You can grow food indoors, outdoors, in raised beds, on vertical walls and even in hanging planters. Here’s how Thumbtack gardening experts start a garden that lasts.
More of an inside person? You can make a thriving kitchen garden — literally in your kitchen. That’s because the best place to grow a small vegetable and herb garden indoors is in a sunny area with a lot of humidity and warmth. Start by clearing space around your home’s most prominent windows. Most plants do best with 14 to 16 hours of uninterrupted light and in a room where the temperature is usually between 65 and 75 degrees. If your home doesn’t fit these specifications, it’s possible to bring in outside grow lights and humidity machines.
Indoor plants do more than just save you the hassle of gardening in the cold weather and producing fewer weeds. Some of the most common indoor edible plants include green beans, small tomato plants, oregano and lavender. Most people plant in pots, but it’s also popular (and stylish) to use hanging baskets or wall fixtures. Just keep in mind that plants grow, so your garden is likely to expand over time.
If you’re not into the idea of an indoor garden, the easiest way to start an outdoor garden is with a raised bed. It’s one of the most popular options for new gardeners — and with reason. The raised frame protects your garden from pathway weeds, provides drainage, and keeps out unwelcome guests like snails and mice. It’s also much easier to control the soil inside of a raised bed garden then it is to control what’s already going on below your yard. You can buy a raised garden bed at the garden store. It’s also an option to build one using an old mattress box frame (check Craigslist) or cinder blocks.
What you want to grow in your garden and what will grow in your garden are two very different things. To understand what kinds of plants will grow in your area or what’s suggested for your beginner vegetable garden, ask a representative at your local garden store and look online. The truth is that different vegetables require different care — just make sure you know what you’re signing up for before you plant.
Before you plant anything, get to know your soil. For starters, most vegetables do best in soil that’s well-drained and rich in organic matter — and if either element is missing, your little seedlings will have a tough go. Soil testing kits are an easy and inexpensive way to learn what’s in the dirt below your yard. Once you know what’s missing (generally: nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium) you can work on blending those nutrients into the soil with additives from the garden center.
Companion planting is the practice of planting compatible species together to save water and improve your soil. Some popular plant combos include garlic and roses, and cabbage and dill. Some companion plants also go really well together in dishes. Think tomatoes and basil (bonus: both grow really well indoors).
How do you make a compost pile? How do you stop the smell from that compost pile from wafting into your home on the breeze? What do you need to DIY a sturdy window box? Look for garden blogs, websites and magazines in your area — they’ll have more specific tips for your climate, likely pests, soil troubleshooting and other gardening concerns.
Transforming your backyard into a thriving kitchen garden is easier than you think. A gardener can tell you what to plant, get your garden started and help with the upkeep, along with mowing and maintaining your lawn or specialty services like pruning bushes, trees and plants.
How much you pay for gardening and landscape services depends on your professional’s level of expertise and other factors including where you live and how complicated your gardening work is. Your gardener can also help you decide the best season for your landscaping projects and what kinds of plants will grow best in your yard and when to plant them.
For more on costs, see “How much does a gardener cost?”
Let a pro start your vegetable garden for you. You’ll get your fill of DIY later with watering, pest control and weeding. Find all the landscaping pros you’ll need on Thumbtack:
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