How to Start a Vegetable Garden

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If you want to learn how to start a vegetable garden, we’ve been at it for years here on our organic seed farm in San Diego. We know that a home vegetable garden is an essential part of a healthy and sustainable home. The pleasure and benefits are endless. Before the 20th century, most people kept a vegetable garden. In the past 30 years, that trend saw a sharp decline until recent months. We have seen since March of 2020 an explosion of people interested in growing their own produce. The global health pandemic and food security concerns have pushed people into creating a home vegetable garden. 

We are so excited about this trend and hope that it leads to happier and healthier people and communities. With this burst of interest in home vegetable gardening, we also see a rise in questions. Here are the top three questions we get asked about most often for home vegetable gardening. 

What Should I Plant in My Vegetable Garden? 

Although deciding what to plant varies widely depending on where you live, vegetable plants can be divided into two groups. Cool Season Crops and Warm Season Crops. Cool Season crops are crops that enjoy shorter day lengths, and as the name infers, cooler temperatures. Below is an overview of cool-season crops. 

  •  Lettuces and leafy greens 
  • Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) 
  • Root crops (beets, carrots, radishes, etc.) 

Shop Cool Season Crops

Although this is not comprehensive, it is an excellent start to understanding which plants like cooler temperatures and shorter days. 

 Conversely, warm-season crops like warmer temperatures and longer days. They include: 

  • Melons 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Eggplant 
  • Peppers 
  • Squash 

Shop Warm Season Crops 

gardening tomatoes

What Soil Do I Use in My Vegetable Garden? 

When starting your vegetable garden, plant your seeds into finely sifted potting mix or garden soil. Seeds cannot burst through rocks, sticks, or heavy soils. If you are seed starting, plant into a quality seed starting mix. 

 If you are filling raised beds to plant the vegetable garden, you want to make sure your raised beds include compost, a good soil mix, and fertilizer. Many gardeners make the mistake of filling their garden beds with just a raised bed mix, which often is missing the essential fertilizer and compost that plants need to be happy.   

Seed Starting for Your Vegetable Garden 

Seed starting can be overwhelming for a new gardener, but its essential for having a bountiful garden. Once you master seed starting, your garden will explode with produce as you learn to succession plant for long harvest windows. 

If you are new to seed starting, you should check out all the educational information we have about seed starting

If you are confident in seed starting, you should check out our succession planting guide.  

 How Often Do I Water My Vegetable Garden? 

Watering schedules depend on hundreds of factors, and there is no one formula for every gardener. Weather, sun exposure, and soil types will dictate how often you must water. Although we cannot give an exact amount of time or frequency to water, we can tell you the most important times to water and mistakes to avoid. 

  • Water early in the morning in the garden. Water thoroughly and deeply. 
  • If starting your vegetable garden in a raised bed, saturate the WHOLE bed before planting. 
  • If transplanting into the ground, pre-water the planting hole and water after planting. Do not transplant in the hot afternoon sun. 
  • Do not overhead water. In other words, dont water the leaves or other parts of the plant from above. Water at the soil level to prevent foliar diseases. 
  • When you plant seeds directly in the soil, make sure the soil is moist as far down as 5-6” deep into the soil. Seeds need moisture to germinate. Water often to ensure the top layers of soil are moist. 

how often to water plants

 How Do I Care for My Vegetable Garden? 

Learning to be a successful gardener or farmer takes years of observation, trial and error, and education. Here are some top tips for you as you begin your journey of growing your own food when just starting your vegetable garden.

Always grow plants in the right season. They will be the healthiest and most productive during their appropriate seasons. To help with that, for fall we have a great article on fall vegetables to grow and another one on fall planting. For summer, there’s summer garden tips for southern California and how to keep soil moist in warm weather.

  • Invest in good soil! Make sure you add an array of compost, organic fertilizer, worm castings, and mulch to your garden. Your garden is only as happy as your soil!
  • Vegetables enjoy full sun and the maximum amount of sunlight in their appropriate seasons.
  • Grow from the highest quality soil and seeds for the best results.
  • Avoid overhead watering.
  • Do not let your garden wilt or dry out too often—water regularly and deeply.


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