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Designing and Planting a Veggie Garden

Designing and Planting a Veggie Garden

Recent trends have us using our outdoor spaces for both beauty and utility. What better way to take advantage of all that your home and yard have to offer than by growing your own delicious, natural, healthy flavors right outside your door? Vegetable gardens are a marriage between fashion and function.

Your family meals and dinner parties will all get an upgrade with the inclusion of a vegetable garden in your yard this year. For those starting out, we have some tips to make growing your garden as effortless as it looks. Here are some of our top Ted Lare tips for how to design your veggie garden layout and grow your own food this summer.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

How To Get Your Garden Started:
The first step is sometimes the most exciting, but can also be the most intimidating! The first steps are all about creating your vision for what your garden is going to look like. Here’s how to design your vegetable garden:

1. Mark off a plot of land that’s big enough for all of what you’d like to plant. If your space is limited, you can always put some of your garden in containers for a fun and functional garden accent.

2. Choose your edibles, focusing both on what you want to eat more of and what’s easy for a beginner to grow. We recommend choosing foods that you use lots of already so that you get to take full advantage of your garden bounty. There are lots of trendy and fun new varieties of every vegetable you can imagine, so you won’t miss out on anything cool if you only choose a few staples!

3. Check the needs of your plants. Planning is about logistics, too, so look at the frost dates of your plants to make sure they’re a good fit for Iowa, as well as checking their drainage, soil, moisture, and sun requirements. This information can help you choose where to plant, what can be planted together, and whether you need to fix your soil before planting. To garden like a pro, you can place some plants together to help each other out – like using the big leaves of your squash plants to provide some shade to your more sunburn-prone veggies! This all-natural solution can help to reduce the time you need to invest in your vegetable garden.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Starting Your Garden from Seed or Starter:
Most gardens are grown from scratch with seeds, or by transplanting little seedlings that already have the first few weeks of growth under their belt. For some vegetables, the difference is all down to preference. For others – like those that need warm conditions or have long growing seasons – starting with seedlings is a great way to cheat our short summers. When you use a starter, you can transplant young veggie plants in the warm summer soil once the spring season is done, without losing weeks of growing time!

You can grow your own starters in the early spring by planting your warm-weather plant seeds indoors in a seed starting kit, or simply pick up starters from the store.

Vegetable Seeds to Sow in Spring:
These are the cold-weather plants that love spring and fall, which thrive in cool temperatures and give you early tasty harvests. Sow them directly into the spot you’ve planned for them in your garden.

  • Lettuce and leafy greens
  • Radishes
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Beans

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Warm Weather Plants to Transplant as Starters:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Squash and zucchini

Other Easy Plants to Transplant as Starters:
Some plants simply aren’t easy to grow from seed at home, so if you want to include these easy garden vegetables you’ll need to pick up a starter from the store.

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Green onions
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
fiddle-leaf fig plant

Challenging Plants:

Not every garden edible is created the same, and some are a little trickier to grow and might not be the best choice for your first garden if you want to avoid lots of work. These aren’t impossible to grow and are still an option for more dedicated gardeners, but their special needs and higher maintenance schedule might have first-time gardeners frustrated. Save these garden favorites for when you feel like you can take on a project.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Melons

Your very own edible garden is the perfect compliment to all of the beautiful things already going on in your backyard. Growing veggies is a delicious way to taste the best of what your property has to offer, and a fun way to be nurtured by what you nurture at home. Your new garden vegetables will forever change the way you think about produce!

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Vegetable Seeding 101

seeding basics how to sow seeds vegetable garden

Planting your own seeds is a win for everyone. Not only does it save you money, while being good for your health, it is much easier than some myths would have you believe. Planting even a few seeds each year is important. It’s a significant reminder that despite how frantic our plugged-in lives can get, some of our most meaningful joys come from the simplest places.

Why Plant Seeds?

It might be simpler to ask, why not? Our gardening experience has changed in the last few years from the roots up. Slowly, popularity is swinging back to what gardening used to be about: a little bit of dirt on your hands at the end of the day, and getting a taste of our own home-grown food. This movement is more than just a trend, so many people worldwide are turning to home-gardening for countless reasons. All these new people have started to innovate and adapt in their own ways, creating a gardening experience that is both new and old, and totally unique. Seeing your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. Seeding your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. 

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For Your Health:

The health benefits are obvious. Your vegetables are at their best straight from the garden, where they have the most nutrients and vitamins packed in them. The longer you wait after your food is picked, the more your nutrition-per-bite suffers. Growing your own gets all of the nutrients where they belong: on your plate. You’ll also have the assurance that you know exactly where your food was grown and what went into it. Growing your own food from seed ensures the healthiest food that you can have full confidence in.

For the Flavor:

Homegrown food tastes better. If you place something straight from your garden next to produce from the store, we promise that you can tell the difference your backyard makes. After you try a home grown tomato, you will not want to go back.

For Your Wallet:

Growing your own food is basically growing money. You will actually pay much less every month, while reaping the rewards of better tasting, healthier food. You might still buy some exotic favorites from the store, but plants like peppers, beans, or tomatoes are essentially high-interest investments.

For Your Family:

Many people like to seed their own garden for their families. The delicious and healthy foods benefit your entire family, and growing your own saves money. But teaching your children how to grow their own vegetables is a valuable experience that doesn’t actually cost anything. Some lifelong rewards are just too important to be bought.

Getting Started:

The most difficult obstacle for people interested in seeding their own garden, is figuring out when to start. Some of your plants might be sown directly into the soil in the spring, while others may need to be started earlier, indoors. Thankfully, it’s not a very exact science so if your guesswork is a little off on either end, your plants and crops will still be great. For information on how to time your planting for the Iowa growing region, view our Seeding Calendar article.

Seeding Inside:

Some plants are a little more hearty and can tolerate being started outside as soon as the weather is mild. Crops like peas, beans, carrots, and salad greens all grow quickly and don’t mind a slight chill. Other heat-lovers, like peppers or tomatoes, will perform best if they get an indoor head-start on the season. Starting inside is a good way to get the most out of your summer, while offering a fresh green reminder on your windowsill of spring-to-come. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Wash your containers well, with soap and water. Young seedlings can be more susceptible to bacteria and fungi than your matured plants, so you’ll want to start them off right.
  2. Don’t start with soil from the garden. Use a packaged blend specially designed for seedlings to ensure that everything is sterile.
  3. Pick a location. Most seeds won’t need specialty lighting – a bright window will do. The seedlings will want as much light as they can get once they germinate.
  4. Maximize your humidity. Our favorite trick is to use a clear, plastic dome to keep moisture in while the seeds germinate. Once the leaves break the surface, they won’t need the dome anymore.
  5. The initial leaves on a plant are seedling leaves. These are nourished from the stores in the seed itself. Once the roots develop enough for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil, your plant will develop true leaves. Once true leaves start to develop, it’s time to transplant your seedling.
  6. Watering your freshly sown seeds could rinse them away. Instead, opt for the finest mist possible for the first few waterings. Optimally, you should use something that produces an effect like light rain.

Once your seedlings have successfully started, they are ready to move to the garden. Having started from scratch gives you extra satisfaction that will make your homegrown food taste even better, all summer long. Visit Ted Lare Garden Center to select your favorite vegetable seed varieties from Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange.