Fresh fruits and vegetables are coming back as a summer obsession, and even if you’ve never gardened before, you can dig right in. Make the right choices, keep your garden well-fed and watered, and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labors in no time.

digging a vegetable garden

Start by selecting a spot with plenty of unobstructed sun (at least six hours a day), but be sure to start small. One of the biggest mistakes first time gardeners make is to start too big. So unless you plan to can your own tomatoes (and who knows – you might!) keep your first-time vegetable garden to about 144 sq. ft. (12 ft. x 12 ft.) or smaller.

Pay close attention to where the sun falls throughout the day, and remember as the season progresses the sun will appear lower and lower in the sky, so take that into account as well.

One of the most important things you can do is prepare your soil. To do that, many gardeners dig down at least a foot loosening the soil and amending it with peat moss, compost or other organic matter to make it easier to plant, and for roots to penetrate.

You’ll also want to mix a good fertilizer into the top 4-5 inches of your garden bed before planting. Reapply the fertilizer, following package instructions.

You can give your new garden a kick start by starting with small plants instead of seeds – try planting tomatoes this way, as well as strawberries, cucumbers, yellow squash, or any of your favorites. Your local garden center is a good place to go for advice and ideas.