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Woman kneeling while working in her garden

Backyard Garden Basics: How to Get Started

Home gardening is one hobby that pays for itself. It gives you fresh food that tastes great, a little outdoor exercise, and the chance to control the chemicals or additives that touch your food. If you’re in Ohio, you’re in luck — growing veggies is pretty easy here, and you can grow a large variety.

Gardening gloves and tools sitting next to plants and pots

What You Need

The basic needs and gardening tools for growing a backyard garden are:

  • A place in the sun. You want six to eight hours of full sun in the spring and summer.
  • A hose, preferably with an adjustable nozzle, will work. You can save some steps with a soaker hose.
  • Organic matter. Consider composting. It’s easy, inexpensive and environment-friendly. You can also use shredded leaves or animal manures.
  • Bug repellent — for you. You’re aiming to grow food, not become food. Guard yourself from ticks, mosquitoes and nasty gnats before you dig in.
  • Gardening gloves. Don’t like how the soil dries out your hands? Have some prickly weeds that need pulling? A pair of gardening gloves will come in handy (pun intended).
  • A spade. This is a type of shovel with a rectangular metal blade and long handle that’s helpful for digging holes or moving dirt. Invest in a good one, and it’ll last for years.
  • A landscape rake. Different than the rake you use to pile up leaves in the fall, this type of rake is used to smooth the ground and remove clots or stones.
  • A hoe. Used for weeding, breaking up soil and digging trenches for seeds, you’ll want a sturdy, wide one for your veggie garden.
  • A hand trowel. A mini shovel, it’s essential for weeding, digging small holes or mixing soil with compost.
  • A wheelbarrow. While it may not be necessary, it can help with spreading compost, soil or manure.
  • A broadfork, tiller or cultivator. Use one of these for loosening the soil and preparing the seedbed.

Person planting leafy greens in small gardening container

What to Grow

What to grow is largely a matter of personal preference. Some choices that grow well in Ohio:

  • Squash, such as zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers
  • Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, kale, cabbage or spinach
  • Pods, such as beans and peas
  • Roots, such as carrots, potatoes and radishes
  • Tomatoes because what is life without homegrown tomatoes?

Family putting plants in a garden together

Get Growing

Here are some tips for more success and enjoyment:

  • Plan your garden. Sketch a layout. It’s a good idea to start small if you’re a beginner. Make sure to pay attention to how big your plants will get so you space them properly. Your carrots will stay compact, but your pumpkins will need a lot more room!
  • Time it right. Beware the last killing frost, and check planting schedules in your area.
  • Read the directions. Seed companies include these for a reason. Find out how, where and when to plant your favorites.
  • Skip a step. Consider buying seedlings instead of seeds and save time by planting tomatoes and other veggies that got a head start at the nursery.
  • Keep detailed records. Avoid repeating mistakes, and keep track of successes.
  • Involve the whole family. Share the work and spend some time together outdoors.

Woman looking at a digital tablet standing in a large garden

Find Out More

You’ll find plenty of online sources to help you get started. Here are a few:

  • OSU Extension. Got questions? Ask a master gardener. From Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
  • Vegetable Gardening Life.  This site has lots of information and product recommendations.
  • Urban Farmer Seeds. This seed company caters to urban farmers and includes a handy Ohio planting schedule.
  • This article at hunker.com. Find out what vegetables grow well in Ohio.


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