You can start a vegetable garden on your balcony, backyard, or front yard. So, no matter how small your outdoor space is, you can get started with what you have.
As an urban homesteader, I’ve even grown vegetables in my apartment next to a very sunny window. Herbs and tomatoes grow well in this sort of space. Regardless of the amount of space you have or the types of things you’d like to grow, there are a few things to keep in mind for every beginner vegetable garden.
Make a Garden Plan
The first step to starting a new vegetable garden is to map out your garden. Simply draw up an approximate plan of where you’d like everything to go, keeping as close to scale as possible. Make sure you take into account paths and such.
Next, you need to decide which vegetables you wish to grow. In order to know which fruits and vegetables to plant, you need to know what types of plants will grow where you live. Plant hardiness maps will help you figure out which plants will grow best.
Make a list of everything you’d like to grow, and then narrow the list down to those that you can easily get locally. For example, exotic lettuces may be expensive and hard to find, and tomatoes from grocery stores usually taste terrible.
Map out where you’d like all of your plants to go in your garden. Be sure to plan carefully, because improper planning can lead to disasters later. Once you develop your plan, it’s very important to stick to it.
You should study your plants carefully. Some vegetables will need a lot of sun, and some will require more shade. It’s very important to be sure you’re planting all of your vegetables in areas where they’ll grow well.
Use the French Cultivation Method
If you’re low on space, you can utilize the French cultivation method. This is an easy way to make the most out of the little space you have. Let’s say you wish to sow spinach and carrots. You’d take one packet of each and mix them together.
Then you’d make a ½ inch deep furrow in a row and sow the mixture of the two seeds into that furrow and cover. The spinach will grow quickly and open up the soil so the carrot seeds can germinate better.
In about four weeks, you can start to harvest some spinach to thin it, making room for the slower-growing carrots. By the time the carrots start to reach maturity, the spinach will be completely used up, and the carrots will have plenty of room to grow.
This method can successfully be used for many different types of vegetables. Radishes can be planted well with lettuce or parsley, for example. The French will often sow early radish varieties with lettuce and turnips all at the same time.
The radishes grow extremely quickly and are gone by the time the lettuce starts to mature. Then the turnips don’t get large until the lettuce has been harvested. If you’re planting your rows in an east-west orientation, you should plant all of your taller plants on the north side.
This is to ensure that the taller plants don’t block the sunlight from reaching shorter plants. Corn is the tallest plant that is normally grown in vegetable gardens, so it should always be placed where it won’t block sunlight from other plants.
You can also creatively use larger plants to shade shorter plants that don’t do well in harsh sunlight. For example, you could grow delicate cool-weather spinach behind large, bushy beans or peas.
This could help you grow shade-loving vegetables in your garden, even if you don’t have any shady spots available. By being creative with placement, you might be able to grow vegetables you never thought you’d be able to grow in your location!
With the right amount of planning, mapping out your potential garden space, and thinking creatively about plant placement, you can start a vegetable garden from scratch. Learning to grow vegetables, even in an urban environment, is just one of the pre-homesteading skills I discuss.
I’m a 40-something writer who enjoys cooking, being outside, travelling, participating in community and cultural events, and learning new things. This website is my journey of discovery – to allow me to learn how to be more self-sufficient in order to be better prepared for the present and the future.