How to Start a Summer Vegetable Garden: A Guide for Beginners

Summer is right around the corner! It's time to start thinking about what you want in your garden. Knowing where your food came from is just one benefit of home vegetable gardening. You'll also save money by buying less from the grocery store. If you have kids, vegetable gardening is fun to get the whole family out in the fresh air and sunshine. If you are a beginner, this might seem like an overwhelming task. But don't worry, we have some tips that will help get your summer vegetable garden started on the right foot and ensure it has a successful start!

1. Preparing your garden

a. What is a vegetable garden

Prepare your garden for spring

A vegetable garden is where you grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, and other crops for human consumption. People have been growing their own food since before the 1800s when people started moving into cities and could no longer rely on farming communities for fresh produce all year round. In fact, many think it was during this time period that home gardening got its start! Nowadays, there are so many benefits associated with having your own little piece of heaven.

A vegetable garden can be any plot of land, from the size of your backyard to the size of an entire farm. What makes it different or special are its crops: vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, beans, and squash that you eat raw as salads; fruits such as apples and peaches eaten raw or cooked for jams with spices

b. Preparing for vegetable garden

Vita Gardens 4x4 Garden Bed with Grow Grid

You’ll need first to clear the space for your garden. This will involve clearing out any weeds, debris, or rocks in the area before you start planting anything. You can rent a rototiller if you want to till up large land areas and level it off with soil, but if there isn't much work needed to be done on the ground, all that is necessary is some good old-fashioned spadework.

Some people might find this task very difficult- especially when they don't know what needs to be done or how long each step should take to complete it efficiently. Hence, I recommend downloading an app called Tasker which will tell you exactly what steps are required and how long each one takes based on data inputted by you.

2. Choosing the right vegetables for your climate.

EAGLE PEAK Raised Garden Bed

Choosing the right vegetables for your climate is vital when starting a summer vegetable garden. There are many different varieties to choose from, but you must consider what will grow well in your zone before planting anything.

You want only plants that do best where we live and plan to grow them if possible. These include beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery root (celeriac), chard or Swiss chard variety such as 'Bright Lights,' chicory type endives including escarole and frisée; cucumbers - pickling types work well here too; eggplant of the purple or white varieties; kale - curly types also do well; lettuce of the green or red varieties such as 'Red Sails,' or oak leaf, mâche type endive including dandelion and regular (Eruca sativa); okra - types for drying work well here too; onions including yellow types like 'Texas Grano 101 Yellow Globe'; parsnips; peas, potatoes - whites grow best, but russets also do well.

Choosing which vegetables you want to grow can be tricky and heavily depends on where you live, what time of year it is when you're starting a garden and how much sunlight there will be.

For most conditions in North America, from Florida's heat (and humidity) to Maine's cold springs--beans should do well.

Some summer veggies that thrive when it's warm out also need these same temperature conditions - cherry tomatoes will do quite well if daytime temperatures aren't too high below 76 degrees Fahrenheit, asparagus needs temps between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and corn is usually only grown in warmer climates.

Other legumes like peas or fava beans might work well if they don't suffer from too much frost. Squashes are also usually hardy enough as long as they have plenty of sun exposure. At the same time, other veggies with more delicate flowers need protection from late frosts during the springtime planting season. Tomatoes are one of those plants that are actually a little bit difficult to grow in some climates, but they're worth it if you can manage them.

Choosing the right vegetables for your climate can help you be successful at growing vegetables this summer. Choosing veggies that grow well with a cooler environment will give you more time to harvest while choosing those that thrive in warmer weather will allow you to get an earlier start on harvesting vegetables!

3. Step-by-step of how to start a summer vegetable garden

Get a good place that has full sun so plants can grow. If you don't have any full sun place, put it somewhere warm or at least, warm weather

Get some good quality potting mix, raised bed, or garden soil that contains compost material like leaf mold or other organic matter, or make your own with composting materials such as leaves, grass clippings, hay, straw, and manure.

Choose a speed that is easy to grow. Plants like tomatoes and pepper s are best started from seed indoors in the hot weather of March.

Spread a layer of this raised beds mix on the ground inside your garden

Plant seeds or seedlings about two inches deep, at least 18" apart in all directions from each other. Pay attention to spacing requirements for different plant varieties when picking out what you're planting (some plants need more space than others)

Water thoroughly with water that has been mixed with some organic fertilizer like compost tea, worm castings, fish emulsion, bat guano, etc., until it's soaked into the wet soil below

Mulch around your young vegetables to keep weeds down and moisture levels up. At this stage, they also benefit from light shading provided by something like tree leaves suspended over them.

Harvest your vegetables when they are ready

4. Preparing the soil for planting.

Preparing the soil is an essential step in starting a vegetable garden.

There are many different ways to prepare your soil, and they will all depend on what type of soil you have and the climate where you live.

To prepare your soil, you must remove any weeds or grass and break up large clumps of dirt with a rake so that your seeds have an even surface to grow on.

You may also want to use wood chips or straw to mulch around plants like squash and tomatoes, which repel pests like slugs.

Some methods include digging down about six inches deep and mixing it with organic material such as compost or manure, tilling (turning the dirt over), double digging (digging down 12" deep then turning over again).

If you are unsure what type of rich soil you have, a simple test is to take a handful of dry dirt and squeeze it in your hand.

Loose, sandy soils will form lumps that fall apart when released, while clay soil will feel sticky or wet because the particles bind together so tightly.

5. Add compost to help fertilize the soil, so it's healthy for growing vegetables.

Jobe's Organics Compost Starter 4-4-2

Add the appropriate amount of compost to help with plant growth.

Add as much or little as you need, depending on how well your soil was before adding it and the size of your garden. Add enough water if there is a lack so that the organic materials can break down properly.

Add fertilizer to the soil.

Add fertilizer or organic matter to your garden soil, again depending on its current level and if you're adding compost or not. Add enough so that it's spread out evenly across the ground before planting anything in the area.

If you're not sure about what type of fertilizer to add, start with either blood meal or cottonseed meal

Add mulch around planted vegetables for weed prevention.

Mulching will help keep the surface of your soil moist and protect it from many types of weeds. Add mulch around planted vegetables for weed prevention, but don't put too much on top at once, or you may find removing old rotten leaves difficult later in fall when they start decomposing into nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Start by adding a layer of an inch or two in diameter as thick as what's available, and then add more layers until you reach the desired height. This will help prevent weeds from coming up as well as keep water from evaporating too quickly.

Take care when plant seeds in pots.

Please make sure they are deep enough to grow and avoid cross-contamination by double-dipping into potting mix before placing seedlings inside.

Plant vegetables separately from flowers at different times during the day based on their individual needs (e.g., seedlings need to be planted at night)

Add a trellis or stakes for plants that require vertical support, like cucumbers and tomatoes. Add water garden items (e.g., floating row covers) during the hottest times of the day when sunlight is most intense: early morning and late afternoon.

6. When to plant your vegetables to get them planted before the first frost of winter approaches.

June is a great time to start planting your summer vegetables. You want the soil to be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait until it starts getting warmer outside and there's no chance of rain before you plant if you live in cooler climates or more humid environments (like Seattle), use row cover fabric to keep seedlings warm and moist during germination. Row covers are typically spun-bonded polyethylene that lets water vapor through while blocking sunlight for heat control.

Plant summer squash by midsummer because they don't take as long to grow and will be ready to harvest before the first frost of winter approaches.

Don't try plant peppers or eggplants unless you live on the coast. These are not cold-hardy crops and must come from somewhere else if you want them for your garden (e.g., a greenhouse).

Typically, seeds should be planted one inch deep and two inches apart.

You can also start plants indoors six weeks before transplanting outside. If it's been scorched this year, consider watering more than normal during hot days so that plants don't wilt and die.

Plant them in an area with a lot of sunlight is the best option. Consider plant in rows for more efficient harvesting later on.

Keep an eye on the temperature. If it's too hot outside, choose a spot that has some shade. If you want to keep your garden organic and don't use any pesticides or herbicides, consider planting different varieties so pests won't be eating all of one kind.

7. How to keep pests away from your plants with natural solutions like garlic, peppermint oil, or cayenne pepper

When planting your garden, keep some cayenne pepper in an old coffee can or herb planter.

You can keep pests away with natural solutions like garlic, peppermint oil, or cayenne pepper. Place a clove of garlic on the soil at each plant and keep it there until harvest time.

To keep insects off your plants, use peppermint oil by placing drops around the leaves of affected plants every few days as needed. Peppermint also has antiseptic properties that keep fungus from spreading, so make sure to add some of this solution if you’re battling any other form of pest infestation too!

Cayenne is another great way to repel bugs without using harmful pesticides because they don't have an immunity to it like we do. It's actually used in many commercial insect repellents for this reason. Just keep in mind that cayenne can also be used to keep animals off your plants, so if you have any, they may need their own protection as well.

The last thing I want to mention about this topic is the importance of mulching around and under your vegetable plants (and all other plants, for that matter). Mulch helps hold moisture, keep weeds down, and insulates roots from extreme heat, which can cause them damage or even death over time! It just makes sense to keep it up regularly.

This technique does work well as long as you keep up on removing any dead clove pieces. Otherwise, they may attract insects looking for food sources if left unattended too long.

8. Water them daily, but don't let the water pool on top of the soil, or it will get too wet 

Water daily (at least twice). Water the plants thoroughly, but don't let the water pool on top of them.

Watering too often can drown them while watering infrequently will dry out their roots. Water is just enough so that it is moist but not wet and squishy.

Water from below the leaves and avoid splashing excess water onto foliage when watering at ground level.

Water early in the morning or evening so that no hot sun shines directly on plant stems during midday heat waves before noon or after sunset near dusk. Plants need about one inch of moisture per week for optimum growth. If rain does not supply this amount, supplemental irrigation may be required between rains - usually, one day every two weeks should suffice unless weather conditions are unusual.

9. Be patient - some vegetables take longer than others to grow!


Be patient and wait for your vegetables to grow. Be sure to harvest the vegetables when they are ripe so you can get a good yield and not let them go to waste.

Be sure to clean your vegetables well, and make sure they are ripe before you eat them!

Be aware of which type of vegetables need more sun or water than others - this will help make things easier!

Different types of plants have different needs for sunlight and moisture. Some generally prefer direct sunlight, while others can get by with less light and more watering. Be mindful about what kind of vegetable garden you want to create, as some may take up all the time in your day if not situated correctly. If there is enough space outside your home, try growing veggies from seedlings so that it's easy to move around when needed instead of starting everything from seeds exclusively. Otherwise, be prepared for an adventure into bigger projects!

Be sure to check for bugs before eating vegetables or planting them in your garden. Check the plants regularly and make a habit of checking for pests like snails, caterpillars, aphids, beetles, and other insects that may want to eat your hard work. Be sure not to plant any flowers near where you are growing vegetables as they attract these types of pests who will take over the food source instead!

10. Tips on harvesting and storing fresh produce at home

BIG Luffa / Loofah Vegetable Seeds

Tips on harvesting:

Pick crops early or late in the day. Harvest produces as soon as it is ripe because harvesting vegetables at the right time is important to ensure that they are fresh. Harvest some of your produce every week, so you don't have to haul it all inside at once

As you harvest the vegetables, make sure to leave a few inches of stem so that the plant will continue growing. To keep plants looking tidy, take cuttings from leaves for new starts.

Harvest corn before it has dried on the cob, and harvest beans when their pods have become dry or shriveled up.

Pick crops like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers as soon as they have reached maturity (slightly soft). If left too long, these will start to decay rapidly once picked from the plant.

Avoid harvesting frozen produce - wait until your plants in your garden start producing more fruits and vegetables than you can eat!

Tips on storing:

The best way to store vegetables is in the fridge and containers that don't allow air or moisture to enter.

To keep your produce fresh, make sure you take off any damaged parts before storing them inside a container with an absorbent paper towel at the bottom of it.

If possible, try not to wash your carrots until you're ready for use because water will speed up their decay rate. This also applies to other types of root vegetables like parsnips and potatoes.

You can store your homegrown veggies in airtight containers or plastic bags with holes punched in them to allow circulation. Ensure they are placed out of direct sunlight and not near anything too hot (like an oven). Keep these tips handy as we go through this guide! :)

Store in a cool, dark place for up to one week (i.e., the crisper drawer). Store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and heavy odors for up to three days.

Freezing raw fruits or veggies will lock in their nutrients because the process of freezing essentially stops all enzyme activity that causes the loss of vitamins during cooking.


Q: What makes this type of garden different from others?

A: Usually, these gardens are small enough to grow in an average-sized backyard or on land that will not otherwise be used. There's also more natural sunlight because they require less maintenance than bigger gardens like commercial farms do.

Q: When is the best time to start my garden?

A: It's hard to say because it depends on where you live. Most people recommend planting in March or April would be fine if you are in a warmer climate. If you're getting started later than this, try September or October, so your harvest doesn't happen too late into the winter months.

Q: How much time does it take? What supplies will I need?

A: The total length of the growing season is around four months (April-October), so if you start with seeds now through April, by October, there should be plenty of vegetables ready for harvest. It may also take more than one person depending on what type of gardening method(s) you decide to do, but overall, it really just takes an hour or two every day - that's all! If you want to be more hands-on, then a few hours each weekend is plenty.

You will need seed packets, a lot of them, pole beans, green beans, raised beds, a handbook of the growing season.


You can start a vegetable garden any time of year, but it's best to do so in the summertime. That way, you'll have access to all the products you grew and harvested while also having plenty of sunlight hours for your plants to grow during their long days! I hope this guide has helped answer some questions about getting started with gardening and give you some ideas on what kinds of vegetables might be good choices for beginners like yourself. Happy planting!

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James Andrews
James Andrews
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