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Confession: I am Type A. My colleagues joke I have a spreadsheet for everything, and my closets are organized like I’m about to be on an episode of “MTV Cribs.” Therefore, two things hit me at once at the beginning of this quarantine. First, I needed to DO ALL THE THINGS and be productive during this downtime. Second, I didn’t have any house organizing projects because I’ve already completed them all. I resorted to completely cleaning out closets and re-re-organizing my house until two closets were empty. Really.

Then I realized what was hiding in plain sight — my yard was in desperate need of attention. This launched a whole new slew of projects in my mind (I can build a pergola! I can build a driveaway! I can buy all the things to make my yard as gorgeous and magical as an Italian villa!). Eventually, I calmed down and realized step one should be to build a little vegetable garden. What better way to be productive, right? I’m teaching myself a new skill while producing food I’ll actually eat. Not to mention, I’m simultaneously making my yard more inviting and giving myself something to do so I can feel like a contributing member of society again.

I’ve detailed my steps to start a vegetable garden below. I am not an expert, but I did all of these things with my own non-handy two hands — which means you can, too.

Backyard vegetable garden

I placed my vegetable garden next to the patio, in close range of the backdoor and garden hose. It doesn’t look like it here, but this spot receives tons of sun.

Location, Location, Location

First, stalk your back yard by observing where the sun shines most during the day. Pick the most cumulatively sunny spot to plot your garden. Think “location, location, location” when choosing it, and more sunshine might as well equal beachfront property.

Beginner's gardening supplies

This is all you need to start your own vegetable garden! Well, and the plants or seeds. You will need those, too.

Let’s Talk Supplies

Next, determine which vegetables you want to grow. I decided to start small and picked up some tomatoes, zucchini, okra and cucumbers from a local nursery. I purchased the starter plants instead of seeds because I want my vegetable garden to actually be successful. You will need to consider how far apart the plants need to be from each other to have enough room to grow. At this point, I also purchased a kit for a four-by-four cedarwood raised bed and seven bags of garden soil with compost. I used this tool to calculate how much soil I would need in cubic feet. You will also need some basic gardening tools, a raised bed liner and a good pair of work gloves.

Raised bed for vegetable garden

Getting to this point was oddly satisfying, and I was ready to plant the vegetables!

Prepare the Garden Area

The four-by-four raised bed was easy to assemble, just like Lincoln Logs. Even if you’re using a raised bed, you need to prepare the soil underneath the structure. Once I measured out the exact placement of the vegetable garden, I cleared out all of the weeds, roots and sticks, and I leveled the surface area. Then, I rolled out the raised bed liner to cover the area before placing the raised bed on top — the liner prevents weeds from coming up through the existing soil. Next, it was time to plant!

Finished vegetable garden

The finished product. Or, so I thought …

Planting

First, I filled the raised bed with soil and evened it out on top. Next, I used the square-foot garden planting technique, which you can read about here. I didn’t measure out the different squares, but I did plant according to how much each square foot could accommodate, which varies by vegetable. I dug little holes and then plopped each little plant in its spot and voilà, I was done.

The next morning, I awoke and peered out my window at my lovely new vegetable garden plot — and saw squirrels eating my tomato plants! I fetched some chicken wire and garden stakes to protect the sleeping beauties. I have no idea if this is going to work, but I’ll keep watering it and see what happens. Next on the list? Starting to compost, of course (I just need to read our handy composting guide)! And, I guess I’ll start weeding my patio, too. Italian villa replica yard, here I come.

Vegetable garden with chicken wire

My very DIY chicken wire solution to ward off the squirrels. I will have to unroll one edge to weed, which I did not think about until I was done installing the chicken wire.

As you can see, starting a garden is fairly simple, and while there are definitely lessons I’m sure I’ll learn along the way, it’s fun to dig into a new hobby and learn as I go. Happy gardening!

Related article: 8 New Hobbies to Discover During Quarantine

Related article: 7 Life Lessons We’re Learning From the Quarantine

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