We started a garden! I've created the Beginners Guide to Starting a Garden to share everything I learned as I got our veggies and herbs started. The whole family is excited to plant, grow, and harvest fresh ingredients from this space!
If you follow me on Instagram on Facebook and watch my stories you may have seen that six weeks ago I started a veggie and herb garden right in my own backyard! I started with zero experience and plenty of nerves; I typically kill house plants (even cactuses and succulents!) and have never tackled a project like this before. It took a bit of up-front cost and effort, but now that my veggie garden is up and running I'm excited to save money and watch our garden grow! I wrote this Beginners Guide to Starting a Garden to share everything I've learned.
In this post I'll cover:
- Why we started this gardening adventure
- The veggies and herbs we put in our first home garden
- Everything we used to get started (beds, tools, dirt, and more!)
- Soil! I learned a lot about DIRT!
- Tips for keeping deer away from your garden
- How we planted our first garden
The main reasons I started our home garden were to get the kids involved and to eat more veggies. I also wanted to experience fresh produce and herbs and have them readily available. It's also great for the environment and will save us money in the long run! What amazes me is a pack of organic zucchini seeds is $2.99 and I'm told it can yield dozens of zucchini throughout the season. That definitely saves money in the long run for a small investment up front! I also set up a watering system so I don't have to remember to water the downstairs gardens ever.
What I'm Growing on the Deck
I selected based on what was easy, what I personally love, and what I knew my family would eat. I've been so excited about the progress we've seen! The photos above show when things first started sprouting, and in the ones below you can see six weeks of progress. SO COOL! We're growing:
- Lettuces (kale, arugula, mixed greens) - we're also growing extra lettuce in the screened-in portion of our deck on the dining table as a centerpiece!
- Green beans
- Radishes - two types
- Herbs - cilantro, parsley, chives, dill, mint (all my faves!)
- Tomatoes - Roma and cherry
I decided against heirloom tomatoes because I learned they can be difficult to grow because they tend to split if they aren't watered consistently and with the same amount of water. They didn't seem like a good fit for my first rodeo, but maybe next year! I will definitely update the Beginners Guide to Starting a Garden as I go.
What I'm Growing Downstairs
- Sweet bell peppers
- Yellow squash
- Mint - I sprinkled this in rows around the perimeter of the garden beds as a deer deterrent! This is especially important since our home backs up to the woods
In July I plan to plant pumpkins and maybe some winter squash if I'm feeling ambitious! I was told not to grow celery or carrots right off the bat since they are more difficult. So far, the radishes have been the quickest and easiest. My zucchini, yellow squash, watermelon, green beans, and bell peppers are taking awhile and just starting to sprout. The beets seem to be doing well but aren't quite ready for harvest! My cilantro and dill are taking off, but the parsley, chives, and mint are struggling for some reason. I'm going to reseed and try again.
Beginner Gardening Equipment
- Garden Beds - We had one extra bed that we turned into a sand box for the kiddos! They LOVE it.
- Landscaping Fabric - This goes into the garden bed lining the bottom before you dump the soil in. It helps prevent weeds from overtaking your garden (it is also recommended for gardens with bushes and perennial flowers for the same reason).
- Starter Gardening Tool Set - Another favorite amongst the kids; they loved all the different tools and learning what each one did! I love that this set came with everything we need.
- Gardening Gloves (elbow length to protect forearms) - I learned quickly that cucumber, watermelon, zucchini and yellow squash plants are extremely prickly and can cut up your forearms really good. So I bought these gardening gloves and absolutely love them. I use them when I harvest those plants or am weeding around those plants. I also use them when I'm removing dead leaves from those plants and arranging the plant over the trellis.
- Kitchen Scissors - These are what I use to harvest the salad greens and herbs. They are sharp and have the perfect weight. I also use them in the kitchen in my everyday cooking. Use discount code "ELAINE" for 10% off your entire order.
- Plant Labels & Markers - These are waterproof, so they won't run or bleed when they get wet, and they help us keep track of everything that's in our garden!
- Timers for the Downstairs Garden - I set these to water everything twice a day, at 7am and 7pm, for 20 minutes. Easy as can be!
- Hose for the Downstairs Watering and Hose Sprinkler with Splitter- This is the hose we hooked up to the timer!
- Watering Can for the Upstairs Garden - This is a highly coveted chore at my house! The kids love helping with the watering can and making rain for the plants.
- Stakes and Clips - These stakes will support the tomatoes and other vining plants as they begin to grow. I'll attach the vines using the clips!
- A-Frame Trellis - This saves space in a smaller gardening space and lets the plants grow up rather than out...plus, I think they look really pretty! I can't wait to see them with vines wrapped around them.
- Garden Hose Nozzle - This is a great nozzle if you're planning to manually water your garden. I use it for the front of our house and love it!
- Vertical planter bed - I don't have this but it is great for balconies or limited space!
- Organic Fertilizer - 1 month after planting the seeds I spread this fertilizer overtop and will repeat monthly.
- Tomato Fertilizer - This is the same as the organic fertilizer above but specifically for tomatoes.
- Slug & Snail Bait - I very quickly noticed a slug issue on my cucumbers so have been using this and it did the trick. You can also use a beer can and cut it in half to attract the slugs. They will be attracted to the beer and unable to climb out of the can.
All About Soil
It's easy to go down a rabbit hole with the millions of options for soil! In the end I went with organic Miracle Gro. It gives plenty of bang for your buck, which is nice because you'll need up to 16 bags of soil for one raised planter bed. Depending on how far you'll be transporting all that dirt, you may need a wheelbarrow! Luckily we were able to borrow one. Soil is costly, but it's the foundation for your garden! Remember that it won't need to 100% be replenished every year. Thankfully, the upfront cost is the highest one! Read more about organic potting soil right here. I ended up buying soil from Sam's Club for $8.58 a bag. It's also available at Costco and Lowe's! Double check that you're buying potting soil or raised bed soil.
Deer and Home Gardens
Deer can absolutely destroy your garden if you're not careful, so it's important to plant with them in mind! With our house backing up to the woods this was especially important to me. I learned that deer usually avoid root vegetables that they have to dig up, and they don't like prickly veggies like cucumbers or squashes with hairier leaves. Plants with sharp odors such as onion, fennel, and garlic are also of no interest to deer. This is why I planted mint and veggies they wouldn't like along the perimeter of my raised garden beds downstairs, and then did lettuces and herbs upstairs where they wouldn't be accessible to Bambi! You can read all about deer-resistant garden plants right here.
How to Plant a Garden
Once my raised beds were assembled and filled with soil I just did a bit of planning! You can draw this out or just start placing stakes in the garden and moving things around so they fit. I read the depth and space guidelines on the seed packets and followed the directions closely. Vertical rows kept everything nice and organized, and I just used my finger to run a line in front of each stake! We dropped seeds in, covered them loosely with soil, and watered them daily. That's really it!
One month after planting my garden I sprinkled organic fertilizer over everything. I bought an organic tomato fertilizer too, so I'm prepared with this as a natural pest control should I need it. So far I haven't needed to purchase anything to protect the plants but I will report back in a month once more grows downstairs near the woods! I also have organic insecticide on hand in case I start noticing holes in any of the leaves.
My Thoughts So Far
Overall I'm surprised at how easy this process was given how much work I thought it would be! The upfront cost and work is a bit of an effort but beyond that it's just been daily watering. Believe me...If I can do this, anyone can! It has been so fulfilling to harvest food that we grew from seeds. The kids get so excited along with me and they love checking on the progress of the plants! The flavor of the fresh arugula is SO fresh and spicy. It's like nothing I have ever tasted before...not even from the farmer's market! The radishes were crispy and spicy...I'm obsessed and so proud. I cannot wait for more to grow in the coming weeks!
Drop any questions/comments below and I'm happy to answer/help! Follow on IG stories for weekly updates on how the garden is doing... If you have a home garden already please tell me what you are growing and any tips! I'm still learning myself every day and it has been a fun adventure.