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6 Things to Consider When Planning a Vegetable Garden From Scratch

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Vegetable gardening is so rewarding in many ways! Not only are you providing healthy, nutritious food for you and your family (and maybe even enough for your friends!) but it can also be very peaceful and therapeutic, encouraging you to get fresh air and exercise while doing something you enjoy (at least I hope you enjoy it!). If you want to grow your own food but are unsure how to start your own vegetable garden let me share with you a few things I have learned over my years of gardening!

Supplies to Grow a Vegetable Garden

The requirements needed to grow your own vegetable garden are simple, soil, water, sunlight and seeds. Truly, if you want to grow your own food, that is all that is needed! The amount of space, hours of sunlight and quality of your soil will determine what you can grow, how much you can grow and how well your plants will grow.

1. Choosing a Location for your Vegetable Garden

When searching out the ideal location for your new vegetable garden things to consider include hours of sunlight (for gardening in zone 3 Alberta, the more hours of sunlight the better!), access to water, soil quality, predators (If deer may be a problem check out How to Keep Deer out of Your Garden) and roots from existing trees. (I made the mistake of establishing my garden in a location that is close to poplar trees. NOT a good idea! Each spring my raised beds are filled with new poplar tree roots! I even had poplar roots growing right through my potatoes!)

2. Garden Soil

Unlike the potting soil you use for your flower pots, garden soil needs to have organic matter to provide nutrients for your vegetable plants in order to grow flourishing vegetable plants. If you are building an in-ground garden try simply adding a good quality compost to your existing soil. If you are building raised garden beds a good vegetable garden soil mix can be made from 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss. For more on garden soil and amending existing poor quality read this.

3. Sunlight

Most vegetables need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight to grow well. Your first choice for your vegetable garden should be a southern exposure. This will give you the most heat and sunlight. If that is not possible choose western or eastern exposure. If you have a small backyard with only eastern or northern sunlight it will be difficult to grow vegetables. If the area you have to garden with has 6 hours of sunlight or less a day check out Vegetables that will Grow in Shade.

4. Water

Choose a garden location within range of water hoses. When possible, use rain water to water your vegetable garden. If not on a well, tap water contains chlorine and often fluoride, both of which are toxic to plants. Rain water pH is slightly acidic, making it the ideal pH for most vegetables. Rain water also contains micronutrients and minerals that benefit plants.

5. Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Vegetable Gardens

Whether you wish to build a raised bed or an in-ground vegetable garden is simply a mat