here are some popular reasons to start a vegetable garden from scratch:
- The joy of growing your food
- To save money on produce
- To eat local—you can’t get more local than the garden in your backyard
- To teach your children or grandchildren where their food comes from or to teach science, math, and geography
- To exercise and to lift your mood
- To break up the boredom of sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Try your hand at canning and freezing what grows in your garden.
How to Grow a Vegetable Garden
Creating a vegetable garden takes some manual labor, but it’s doable if you’re a beginning gardener. Plus, you can adapt gardening to your needs. For example, you can grow vegetables in a small backyard or on your patio if you’re short on space.
You can adapt the following steps to meet your needs. Here are seven steps to start your home vegetable garden:
- Find a sunny area in your yard. Vegetables need six hours of sunlight to grow.
- Plant in well-drained soil. Most vegetable plants don’t do well in soggy soil; it kills the roots (called root rot).
If there is poor drainage on your property, consider using raised garden beds or containers to plant your vegetables. Raised vegetable gardens are easier to keep organized as well as saves your back when bending to pull weeds and pick vegetables.
- Plant in a low wind environment. You want to attract pollinators to your garden to do their work to help your vegetable plants produce their fruits. A windy spot discourages pollinators from coming into your vegetable garden.
- Cordon off your vegetable garden to protect it from your kids playing in the yard. Also, if you have a deer problem, you may need to add a high fence to keep deer out of your vegetable garden.
- Start small, even if you have a large plot of property. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, raised beds help your vegetable garden stay contained. After you garden for a year or two, you can change your garden plot to planting directly in the dirt.
- Only plant the vegetables that you and your family will enjoy. For example, if your family hates red beets, then don’t plant red beets in your vegetable garden.
- Can, freeze, and give away excess produce. Don’t let produce go to waste; canning or freezing your vegetables, such as corn, provides food for your family over the winter. Also, give excess produce to neighbors, friends, and family.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends the following easy-to-grow vegetables for beginning gardeners:
- Tomatoes – You can start tomatoes indoors with seed, or you can buy tomato plants from a garden center or nursery.
- Zucchini and summer squash – Zucchini squash has a green peel with white dots, and summer squash has a yellow peel. You can plant these veggies by seed or as established plants. Make sure they have enough room to spread out.
- Cucumbers – Like zucchini and summer squashes, cucumbers are easy to grow. They need room since the cucumber plant likes to grow and climb. You can support your climbing plants with dowels or fencing.
- Leafy greens – Lettuces, Swiss chard, spinach, and other leafy greens are easy to grow. Make sure you stagger your planting, so you don’t need to harvest your leafy green crop at one time.
- Peppers – Green, orange, red and yellow peppers are staples in many salads and meat dishes. If you like a little spice, you can easily grow jalapeno peppers as well as other hot pepper varieties.
- Cabbage – Purple or green cabbage grows well in a beginner’s vegetable garden. You can make canned sauerkraut or use cabbage in a variety of dishes.
- Carrots – Carrots can be a little trickier to grow. Their seeds are tiny, and it may be a good idea to start carrots indoors first.
- Radishes – These hardy root vegetables are easy to grow. Just make sure your family enjoys eating these vegetables because they do have a bite to them.
- Marigolds – No, marigolds aren’t a vegetable, but they’re a natural repellent for keeping rabbits out of your garden. You’ll need to protect your plants from rabbits and other critters. Plant some marigolds with those crops, such as lettuce and cabbage that your local bunny population likes to eat too.
A couple of points to make concerning your first season of growing vegetables in a home garden:
- Consider using soaker hoses or drip irrigation in your vegetable garden to keep plants evenly moist without overwatering them.
- Ask a neighbor or a friend to water your vegetable garden while you’re on vacation.
- Central Virginia’s growing zones are 7a to 7b. Make sure to plant vegetables, fruits, and flowers based on the last freeze in your area. You can find your growing zone on the USDA’s website.
BCLS serves residential and commercial properties throughout Central Virginia.
Almanac.com, “Vegetable Gardening for Beginners.”
Miraclegro.com, “What is a Raised Bed Anyway?”