How to start growing vegetables at home (10 steps)

There is a lot of information on how you can start growing your own vegetables at home.

But most listings and articles use thousands of words to explain what I believe is quite straightforward.

There is no need to overcomplicate things. It is more important to get started. 

This article is my attempt to teach you all you need to know about how to start growing garden vegetables at home, while using less than 1000 words. 

1. Choose your location with purpose

You want a convenient location with easy access to water and full sun.

Do not choose a spot you know to be windy. But you do want a light breeze as air flow around your plants is important to help fight pests and diseases.

Avoid areas with large trees or bushes that may block out the sun during the growing season.

2. Use quality soil 

Growing kale in our vegetable garden
Kale likes fertile soil that drains well

Use quality soil. But quality does not have to mean expensive. 

Focus on the qualities of the soil. You want fertile, loosely structured and well-drained soil.

Fertile soil is important as your vegetables need nutrients to develop and grow strong.

A soil that drains well is critical as your vegetables will wither and die if the roots are sat in soaking wet soil. 

Your soil also needs a loose structure to help aerate the root system. Soil that goes hard and compact will stunt the growth and development of your vegetables.

Also, before planting, stay away from fertilisers. Instead enrich your soil with organic matter and compost.

3. Sow and plant at the right time

One warm day does not mean that it is time to plant your seeds. It takes weeks of mild weather for the soil to heat up. 

Some seeds like dill, onion, chives and carrots will germinate in lower soil temperatures. 

Other vegetable seeds like bush and pole beans, cucumbers and corn need a soil temperature above 10 degrees Celsius.

You will find information about temperature requirements on the seed packets.

4. Do not bury your seeds too deep

Staking peas in raised garden bed
Peas are planted deep and need staking as they grow

Not all seeds are created equal. You will find information about the correct depth to plant your seeds on the seed packet.

If you do not have a seed packet, use the following general guideline:

  • Larger seeds like peas and beans can be planted 3-5 cm (1-2 inches) deep.
  • Smaller seeds like carrot, parsley and chives are planted 1-2 cm (about 3/4 inch) deep.

Planting seeds too deep and overwatering are two common reasons why seeds do not germinate as expected.

5. Do not overcrowd your vegetable garden

Do not plant your seeds too close to each other. Remember, each seed will grow into a full sized mature plant. And planting too densely will only create extra work for you. 

Look at the seed packet for information about spacing. And always mark out the spots for each individual plant in your garden bed before you start planting your seeds.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. Chives are for example best sown in bunches of 10-15 seeds. And generally speaking it is good practice to plant 2-3 seeds for each plant you are planning to grow. After all, not all seeds germinate. Still, if possible, avoid planting the seeds on top of each other.

6. Thin seedlings early

Especially with smaller seeds, it is oh so easy to sow too many seeds. The result invariably is seedlings that grow too close to each other.

Here the trick is to thin seedlings early by either pricking out or cutting the weaker seedling.

I much prefer thinning by pricking out or dividing seedlings. Still, with plants like dill and fennel where you are dealing with a delicate tap roots you will have to snip to protect the dominant plant.

Links to our video tutorials on how to prick out or cut unwanted seedlings.

7. Use mulch to control weed in vegetable garden

You can prevent weeds by mulching your garden beds with hay, straw or another material.

Still, if necessary, weeds should always be pulled by hand.

8. Harden off plants before transplanting outdoors

Cucumbers benefit from being started indoors
Cucumber seedlings hours before being transplanted outdoors

Some garden vegetables benefit from being started indoors to be transplanted outdoors as developed seedlings. 

Here it is important to gradually expose the young plants to the outdoors in a process that is called to harden off plants. 

Over a period of 1-2 weeks you gradually increase the amount of time the plant stands outdoors. Start by placing the plant outdoors for one hour in a spot with indirect sunlight. 

Examples of garden vegetables that benefit from being started indoors include beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, chillies, celery, cucumber and peppers.

When you are ready to transplant your plants outdoors, make sure you water the plants thoroughly and firm the soil around the plants.

9. Fertilise with intent and purpose

Do not fertilise your vegetable garden too early as a matter of course. Seedlings and young plants do not need fertilizers early on. 

Actually, I often find that my soil is fertile enough to deliver one full harvest before the bed needs to be enriched.

Also, do not give vegetables that bear fruits, like tomatoes and peppers, fertilisers that are high in nitrogen when they are mature and flower. Nitrogen fuels leaf and foliage production and should not be given to tomato or pepper plants that are flowering as it could lead to flower drop.

10. Do not overwater your vegetables

With all watering the general rule is to water thoroughly but not too often.

When you water you want to soak the entire root system and not only the top layer of soil.

Incorrect frequent watering in small quantities may in fact lead to roots growing shallow in their search for moisture. 

This is the opposite to what you want. 

Instead, water when the vegetable garden bed is dry 1-2 knuckles deep. And never get the plants wet, always water the mulch between the plants. 

Remember, you want moist, not wet soil.

You will need to water more often if you are growing garden vegetables in containers, grow bags or raised garden beds. Here, the roots cannot grow deep in search of moisture stored in deeper layers of soil. 

Summary: growing your own vegetables at home

There you have it. Follow these 10 steps and you will be successful growing garden vegetables at home. 

And it does not matter if you are growing in a ground level vegetable garden, raised garden beds, containers or grow bags. 

To round off this article, my advice is to follow these 10 steps and if nothing else to grow lettuce and Swiss chard. Both are table greens and can be grown fast for quick harvests. 

And when you have those first harvested greens on your table – you too will be hooked.

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.