Alicia DeVore

When I first dreamed of growing a garden, I had an image of walking out to a lush, full garden in my yard filled with my own vegetables ripe for me to pick and eat right after harvesting.

But that’s not the reality I experienced those first few seasons of having a garden. Vegetable gardening can feel like too much work for the little harvest you get from it. I used to be that person who wasn’t sure it was worth the time, the effort, the expense, and the failures to try to grow a garden.

But I’m here to say that after many years of learning in my garden, I have a few essential steps to show you how to start a new garden successfully in your backyard with less time and expense. I have taken these steps from my own experiences, from training, and from working with clients in helping them grow a garden successfully and eat organically all year.

how to start a garden successfully in backyard

Get the Knowledge for Success

When I started that first garden, I would have loved having the information clearly laid out so that I could know what to do that would bring success.

Instead, I failed and learned from those hard places in the garden. I want to encourage you to not let those first experiences define you as a gardener. It gets easier as you learn and practice what you learn.

The trial and error of growing a garden can be difficult, but with the right set up you have more than half of what you need to bring success. Here is a blog post on how to grow successfully in small and tight spaces. And another blog post on the best gardening books and this post to read as a new gardener.

Evaluate Your Existing Garden or Future Garden space

Let’s take a trip to your backyard or porch and evaluate what you already have for a garden or the potential space for your future garden. If you only have a small space, check out this article on ideas for small spaces.

Where to put a New Vegetable Garden?

When you are looking for a house to buy, it all comes down to location. You want the house close to work, good schools for the kids, and a great space to live.

Same for your garden, location is the first step to success. Your future garden needs lots of direct sunlight. In the summer, you need 6 or more hours and, in the fall, and spring, your garden needs 4 or more hours of direct sun.

watering can next to a garden growing tomatoes

Sketching the Sun

Taking a few minutes one day each season and sketching out how much sun the area of your garden is getting is worth your time. I like to encourage students taking any of my vegetable gardening courses to watch and record three times of day, one day each in fall, spring, and summer because the sun and shade change depending on the season. Go out at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to track and record where the most sun is, and shade hit the garden each time period.

I use a plain paper notebook to keep this record each season. It makes it easier to track the exposure to direct sunlight in potential or existing gardens.

Example from Garden:

Sunlight can make all the difference in the world to your garden. In one of my gardens with partial shade, I planted broccoli, greens, and parsley for fall. In another part of my garden, that is higher on a hill and gets more sun, I planted the same cool weather crops.

The difference of the two garden beds is so drastic. The one with less sun is small and the plants are weak. The raised garden bed that receives two more hours of full sun is flourishing and three times the size of the first bed. The only difference between the two is the amount of sunlight.

If your garden is not installed yet, this is a perfect opportunity to make sure that the placement of your garden is in the sunniest spot with plenty of direct sun. If you already have your garden in place, then plant crops that don’t need as much sun like garlic and herbs.

Best Soil Health

Our gardens are like humans. When I lower the amount of carbs I eat, I actually sleep better. My health improves from the extra deep sleep and I’m able to function with more clarity throughout the day.

Same goes with garden plants. The soil is the lifeline to how well the plants will grow. When the garden bed is filled with healthy soil, then you have less bugs attacking your plants, you have greater growth, and more veggies and fruits producing.

Garden Tip: use organic fertilizer every few weeks to give added support during planting time and growth of plants.

person with small shovel digging in dirt

Soil Test

Soil testing has become a crucial part of my gardening. Every fall I test to see what my garden needs in nutrients to produce for the next year. If I’m able to add nutrients that have been used up from previous seasons, then I have eliminated problems for my garden and given it the support needed to keep producing.

Using organic products and natural solutions is easy to do in the garden. Do a soil test like this one from Amazon. When you get the results back from the lab, then you know what nutrients to add to your soil. If you need to know where to find these nutrients, I have a resource page with links to products that I use in my garden. And to find amazing products for smaller spaces to garden, check out this list of resources.

Where’s the Water?

Watering can be the thing that kills many gardens, too much or not enough. If your garden is far from a watering source, getting out to the garden on a regular weekly schedule can make it hard. In the heat of summer, your garden will need more water. In later fall and early spring, your garden will need less, but will still need it.

When I set up gardens for clients, I add a drip watering system connected to a timer. This allows the gardener freedom from the water chore. The hard work is done for them because the watering timer and system is keeping the garden watered, making gardening so much more enjoyable. Adding a drip system also gives the plants a slow water source that doesn’t overload the root system for health.

Having an automatic watering system working efficiently is a game changer for many gardeners and is a must for a garden you build for success with less work.

Water spraying from a sprinkler head in a garden with marigolds growing

Decide What Veggies to Grow

Start Small

These are some common challenges new gardeners face. Often making large garden plans is how it all starts. The excitement of thinking about growing your own food can feel doable at the beginning. But this big plan can become overwhelming.

Get practice at growing a small garden. Add more to the new vegetable garden with each season as you learn more of what you like to eat and how much time you have to invest in the garden.

A homeschooling mom took Simple Gardening Method with Kids Course with no gardening experience. The family of five children started the process of learning how to garden and had such a fun time watching things grow in two small beds that they decided that each child in the family would have a garden bed to continue growing through vegetable gardening. They expanded their garden as their knowledge grew.

Garden Plan

Knowing what plants grow in each season was a game changer for me. There are three seasons of plants to grow. Cool season plants like the temperature to be 35-75 degrees in early spring, while warm season plants enjoy living in 65–85 degree weather, and finally hot season plants like it 85 degrees or hotter.

To know what to grow in your new vegetable garden, grab the planting plan freebie that has the plants that grow best in each season with a plan for fall, spring, and summer gardens. Here is a planting plan FREEBIE to get you started with knowing what to plant for each season. Or check out 23 great beginner gardening books to help you start HERE.

Greens growing with flowers in a raised garden bed

Grow What You Love to Eat

If you were to go to a local farmer’s market, what veggies and fruits do you gravitate towards?

In each season, what would you love to be able to have close to the house in your backyard, organic, and to use for meals because you like to eat it?

In the summer, I live for my favorite vegetables, like fresh tomatoes off the vine. I plan on having small red tomatoes, large heirloom tomatoes, and my favorite, bumblebee tomatoes. I can’t wait to have the first Caprese salad of the season with tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. I dream about this taste of summer all year long.

And when summer veggies are abundant, I make fresh tomato sauce from a few bowls of tomatoes. My family loves eating it, I love using what we have and eating organic, fresh food without paying the crazy high prices.

What would you love to grow that would bring health & happiness on your plate? Check out this blog post for encouraging gardening quotes.

What Materials Do You Need?

Raised bed

A raised bed is a great way to start gardening for many reasons. One of the primary advantages of raised garden beds is that they allow gardeners to control the quality of the soil and less weeds. Planting in a raised garden bed can improve drainage, provide an easier planting experience, and make weeding much simpler.

Raised garden bed with cool weather crops growing

Containers

Container gardening is an ideal option for gardeners who are starting out, as it allows gardeners to learn the basics in a low-pressure environment. Containers come in all shapes and sizes and can be used to grow virtually any type of vegetable or herb. HERE is a blog post to give you more information about growing in small spaces. And if you need items that will fit in small spaces for gardening, check out this blog post for more options.

lady with yellow watering can watering her outside container garden

Vertical planters

Vertical planters are an ideal choice for gardeners just starting out because they provide many advantages over traditional garden beds. Vertical planters are easier to set up, less expensive to maintain, and require less space than garden beds.

One of the biggest advantages of vertical planters is the amount of space they save. You can have up to 40 plants in a vertical planter like a Greenstalk. Get $10 off of a Greenstalk using this link. Check out this blog post to learn more about vertical planters. Here is a post on vertical planters in small spaces.

vertical planter with growing veggies on a patio

Good Soil and Compost

Nutrient-rich soil and compost is one of the best ways gardeners can ensure their plants thrive by using organic matter. The soil, which is made up of a mixture of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in compost, provides all the essential minerals, soil microbes, and nutrients that are necessary for plant growth.

Compost improves the structure of soil, making it more able to hold water and nutrients for plant growth.

You can find organic compost at your local nursery or garden centers in bags or order from a soil company near you. Check to make sure that the compost is coming from a place where nothing is contaminated.

raised ed with only dirt

Seedlings and Seeds for the Right Season

Seedlings and seeds are essential for gardeners to have a successful plan. Different plants will require different types of seedlings and seeds depending on the season. By choosing the right seedlings and seeds for each season, gardeners can ensure it is filled with healthy and thriving plants. Check out this blog post that helps you garden in as little as 10 minutes a day. And this post will help you know how to plant your seedlings outdoors successfully.

Protection to Extend the Seasons

Protecting your vegetable garden from extreme temperatures, whether it is hot or cold weather, can be done effectively with the use of season extenders. Season extenders are used to protect garden plants from the outdoor elements and extend their growing season.

One way to extend your garden’s growing season is by using fabrics such as blankets, tunnels, and screens. These fabrics are designed to keep the temperature a few degrees higher or lower than the outside environment, allowing you to grow vegetables for a longer period. To learn more about growing in winter, check out this post.

Another way to extend the growing season is by using structures such as cold frames and hoop houses. Add more with each season as you learn more about what you like to eat and how much time you have to invest. Here is a blog post about growing in the winter for more information on season extenders for winter.

Planting Vegetables

Begin planting your vegetables when the temperatures match the crops you are planting. If you bought seed packets and seeding supplies, you could check the instructions in the packet. Seedlings should be planted 6-8 weeks before the first frost and 6-8 weeks before the last frost if growing cool weather crops.

pots ready to planted in the garden

Planting Intensively

Planting intensively is a vegetable garden-planning technique that involves increasing plant density within raised beds. It is a way of maximizing space and productivity by growing more plants in less space.

When you plant intensively, you can have different plants together which means you don’t have to worry about crop rotation. The plants are taking different things from the soil and that can confuse the bad insects from the different crops. No need for crop rotation. Also, different nutrients are getting used up with different crops being planted together. It’s a more balanced system of growth.

Observation is your Best Friend

Take a moment and observe after you plant.

Observing is key to success because it allows gardeners to keep track of the health and development of their plants. With regular observation, you can quickly spot potential issues in the vegetable garden, such as pests, disease, or nutrient deficiencies.

Taking vegetable garden notes is also a great way to keep track of gardening activities and successes. Keeping track of this information in a garden planner will help gardeners remember what happens from season to season in their plant vegetables, especially for your first vegetable garden.

Applying Mulch to your Garden Soil

Adding compost as mulch to garden beds is a great way to improve the quality of garden soil, maintain moisture levels, and reduce the number of weeds. When applied to garden beds in a thick layer (2-3 inches), it helps garden beds retain moisture and can suppress weeds from germinating.

Compost can be added to garden beds in the spring or fall, but gardeners should avoid adding compost during the hottest parts of summer as it may lead to plant stress due to excessive heat.

Make efficient use of space

The position of your vegetable garden is very important. To grow vegetables, it is equally important that you maximize your space. Many dream of growing huge gardens of plants and flowers.

But starting a vegetable garden small in the first few seasons helps you to build your confidence.

How to start a new garden successfully in your backyard with these tips

Quick Summary to How to Start a New Garden Successfully in Your Backyard

Location

Location is one of the most important factors. There are many spaces like raised beds to grow fresh veggies making it easy to grow vegetables.

Vegetable gardens need an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day for plants to thrive and produce food. Vegetables need different levels of sunlight, so it is important to know which vegetables require full sun, partial sun, or shade.

Soil

Soil is essential for success as it serves as the foundation and provides support for growth and plant roots. Quality soil needs to contain the right balance of nutrients, pH levels, and drainage for plants to thrive. If you’re starting a vegetable garden from scratch, it’s important to test your soil first to make sure it is suitable for vegetable plants.

Planting

Once you’ve chosen a vegetable garden location and prepared the soil, it’s time to grow vegetables.

Seedlings should be planted 6-8 weeks before the last frost date and seeds should be planted 2-3 weeks before the last frost date. Check out this post to help you garden through winter.

You can also space for succession planting so that every few weeks, you have fresh produce without missing out and growing continuously.

Maintenance

Vegetable gardening maintenance is key to success. This includes regular watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, pest control, mulching to prevent weeds, and time to harvest when plants are ready. By taking proper care, you can ensure a successful vegetable garden will produce delicious vegetables.

Watering Source

Watering is an essential part of vegetable gardens and vegetable garden maintenance. Properly watering helps to keep plants healthy and productive, as it helps to provide adequate moisture to the soil for plant growth. Without enough water, garden plants may become dehydrated, resulting in wilting or slow growth.

FAQ

What is the step-by-step process procedure in vegetable gardens?

Here is a 4-part system that can be done in less than an hour to help you know how to set up for success. For gardening freebies, check out the home page HERE. To start growing from seed to save money and to get better varieties, check out this blog post.

What is a good layout for a vegetable garden?

Check out this freebie to help you know what to grow each season and a guide to know your seasons for most vegetables. Grab your free planting plans for each season HERE. Or see what is offered on the main page for even more resources. For encouraging gardening quotes to keep you motivated, check out these quotes.

Here is MORE Gardening Help:

3 Ways to Garden in Small Spaces and Get BIG Harvests

Quick 10 minute Gardening Tips

What to do in Veggie Garden in Feb.?

Growing in Cool Weather in Pots or Growing Tips for Winter

Don’t have space- Check this page out.

Want to grow a garden with your kids? Check out this 12-week course to make it happen.

Here are my favorite gardening books as you learn about gardening. And 23 more amazing gardening books to check out.

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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