The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Organic Veggies

So, you’re ready to grow your own organic veggies, but have never gardened in your life and have no idea where to begin. Perhaps you are like my friend Sarah and consider yourself to be an accidental plant murderer and have a black thumb (sorry Sarah). I bet there are a million questions flying through your head, like “what kind of soil do I use?”, “Should I plant in a container or the ground?”, “How much light do plants need?”, “How much water?”,”Will I be a competent vegetable parent?!”

While all these questions are Google-able (except for the last one, just answer YES), I get that there’s a zoo of information out there. Sometimes too much info makes decisions tougher and it can be insanely overwhelming.

But have no fear: I will break it down for you here! (haha, that rhymed.)

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Organic Veggies:

1. Start Simple 

Whether you have a garden space to work with or not, I believe the best way to get going is by growing in a container. Not only are there many more variables that you can control with container gardening, it’s just generally so much more manageable for a garden-novice.

The fun part about container gardening (OK, I find all gardening fun) is that you can get creative. You can basically use anything as your container, as long as it will hold up to the elements (sun, wind, water) and has drainage.

If you’re a thrift-whizz like myself, don’t go out and BUY new containers that were actually intended for planting in. USE WHAT YOU HAVE!

If you own a drill (I hope so), think to yourself, “Now what do I have that I can drill some drainage holes in?”
If you’re looking for something that can hold a lot of soil, and thus a good deal of vegetables, you can explore the world of plastic storage totes.

2. Grab a Storage Tote and Get Growing
You probably have two or three kicking around, or know someone who does. Or you just saw some on someone’s curb yesterday.
All you gots to do, my friends, is drill some holes in the bottom of them for drainage. Then you have a perfectly viable, large volume growing factory!

Last summer’s lacinato kale happily growing in an old Rubbermaid storage tote

3. Make it Easy On Yourself: Use a Pre-Fab, Organic Soil Blend
Let me make this clear. If there is one thing you take away from this, it’s that SOIL IS VERY IMPORTANT. Soil is not just “dirt”, it must contain all the nutrients a plant needs to turn from an itty bitty seed into a big healthy chlorophyll-dense veggie machine. Just as shitty food makes our bodies shitty, shitty soil will produce a shitty plant.
But you can make this easy on yourself. You don’t have to fortify your soil with anything if you start with a soil mix that already has the nutrients you need!
To ensure your beginner soil is top notch, fill your storage totes with a pre-fab soil blend like Promix Herb and Veggie Mix. When you become more advanced you can begin adding soil amendments and enriching your soil yourself, but for now, all the work is done for you.

4. Start with Seedlings (pre-grown plants)
Once you get your feet wet and you graduate from the beginner stage, you can start growing your own plants by seed. But for now, hit up a local nursery or garden centre and start off with seedlings.

5. Do Not Overcrowd (Plants Need Personal Space Too)
So you’ve got your tote, your soil, your seedlings, and now you’re ready to plant them in thurr. Overcrowding is a blunder I still make since I am just so excited about packing as much into one area as possible, but plants need personal space. Research how much space the particular plant you are planting needs, and don’t try to cheat it. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY, THE PLANT WILL DO BETTER WITH MORE SPACE! (Okay, now I need to really convince myself that).

6. Water Consistently
I can’t tell you how much water each type of plant needs, but I can’t tell you that pretty much all edible garden plants DO NOT LIKE TO FULLY DRY OUT. Water your plants consistently. Keep your soil moist but not soggy. Watch out for limp leaves; this is usually a sign that the plant is too dry and is fading fast.

7. Be Mindful of Sunlight
Most veggies need about 6-8 hours of full sunlight to really thrive, so put them in your sunniest possible locations.

8. Pick Vegetables With High Success Rates
This all depends on where you live, but generally tomatoes, lettuce, kale, herbs and radishes are very easy and quite foolproof if you follow the above directions (Note: radish is the exception to the “don’t grow from seed yet” rule. You will not find radish seedlings, because they are SO easy to grow from seed. Grow them from seed.).

9. HAVE FUN
Remember, with all things in life, shit happens and maybe it won’t work out 100%, but you will always learn from it, so have FUN! Maybe a rogue squirrel will dig up your lettuce, or a pesky elephant will snipe your kale. But that’s all part of the adventure. If you follow my steps above I guarantee you will grow SOMETHING edible this summer, so just friggen’ start.

YOU CAN DO IT!!

Now wanna eat some flowers? Click here to learn about my 6 favourite edible flowers.

Me and my container chard.

Laura Franklin, CNP

Laura Franklin, CNP

Holistic Nutritionist, Private Holistic Cook, Urban Garden Expert at Fresh and Frank Wellness
Laura Franklin is the owner of Fresh & Frank Wellness and curator of freshandfrank.com.
She is on a legit superhero mission to empower as many people as she can to practice preventive health care and TAKE BACK THEIR FOOD POWER via cooking, growing and preparing their own food. She is currently based in Toronto, Canada.
Laura Franklin, CNP

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