The 5 Dos of Starting a Vegetable Garden

Do you ever find yourself standing in the produce section of the grocery store, adding up the cost of the vegetables that may or may not be eaten before they spoil?

Do you ever avoid those Facebook posts about GMO’s and the pesticides used on our produce because the truth is a scary place and you were just trying to watch a panda play on a slide?

Do you ever want to punch the person who thought to put the words “organic” or “superfood” on a produce label?  Because suddenly the price of veggies skyrockets and you’re choking down a garnish suddenly disguised as lettuce?

I have been there.

I was so there last year that I invested a substantial amount of money in a Tower Garden. I had friends raving about the delicious, juicy tomatoes and fresh, sweet basil.

More reasons to make Caprese Chicken?  Count me in.

It was much easier said than done.  Because of my own blasé attitude, last summer’s Tower Garden failed miserably.  We waited for months to only grow some mediocre tomatoes and a tiny yellow squash.


Now that spring is quickly approaching here comes the yearly question…”is this the year I have a successful vegetable garden?”

It definitely could be!  Just don’t repeat the mistakes of gardens past!  As you get started on this year’s gardening adventure, take some time to follow these simple steps.



  • DO your research to make sure you’re planting your seeds correctly.

Last year, I planted everything in mid-summer. We’d recently moved into our little apartment while building Castle O’Lemon. Clearly not the best time to plant spring/summer vegetables, but I gave it a shot. It turned into a waste of money because my plants weren’t growing in the climate they needed.  I thought that if I just read the owner’s manual and hoped for the best, I’d be eating fresh fruits and vegetables in no time.

Well, that doesn’t work.

I had no one to blame but myself.  I hadn’t done a lick of research to make my garden successful from the get-go. If you don’t want to waste a lot of time, money, and energy…educate yourself on successful gardening before you expect to be a successful gardener.

  • DO make sure your plants have the sunlight they need.

Another mistake I made was not considering the amount of sunlight each plant needed.  Our Tower Garden stood on a shaded balcony and only got a couple hours of direct sunlight….definitely not enough.

When colder weather hit, we brought the plants inside.  We attached the indoor light kit and I hoped the lights would get the ball rolling.  It, in fact, works just the opposite.

In retrospect, I really should have checked on how much light the plants needed to produce.  This time around, I’m going to find a nice, sunny spot for the Tower Garden.  I want to see some photosynthesis and delicious tomatoes glistening in the summer sun.

  • DO stay on top of watering the plants and their pH levels.

A Tower Garden requires the owner to monitor the pH levels of the water pumping through the tower and into the plants.  Manufacturers suggest checking the pH a couple times a week and balancing it when needed.

I assumed that the plants were doing all right as long as they had water, but I didn’t stay on top of checking those pH levels.  My plants suffered as a result.  I’m sure the case would be the same if you neglect the pH balance in a soil garden.  Remember…if you’re not doing the work to make sure the climate is healthy for the plants, you’re not going to have healthy plants.

  • DO research on effective pest repellents and proper pruning.

Turns out, there are other creatures besides humans that like to eat vegetables.  A lot of those creatures are bugs.  And they can kill your plants.

I noticed cucumber beetles on my Tower Garden and freaked out.  Without even thinking, I grabbed a bottle of Neem oil and sprayed my plants down.  Again, read all of your instructions.  Since I didn’t dilute the oil, my plants scorched in the hot sun and I had to start all over.

Before you start spraying your plants with pest repellent or cutting off foliage here and there, make sure you’re doing these tasks correctly.

  • DO ask for help if you have problems.

With today’s social media, online gardening communities are abundant (pun intended).  Seeking advice from an expert gardener shouldn’t take any more time than it did for you to read this post.  Search through Facebook and find like-minded gardeners to learn from.  Try talking to the green thumbs at your local nursery or one of the vendors at your farmers market.  They can offer tips and tricks that have already been tested by a tried and true gardener.

Last year, I didn’t take advantage of the online groups dedicated to tower gardening.  I’m sure I could have avoided so many of my struggles had I just asked for help.


I’m looking forward to setting up the Tower Garden again and giving it another go.  I’m still hoping for that bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and veggies to experiment with, even though getting the Munchkins to eat them is a different post for a different day.


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