14 Edible Garden Tips for the Beginner Vegetable Gardener

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When it comes to getting started in growing your vegetable garden, it often helps to have a few tips from more experienced gardeners.  There are many fiways in which you can make it easy for yourself when growing vegetables as a beginner – from using good compost to starting small and only growing what you’re going to use.  We’ve rounded up some great tips for beginner gardeners from those who’ve been there before.  These beginner edible garden tips are tried and tested and will give you a head start on getting your edible garden going in no time.

Outdoor Edible Garden Tips

Growing your vegetables outdoors, in the ground, in pots and containers or in raised beds raises a number of challenges, that start, not least with the environment.  Here are recommendations from our writers collective on tips for your edible garden when you’re growing outside.

Get a Great Start on Herb Growing by Growing Mint

If you have never experienced growing a mint plant before, then you are in for a huge surprise. Mint is a great herb to grow for beginners as it grows very quickly.  It can rapidly go from a small plant to a big one so you’ll be giving it out to the neighbours before you know it!

While you can easily grow mint from seed, we recommend taking a cutting from a friend or neighbour or buying a small plant from the local supermarket. This will expedite the process, as growing from seed usually takes 6-8 weeks to harvest.

We recommend buying a small plant and keeping it in partial shade.  You can do this outside or inside, on the kitchen windowsill.  This allows it to get some sunlight during the day, and shade as the sun starts to descend. Ideally, the plant should be watered every day, and if it’s quite hot then twice does no harm.  Don’t let the pot dry out.

To harvest mint, start from the leaves lower down and on the outside.  Harvesting leaves will actually promote growth.  As you start to pluck a few leaves off, they will very quickly grow back. The biggest problem you are likely to experience is that the mint grows very quickly and can get out of control and this is why we recommend growing mint in pots.  To keep your mint under control and get good use from it we’d suggest plucking a few leaves every day.

Mint Plant

Put the mint leaves in boiling water for an amazingly refreshing mint tea.  Alternatively, take a bigger handful and make this amazing homemade mint sauce – this advice and mint sauce recipe comes courtesy of Manpreet at Hello Manpreet

  1. Take a handful or two of mint leaves
  2. Add half a diced onion
  3. Dice and add one green chilli – find out how to store chillies here
  4. Add a few coriander leaves
  5. Put them all in a blender with a dash of water and its ready.
  6. If the sauce is too hot, then mix with yoghurt to make it creamy

Grow Herbs CLOSE to Your Kitchen

Ingrid from Fun and Fabulous Life brings us a recommendation based on experiences of growing edible gardens in multiple homes over the years

I have had several different edible gardens over the years in different homes I have lived in and one of my favourite edible items to grow has been herbs to add flavour to my home-cooked meals. Freshly picked homegrown herbs will elevate the flavour of your meals to the next level. Simple dishes suddenly become cafe-worthy dishes.

The one thing I’ve realised over time is that the closer the herb garden is to the back door and the kitchen the more likely you are to pop outside to pick the herbs fresh from the garden as you need them and the better your cooking will taste. You will also be greeted with the wonderful fragrance of herbs every time you open your back door. Check out our Herb Garden Kit recommendations here

If you can see your herb garden from your kitchen window even better as it will serve as a frequent reminder to pick some herbs for your cooking daily.  Basil, thyme, parsley, coriander, garlic chives, rosemary and mint are some of my favourite herbs to plant.

Use These Easy Tips to Organically Repel Weeds and Pests in Your Garden

Sam from Survival Fitness Plan has some great recommendations on how to repel weeds, pests and disease in your garden.

Weeds, insects, and diseases can wreak havoc on your garden. Using high-quality soil, mulch, and compost tea will minimize these things, but sometimes they will still appear.  An easy way to repel insects is to use a homemade and organic spray, here’s how to do that.  Crush several cloves of garlic and mix them with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Add that mixture to 3.5L (1gal) of water. Spray it on your plants, but don’t use too much.  Planting insect-repelling herbs among your other vegetables is a good preventative solution. For example:

  • Chives repel carrot flies, Japanese beetle, and aphids.
  • Dill repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers, and tomato hornworms.
  • Fennel repels aphids, slugs, and snails.
  • Thyme repels whiteflies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, corn-ear worms, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, and small whites.

This natural herbicide will kill weeds, but also affect other plants, so be careful of what you spray it on. To make it, you’ll need:

  • 5L (1gal) of white vinegar with a maximum of 5% acidity
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap (optional)

Mix the salt and vinegar together and stir it until the salt dissolves. Add the dishwashing liquid if you want. It will help the solution to stick to weeds that have a protective coating but is this is not organic.   Put the mixture in a spray bottle (or make it directly in the spray bottle) and spray it on the weeds.

Grow Nasturtiums to Protect Your Vegetable Plants

Gillian of The Little Den recommends growing nasturtiums, every gardener’s friend.

This bright, colourful flower comes in shades of orange, yellow, red and is often seen trailing or cascading in gardens. Not only does it add a vibrant splash of colour to your garden but it also serves to protect other plants in your vegetable patch. The reason is that aphids are attracted to nasturtiums which in turn become a trap crop.

Nasturtium

This basically means that instead of munching on your tomato or courgette plants, the aphids will happily congregate on the undersides of the leaves or on the stem of the plant. Word of warning though… make sure you place the nasturtiums some distance away from your vegetables to ensure the aphids stick to the decoy plant! They’re annuals and can be planted in a pot or directly into the soil in early spring. The final cherry on the cake is that the nasturtium flower

Grow What you Can’t Easily Buy from the Supetrmarket

Anne of Japan Addict HQ recommends growing what isn’t always readily available at your supermarket, meaning you might have to source it from more expensive options!

When considering what to grow at home, ensure you check out options to purchase (or swap!) seeds or seedlings for varieties of fruit, vegetables or salad leaves that are not readily available at your local supermarket.   For example, instead of growing spinach leaves, consider varieties such as Mizuna, a deliciously crunchy Japanese mustard leaf.  Or grow heirloom purple carrots instead of the more conventional orange carrot options.  Or so many different bean options other than the standard supermarket green options – and depending on your space available you can choose from either bush style or vine style varieties – both produce really well and are fun to harvest with your family.

One of our all-time favourites was to grow other varieties of courgettes.  (Growing Courgettes is one the Lets Grow Cook recommendations of the easiest veggies to grow)  We have had great success in growing the bright yellow bush varieties, and if you can find a vine growing variety, then go for it!  Just realise in advance that often a single productive plant can produce enough courgettes to supply a family for a season – and you too can have children who will not eat courgettes anymore due to the abundant supply of past harvests!  By growing different varieties your efforts will really stand out when you eat them and share your homegrown abundance with family and friends.

Learn How to Re-Use Coffee Grounds in Your Vegetable Garden

Rachel from Coffee Wise.doesn’t like anything to go to waste and recommends a way of utilising your waste coffee ground.

One of the biggest challenges as a new gardener is understanding soil quality and learning how to best fertilise and compost your vegetable garden effectively.  Many vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cabbage thrive in nitrogen and potassium-rich soil, but some soils tend to be lacking in these essential nutrients.

If you are a coffee drinker, a cheap and easy way to boost the nitrogen levels in your soil is re-use your coffee grounds in your compost and mulch.  Some acidic loving fruit shrubs like blueberries can benefit from an occasional light sprinkling of used coffee grounds around the base of the plant.

But the best way to use the coffee grounds is to make a nitrogen-rich mulch by blending 1/3 coffee grounds with 1/3 shredded leaves or sawdust and 1/3 grass clippings.  Allow the mix to break down into soil-like consistency before spreading on your garden.   You can speed up the process by putting the mixture into a compost bin – check out our guide on the best compost bins to use for this here.

If your soil is highly alkaline, tilling the coffee grounds directly into your soil may help bring it back to a healthier PH level for growing vegetables but only do this prior to planting as the raw grounds can slow the growth of your young plants.

Done right, using coffee grounds on your garden is a great way to reduce waste and enhance the quality of your soil.

Use Raised Beds to Improve The Ease of Growing Vegetables

Erin of Go Camping Plus brings us a tip from home that helps deal with more challenging growing environments.

Our kitchen-garden is located directly outside our kitchen window, making it nice and accessible to the house. Raised garden beds are a great way to create a well-presented vegetable garden, easy to maintain and most importantly, easy to pick from when you are mid-cooking – your back will thank you, too. Raised beds protect your gardens from pests, protect the soil from being over compacted and allow good drainage.

Raised Bed

In the cooler climates such as those, we experience in the Southern Grampians, having raised garden beds has been crucial to the survival of vegetables, as they provide additional protection from frosts. Raised beds also allow you to grow root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes – once you have eaten real carrots from the ground, you’ll never buy store-bought again.

Raised garden beds can be constructed using recycled materials and create great character in your garden.

Keep an Eye on Watering Frequency on Balconies

Caitlin from the Vegan Word has a recommendation for those growing vegetables on a terrace or balcony that could affect your produce.

If you’re growing your garden on a balcony, be sure to check whether your plants need to be watered more frequently. One challenge many of us face as new gardeners is under- or overwatering. It’s hard to know how frequently to water and I found it particularly challenging after moving into a new flat with a balcony. Although I’d had indoor plants before for a while, and outdoor plants for a year, I wasn’t prepared for how the wind up on the balcony would affect watering patterns! Balconies can often be quite windy, and without much to protect plants, can cause pots to dry out more frequently than you might expect if you’re used to caring for plants inside or outside at ground level. So if you’re also growing vegetables and fruits on your balcony this year, be sure to check frequently whether they need to be watered and be ready to adjust your watering habits based on the wind!

Indoor Edible Garden Tips

Not everyone has access to a garden in order to grow herbs and vegetables and so our writers collective have come up with these great edible garden tips when you’re growing herbs and vegetables indoors.

Where you Don’t Have Space or Light to Grow Vegetables – Create It Yourself

Mary-Anne of Wellness Through Wildness is used to making the best of a situation and explains how you can create growing space and a growing environment where there is none.

Living in a place where there’s no earth for gardening? Don’t worry. You can still grow your edibles. Here are some tips on how.  First, check whether you have a window sill or patio that gets several hours of sunlight a day. If so, you have the perfect place to grow herbs or veggies, or even citrus, in containers. Choose plant varieties suited to containers and with light requirements matching that available in your space.

If you don’t have enough natural lighting, consider using ‘grow lights’. You can pair these with hydroponic kits and follow the relevant instructions to grow your produce indoors.

If using a potting mix, choose the premium grade for vegetables to get the best start for your edibles. After a few weeks, introduce a regular feeding of liquid fertilizer or apply a once-off slow-release fertilizer, suitable for vegetables.

Take care not to over or underwater the plants. As a general rule, insert your forefinger into the soil, halfway to the first knuckle, and if dry, it’s time to water. A saucer placed under the pot will reserve the runoff for your plants and avoid ruining your floor.

Use Hydroponic Gardens to EASILY Grow Edibles Indoors

Sharon from Daily Dream 360 recommends an easy to use method for growing herbs and vegetables indoors year-round.

My solution is an indoor hydroponic garden. Currently, I’m using the Click and Grow system for fresh herbs.

The two most popular hydroponic garden kits are from Click and Grow and AeroGarden. Their units have a set number of pods, a basin to hold water and growing light. You can grow 3, 6, 9 or large gardens indoors without the worry of the weather and no gardening experience.

Hydroponic Vegetables

You don’t have to be a garden expert to start your indoor garden. Just drop the seed pods in the slots, add water and turn on the unit, which will provide light for 16 hours of the day. Then watch it grow. After two weeks, I already had basil to harvest from my unit. It continues to grow taller and larger each day.

The systems can also grow tomato, peppers, lettuce leaves, edible flowers and a variety of herbs, which are great for salads and cooking. I use basil on just about everything adding it to pasta sauces, stir-fries or creating my fresh pesto.

Grow New Veggie Plants from Scraps and Cuttings

Mary of Calculated Traveller brings us an easy tip for any new edible gardener.

My edible gardening tip is to create clippings from what you already have in your refrigerator. Not only is this a significant cost saving, but it is relatively easy for a beginner gardener to manage. For example, I save the bottom of green onions and put them in a small glass with about 1 inch of water. Once the roots grow longer, I pot them up and allow them to grow. Each time I need some green onions for a recipe, I snip some off the top, letting the bottom of the green onions to continue growing. This method also works with other vegetables such as carrots, celery, and potatoes – just put them in water, let them root and pot them in soil.

Kick Start Your Veggie Garden with Grow Lights

Scott from Best LED Grow Lights suggests that you can kick start your veggie garden whatever the weather.

If you live in a climate where frost can take a bite out of your growing season, consider starting your seedlings indoors under an LED grow light. This is an efficient way to kick start your gardening even if it is still cold outside.

First, decide where your seedlings will live. Maybe you have an old closet or a corner of the house you rarely use. How much space you need depends on what you grow, which can be just about anything, from lettuce and pea shoots to tomatoes and potatoes. The larger the final plant, the more space you’ll need.   Next, consider how you will mount a light above your plants. If there is no easy way to suspend a light, you’ll need to look for lamps that come with a stand.

Humidity is important; seedlings and young plants require relatively high humidity (65%). If your space is too dry, consider a small humidifier or use plastic domes over your plants to retain their moisture, like a small biosphere. Also, don’t overwater your new plants; the soil should be moist, but not wet.   Finally, now that you’ve got the equipment, you can garden year-round!

Grow Ginger Indoors Easily and to Help with Health

Matt from Fittness.com.au recommends starting to grow ginger as it can be used on a daily basis and helps to boost immunity.

Ginger is one of the best vegetables (it comes from the root of the ginger plant) that you can consume on a daily basis. If you’d like to boost your immunity and your health all year round, ginger is the key!

And when combined with exercise and healthy eating, you’re giving yourself the best self-care possible.

Ginger is a flowering plant of which its rhizome, ginger root, is commonly used as a spice.

Most of the world’s production of ginger comes from China which may have questionable sprays/chemicals used on it during production as a way of keeping bugs and insects at bay.

But missing out on ginger’s amazing health benefits doesn’t have to mean excluding it just because of where it’s made, because you can grow your own ginger in your own home!

Here’s how to grow your own ginger indoors:

  • Buy a living ginger root with several eye buds (these are what grow into a plant)
  • Soak the root overnight in warm water in preparation for planting
  • Buy a wide, shallow pot with good quality potting soil (ginger grows horizontally)
  • Put the ginger root in with eye buds pointing up and cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil and water lightly.
  • Put the pot in a warm place but without a lot of bright light
  • Water the soil lightly often to keep the soil moist
  • After a few weeks, shoots should begin to appear
  • 3 months later your ginger should be ready for harvesting. Take what you need and leave the rest so it can continue growing for you.

Embrace Indoor Herb Gardens and Veggie Growing

Mel from Mel’s Garden lives in a state that has long winters and short, intense summers and recommends embracing including indoor gardening to extend your growing cycle.

While I always plant an outdoor vegetable and herb garden to take advantage of long summer days, I also like to grow an indoor garden year-round.

Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you can grow a simple herb garden on a windowsill or a full-fledged vegetable plot under grow lights.  I recommend people start with a herb garden. Get a tray or several pots, fill with organic potting soil, and add your favourite herbs. You’ll get a more immediate reward by starting with plants (starts) from the nursery, but seeds work just as well and are less expensive.

If you are using a tray, be sure to group herbs together that need similar amounts of water and light (it will say on the plant or seed packet). Then, put your tray or pots in a sunny windowsill and enjoy fresh herbs, year-round.  Some of my favourite herbs to grow are basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Except for the basil, these herbs tend to take over whatever space they have, so they are better off in their own pots.

Keep your herbs trimmed to ensure a continuous harvest.

Final Words on Edible Garden Tips

There are a lot of ways in which you can improve your success rate when it comes to growing vegetables and you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it.  We hope that these 14 tips for beginner vegetable gardens will give you a head start and some different ways in which you can make a quicker start on your edible garden.  Got more tips?  Or recommendations as to how you can grow more vegetables and grow better vegetables?  Let us know in the comments!

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