By in Gardening

Vegetable Gardening: Getting Started

January is seed catalogue time. For die hard gardeners, it's the time to settle back with a hot beverage and a notepad, and of course a stack of catalogues from the best nurseries and seed suppliers across the country. Experienced gardeners know how much of each seed they need to order to supply their family's needs. They know which varieties have worked best for them in the past, and which ones they are eager to try. By the time such a gardener is finished listing out everything to be ordered, the bill can come out to a couple hundred dollars and there can be orders sent out to half a dozen different suppliers.

So what if you're new to vegetable gardening, and you have to keep to a limited budget?

Buying Vegetable Seeds on a Budget

Even on a very limited budget, you can grow a small garden with a dozen or so different plants. For under $20 you can find a number of vegetable garden starter packs on a site like Amazon, where you probably already shop. If you use a cash back gateway like For The Schools when you shop online, you can save up to 40% off on your purchase too.

Most of the vegetable garden starter kits I saw were for heirloom vegetables, which means that if you save the seeds from this season's crop, you won't have to spend on them next year. Many of the seeds were also certified organic. Most vegetable seeds are non-GMO anyway, but a couple of the kits were specifically labelled as such.

Planning Your Vegetable Garden

It can be pretty daunting to start a vegetable garden from scratch. What kind of soil is needed? How many row-feet will this packet of seeds cover? Is it enough? Does the garden plot get enough sunlight? There are a lot of details for a first-time gardener to cope with – enough to put some people off actually getting a garden planted.

The best thing to do is to approach your garden as a fun project the first year. Do read up on basic gardening. Do find out when you should be planting your seeds. Do pay attention to planting instructions on the seed packets. But don't get too caught up in it.

Don't be afraid to take a bit of a risk. But cut yourself some slack, and remember that nobody's garden is ever perfect. If you get stuck on something, don't be afraid to ask for help. Use a reliable resource like your local university extension office or the vegetable growing guides on the Cornell University web site. These pages are a wealth of information about different varieties of each vegetable, planting information, caring for your plants, pests and diseases, and much more. If you have a specific question about one of your vegetable plants, it's likely the answer is there!

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Image credit: Garden fresh carrots by Alexei Abramov/ Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

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maxeen wrote on January 15, 2015, 6:37 PM

This year I must try to grow something ,I always plan to then fail to get organised.

JeanC wrote on January 15, 2015, 6:56 PM

LOL! You aren't the only one. I did get some tomatoes in last year, then the weather went hot and I wasn't able to keep up the watering when it was needed.

JeanC wrote on January 15, 2015, 6:57 PM

This year I am bound and determined to get something resembling a garden going. I have some plastic rain gutter I am going to mount on the deck rails to grow greens in. I don't have a big space, so I will use what space I can.

maxeen wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:10 PM

I am ashamed of myself ,I have masses of space but I always seen to get sidetracked or someone calls in..

isabbbela wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:14 PM

Gardening is very hard! I have tried multiple times to grow any sort of vegetable and plants, but maybe it's where I live, but it never works out!

celticeagle wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:30 PM

My grandmother did all of this without any of the kits. She kept track, seeded all her own plants by seeds she kept from one season to the next. She did it all herself with no 'kits'.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:39 PM

The last year we had a garden, there were watering restrictions and then we ended up in a drought. My poor garden looked terrible some days! But most of the veggies survived despite the uneven watering.

wolfgirl569 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:40 PM

I will be starting my seed shopping soon, the stores are starting to put them out now

Ruby3881 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:40 PM

We have very minimal space too. I'm thinking about rain gutters for greens, herbs, and strawberries.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:47 PM

It does depend on things like soil, sunlight at the right times, watering, etc. Are you trying to grow in containers, by any chance? I suck at that! If you want to grow something easy, start with lettuces and other greens. Put them straight in the ground if you can, in loose soil with a little compost or manure added to it. Make sure the plants will get direct sunlight, and water regularly. Your lettuces may bolt if it gets too hot. And insects do like to munch on them. But usually they grow well, regardless of the conditions.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:51 PM

It's just less expensive to start a garden with a kit. It's nothing fancy - just a collection of seeds at a lower cost.

I always chose my own seeds, but I really love combing through the catalogues and planning things out. A lot of folks are really overwhelmed by all the options in today's seed catalogues. If too many choices are daunting, buying a collection of a dozen packets for $10 - $15 is a great way to go. Otherwise, it can cost $3 or more per packet for organic heirloom seeds.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 15, 2015, 7:56 PM

I have generally done my seed shopping online. It's easier to find the varieties I want that way, and there are some companies that carry really interesting and rare vegetable varieties.

bestwriter wrote on January 15, 2015, 11:19 PM

Ever since I have started using my own hands and not that of my gardener's things here are looking up.

redcloaklife wrote on January 16, 2015, 2:07 AM

All we have is the patio and a little bit of the front stoop, which doesn't get much light being that it's under some stairs. I'm going to try and get a patio garden going this year but I just don't know if we can afford it. And then I will probably end up asking my neighbor if we can use her patio too, since she's never home and never goes on it! I'll definitely have to look into these kits though!

celticeagle wrote on January 16, 2015, 8:52 AM

That would be a nice price for true heirlooms. I always really respected Grams for her work. I do love a good catalogue. Fun to look through.

seren3 wrote on January 16, 2015, 10:42 AM

I just received a book on vertical gardening - growing plants in plumbing pipes etc - and using very little space. I haven't read it yet (I don't have a patio or balcony to grow on) but I'm sure it will be interesting. Probably there are youtube videos too.

phoenixmaid wrote on January 16, 2015, 11:33 AM

I would love to grow my own food but with a pair of brown thumbs that murder everything green i won't even try to start one. My mum tried to start one last year and it was all going really well until she went out one night and that the planters were a sea of slugs. she was heart broken.

beachchair wrote on January 16, 2015, 11:45 AM

I loved having a garden when I was a kid. We would head out for the day and simply bring a pocket knife and eat out of the garden for lunch.

Ambermol wrote on January 16, 2015, 2:27 PM

I have all our seeds sorted and my order in - we sort ours in the dark, cold nights of early January

Elfbwillow wrote on January 16, 2015, 3:57 PM

Ive always wanted to try to grow things in our garden though our garden is such a state that the only thing I seem to be able to grow is weeds!

rosepetal wrote on January 16, 2015, 7:51 PM

My hubby got his first new vegetable catalog last week. It was at that moment he declared it spring. I think he is getting cabin fever.

cheri wrote on January 17, 2015, 4:22 AM

Although I also love gardening, its not easy for me to do it since I live in an apartment type building. But I am trying to plant vegetables on pots.

angelaterese13 wrote on January 17, 2015, 7:35 AM

Oh, boy! I've been trying to curb my thoughts about gardening for awhile, I still have two months before I can even plant the cole crops yet, and then another month before I can start putting out some of the other spring vegetables. I've gotten a "Rare Seeds" catalog, and I keep it like a coffee table book! Great article!

valmnz wrote on January 18, 2015, 4:43 PM

We're in the height of summer here in New Zealand but I didn't get much planted this year. Still, the beans, lettuces, tomatoes are looking good in the vegie line, with grapes, lemons and passionfruit in the fruit domain.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:34 AM

It is very much worthwhile using one's own hands, no matter what the endeavour emoticon :smile:

bestwriter wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:37 AM

But we Indians unfortunately are brought up having maids and gardeners around and also handy man husbands emoticon :grin:

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:39 AM

If cost is an issue, do check them out. Choose open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, so you can save seeds at the end of the growing season. Even if the packages aren't marked as such, it's pretty easy to look up the names of the varieties in a kit and find out if they are heirloom/OP. Many are, which is great news!

We have the same issue with a really small space and not enough light. I'm thinking about using part of the space to grow mushrooms this summer. I'm also looking into ways I can grow in elevated areas that aren't overshadowed by the trees and the fence.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:42 AM

Handyman husbands and children are - well, handy! And as they are an extension of us, there is still much benefit to be gained if they do the "heavy lifting," so to speak! emoticon :grin:
It must be wonderful to have staff to look after things for you, but I imagine you lack a connection to things - especially when it comes to growing things and to nourishing your family.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 1:11 AM

I've never had much success with my own tomatoes, but I love the smell of the plants!

bestwriter wrote on January 21, 2015, 5:30 AM

But I am totally involved in the sense I get the work done but my heart and soul is there and yet doing it ourselves is what our plants want.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 10:06 AM

I'm considering a vertical garden this summer for a few greens and herbs this summer. I'm also dreaming up setting up a sort of trellis system with rain gutters, to grow strawberries up above the level of the shadow cast by our rowan tree.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:51 PM

You might want to try putting in a raised bed with some sort of weed control built into it. This gives you a small, controlled start and doesn't require you to spend a lot of time turning over soil.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 21, 2015, 12:52 PM

That is tough! I had a problem with grasshoppers that ate all the leaves. It's very discouraging!