The Simple Joy of Gardening

How to Start a Garden from Scratch

One day’s harvest from our garden last year

This post will tell you how to start a garden from scratch. Even if you are a beginner to gardening, you will be able to learn enough to start a garden. My husband and I have learned from experimenting with different crops, and techniques, what grows best in our garden. It may take a few years of trial and error before you learn how to grow healthy crops, but it is worth the effort.

There’s nothing better than eating fresh produce that you have grown yourself. Knowing that it’s been grown without the use of pesticides or other dubious additives and has only been handled by yourself adds to the pleasure of eating fruit and vegetables that haven’t been transported many kilometers or stored for months.

My husband and I usually grow our crops between Autumn and Spring because the Summers in Queensland are far too hot. Temperatures are mild here, rarely dropping to frosty levels, and there are fewer bugs around to eat everything before we do. Be sure to check locally to find out when the best time to grow is. If you’re lucky, you may live in an area where you can grow crops all year around.

This is last year’s garden in it’s prime with many of the vegetables ready to harvest.

What You Need to Start a Garden from Scratch

Start With The Basics – the requirements for a healthy garden:

Your new garden will require the following to grow well:

  • Soil that is well drained, full of nutrients and has loose texture
  • Few weeds and bugs
  • Water
  • At least a few hours of sunlight

If you live in an area without ideal conditions like us, you need to create it. That is why we use raised garden beds. Our soil is very sandy and of poor quality so we fill the raised garden bed with the following:

Steps to start your garden from scratch:

Step 1 – mix the correct ingredients – cow manure, organic soil mix and compost (see photos below)

What you need to start a garden from scratch - cow manure is one of the ingredients.
Cow manure – you can buy by the bag like this. You can use any manure as long as it has been mixed with soil and allowed to settle
What you need to start a garden from scratch - organic garden soil is one of the ingredients
Organic garden soil – you can buy it by the bag like this or have a truck load delivered if your garden is large enough
What you need to start a garden from scratch - compost is one of the ingredients.  You can use your own compost or buy it from landscaping supplies
This compost is ready to be used. It has composted down to half the depth it was at the beginning, and there are very few large pieces of uncomposted material.

Step 2 – These ingredients are added to the garden bed and stirred and turned over with a garden fork.

Steps to starting a garden from scratch.  Mix the compost, soil and cow manure with a garden fork
Mixing the compost, soil and cow manure with a garden fork

My husband does all the heavy work because I suffer from arthritis in my back, but once the plants have started to produce, I can look after them.

Step 3 – Plant seeds or seedlings

We generally plant seedlings to save time. You can also raise seeds yourself and then plant them out when they’re mature. Instructions are on the seed package or seedling tags as to what favourable conditions to grow them in. Our beans grow from last year’s crop – we save some of the last beans to dry out then just plant the seeds straight in the ground.

We have also grown cherry tomatoes using seeds taken from the previous crop. Our pumpkins grew wild from the compost. It’s interesting to see what crops up each year from our compost!

Steps to starting a garden from scratch - plant seedlings or seeds
My husband planting the seedlings. They will come with instructions on how far apart they need to be planted, and other requirements

Daily Garden Tasks

After you start your garden, you will need to attend to it at least every second day, especially at the start. Daily watering is a must except if you have really rainy days. A daily routine would include picking out weeds and squashing bugs before they get out of hand. Remove plants that have died or gone to seed because they attract bugs and disease.

Regularly fertilise your garden. We use our own liquid fertiliser that we make from our worm farm. Read about it in this post. Alternatively choose a commercial product that uses organic ingredients only.

Pick plants as soon as they are ready to eat. Living them to die in the garden only attracts bugs and weeds to take over. You will find that fresh vegetables will keep much longer than store bought ones because they haven’t been stored and transported for weeks or months.

What if you don’t own a garden?

Two garden beds is enough for our needs. If you don’t have a backyard, you can grow most vegetables and fruit in containers. My brother lives on a houseboat and has an impressive array of vegetables and herbs in containers. Another alternative is to grow sprouts in jars. I have easy directions here.

What to Grow

Your choice of what to grow should be based on what crops grow best in your area. Your local landscape supplier or garden supplier should stock a good range of seedlings. Have a conversation with the staff – they are usually very willing to give you local know-how on what the best plants to grow are. Other than that it’s trial and error. In general, don’t grow anything that you don’t enjoy eating!

A selection of seedlings ready to be planted
A selection of seedlings ready to be planted

This year we are growing beans, snow peas, bok choy, baby spinach, parsley, onions, Kent pumpkin, beetroot and cos lettuce. My husband made trellises for the beans and snowpeas and you may need stakes for some of the taller plants. We also have a chilli plant and cherry tomatoes and a range of herbs.

Times vary from when you start the garden to harvest, but generally we’re eating our produce within a few weeks. One of my favourite pass-times is picking the ripe vegetables and making them into beautiful fresh meals.

Our vegetable garden three weeks after initial planting.
Three weeks after initial planting. We have added a few more seedlings to ensure a continuous supply of our favourite vegetables

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