Tips for the first time vegetable gardener

Growing up on a farm, I spent my share of time in the vegetable garden. The garden was large enough to produce vegetables to feed the family for a year by canning the surplus vegetables. The best part is what I learned from my mother about gardening. For instance, Mom taught me the difference between sprouting seeds and sprouting weeds. Her wisdom was, "if in doubt, don't pull it out" at least until it is obvious if it is a weed. Once I was living on my own, I started my own garden. I quickly discovered there were more things I needed to learn about gardening.

Garden location

Your gardening area needs to receive six to eight hours of sunshine. Choose an area away from trees, buildings, or other structures. Before you start digging, check the area after a rainstorm to ensure it drains well. If there is pooling of rainwater then the area does not drain well. Choose a higher area. The chosen location for the garden should be near a water spigot.


A large garden to one person could be a small garden to someone else. There is no standard size for gardens. I consider a small garden as 10 feet by 10 feet or smaller. Remember that the larger the garden, the more you will spend on seeds or transplants. My recommendation to first time gardeners is to go with a garden about 6 feet by 6 feet. As your experience and confidence grows, so can your garden. In addition, you can create a small garden with just a shovel to turn the soil. Though hand tools, like shovel and rake, are suitable to cultivate (break up the soil) any size of garden, you will find it easier to cultivate a large garden if you use a rototiller.


An estimate of how much time you may spend gardening is shown in Master Gardener Cindy Seeley's article, "BeginningVegetable Gardening," for Cornell Cooperative Extension. Ms. Seeley says, "It takes at least one hour to prepare, one hour to plant, and one half hour per week to maintain a 10 x 10 plot." Maintaining the garden includes removing weeds, watering, and fertilizing.

Did you also know …

It is best to plant garden rows in a north to south direction for optimal sunlight hitting the growing plants. In the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service article, "16 Easy Steps to Gardening in Alaska," gardening experts say to plant taller plants on the north side of the garden. This rule applies to most of the continental U.S. Taller plants may include peas or green beans growing on a trellis and tomatoes growing in cages. This tip is something that I learned from my local Cooperative Extension Service (CES). Each U.S. state has CES offices offering free information on things like plants, insects, fertilizer, weeds, and anything else associated with lawns or gardens. To find your local CES office, visit the CooperativeExtension System Offices website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.