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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 gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

Get creative with 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 gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

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, or these five inspired indoor gardening ideas.

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Windowsill vegetable gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

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 vegetables you can start growing indoors.

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Start small with your vegetable gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

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.

Believe it or not, you can even regrow these vegetables from kitchen scraps!

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Grow what you love in your vegetable gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

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.

Discover the surprising health benefits of gardening!

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Balcony vegetable gardenPhoto: ShutterStock

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).

Check out these helpful hints for urban gardeners.

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Watering your vegetable garden Photo: Shutterstock

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 healing garden? Here are eight medicinal plants to grow at home.

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Attracting pollinators to your vegetable garden Photo: Shutterstock

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. (Here’s expert advice on how to amend soil.) And plant in polycultures—meaning, grow mul­tiple crops in the same place. Divers­ity will minimize problems with pests and attract pollinators to your garden.

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Healthy pepper plant in a vegetable garden Photo: Shutterstock

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 anywherePhoto: Shutterstock

Let go of “perfect”

Expect to encounter a mix of one-hit wonders, consistent winners and lost cause\s. 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’ve got these vegetable gardening tips under your belt, find out which vegetables grow the fastest.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada