The Beginner's Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening


By Benedict Vanheems

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For anyone who has ever wanted to tend a little piece of ground but wasn’t sure where to begin, GrowVeg offers simple recipes for gardening projects that are both attainable and beautiful. Benedict Vanheems, editor of the popular website, guides aspiring green thumbs to success from the start, no matter what size gardening space you have. Get recommendations for veggie varieties for your first edible garden, plant a miniature orchard, and grow an edible archway, or keep your efforts contained by cultivating a rustic crate of herbs on a sunny balcony, a crop of carrots in a basket, or nutritious and delicious sprouts in a jar on the kitchen counter. The beginner-friendly instructions and step-by-step photography detail more than 30 approachable, small-scale gardening projects that will inspire and empower you to get growing!



Edible Gardening Basics

Dependable Favorites

Small Space, Big Impact

Nature Helping Hand

Head Turners

The Great Indoors



Bug Hotel Template


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Edible Gardening Basics

Welcome to the joyous world of edible gardening! We'll show you how to get your fruits and vegetables off to the very best start.

It's Time to Get Growing!

The saying goes that life begins the day you start a garden. It gets you outside into fresh air — sun on your back, wind in your hair — and closer to the natural world. Interacting with plants is scientifically proven to be good for both physical and mental health. Time spent tending your personal patch of paradise helps clear the mind and relieve stress, leaving you calm and contented. The journey from garden fork to kitchen fork is an immensely satisfying one. It's no surprise that you rarely come across a grumpy gardener.

So congratulations on picking up this book — you've just taken your first step toward enjoying the freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious food possible!

Freshest Food

Growing your own vegetables and fruits makes it possible to harvest at the absolute peak of perfection because there's no processing, refrigeration, or transportation to worry about. Fresh food takes taste to a whole new level, as anyone who has indulged in the juiciness and aroma of a just-picked strawberry will know. Time from plot to plate is measured in minutes instead of days, so anything you grow will contain a higher density of vitamins and minerals, too.

More of us are waking up to the environmental problems our planet faces. The scale of the challenge may seem overwhelming, but growing more of the food we eat is an empowering response to the seemingly impossible task ahead. Today's gardeners are tuned in to the issues surrounding sustainability. Opt to grow organically, and consider wildlife, and you and your crops will thrive all the more.

The Choice Is Yours

Another reason to get dirt under your fingernails is the mouthwatering prospect of choice. Vegetables and fruits destined for the grocery store are bred for uniformity and shelf life. Well, you can throw that onto the compost heap, my friend, because now you are in the market for flavor! With literally thousands of different varieties to try, often from a single crop alone, there's a universe of tastes, textures, and characters to explore. Get ready to supersize your larder!

Over the coming chapters, you will discover all the basics you need to get growing and on the way to those first precious harvests. The projects are designed to stand alone but may equally be grouped as part of a larger setup. There is a project for everyone, whether you have a windowsill, balcony, or sprawling acreage. Breathe in the inspiration, feel fired up, then pick your projects, and ready, set . . . sow.

Grow into Gardening

If you are new to gardening, it's best to start small. Take your time and expand the quantity and range of crops as your confidence and experience grow. Remember, gardening is a lifelong journey, and there is always more to learn. The projects featured in this book are great places to start and have been selected for reliability, performance, and good looks worth shouting about. So what are you waiting for? Let's get growing!

Let's Get Growing!

Vegetable and fruit gardening has come a long way. Once the preserve of enthusiasts, now it seems everyone's at it — and so they should be! Homegrown food is quite simply better in every conceivable way: taste, texture, freshness, nutritional value, character, sheer charm . . . you name it.

So where to grow your own food? How about wherever you like! With so many different crops to choose from and such a range of varieties to enjoy, there's something suitable for every space, regardless of its size, shape or location. This is great news, because everyone deserves the right to grow at least a little of what they love.

Begin Your Journey

Most vegetable plants are either annuals or are grown like annuals, meaning they're sown, grown, and picked within the same growing season. Both new and seasoned gardeners can use this to their advantage — get it wrong one year and you have another shot at glory the next! Take any setbacks as a lesson from Mother Nature. Listen and learn and, hey, don't sweat it. Remember, gardening isn't about a final destination: it's about that joyous journey of discovery.

The best advice for anyone new to gardening is to start small and at your own pace. There's little point rushing ahead and spreading your efforts too thinly. Concentrate on a few fail-safe projects and your garden can grow alongside your confidence.

You don't need to have a garden to start growing! Many vegetables and edible flowers — like this nasturtium — grow well in containers.

Pots of Plenty

Containers, tubs, and baskets are sensible yet fun places to start. They are compact in size, and you can add to your collection as you go, building up a container garden every bit as productive as a dedicated vegetable patch.

Anything that can be filled with potting mix is fair game, so there's ample scope for letting your creativity loose — think boots bursting with carrots, storage containers overflowing with salad greens, or old woven fabric sacks stuffed with herbs, leafy greens, and tumbling tomatoes. Many of the projects included in the coming pages make imaginative use of upcycled items that are sure to become talking points in your own garden.

Crops in containers need watering more often than those in the ground, but on the flip side there is less risk of soilborne pests or diseases, and you can tailor the potting mix to suit the plant. For example, use an acidic potting mix for acid lovers such as blueberries or a free-draining mix for Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and thyme.

Containers of every style are the go-to solution for turning a barren balcony or paved patio into a productive and beautiful space. Opt for space-saving veggies including salad leaves, peppers, gorgeous greens, bush tomatoes, all types of herbs, and compact fruits like sumptuous strawberries.

Time for Bed

Raised beds are a step up from containers, providing convenience and additional space. They can be popped straight onto most soil types, even poor ones, enabling a strong start from the get-go. Raised beds drain better, which makes them a great option for typically soggy soils. They warm up quicker in spring, too, so you can get a head start on sowing and planting.

Make your own raised beds from cut-to-size lumber and screws — it really is very easy (see here). Or purchase ready-to-assemble raised-bed kits. Fill them with soil and a primer of organic matter such as compost and you're off — sow long, baby!

There are many other compelling reasons to opt for raised beds. There's less bending, for a start; they are easier to look after; and because of the extra soil depth, it's possible to produce bigger, better harvests. Raised beds also help keep children and pets to the paths — and off your precious plants.

Grow a Garden

And then there's the traditional way: in the ground! Old-fashioned, perhaps, but it's the best way to achieve that ambitious, though no less attainable, goal of self-sufficiency.

The vegetable gardens of yesteryear were often relegated to the backyard, out of sight next to the compost heap. Today's gardeners are out and proud. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs, with their many colors and textures, can be every bit as decorative as the flower garden. Indeed, some of the best gardens combine the edible with the ornamental to create spaces of immense beauty and encourage wildlife to lend a helping hand.

So whether you are a stickler for regimented rows or you embrace a seemingly anarchic hodgepodge of herbs, veggies, and flowers, there's a style to suit your heart's desire.

Productive and Pretty

Hanging Out Fill hanging baskets with herbs, salad greens, or trailing vegetables such as tumbling tomatoes or sweet and juicy strawberries. Hang them somewhere you regularly walk past so you won't forget to water and pick.

Potted Paradise Go timeless with terra-cotta or earthenware. Or shake things up with upcycled or embellished containers. Start the earliest crops of the year indoors, then move them out once the weather has warmed.

Up the Wall Turn uninspiring walls and fences into productive spaces alive with climbing vegetables such as cucumber and squash. Or try wall-trained fruits — a clever way to make the most of limited space.

Raised Standards Revel in the ordered beauty of raised beds. Build up the soil level inside them gradually, over many seasons. Or turbocharge the beds by filling them to the brim from the start with soil enriched with lots of lovely organic matter.

Trick Out Your Yard Ornamental kitchen gardens, often called potagers, combine flowers and edibles to create a garden that's both stunning and tasty. Design a beautiful pattern or go for planned chaos. Mixing it up like this makes it harder for pests to home in on specific plants.

Hanging Baskets

Terra-cotta or Earthenware Pots

Trellis for Wall-trained Plants

What Should I Grow?

The obvious answer to that question is . . . what you enjoy eating! There's little sense in wasting time and energy growing food you don't love. Figure out your favorites and take it from there.

Pick Your Top Crops

Begin whittling down the available options by writing down what you or your family enjoys eating or would eat more of if you had the opportunity. Some vegetables are pricey because harvesting them is labor intensive, or because they require delicate handling or precise storage conditions to prolong their shelf life. Other fruits and vegetables are simply hard to come by. You won't have to worry about any of this, so growing crops that are costly or hard-to-find is a great place to start.

Crops like beans, zucchini/courgette, and strawberries are highly prolific and easy to grow but can be expensive. Bulky crops like potatoes or carrots, on the other hand, are generally very affordable and so might be dropped from your list unless you love a particularly rare or colorful variety. Herbs are a must for the punch of flavor they deliver from such fuss-free plants. Then there are bush and tree fruits that yield plenty to pick year after year with minimal input from you — a great option when time is scarce.

Something to Store

Just-harvested produce almost always tastes better. Being able to enjoy minutes-fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the reasons why you're going to love these projects! But as you refine your must-grow list, consider those crops that also lend themselves to filling the pantry, so you can put a little aside for later.

Peas and beans freeze well, as do berries. Paste or plum tomatoes can be turned into delicious sauces to divvy up into meal-sized portions ready for the freezer. Or don your apron and transform gluts of onions, fruits, and roots into chutneys, jams, and pickles. Some vegetables also keep for months in a cool but frost-free shed or garage; winter squashes or strings of garlic and onions keep well this way. So while gluts can be overwhelming, planning to grow a few crops specifically for storing or preserving will enable you to capture and savor the intense taste of summer during leaner times of the year.

Spaced Out

Consider the space you have to grow. If you are limited to pots, opt for quick growers like salad greens that will give you multiple harvesting opportunities throughout the growing season, or go large on space-saving vertical crops like beans. Some edibles don't even require a garden, just a corner of the kitchen or a sunny windowsill. If you're a fan of fungi, then this will be music to your ears!

Whatever you grow, consider the space each crop will need and plan your purchases of seeds and plants accordingly. There is no point packing in plants if they can't then reach their full potential. But equally, aim to grow a range of vegetables to keep you interested and to stagger harvest times so there is always something fresh to pick.

Consider Your Climate

Warm-weather crops such as sweet corn, peppers, and pumpkins grow best in warmer climates, but with the right choice of varieties and the initial protection of a cold frame or greenhouse, they can thrive even in cooler areas. Conversely, if your garden is baked dry and hard in summer, cool-season staples like salad greens, kale, or turnips will struggle during the warmest months. Online tools such as the Garden Planner from can help you make the most of your space.

Different areas of your garden will have their own microclimates. That sunny wall by the patio? It's a green light for warmth-loving staples like tomatoes or perhaps a wall-hugging nectarine. But what about the half of the garden that's in shade for much of the afternoon? Try leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, lettuce, and celery.

Sprawling pumpkins and winter squash can take up a lot of room, unless you train them vertically.

Cool-Season Vegetables

Cool-season veggies can be planted before your last spring frost, or in late summer to early autumn. These vegetables struggle in the heat and will benefit from some shade in hot weather.

Warm-Season Vegetables

Warm-season crops prefer both warm soil and hot temperatures. They are planted after the last frost but can be started indoors to get a jump on the season. They consist mainly of fruiting vegetables.

Secrets to Gardening Success

You're keen to get growing — I can tell. But before you even think about reaching for that spade, it's worth getting a grip on a few of the basics. I know, I know — you just want to get on with it. But a few moments now could save you a lot of hassle later on.

The Right Site

Sun. Let's start with where to grow. Most vegetables need at least some direct sunshine to ensure steady, healthy growth. Watch where the sun falls throughout the day and make a note of those areas that get the most. Fruit needs up to eight hours of direct sunshine a day, root vegetables perform best with a minimum of six hours, while most leafy vegetables are happy with four.

Shelter. Pick a spot that is sheltered from the prevailing wind but with some airflow. Semipermeable windbreaks such as hedges filter wind rather than stop it entirely, avoiding the damaging eddies that solid barriers can cause. You can also use taller, sturdier crops such as corn to shelter lower-growing vegetables, but make sure they don't plunge the plants they are protecting into too much shade.

Frost pockets, where cold air collects, are usually found at the bottom of a slope or in shady corners. Areas where frost lingers like this may harm seedlings, delay growth, and kill fruit blossoms, so are best avoided.

Water access. Consider how you will water your plants, especially if your climate is very dry. Using rainwater, collected in rain barrels/water butts, is the most environmentally friendly way to water crops, but check if that's allowed in your area. If time isn't on your side or you have a big garden, then a drip-irrigation system can help maintain consistent soil moisture.

The ideal site gets plenty of sunshine and is sheltered from strong winds.

From the Ground Up

Any thriving garden starts with good soil. Love and understand your soil, and gardening success will follow. Almost all vegetables prefer the same soil: one that retains enough moisture to give them all the water they need, but drains freely enough that the roots are never sitting in waterlogged ground. The perfect soil has an open, almost spongy consistency that gives a little when stepped on without becoming compacted.


On Sale
Mar 2, 2021
Page Count
240 pages

Benedict Vanheems

Benedict Vanheems

About the Author

Benedict Vanheems is the author of GrowVeg and a lifelong gardener with a BSc and an RHS General Certificate in horticulture. He is the face of the YouTube channel, and has edited and contributed to a variety of gardening publications including Garden Design Journal, Grow It!, Grow Your Own, and Kitchen Garden, Britain’s longest-running edible garden magazine.

Learn more about this author