If you’re thinking about starting your own garden, go for it! There are plenty of health benefits coming your way—including a few that may surprise you. According to research, gardening for as little as 30 minutes a week can increase your energy, reduce tension and anger, boost self-esteem and help you maintain your weight. This season, reap all the rewards of flexing your green thumb with these simple tips for starting your first vegetable garden.
Seek the sun. Many vegetable plants need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day, so pick your spot accordingly. If the plants don’t get enough full sun, they won’t produce as many vegetables and may be susceptible to pests.
Start small. You might dream of having rows upon rows of veggies sprouting up in your yard, but the best way to get growing is to start with a few planting containers or raised garden beds. Both give you more flexibility when it comes to finding that sunny spot, as well as more control over your soil.
Nurture your soil. Most vegetables grow best in moist, well-drained soil that’s enriched with organic matter (like compost). Fill your containers or beds with potting soil or a 50/50 mix of topsoil and compost. If you’re placing garden beds on existing grass, line them first with several layers of newspaper to help block weeds. Water your plants regularly to keep the soil moist. A good rule of thumb? If the top of the soil is dry to the touch it’s time to water.
Pick your favorites. Now for the fun part: choosing exactly what to plant—and eat! Keep in mind that some vegetables, like tomatoes, summer squash and peppers, keep producing throughout the season, while others, like radishes and carrots, can only be harvested once.
Use starter plants. When growing veggies for the first time, you could start your own plants from seed, but that method requires a bit more time and attention. If you buy starter plants from a garden center, you’ll have a great crop ready to eat several weeks earlier than if you were to plant seeds.