homestead

How to Start Your Own Garden

Four years ago, I was a girl on a quest to create a garden I could eat from. It started with a chicken coop, then we added three garden beds. Fast forward to today, and we now have eight garden beds, a vertical garden from Lettuce Grow, and too many (are there ever too many?) potted plants, including lemon trees, a peach tree, and blackberry bushes. Our garden keeps growing and growing. Currently, I am scheming to buy a DIY greenhouse, so I can grow all the things I love to eat year-round. Here’s hoping!

I didn’t start out knowing how to garden. In fact, it was the exact opposite. I’ve killed more plants than I’ve actually harvested, I’m sure. But working with an awesome gardener named Stevie Schultz of Resolution Gardens, as well as trial and error and lots of patience, has got me to where I am today. Since Stevie has taught me so much, I asked her to share her expert tips on how to start your own garden. Keep scrolling for her awesome insider info.   

And then let me know in the comments: Do you have a garden? If yes, what are you planting and growing right now?

Pick the right spot

A garden needs about eight hours of sunlight a day, so the sunniest spot in your yard is where you should plant. It doesn’t need to be too big: 4-feet by 8-feet is a great starter garden. (You can also use a big pot or two to plant veggies or flowers if you live in an apartment or don’t have a lot of space.) Instead of an in-ground garden, I recommend doing a raised garden bed. You can build it out of wood or rocks, and Lowes and Home Depot even sell kits. If you want to make your own, you’ll need six pieces of untreated wood. Stain the wood, build the box, and then line it with painter’s tarp so it doesn’t rot.

Other than sunshine, your garden needs an adequate water source and good soil. Do some research to find out what the soil is like in your area; the National Gardening Association or your local nursery is a great place to start. In Texas, the soil is made up of mostly thick, hard clay that’s not good for growing. I recommend buying a yard of garden soil, not sandy top soil. You also need to make sure a hose can reach your garden for watering. Everything else is nature doing what it does.       

Gather your tools

You just need a few basic tools to start your gardening adventure. Items to consider buying: a shovel, a grub hoe, gardening gloves, and a wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow is for the soil—a yard of soil is a lot. You can get it delivered to your house, but you will still need to get it to the garden. 

Choose your plants

In Texas, it’s perfectly fine to plant up until the end of May (though the later you plant, the less likely it is that you’ll get tomatoes.) Seeds should have been planted in February or March, so if you’re just starting now, go to a nursery and get vegetable starts, which have already been growing for three to four weeks. Spring veggies include zucchini, yellow squash, okra, cucumbers, and eggplant. In the fall, you can grow kale, collard greens, cauliflower, lettuce, Swiss chard, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. 

Water, water, water…and then be patient

As soon as you plant your garden, water it every day for two weeks. Then you can start spacing out the watering to once every other day, then every third day, depending on the temperatures. Now you wait. Some of your seeds and plants won’t make it—and that’s not your fault. They will have transplant shock and won’t recover. For the ones that do take, time before harvest varies, but it’s usually 45 to 65 days. A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the fruit, the longer it takes to harvest. Eggplant will take longer than cherry tomatoes, for instance.

Just go for it

Planting a garden will be both easier and harder than you expect. Building a garden box and doing the planting will take you an entire day. But once the garden is in, it’s fairly simple to keep on top of the watering and harvesting. And it’s so satisfying to be able to pick and eat vegetables you’ve grown. Enjoy it! 

 
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22 Comments

  • Debbie Dean

    love your gardening inspiration ❤. Had to quit ‘agriculture’ a couple years back due to my harvest solely feeding the avian & opossum communities but you’ve reawakened my desire to dig in the dirt🌾🍅🥭🍉! Having a big ‘screen room’ built using fabric big enough to let bees & butterflies in & size enough for maybe 4 – 5 beds. Won’t be ready til fall planting, but getting ready is fun!!! Thanks for the motivation 😘😘

  • JESSICA LOZANO

    Hi Gen,
    This is wonderful, thank you! I’ve been wanting to start a garden for such a long time. My brother and I started saving seeds from the fruit and veggies we’ve been getting at the store, so we have organic seeds already paid for. I already have a nice herb garden, rosemary, oregano, sage and basil. I also have a 7 yr old peach tree that has a lot of fruit on it this year. Last year, my dad bought me a hybrid citris tree. It produces lemon, oranges and grapefruit. Thank you for the motivation and tips!
    Take care,
    Jess

  • Shauna

    Hi Gen! I loved the article. I have royal purple lavender growing in a pot, marigolds and sunflowers growing in little clay pots, and purple sweet potatoes sprouting in the window, ready to be planted in our beds and bins. I highly recommend Doug and Stacy on Youtube – they have such informative homesteading videos!
    Also, I just wanted to mention that I recently published an 11+ fantasy novel and thanked Jared and Always Keep Fighting at the end. I’d love if he knew about it <3 It's called The Cymbeline Prophecy: The Lure of the Lore. It's available as a paperback on Barnes and Noble's website! Hehe, happy growing to my favorites <3

  • Jaime

    My garden is my sanity!
    Right now I’m growing strawberries, celery, onions, basil, pumpkins and I have a lemon and madarian orange tree 🙂
    I will be planting garlic and a bell pepper this week.
    Hoping to add more as time goes by!
    Thank you for always bringing a smile to my face!
    Love from Northern California

  • Victoria Gashlin

    Gen,
    Good afternoon. Thank you so much for this, I plan on creating a garden next year and this helps SO much.

    Victoria

  • Maria

    Hello, Jen
    I am really impressed with all the work you’ve done for the garden. I also have a small garden and want to ask your advice. Do you have shadow places where is not 8-hours-sun, what do you plant there? Or, perhaps, you know what will grow on shadowy part of the garden well?
    Best wishes

  • Daniela Schweyer

    Hi Gen, your garden looks great, lovingbthe variety that you have! We’ve started planting fruits and veggies about 6 years ago with different success stories. Tomatoes and peppers have always been growing great (If not eaten by the hornworms 😬). We’ve built a trellis for our climbing trees and added that to the garden about 4 years ago. We tried cucumbers (they reeeally tried to spread out), zucchini (giant ones omg lol), watermelon (got entangled in the cucumbers), and pumpkins (they died after I had to move them, they were so many and we didn’t even plant them! We just threw our Halloween pumpkins in the garden as fertilizer and the seeds survived the winter!). We learned a lot over the years! Last year we added two apple trees to the yard. I’ve tried raspberries and blackberries, but that didn’t work out either :-(. I saw you have plenty of wonderful blackberries growing, any tips on where you plant them/sun or shade/ how much water, etc? Really love following your garden advice, love to see more!

  • Effie

    Gen: Thank you for the wonderful tips. The smell and feel of dirt is so calming. This year I am planting tomatoes, strawberries, and black eyed peas. I will probably plant sunflowers too. Thanks again for letting us see into you life and activities!!

  • Michelle Moss

    I just started a garden. We have tomators, broccoli, yellow squash, cucumbers’ Zucchini, jalapenos, and bell peppers. We also have peach, fig and plum trees and blueberry and BlackBerry bushes. We are also growing cilantro, dill and okra.

  • Veronica McGee

    After talking about it for six years we finally got our greenhouse stood up and two raised beds. We are also finally focusing on getting our apple orchard going. We have 4 apple trees, two lemon, one orange tree. In our garden I have tons of tomato plants, lettuce, okra, peppers, strawberries, onion, and many herbs. My husband is putting in drip irrigation

  • Christina

    Hi Gen! I too have gardens. I have two large gardens in the front full of perennials (daffodils, irises, hostas, mint, etc) and a large vegetable garden bed in the backyard. My strawberries are leafy right now and the blueberry Bush is starting to have leaves on it. It’s still a little early to plant any vegetables in there. But I am currently growing some herbs in my aerogarden I got recently, so I will transplant them in the coming weeks. I am also growing a couple of tomato plants from seed in a pot. Once it’s nice and warm, and the tomato plants are big enough, I’ll transplant those too.

  • Cheryl

    Hey Gen,

    We have just made a few planter boxes and have started our own garden (we live in Australia) I am loving it, such a great little escape. Have had a few little problems so far mostly with our kelpie ripping out my tomatoe plants and eating them 😖. So having to relocate some of my potted plants to keep her out. We have planted broccolini, garlic, basil, parsley, baby spinach, chives, red onions, spring onions, chilli, capsicum, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, carrots, cod lettuce and iceberg lettuce. They seem to all be growing which is quite exciting, fingers crossed it all goes well and we get a good harvest. Next on the list is strawberries and a blueberry tree. Any tips for growing those?

  • Hailey Owens

    I live in North Alabama where planting is also possible until the end of May. I’m a first time home owner so this year’s garden in teeny tiny. I have to keep telling myself to no overdo it the first year of owning a home. Next year is when the real gardening fun will begin! I’m currently growing culinary herbs as well as my own stevia and lavender! 🌱

  • Lori Blevins

    Hi Gen! Thank you so much for this information. It is very helpful for a first time gardener. I am trying a raised garden bed and I am super excited. I have a question I am hoping you can help. Do you know if you can water your veggies with well water that is treated with water softener salts?? Or even the well water…would the hard/rust water be bad to water them with?? Thank you

  • Nichole

    What do you use for pest control on your plants? I struggle with pests and really don’t like the idea of putting chemicals on our food.

  • Elizabeth Burton

    Starting our first garden this year. Tons of seedlings started. Just waiting for Mother Nature. Up here in New England she hasn’t made up her mind if it is actually spring yet 🙄 winter mix planned for this weekend makes me glad we didn’t plant last weekend 🤦‍♀️

  • Stacy

    We’ve always had a garden and one of my sons who helped harvest potatoes when he could just walk is now the content manager for a gardening app and website called Candide.

  • Janet Wrestler

    I’ve been gardening since I was a child. I’m 72 now so it’s been awhile. The garden is my haven, psychiatrist, and gym. Life is so much better with a little dirt under your fingernails. lol Your children will thank you someday for teaching them how to grow a garden. ❤

  • Keana

    Love the new post! I actually have just recently started growing my own basil and parsley (wanted to start small) with seeds so fingers crossed we’ll see some sprouts in the next month or so! My grandmother also gave me a tomato starter which I am very excited about and I’ve been taking care of a few house plants as well that are continuing to thrive! And yes, gardening is one of the most calming activites a person can participate in. And it has definitely helped strengthen my patience!

  • Troian Miller

    A couple friends and I started a garden just outside of our apartment complex. We are growing in large buckets, which is unique for me. I have always gardened, since my mom always wanted to be as self sustaining as possible. This year we are doing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, onions, and herbs. When my husband and I own our own home, we are 99% sure we are moving to Austin, Texas, I want to do a raised garden just like you. And I will be taking it season by season just like you did. One day I will have a big garden like you!

  • Sarita

    Hi there! Just put my garden in again for another year, but frost hit and some plants weren’t saved. Here in Iowa our temperatures fluctuates so much..one day could be 70 degrees and the next 40 degrees, so garden weather is so unpredictable. I have planted tomatoes, peas, cucumbers and peppers. We will see how it goes with the crazy weather of Iowa! Thanks for posting the help!!

  • Angela

    Loved these tips! I’ve been wanting to plant in our garden for a while now but I don’t know where to start.

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