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25 Secrets to Vegetable Gardening -Tips & Tricks for Success

These vegetable gardening tips and tricks will make gardening easy if you’re a beginner! If you want to start your first garden but aren’t sure where to start, these practical vegetable gardening tips and tricks will be a big help for first-time gardeners.

25 Secrets to Vegetable Gardening -Tips & Tricks for Success

25 Secrets to Vegetable Gardening -Tips & Tricks for Success

Growing a home vegetable garden can be very rewarding. Vegetable gardening can be a fulfilling and rewarding hobby that offers a variety of benefits, from access to fresh and healthy produce to reduced food costs and carbon footprint. Your own fresh vegetables beat grocery store vegetables hands down! Plus, knowing how to grow your own is comforting too!

Read on for most helpful vegetable gardening tips and tricks: everything from planning and preparing your garden to planting, maintaining, and maximizing your harvest. Whether you’re starting your first garden or seeking to improve your skills, you need this practical and easy-to-follow advice that will help you grow your best vegetables yet.

Ten Practical Tips for First Time Gardeners

Soil Preparation: The Key to a Productive Vegetable Garden

One best vegetable gardening tips and tricks is to test your garden soil for soil fertility each year. New gardeners might not know they can add soil amendments recommended by the test results to improve the quality of their soil. Fertile soil is the foundation of your garden, so make sure it’s rich in nutrients and well-draining. It’s a good idea to continue testing each year to see if it lacks any nutrients. This can help you determine what fertilizers or amendments to use so you always have rich soil.

Adding organic material like compost or aged manure to the soil will improve its quality and help amend the soil with any missing nutrients. Testing the ground is the best way to determine what your soil needs or has an overabundance.  

How to keep your compost pile active this winter

You can test your soil at your local County extension agencies for a minimal fee. In Iowa, samples can be submitted to Iowa State University for an $8 fee. Box stores offer basic tests, but the Extension office will be able to review your results with you so you know what is the most important to add to your soil.

Understanding your local climate and soil type can help you choose the right plants for your garden. Certain plants thrive in specific environments and soil types, so test before planting to make sure you have a great, healthy soil.

Learn your frost-free dates and garden zone

what to feed chickens to keep them warm in winter

It’s very important to plant your garden at the right time, so head over to this first and last frost calculator, plug in your zip code, and learn about your hardiness zone. You’ll need to know when you’re most likely to have the last frost of the year so you know when to plant, and when you’ll have the first frost so understand your growing cycle.

Frost kills plants, so make sure you know this crucial detail! You’ll also want to know your garden zone because some plants grow better in certain zones. Go here to learn your garden zone.

brassica seedlings in coir pots

Warm-weather plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants need to be planted later than cool-weather plants, like lettuce, leafy greens, radishes, and potatoes. Making sure you know when to plant what is one of the best vegetable gardening tips and tricks you need!

Related reading: How to Extend Your Growing Season by Using Row Covers

bug free cabbage thanks to covered raised garden bed

Make a schedule

Make a schedule to track what needs to be done in your garden. This can include tasks like planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting. This can help you stay on track and avoid forgetting important tasks or scheduling vacations when all the cucumbers or green beans have reached maturity.

Remember, I also have a free garden planner download for my blog subscribers! Get instant access to my Subscriber Library by signing up for my email list.

Start small and manageable

Gardens take a lot of work, and the work increases exponentially with the size. You’ll need time to plant, water, weed, de-bug, harvest, and cook, so gardening in a small space makes a lot of sense – especially in the beginning. You can still grow a lot of food, even in a small vegetable garden. You’ll be surprised at how much of a harvest you can get in less space like a 4 x 8 or even a 4 x 4 raised garden bed!


For best results, save space and try a small garden the first year so you don’t get scared off from trying again. Consider using the square foot planting method in your growing area.

Starting small is a great way to become more comfortable growing and learning how to identify issues and needs in your plants. This will help you understand the basics without becoming overwhelmed or losing all you’ve invested into developing and growing your garden.

Choose a good garden location

Lasagna Gardening bed layers

Vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, so choose a spot in your garden with plenty of sun. Also, make sure the soil is well-draining and not too compacted.  If it is, consider using raised beds or container gardening, which help to improve drainage, reduce soil compaction, and make gardening easier.

You’ll also want to make sure your garden is near a water source so you don’t have to lug a long garden hose or buckets of water.  I also like having the garden close to the backdoor so I can quickly notice any issues or struggles within my garden and to take advantage of adding one more onion or tomato to the dish.  

best time to water garden

Finally, if at all possible, don’t build your veggie garden in a windy spot. Try to locate areas protected from high winds, as winds will dry out and stunt your plants in the summer heat.

Grow fruits and veggies your family loves to eat

It’s easy to get caught up in the beautiful seed catalog and order many different types of seeds, but keep it simple the first year. If you don’t like zucchini, there’s no reason to plant it. I give you permission to skip zucchini if you want! If you love salads, plant a massive bed of greens and leaf lettuce and have a fresh salad daily.  

girls with a table full of carrots

Still trying to decide which types of vegetable plants to grow? Look at the meals you make every week. If you order pizza every week, plant tomatoes, peppers, basil, oregano, and onions.  Growing your own vegetables that you enjoy in your salads will make a complete home-grown meal. You’ll have the added benefit of using those tomatoes, peppers, and onions to make spaghetti sauce and even salsa to enjoy on cold winter nights when you want to be warm on a sunny beach.

Related reading: Our Favorite Easy Vegetables to Grow Over and Over

Plan your garden layout carefully

simplifylivelove garden planner free printable

Once you decide what vegetables you want to grow, you’ll want to determine where to plant them. Some vegetables don’t need as much space as others, so plan accordingly.  

This is also when you want to think about if you want to preserve any vegetables for the winter. If you enjoy water bath canning, dehydrating, or freezing veggies, add extra high-yield plants to put away for the winter for each family member or even just an extra meal or two.

How to Preserve Carrots

You’ll want to add flowers and herbs to help protect your garden plants from pest infestations. With companion planting, certain plants can benefit each other by repelling pests or housing beneficial insects and adding them in along with the appropriate veggies.

Related Reading: Companion Plants You Must Have in Your Garden

Next, decide on the size and shape of your space. Consider factors such as the hours of sunlight the area receives, the type of soil, and any natural features that might shade your garden, such as trees or buildings which can block the sun in early spring, summer, or fall.

growing sunflowers as edible flowers (1)

Vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, so choosing a spot in your garden with plenty of full sun is very important. Also, make sure the soil is well-draining and not too compacted.  If your soil is compacted or rocky, consider raised beds that help improve drainage, reduce soil compaction, and make gardening easier.

Using graph paper or an online garden planning tool, sketch out a layout for your garden. Add in a raised bed or three, pathways, retaining walls, or a trellis to add visual interest and functionality to your garden. 

Plan on succession planting and also to rotate crops as you plan out your garden layout.

peas growing on a trellis

Rotating crops is a method of growing different families of crops in the same field over different seasons or years. This process helps to maintain soil health and fertility, prevent pest and disease buildup, and increase crop yield.

The basic idea behind crop rotation is to avoid growing the same crop type in the same field year after year. Different plants have different nutrient needs and deplete the soil of other nutrients. By rotating crops, you can allow the soil to recover and replenish the nutrients that were used in the previous season. This also helps reduce the buildup of pests and fungal diseases affecting specific crops.

tractor bucket full of sweet corn (1)

For example, you might plant corn one year and then switch to green beans the next year. You’ll plant garlic in the third year, and peppers in the fourth year. In the fifth year, lettuces are grown in those beds, and the cycle starts over. By rotating the crops, you’re giving the soil a chance to recover and replenish nutrients that were depleted during the previous growing season.

In addition to improving soil health, crop rotation can also help reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, be they conventional or organic, which can be costly or negatively impact the environment. Rotating crops is a beneficial practice for improving your soil and vegetable quality and the nutrition your family eats while benefiting the environment.

Follow the Planting Directions on the Seed Packet 


Timing and depth are essential and they are generally noted on the back of the seed packet. Following the seed guidelines will ensure that your plants have the best chance of sprouting and survival.  

Depending if you’re planting the seed into your garden, which is called direct seeding, or planting seedlings will change when or how you’ll grow your seeds.  You’ll find that information all written out, and sometimes the packet will include additional tips or advice with a link to a website.   

Save Money By Planting These Seeds Directly in the Garden

planting carrots

Some plants do fine when you plant them as seeds. And some you must plant as seedlings. Knowing the difference will make a big difference in your success and can save you a lot of money too. Seeds are a lot cheaper than seedlings. The following ten common garden vegetables can be planted directly from seeds and they will do great.

Follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet and plant them at the right time of year using proper spacing and depth. Remember to water your garden after planting the seeds as seeds need water to germinate. 

  1. Carrots
  2. Corn
  3. Cucumbers
  4. Beans (pole beans & bush beans)
  5. Peas
  6. Lettuce
  7. Radish
  8. Spinach
  9. Watermelon
  10. Zucchini / Squash

Plant these Seeds as Seedlings for a Great Start


The following six plants are best if you plant as seedlings. They have a longer growing season and must be well-established to bear fruit. Make sure to plant them according to best spacing and depth requirements as well. You’ll want to water your plants well after planting to make sure the plant roots have everything they need to really take hold. Most plants need an inch of water a week to thrive, so pay attention to rain and water your garden as needed.

  1. Tomato plants
  2. Peppers
  3. Broccoli
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Cabbage
  6. Brussels Sprouts

Don’t Forget to Label Your Plants

spoon garden plant markers

However you decide to plant your garden, make sure you label what you plant! I can’t tell you how many times I couldn’t remember what I planted where in my garden space! The only way you’ll know what you’re harvesting is if you label or write it down.

Related reading: 20 Cute & Easy DIY Garden Plant Markers To Make

Buy vegetable starts at the garden center instead of trying to start your own

nasturtium seedlings

Starting seeds is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding, but buying healthy plants at the store might be easier and more practical if this is your first time gardening. It could be cheaper in the long run too because starting seed correctly is a little bit tricky. If you do want to start your own seeds, consider winter sowing in milk jugs or soda bottles as a cost-effective and easier way than starting seeds in the house.

Related reading: Winter Sowing Basics – What You Need to Know

When to Start Seeds Indoors

Seed Starting Basics – Everything You Need to Know to Start Seeds

Harden Seedlings off Before Planting

If you do start your own seedlings, you have to harden them off before planting. Hardening seedlings is the process of gradually acclimating them to outdoor conditions before transplanting them into the garden. It allows the plants to begin dealing with the harsher sun, wind, rain and temperature fluctuations of the outdoors with the benefit of a safety net inside under their grow lights or in a greenhouse.  

An easy way to harden them off is to start the process about two weeks before planting them outside. Begin hardening them off by moving the seedlings out to a sheltered area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time they spend outside each day. 

How to Harden off your seedlings

Protect the seedlings from direct sun, wind, and rain during the first week. Increase the time they spend outdoors gradually over a week or two until they spend the full day outside. 

Make sure to read my post on How to Harden Off Seedlings to get all the details

Prepare the Garden Beds with Good Soil

Preparing your garden beds is an important first step in creating a healthy and productive garden.  

Remove any plants, weeds, or debris from where you plan to create your garden beds.

Check your garden layout for the size and shape of your garden beds. Mark the layout with stakes and string so you’re not wasting soil, effort, or amendments on paths or walkways. Make sure you have easy access to all areas of the beds. 

Add organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to the soil to improve soil structure, fertility, and water-holding capacity. You can never add too much compost or aged manure.  You’ll want to look at your soil test to see if you need to add any particular amendments. 


Loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller to a depth of at least 8-10 inches but you can grow vegetables in only a few inches of topsoil too. Loosening the soil will help to improve drainage and make it easier for plant roots to penetrate the soil.  

Use a rake to smooth the soil and create a level planting surface. Then create planting rows or furrows, depending on the type of plants you are growing to maintain straight rows and make it easy to sow seed or plant vegetables.

Top dress the soil with lots of compost and water the soil.  You can water the soil thoroughly before planting to ensure that it is evenly moist a day or two before planting the seed so you don’t have to risk disrupting the seed with any runoff from the water.

Make Sure Your Garden Gets Consistent Moisture

Vegetables need consistent moisture to grow well, so water them regularly. Consider investing in soaker hoses as drip irrigation makes the watering process more efficient and easier. 

rain - best water for watering plants

You’ll want to water them deeply at the base to avoid getting the foliage wet, as this can promote disease. It is always better to water your plants in the morning so they’re hydrated to deal with the hot summer sun.  

You’ll also want to pay attention to signs of drying out; if your plants are wilting, water them well with plain water and follow it up the next day with a deep soak with compost tea or a well-rounded fertilizer.

Too much water can be just as harmful to plants as under-watering. Ensure to only water when necessary by tracking how much rain your garden has received. 

Related Post – 5 Genius Ways to Make Watering Your Garden Easier & More Eco-Friendly

Weed Control: Natural Strategies for a Healthier Garden

It’s not enough to hoe between the rows… it’s more important to keep the weeds from around the plants which will choke them and rob the plants of nutrients. And that involves hand weeding. See my tips for weeding for more easy ways to keep weeds out of your garden permanently!

Don’t Forget to Mulch your Vegetable Garden

veggie garden using mulch and cardboard as natural weed control

Mulching your garden is one of the easiest ways to prevent moisture loss, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. All plants benefit from mulch, so include it in your garden. Straw, grass clippings, and wood chips can all make good mulch.  Sometimes you can even find free mulch and have it delivered too!

Related Reading – How to Implement Lasagna Gardening to Create Rich, Fertile Garden Soil

Have a Pest Control Plan

Bugs can be good and bad, so it’s important to be vigilant to find them. Getting rid of the bad bugs with the least invasive method possible helps the good bugs stay alive. Good bugs, like ladybugs, bumble bees, and daddy-long-legs, help keep the bad bugs at bay. Bugs {and birds, too} can be really helpful, so learn the difference, encourage good bugs in your garden, and often watch for bad bugs. 

colorado potato beetle potato bugs

Control pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and take action as soon as you notice any problems. Many organic methods exist to control pests and diseases, such as handpicking, companion planting, or using organic pesticides.

There are many natural remedies for common gardening problems, like using garlic spray to repel pests or using coffee grounds to fertilize plants. These remedies can be effective and safe for the environment.

Related Post – 10 Effective Organic Methods of Pest Control for Your Vegetable Garden

The Best Fertilizer is a Gardener’s Shadow 

This sage piece of advice comes to you courtesy of my dad. He knows that the more time vegetable gardeners can spend in their gardens, the better off it will be. Even if you can devote only a quick 10 minutes in the early morning and another 10 minutes in the afternoon, your garden will do better than if you ignore it for three days.

making a garden trellis

Every time you go to the garden, you see stuff that needs to be done – weeds that need to be pulled or bugs that need to be squashed. The more often you make it out to your garden, the better your garden will do! 

Harvest at the right time: 

Harvest your vegetables when they are ripe, which will vary depending on the variety. Don’t wait too long; some vegetables can become overripe and lose flavor and nutrients.

wire mesh garden basket

Spend Time in your Garden Each Day

Make sure you walk your garden daily to check for bugs, weeds, and other problems and to help you see what’s becoming ripe and to plan what you’ll use it for in your meals. You’ll learn more each morning drinking your coffee over the season than you’ll get from a magazine subscription.  Tending a garden takes devoted time each day so make sure you can spend at least 10 – 30 minutes a day with your plants (depending on the size of your garden) caring for, watering, and harvesting.

Keep a Garden Journal

If you want to continue gardening, learning from your mistakes is important. Keep track of what you plant, when, how it grows, and how well it harvests.  Write down which type of vegetable did the best or worse or even which tasted the best. A Garden Journal is also a great place to track the rainfall your garden receives so you water correctly. Finally, it will help you plan future gardens to feed your family and stock your pantry with the foods and flavors you love. 

This is the amazing garden journal I have!  

Use the Right Tools

using a rain barrel to water a garden

Having the right gardening tools can make your work easier and more efficient. Investing in good quality tools, like a sturdy shovel, a sharp pair of pruners, and a durable garden hose, can make all the difference in how easy it is to plant, manage, harvest, and especially water the garden. 

Keep your Tools Clean

Having good tools is a waste if you’re not regularly cleaning and maintaining your gardening tools to keep them in good condition. This can also help prevent the spread of plant diseases between plants.

Wipe your tools down with alcohol after pruning diseased plants so you do not spread disease or pests.  Using vegetable oil to wipe down tools as needed will keep them rust-free and in good working order. You’ll also want to store them out of the weather so they last a lifetime and don’t fall apart due to rust. The end of the season is a great time to sharpen tools and store them for the winter.

Plan for Garden Maintenance

Consider how much time and effort you will put into maintaining your own garden. Choose plants that are easy to care for and plan for regular maintenance tasks such as watering, weeding, and pruning.

Be Patient and Enjoy the Process 

garden harvest bowl

Gardening can be unpredictable, so don’t be discouraged if a plant doesn’t grow as expected or if you encounter unexpected challenges. Vegetable gardening takes time and effort, but eating fresh veggies you grew yourself is so gratifying! Don’t be discouraged if you face challenges along the way, and enjoy growing your own food!

More awesome garden posts to check out!

5 Must Know Tips for Planting Tomato Seedlings

Tips for Planting Seedlings

How to Plant Potatoes – No Dig Method

Tips for Spring Garden Planning

Tips for Ordering Garden Seeds

How to Grow a 3 Sisters  Garden

Companion Plants You Must Have in Your Garden

My Favorite Garden Seed Organizer

20 cute and easy diy garden markers


Tuesday 31st of March 2020

I love your story! I have lived in 2 countries and drive with my 3 kids across the us and Mexico I am starting my first garden on land I bought last year I use solar for electric catch rain water ( in small spurts California) I want to live off the land as much as possible eating food I've grown for my family will be extremely rewarding for myself.

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