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The Beginner Vegetable Garden – 7 Simple Strategies for Success

There’s just something about having a vegetable garden.

Imagine – your personal organic market, right outside you front door. No further running to the store for salad, no longer worrying about pesticide residues, no longer concern about having nothing to eat within an emergency.

A novice vegetable garden is a key piece of your self-sufficiency plan, and having one sets you free in so many ways – if you do it right. Do it wrong, and you won’t be all that excited about trying it again next year.

My first vegetable garden was in the trunk yard of my landlord’s house on a quiet street in North Vancouver. I worked hard onto it, putting in raised beds (sort of — these were a lot more like raised soil), soil amendments, and seeds. The plants grew beautifully, but it was just too much. Once the morning glory and clover started creeping in to the beds, the weeding took more and more hours, and the slugs charged en masse, the whole venture lost its lustre.

I was single and childless at the time, without commitments time intensive enough to disqualify me from veggie garden bliss. The garden was just about 10’x 10′- not big by any standards. But I was busy with friends and work, and I knew nothing about pest prevention. Obviously, the slugs eventually got the better of me. I simply didn’t have the desire to spend a tonne of time hunting the slow-moving gastropods during the night (which apparently works, but I can’t tell you by personal experience), so by the end of the growing season, all of the zucchini and beans have been devoured by these remarkably efficient chompers.

Since that time, I’ve learned a couple of things. And a year ago, our foray into self-sufficiency through a veggie garden, was reasonably successful. But in 2010, I’m approaching it somewhat differently. Here is what we’re going to do.

7 Simple Strategies for a Successful Beginner Vegetable Garden


  1. Make a listing of the vegetables you love to eat. Don’t plant things you don’t. Simple as that. This way, all the task you place in can pay off big when you can enjoy luscious veggies you love, as opposed to having bushels of produce you can’t share, such as (insert prolific vegetable name here). Zucchini, anyone?
  2. Take an honest look at your weekly schedule. Simply how much time do really you’ve to spend in your garden every week? Not simply how much you wish you had, or plan to have. If you’re honest with yourself in this step, your food growing experience will soon be so much more enjoyable. Within my case, I really don’t do have more than an hour or so or two a week, tops, so I need to take that into consideration when I’m planning my beds and what I want to grow. Plant a lot more than I will look after and the whole thing goes sour pretty quickly. The past thing I need would be to resent my garden, or worse, have all my effort rot on the vine (which, sadly, happened a year ago with this bean crop).
  3. Be conservative. This combines points 1 and 2: only grow veggies you love to eat AND only grow as many as you will look after. A successful method of doing this is to select one kind of food you want to be self-sufficient in in 2010, then grow that and grow it well. We tried this our first year and decided that people were going to be self-sufficient in lettuce. And, lo and behold, that’s what happened! We didn’t buy any salad greens from March through October. And it felt good! Ensure your personal success by not taking on a lot of and you’ll feel great too.
  4. Plant your garden close to the house. Depending on your own property, this might not be possible, but the typical consensus seems to be that the closer the garden is to your residence, the easier it’s to care for. Better still when you yourself have to walk past it to access your car or to some other part of your property that you frequent regularly. It really makes it efficient and, well, easier.
  5. Order seeds suitable to your region. Most regions of North America have a seed company that specializes in seeds that well in the area. Some gardeners order from big national seed houses, but I prefer to support smaller,’local-as-possible’organic and heirloom seed suppliers. You can find a number of these online with a straightforward search of organic vegetable seeds plus your province/state or region.Better still, ask gardeners around town for seed suppliers who may not need a big internet presence but whose seeds are robust and well-suited to the area growing conditions. It is only going to increase your chances of success.
  6. Focus on growing conditions. When I say don’t attempt to grow tomatoes where there’s no sun, I speak from experience (sadly). Seed packages are pretty detailed, and most seed suppliers have extensive websites with basic growing facts about each seed variety offered. If you stick with what works, you’ll be successful. Needless to say, you can always experiment (because you merely never know what could work in your garden), but all of the time, the plants are bred for specific conditions and do best under those conditions.
  7. Keep track. That one is hard for me, as I have trouble sitting down and recording facts (I just want to’do ‘, I don’t genuinely wish to’plan’). However the more I read about growing food, the more I’m realizing that having some solution to record what worked and what didn’t from year to year will be very helpful indeed. I’ve just started using a tool called the GrowVeg Garden Planner and am anticipating it can help me grow more food this year, but you may also use a binder with simple notes, or obtain a pre-made garden journal. Either way, I think you’ll find it’s an incredibly helpful tool for vegetable gardening success.

    There you have it! Seven simple strategies for an effective beginner vegetable garden.There are more, obviously, but these will set your course in the proper direction. The technical bits and pieces may come as you learn.

    With so a lot of growing your own food being trial and error, with so many variables, anyone who says they have a one-size-fits-all approach to vegetable gardening is selling you a line. Soil, light levels, plant diseases, moisture levels, predators, garden location, time availability, different plant varieties – all have a primary affect the success, or failure, of one’s first vegetable garden.

    So try things.Test different techniques. Speak to people in your neighbourhood who be seemingly successful gardeners. See what works for you.

    And as you do all that, remember the 7 Simple Strategies. Working with them can make your whole gardening venture so much more enjoyable. And a satisfying gardening experience means you’ll try it again next year.

    And that’s an excellent thing, indeed.

    Victoria Gazeley is an artist and communications professional surviving in an 80-plus year old restored log cabin homestead on a 6 acre rural property in coastal British Columbia, Canada. She created her website,, proper wanting a more resilient, self-sufficient lifestyle, if it take the city or the country. It’s’simple self-sufficiency – with style!’ You can visit her online at, where you can get her free info-packed audio “5 Mistakes Newbie Homesteaders Make – Don’t Let This Be YOU!” at


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