How to go about planting a vegetable garden

In this section we will discuss four important aspects involved in planting a vegetable garden.

  1. Using seeds to grow vegetable plants
  2. Growing veggies from transplants
  3. When to plant your garden
  4. How to fertilize the vegetable garden

So this article is split into four parts. We have provided videos and references that we personally found useful and interesting; you should check them out to have a better understanding of the topic at hand.

Growing a vegetable garden involves a lot more than just sprinkling a few seeds on the ground and hoping for the best. There is a good amount of planning and preparation involved as the first step, it is important to understand the aspects involved in the planning stage as it becomes the foundation for planting. In summary there are four steps involved in planning

  1. Deciding on the planting structure (raised bed, flat bet, container or vertical gardening)
  2. Getting the environmental conditions right (availability of sun, water and air)
  3. Preparing the soil
  4. Working out the garden design

All the four steps are discussed in detail in this article on our site: vegetable garden layout plans for a home garden. If you are beginner, we recommend that you take the time to go through this article before proceeding to the next section.

Once you have the above four requirements in place you are ready to proceed with the actual planting of the vegetable garden. So let's get started.

Using seeds to grow vegetable plants

Most beginners have a hard time while growing vegetable plants out of seeds. The most common mistake is to sprinkle the seeds directly onto the garden soil. You have very little control over the growing conditions when you do this and hence the likelihood of a successful germination is less.

If you are a newbie to vegetable garden you should avoid sprinkling your seeds directly onto the garden soil, instead you should consider indoor planting. It's like rearing your seeds in a container and transplanting them back in the garden soil when they have developed into small saplings.

You have three advantages with this technique of indoor planting.

  1. You can easily control the indoor environment and hence you can start planting your veggies well into the frost. By the time frost is over your saplings will be ready to be transplanted.
  2. You can control the soil conditions and the soil temperature quite easily. Most gardeners use compost soil for indoor planting.
  3. You can control the depth and spacing of your seeds easily when you plant them in a container.

We hope you will consider indoor planting instead of planting the seeds directly onto the garden soil, especially if you are beginner with less experience. In fact most advanced gardeners follow this technique to get a head start on the growing seasons.

To get good at indoor planting you need to have a basic understanding of five fundamental requirements, they are

  1. The planting system
  2. The soil-mix
  3. The planting depth
  4. Watering
  5. Lighting

1. The planting system

This refers to the container structure you will be using for indoor planting. Some do-it-yourself gardeners use egg cartons (with holes pierced at the bottom) as containers and plastic trays as the water holder while some would just use plain plastic flower pots to grow their seeds. These systems require experience and are prone to failures.

If you are beginner you should consider buying a multipart indoor planting system from your local nursery. It is quite cheap and is basically made out of recycled thin plastic in most cases. It will look a lot like your ice-cube tray. All you will need to do would be fill up water in the bottom tray and fill up the soil in the tray inserts. To have better idea about what we are talking about, you should check out this video. We found this video to be very illustrative and helpful for beginners.

As you can see in the video, the ready-made planting system is very convenient and guarantees 100% germination (provided you take care of the planting depth discussed next). The best part about these planting systems is that the water is wicked from the bottom-up, this is the best way to make moisture available to the seeds the other way would be to sprinkle water from the top which is not that effective and requires a lot more manual intervention.

We will recommend the use of "peat-boxes" mentioned in the last section of the video. If you are using peat-boxes (also called jiffy strips), you will not need to extract the saplings from the box, you can just put the peat-boxes in the soil and they will disintegrate with time. Peat-boxes also absorb water more efficiently and more uniformly ensuring faster germination.

2. The Soil-mix

We would recommend that you purchase the soil mix for your indoor planting instead of using your own garden soil. The advantage of purchasing a soil mix is that you don't have to work about soil preparation. Your garden soil may be acidic or may be deficient in certain minerals.

The soil mix is also very porous and fluffy allowing for roots of the samplings to spread with little effort. If you have experience with composting, you can make your own soil mix at home using the compost.

You should purchase a peat-moss based soil mix from your local nursery or garden center as this mix has the most porous texture. Before you fill up the planting containers (of the planting system) with soil, you will need to moisten it up a bit. The best way to moisten the soil would be to mix up the soil with some water in a bucket, it is important to ensure that you don't get the soil too wet - the soil should remain crumbly. Check out the above two videos for better understanding of this process.


3. The Planting Depth

Most beginners have a problem with the planting depth. They either plant the seeds too deep or too much on the surface. Usually the right planting depth our be a quarter of an inch below the surface. It is convenient to use a measure scale to get the accurate depth. Planting the seeds a little near the surface is always much safer than planting them at too much of a depth. An approximate accuracy in the planting depth is all that's required. Check out this illustrative video on how to plant the seeds once you have the planting system in place.

The planting depth of the seeds would also depend upon the type of vegetable you are growing. Be sure to check out the instructions on your seed package to get an idea of what is the most optimal planting depth for your seeds. Lettuce, for example, can be sprinkled on the surface with a planting depth of just 1/8th of an inch and you don't need to cover up these seeds at all.

4. Watering

If you are using a purchased ready-made planting system then watering is really easy. All you need to do is replenish the watering tray once in two days. This is the best way to water your seeds as the peat-boxes or trays would wick up the water from bottom-up.

If on the other hand you are planning on sprinkling on top of the soil, then you need to be more careful as you will need to do this on daily basis. Make sure you don't get the top soil too soggy else it would block the air passage.

5. Lighting

Seeds tend to germinate better when they are provided with some artificial light indoors. You can place the seed tray near an east facing window so that morning sun is available to the saplings and you can leave any small artificial light on at night near the area where you place your seed tray. This way you get the best out of the morning sun.

Most gardeners would just place their seed tray in a closet or attic where they have an artificial light glowing 24 hours, there is no problem in following this method as the seeds tend to germinate rather well even in the presence of artificial light but we recommend that you expose the saplings to morning sun, if possible, as it helps them grow better. So the best thing to do would be to place the tray next to glass window that is east facing with an artificial light source on top.