Vegetable and Herb Gardening 101

Hi Everyone,

It’s finally warm and beautiful out here in Northern, CA.  This weekend I started on my vegetable garden.  I am no expert when it comes to gardening, but I have to admit when it comes to vegetable gardens I tend to have a green thumb.  I thought today I would share with you some things I learned the past 10 years for vegetable gardening.  It’s so simple and rewarding and basically once you get through with the prep your pretty well set the rest of the Spring and Summer.  You just have to sit back and watch your garden grow.

Soil Prep:

This is the worse part for me because it is so much work, especially if you have a large plot.  This is what I do.

  1.  Pull the weeds.  Get down in the dirt and get all of the roots.  If you don’t pull the roots out the weeds will come back.  Trust me on that one.  That was a hard lesson learned.
  2. Discard any vegetables that re-seeded it’self from last year.  Chances are if it grows, the fruit or vegetables won’t have the same wonderful flavor as the year you planted.  My tomatoes came back again this year, I felt bad, but I had to pull them out.  I left them one year and I didn’t get many tomatoes and they just grew green and leggy. Not worth it!  (NOTE:  Don’t discard vegetables if they grown yearly, like asparagus, know what you’re growing and research it)
  3. If you have herbs growing, trim them back so they can grow bushy.  If you have parsley; they are bi-annual, they will grow a second season, grow flower bursts, then die, plus the parsley is more bitter in taste on the second growing season.  I recommend pulling them out and getting new ones.
  4. Check your soil.  Do you need to add amendments to the soil?  Since we all have different soil, I have sandy soil, you can checkout this article by Lowes, this will help tell you what to add to your soil and help you tell what kind of soil you have.
  5. Soil Recommendation:  You have a garden and you are just getting it ready to plant.  I recommend using Miracle-Gro Vegetable and Herb Garden Soil.  Mix it into the top 6″ of your soil.  I layer it on my garden and with a shovel, I flip it into my dirt.  Mixing the soil 50/50.   I’m telling you this stuff is like gold in the garden.  I didn’t fertilize last year using this soil and my garden just burst.  I love this soil.  It’s great for the lazy gardener.   US-Miracle-Gro-Garden-Soil-Vegetables-And-Herbs-73759430-Main-Lrg
  6. Rack your Garden.  Once I have my soil in and I am just about ready to plant, I smooth my garden with a rack to make sure that the soil is even.  I don’t want more dirt in one spot and not another or have it lumpy looking.


This is the fun part.  What to plant?  This is where you need to give it some thought.  Questions to ask yourself:

  • What vegetables do I want?
  • What will I use, that won’t go to waste?
  • What will grow in my area?
  • How many plants will fit in my garden?
  • How big will the plants get?
  • Is there enough sun or shade?
  • What plants are companions of each other?

Lots of questions.  For me, it’s easy, tomatoes, peppers and some herbs.  Of course I add other things like squash and corn.  A few key things are the following:

  1. Get enough plants for the garden, but be sure not to overcrowd the garden.  The plants need space to grow and air to circulate around them.
  2. Read the labels.  I say this with everything from grocery shopping to plants.  The key things to look for on the label, is how big do the plants get?  How much space to plant between other plants.
  3. Get plants that are companions to each other.  Most Italian herbs and vegetables can be planted together, however if you plant vegetables that are not friends, your garden will not flourish and you can cause disease to occur in the garden.  Here is a list of companion plants. Companion-Planting-FTFA
  4. Go shopping!  I buy most of my plants from big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes.  I normally by Bonnie Bell plants.  They do well in the garden and come in a peat moss pot that can be put right into the ground.
  5. Basil – This is just a piece of advice, but I buy the Basil Plants from Trader Joe’s.  They are pretty big and only $3.99 a plant.  I just pop it in the ground.  It grows massive once it’s planted and since it is so big the roots are well established.  The Trader Joe plants work so much better than the one’s at the nurseries.  I highly recommend if you’re getting basil, go to Trader Joe’s and buy your plant.  The plant lasts until the end of growing season.  Just be sure to pluck off the flowers when you see them appear.


Now the fun part, getting your new plants into the ground.

  1.  Lay your plants out in the garden to where you want to plant them.  This will let you know if you have enough room and if you need to buy more.
  2. Group your plants together.  I like to plant all my peppers together.  I plant all my herbs together in the front of the garden for easy snipping.  I plant tomatoes in the middle to the back of the garden.  You want to make sure you don’t have big ones in the front and small in the back, otherwise they will not get enough sun. IMG_3651
  3. Again read your labels.  The label will tell you how deep to plant your plants and how far apart to plant them.
  4. Save your labels.  I put my labels right in the ground with my plants, so I know what kind of vegetable I am growing and picking.  Then I know for next year if I want to plant them again.  I bought about 7 different kind of peppers, so I want to know if I am picking mild or spicy for my dinners.  🙂
  5. Plant Food.   I do buy vegetable food for when I plant my garden.  I just take a little bit and mix it in the dirt when I am planting my vegetables.  This is the only time I feed my vegetables.  Between that and the Miracle-Gro Soil my plants are good to go for the season.
  6. Tomato Plants.  I recommend buying cages to go around your tomato plants.  That way they grow upright and not all over the place.  Last year I didn’t do that and one of my plants grew about 6′ wide and it was out of control. It took over the garden.  I had to cut back the plant.

Here is my garden when I just planted it last year. April 2015

Vegetable Garden April 2015

Here is what the garden looked like one month later; May 2015.

Vegetable Garden May 2015

Watering Plants:

I’ll admit I hate watering the plants.  Year after year I hand watered them.  Finally last year my Husband put in a drip system.  It worked beautifully. The only advice I can give is the following.

  1. Water at the base of the plant.  Try not to get the leaves wet.  If you do, the sun can burn the leaves.
  2. Water in the morning so the plants have all day to dry out.  If you water at night, you risk getting a fungus or mold because the plants don’t have time to dry out.
  3. If you have to water at night, then do it.  I have on occasion and if it is super hot out and the plants are getting to dry, then yes give them some water in the evening.
  4. Get a drip system or soaker hose if you can.  This is wonderful because you won’t have to water.  On late mornings or long days this is the most convenience.  I don’t want to sit at work and worry because I forgot to water my plants.

Pests in the Garden:

This is the worse!  You spend so much time planting the garden and then your plants start to die off because of insects.  Here are a few natural remedies that I found work.

  1.  Buy Marigolds.  These plants attract the aphids and other pests from your garden.  Plus the smell repels cats.  Just plant them around your vegetables.
  2. Snails – Add broken egg shells around your plants.  They do not like to climb on the shells because it doesn’t feel good.  Plus the eggs add calcium in the garden.  Also beer works too!  Take a tuna or other shallow can, clean it out and place it in the ground in your garden.  Make it flushed to ground level.  Pour beer in it.  The snails and slugs will drown in it.
  3. Ants – This is a huge problem for me.  Ants are attracted to the water, at least where I live.  Add baking soda around the garden.  They will take the baking soda, drink water and explode.
  4. Aphids – I taking a little dish soap and add it to a spray bottle with water and spray my plants with it.
  5. If your garden is doing well, it will attract natural good insects like lady bugs that will eat the bad insects.

So how did my garden grow?

Your probably thinking, yeah, yeah but where is the proof?  How did your garden grow?  Here are some pictures I took last year through the growing season.  My first harvest was in June and my last big harvest was in October.  Pretty cool that it lasted so long.  My pepper garden grew until January 2016.  At that point I had to take the plants out.

Vegetables though the season

I hope I encouraged you to get out there and plant your own garden.  If you don’t have enough land to plant a vegetable garden, then do it in pots.  Make a herb pot or put a tomato in a pot and place it on your deck or in front of your doorway.  Nothing beats fresh vegetables that you grew and picked yourself.

Well it’s Sunday right now and my dirt is prepped and now I must get the plants into the ground.  It’s stinky because it’s kind of windy out.

Have a wonderful week!





  1. Hi Jennifer! Great post on how to grow your own vegetable garden. 🙂 I’ve never really grown anything on my own. The last plant I owned just died and I have no idea why. I’m not a brown thumb, but I just have no experience with plants at all. I’d someday like to have my own vegetable garden as well, but in my part of the world, growing tomatoes, eggplants, and local lemon and chili varieties are great for beginners, so I’m guessing I will start with those.

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