How to start a vegetable garden at home

April 2023

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get back outside into the garden! Instead of only planting your favourite flowers this year, consider adding some of your favourite vegetables to the mix.

Planting a vegetable garden has many benefits for your overall health and well-being. Gardening is a rewarding hobby that can benefit your mental, physical, and financial health.

Benefits of growing your own veggies

When you plant a vegetable garden, you’ll get more than just the best produce you’ve ever tasted! 

Studies have shown that those who plant their vegetable gardens or participate in urban garden programs start to eat more fresh vegetables, cook more meals at home, and decrease their fast food consumption.

Another study looked at 400+ gardeners and 400+ grocery store shoppers and found the impact on nutrition was consistently high. Still, the most significant difference between the groups was in their social interactions and civic engagement. Engaging with nature and other people in the garden setting created spaces full of learning, connection, and civic participation. 

For over 50% of Canadian gardeners, growing vegetables is partly motivated by their desire to reduce their environmental footprint. This same study found that Canadian gardeners use their time in their gardens for their physical and mental well-being. Over half of the participants also stated that growing food at home helped them save money which has become an increasing concern with rising food costs.

​​​​​A study conducted in Australia found that gardening is linked to aging well—participants aged 60-95 years experienced restoration benefits and physical benefits from gardening. Participants reported obtaining psychological, social, and physical benefits from gardening. 

In the study, participants reported that the exposure to nature through gardens and gardening activities helped to enhance their psychological well-being through emotion regulation and relief from stress. 

The study also noted the prevalence of “gardening groups”—groups that “meet on a regular basis to attend group discussions or educational seminars, or to maintain and cultivate fruit, vegetable, herb and ornamental plants in small public allotments.” These groups were shown to be a positive influence on the social lives of participants.

Gardening also counts towards your 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise. Whether you’re planting veggies, weeding, or watering your garden, spending 30 minutes tending to your garden can burn approximately 135-189 calories, according to Harvard Medical School

With all of these fantastic benefits, there’s no reason not to grab a few bags of seeds and get planting.

Planning and planting your veggie garden

Let’s look at how you can start your own garden in six easy steps!

Pick the perfect area

If you are starting your garden from scratch, you’ll need to find the perfect place to grow your vegetables. Start with a small space—two to three square metres will give you plenty of room to grow a few vegetables if you have an outdoor garden to work with. 

But you don’t need a large yard to create the perfect garden for you. You can use a small planter box, a raised garden bed, or try your hand at “container gardening”—when plants are grown in pots instead of the ground. 

Whatever area you use to create your garden, try to find a space that gets six to eight hours of sun per day and is sheltered from the elements.

Decide what you’d like to grow

The fun part—what is going to grow in your vegetable patch? Think about what vegetables you eat most often, and if you’re a beginner, consider hearty vegetables that are easier to grow. Tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers are the top three vegetables grown in Canadian gardens. They are delicious to enjoy when fresh, and some have the added benefit of being great to preserve (hello, pasta sauce!).

Plan it out

Grab a piece of paper and plan out where you will plant your vegetables. Consult your seed packages and seedlings for spacing, spread, and height information. Be cautious when planting outdoors by making sure you’re planting when frost is no longer a threat to delicate seedlings. And remember to plant your tallest plants at the northern edge of the plot, so they don’t shade the other plants as they grow.

Get your soil ready

You can’t rush your soil—if it is soggy, you must wait to start your garden. When you squeeze a handful of dirt, and it falls apart when you open your hand, it’s ready. Once you’ve marked your area and removed the grass (if needed), dig down at least 30 centimetres and remove all roots as you dig. Next, cover your space with approximately three centimetres of composted manure. Work that into the soil, and rake the surface into a fine texture.

If you are container gardening, pick up some bagged soil from your local larger department store or a local greenhouse in your area.

Plant your garden!

It’s time to plant! Follow the planting directions on each seed or seedling package, and then immediately water the soil—the soil should be moist until the plants are growing.

Weed, water, repeat

Once you’ve got your seeds in the ground, you’ll need to water them and weed the plot, so your vegetables have enough space to grow. Water your plants daily near their roots—use a watering can or place your hose on the soil to keep the plants dry and free from mould and save water. It would be best if you also were weeding when you see a weed pop up—try not to let them get too big before you pull them.

Harvesting your garden reaps plentiful rewards. It’s exciting to make a homegrown salad using your garden ripe tomatoes, fresh lettuce, peppers, etc! You can save the seeds from your plants this year and use them for the next growing season.

What are you planning to grow this spring?

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