The Green Thumb’s Guide: 10 Simple Tips for Growing a Vegetable Garden—Anywhere!

Ever dreamed of growing your own vegetable garden? From choosing the perfect location to picking what to grow (and how much to water), these simple tips can make a green thumb out of any first-time grower.

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Creative containers for a vegetable garden
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How to grow a vegetable garden when you’ve got no room

Wondering how to grow a vegetable garden when you’re in an apartment or condo, or simply don’t have space in your yard? In a word: Containers! If you have a pot that holds soil and allows for drainage, you’ve got yourself a potential vegetable garden. A mint tin, an old washtub, a basket, a trash can or a wine box can all be repurposed as garden containers—just add drain holes to the sides and bottom and fill it with soil.

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Community vegetable garden
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Find the right spot

If you have a flood of light coming in through south-facing windows, or an entryway with plenty of sun and room for both a path and plants, you’re in business. Setting up an indoor space with supplemental light is also an option. Rooftops, decks and bal­conies are great places for a vegetable garden, too. Use walls, fences and hanging gardens to optimize finite space. If your home has limited access to the outdoors, your best bet may be to find a community garden or share the yard of a neighbour.

You can also try these inspired indoor gardening ideas.

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How to start a vegetable garden - box of fresh picked produce
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Keep an eye on things

Place the vegetable garden where you can see it from a window, in a spot you pass by on a daily basis or in a place you like to be. This immediately shifts the garden experience from burden to lifestyle. Time spent tending to your garden—a few minutes here and there—becomes part of your every day routine.

Find out which plants will attract butterflies and birds to your garden.

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Start small with your vegetable garden
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Start small

Raised beds, troughs and potted stairway gardens help focus your attention and manage your time. At this scale, you can easily see where to weed and what needs to be watered.

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How to grow a vegetable garden - snap peas in pod
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Grow what you love

Find the things that make you happy—plants you enjoy cooking with or simply looking at. Make sure they work in your climate.

First-timer grower? Here’s what you should know before starting a garden.

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Balcony vegetable garden
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Set yourself up for success

Many plants need shelter from wind and animals. Take notice of who might be out to eat your garden before you do, and pinpoint your sunniest locations. A vegetable garden usually requires full sun (six to eight hours of direct light).

Don’t miss these helpful hints for urban gardeners.

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Watering your vegetable garden
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Get watering right

Soil-level watering helps prevent disease and conserve water. A well-planned drip or soaker hose system with an irrig­ation timer takes the worry out of gardening and reduces your time commitment. There are simple setups that connect to a spigot and can be run along patios, and more elab­orate systems for larger gardens. Nanny pots are perfect for small containers that would otherwise be watered by hand. If you’re away for a long weekend or simply want to guarantee your plants are getting the water they need, fill a bottle with water, flip it over and push the open end into the soil. The soil will seal the opening, and water will flow from the bottle as the soil dries out.

Want to grow your own home remedies? Add these healing plants to your plot.

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Attracting pollinators to your vegetable garden
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Take cues from Mother Nature

In the wild, water runs downhill. So too should water in your garden. Make sure planters and garden beds have adequate drainage. Tend your soil, adding organic matter to make a healthy home for beneficial soil microbes and decomposers. And plant in polycultures—meaning, grow mul­tiple crops in the same place. Divers­ity will minimize problems with pests and attract pollinators to your garden.

Here’s what you can do right now to help save the bees.

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Healthy pepper plant in a vegetable garden
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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

When a plant looks happy, it prob­ably is, and further watering or fertilizing won’t make it happier. In fact, the opposite may occur.

Check out more gardening tips that could save you time, money and effort.

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How to grow a vegetable garden anywhere
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Let go of “perfect”

Expect to encounter a mix of one-hit wonders, consistent winners and lost causes. Don’t wait for everything to be “just so” to start planting—embrace the fact that gardens are the definition of change. Some plants thrive while others die; you and your garden will evolve together.

Now that you know how to grow a vegetable garden, find out the best flowers for planters.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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