Vegetable gardens are a fresh, colorful and environmentally- friendly way to eat your veggies! By following these simple steps, you will be able to eat your way through a wide variety of vegetables this summer.

We are all aware of the importance of eating our vegetables, but what about the benefits of eating fresh vegetables?

Planting your own is a healthy and cost-effective way to ensure you are eating your vegetables. Also, it is rewarding to create something from scratch–watch it grow and change until its ready to be harvested and eaten. What better feeling than knowing exactly where your food comes from? Any gardener will tout the superior freshness and flavor of homegrown veggies over store-bought. If you’ve never gardened before or attempted and failed, you can access all the information you need to turn your thumb green right here.

Note: Wait until after the last frost to begin your garden, otherwise all your hard work will be wiped out in one night.

Step 1. Pick out a small plot of land (not much bigger than 8 X 10) that gets full sunlight as much of the day as possible. Start off with a small plot because this is a learning experience; however, once you get the hang of it, let your inner-green thumb out and go crazy. Remember that the bigger the garden, the more work it takes to maintain it.

Step 2. It is important to have fertile, well-drained soil to work with. If the soil sticks together and does not readily crumble under slight pressure by the thumb and finger, it is too wet for plowing or working and is unsuitable for young plants. When the soil is ready, it’s time to break up and turn it and then add organic matter or fertilizer. If you visit the garden center at a local hardware store, you can purchase an inexpensive hoe to work the soil as well as fertilizer.

Step 3. Choose your favorite vegetables. Because your garden is on the smaller side, you will have some limitations on what you can successfully grow. The season in which you are starting the garden is also an important factor to consider. For the cool season (spring and fall), you can plant beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and spinach. For the warm season (summer), try planting vegetables like beans, corn, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

Step 4. You can purchase seed packets (the cheaper option; usually less than $2 a packet) or you can purchase seedlings sold at nurseries. It’s best to purchase seeds and seedlings just after the new year because the selection is freshest. If you choose, you can start some plants indoors during the winter and then transplant them in the spring or summer.

Step 5. Sow seed or seedlings into the soil according to the directions on the packet. Pay close attention to the amount of space required between seeds or seedlings. The back of the seed packet will provide you with spacing guidelines.

Step 6. Watch them grow! Each vegetable will have different criteria for when they are ready to be harvested. Enjoy your hard work by finding new recipes that allow the vegetables you’ve grown to shine.