Nutrition Articles

A Beginner's Guide to Fruit and Vegetable Gardening

How to Start an Edible Garden

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People take an interest in gardening for a variety of reasons—higher quality produce, exercise in the great outdoors, or saving money. Whether you hope to discover your green thumb or save a little green, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be an advantageous pastime. When you're just getting started, gardening can be intimidating. How do you even know where to start? SparkPeople's gardening resources will help you learn the basics, starting with the five-step process outlined in this article.

Step #1: Gather Your Gear
You should gather several gardening tools before you get your nails dirty. I cannot stress enough the importance of quality tools. Speaking from experience, it is worth the investment to buy high-quality items, as broken or insufficient tools are not only frustrating but cost you more money and time in the long run. Proper tools provide more comfort and efficiency, which means less work for you! You can find most of these items in home improvement stores, gardening supply stores (or nurseries) and online retailers. Here's what you'll need to get started:
  • Trowel - Used for weeding and digging small holes
  • Gardening gloves - As much as we like getting our hands dirty, we don’t like getting them that dirty. A good pair of gloves can also protect your hands from bugs (if you're squeamish) and prickly plants and weeds.
  • Sun hat - For UV protection, make sure this is wide-brimmed and cinches
  • Watering can and/or hose – What you need will vary depending on your garden’s water needs and proximity to your water source
  • Wheelbarrow - For larger gardens, you'll need one to transport mulch, dirt, and compost
  • Roundhead shovel - For digging larger holes
  • Rake - Ideal for spreading mulch, and gathering or transporting debris that has collected around your garden and between plants
  • Shears - Use to prune away browning leaves or snipping herbs
  • Pitchfork - This is an essential tool if you are creating a compost heap or pile
Step #2: Choose Where Your Garden Will Grow
There are three common types of gardens, all of which have their own pros and cons: traditional (in-ground), container, and raised beds. Once you've picked out the sunny spot where your garden will reside, it's time to decide on one (or a combination) of these three garden types, depending on your needs.
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About The Author

Jenny Sigler Jenny Sigler
Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her young children, Augustine and Olive. An avid gardener and baker, she enjoys writing about health and childcare topics to empower people to make healthy choices. See all of Jenny's articles.

Member Comments

  • TANVIR71
    If you want to eat fresh vegetable starting a vegetable garden at home is a good idea. This is also helping to save your money. For this you need to some fertile soil and a few plants. But to be a really successful vegetable gardener you will need to understand what conditions take to keep your plants healthy and vigorous.
    -a-vegetable-garden/ - 10/14/2015 5:00:28 PM
  • Hi Jenny - my 11 year old son is also called Augustine. My daughter is called Magdalen - Augustine is not a common name and I love it - obviously you do too - 6/13/2014 6:40:02 PM
  • Been gardening for 40 years and love it. However, I do a lot of canning and freezing all summer long that way I have my fruits and vegetables all year long and I know what's in my food. If your a beginner start small until your familiar with what your growing. Just to tell you a story I work in a garden center that is mostly vegetables and flowers plus landscaping. We also do contract work for a very large pick your own produce farm. We had one tray left of watermelon plants from this farmer so we were told to take what we wanted. Seeing I had the most room and garden they gave me a lot. For some reason they grew like weeds and had 35 pound watermelons and a half acre of them. Needless to say we gave so many away people did not want them. They were so good I wish I had one now. There are so many stories I could tell about my gardening but what fun would that be you need to create your own garden and stories - 3/28/2014 8:35:13 AM
  • SIXPETE, I just visited the self-watering container site on Pinterest. What a neat idea and one that I can try! Thank you for sharing! - 3/27/2014 2:25:55 PM
  • I love to garden, but have ceased doing so. We live in a drought-stricken area. - 3/27/2014 2:18:30 PM
    Coolest self-watering container garden ever--- Check out "self-watering container" on Pinterest--I had an AMAZING crop of tomatoes and cucumbers using 18 gallon totes last year.

    I especially recommend a design that includes a tube inserted to the water reservoir and a drainage hole to prevent overwatering. But this way, you fill the reservoir and never worry about the quick drying out of soil in the dry months.

    These are fun, easy and WORTH IT! - 3/20/2014 4:24:48 PM
  • arrgh... my problem is pests! and no shade in my yard. it's too much sun for even sun-loving plants if they're in containers, and anything i put in the ground gets bothered by a pest of some sort... we're bordering army corps of engineers property, so we have a gorgeous view of lush trees behind our home, but only a little yard between here and there - and there's really not much we can do to keep out all the pests! deer, squirrels, rabbits... i'm sure you could do some things but i don't know what, and last time i tended several plants, i left town for a few days and the fruit that would've been ready to pick was what appeared to be trampled and rotten... something even trampled all the vines so nothing else grew. i guess it completely dampened my spirit that year and hasn't recovered. i'd like to do containers on my deck, but i have very little space up there... - 6/17/2013 5:52:39 PM
  • KLUTZY68
    You have probably heard of weed barrier and landscape fabric. They work to keep weeds down but they're very $$. Alternatives can be old sheets, black garbage bags or plastic sheets, tin foil, newspaper, brown packing paper, cardboard... Lay them out, hold them down with rocks, bricks, soil, etc. Cut a hole and plant your seedling. With foil, plastic, cardboard, and maybe packing paper, place a soaker hose underneath or water each plant through the hole (very gently, just a trickle). Newspaper and fabric will allow water to soak through. The biodegradables can be added to the compost pile. Another good way is to use no barrier but put all your grass clippings on the beds, leaving a little space around the plants. Just keep adding them all summer, the plants love them. Ask your neighbors for theirs, too. Obviously you don't want clippings that have been treated with herbicides or pesticides! - 5/9/2013 6:29:02 PM
  • KLUTZY68
    Gee I wrote a long bunch of tips for you guys and it never got posted! Basically, adults buy each other your holiday gifts now, stuff for the garden. Container plants need a LOT of regular watering; Google self-watering containers including DIY. Use a purchased soil for containers; I like the Miracle-Gro mix with fertilizer, but it is not organic. Get soaker hoses if you plant an in-ground or raised bed garden; water twice a week for ~4 hours as early in the morning as possible, pref 4-8am; you can use a timer. Check square foot gardening site for handicap garden ideas. Totally agree about the tools! Look for old ones at yard and rummage sales. You probably can get by with a hoe and a garden rake (the hard type, not the flexible leaf type); I use a big spoon to dig planting holes. and yes a fork for compost. Start small with seedlings not seeds, but beets, carrots, scallions, beans and peas can be done with seeds. Pant a few things you really love to eat and see how it goes. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your lovely fresh food! - 5/9/2013 6:13:07 PM
  • I'd say, keep it simple! You'll learn as you go. If you are just container gardening on a patio or balcony, or using a small, pre-existing garden bed, forget about stocking up on lots of,high-quality. pricey tools, you don't need them. Get a decent metal hand trowel. Buy or borrow a shovel and hoe, or rent a roto-tiller if you need to break up sod for a large, new bed. Garden gloves, absolutely--I rotate three pairs. Sunblock and a cheap sun hat, yes. Then improve the soil with lots of compost, buy the plants you want--and then go have fun! - 5/9/2013 11:08:04 AM
  • I found that tomatoes were not a good starter plant, they required more time than I thought and it was hard to do on the balcony of an apartment. What did work was cactus, believe it or not I originally managed to kill my cacti by over watering them. Now I can manage to keep some fresh herbs alive. - 7/25/2012 6:30:53 AM
  • I have a garden every year and enjoy working in it too. you can see my garden pics in my gallery and very proud to have them displayed there. I have had several tomatoes so far. My cucumbers have bloomed and will have some to be picked in a few weeks now. The temperatures have been hot, but I still get them watered and dirt broke around them. - 7/25/2012 2:16:49 AM
  • Good article, but it's July! Is that planting season in either hemisphere? - 7/9/2012 8:07:29 PM
    How can I save this article! I absolutely loved it and Im excited!!!!!!!!! - 7/9/2012 6:14:34 PM
    There is another form of gardening too, Aeroponics! Even if the initial start up may seem like a lot these little guys are amazing and are an alternative for people who live in apartments or condos! https://organic.t
    - 6/26/2012 12:19:44 AM

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