The Quick Start Guide to Home Vegetable Gardening

A colorful group of vegetables including purple eggplant, yellow squash, green cucumbers

Florida's summer temperatures can be too hot even for many warm season veggies, like eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers. Check your region's gardening calendar for optimal planting dates! UF/IFAS

Starting a vegetable garden is exciting! It is also a significant investment of time, energy, and resources. The intent of this guide is to guide you all the way from planning to harvest. Your garden should reflect your goals, resources, and values. Because these are different for each person, each home garden will be different.

Whatever your goals are, this quick-start guide can help you achieve them. You can follow the steps below to reason through the choices you'll need to make before you start. By walking through the process in advance you can avoid some gardening problems altogether.

Ask yourself the questions at each step to help you plan. Follow the links for more information. (Links that take you to websites besides Gardening Solutions will open in a new window.)

Step 1: Determine your goals for your garden

Starting with a clear goal in mind. This will keep your gardening a labor of love rather than a burden. What are you hoping your garden will provide? Is it fresh produce and food security? Savings on your grocery bill? A learning experience, or maybe entertainment? Consider your reasons and then move on to the questions below.

Step 2: Consider your resources and limiting factors

There is a way to garden in every space, but not all methods are appropriate for all spaces. A successful garden is one that takes your resources and limitations into account.

A tall wooden box made with four by fours and full of leafy green vegetables

Small container gardens can be productive and beautiful for growing some of your own food. UF/IFAS

  • How much experience do you have? If you're new to gardening, you may want to start small. Consider beginning with square foot gardening.
  • How much time are you able to spend on this project? Consider:
    • Purchasing materials and plants
    • Building and filling the garden beds
    • Frequent watering, weeding, and pest control
  • How much space do you have? Here are some ideas for choosing a site and for gardening with limited space.
    • Does that space receive enough light? Most vegetables require 8+ hours of direct sunlight per day.
    • Does it get good airflow? If not, fungal disease issues could arise.
    • Does it have easy access to a water source, drainage, and power?
  • What nutrients are already in your soil? Do you plan to add soil?
  • How much money are you able to spend on this project? Set a budget and consider:
    • Soil and fertilizer
    • Tools and building materials
    • Seed and transplants

Step 3: Choose the type of garden best fits those resources and limitations

Plants in plastic blue kiddies pools

Passive hydroponic systems can be easy, affordable, and productive for growing greens in containers ranging from buckets to baby pools.

Begin by looking over the different types of gardens. Embrace your limitations! You can be successful with what you have to offer your garden.

  • Are you apartment bound? Micro greens, tabletop hydroponic systems, or growing with artificial lights can be successful.
  • Are you short on time? Research irrigation options, including self-watering and automated growing systems. You can also install micro irrigation on a timer.
  • Are you on a tight budget? Check out these tips for planting a moneywise vegetable garden.

Step 4: Make a list of what you would like to grow

Get started with this list of vegetables for Florida gardens. Then narrow down your list by asking yourself the following questions.

Step 5: Research the crops left on your list

Most information should be available on the vegetables for Florida list. If you still have questions, you can go into detail by searching your crops on the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS).

Step 6: Choose crops that fit your goals, resources, and type of garden

Consult with your county Extension Agent if you need help choosing your final crops and cultivars. They, and the Master Gardener Volunteers, are experts in gardening in your area.

Step 7: Design, plant, and maintain your garden

Here are some tips for laying out your vegetable garden, even in a small space.

A box of ladybugs sitting on a raised bed planted with onions

Beneficial insects may help you control pests. Identification is key for knowing good bugs from bad bugs.

Step 8: Enjoy your harvest!

After all that hard work, the harvest is a welcome finish line. It's time to prepare delicious meals, and preserve your crops to enjoy throughout the year. But what will you do post-harvest to ensure food safety?

Growing your own food is empowering and exciting. It may even provide a sense of security. Of course, gardening is challenging at times, and a harvest is never guaranteed. The best gardeners are probably those that have killed the most plants, but learned from it. Those gardeners embrace the lessons their gardens teach them season after season. Green thumbs are earned.

And remember, if vegetable gardening is just not your thing, that's okay. You can still support Florida agriculture by purchasing and requesting Florida-grown produce. Florida's farmers are working hard to feed your family. Check produce labels at the grocery store, go to the farmers market, venture out to local farms, and buy "Fresh From Florida!"

Sustainable Home Food Production Series

With renewed interest in growing produce at home, we've developed a series of articles, "Sustainable Home Food Production," to get you started.

UF/IFAS Publications

Return to the Main Sustainable Home Food Production page