How to Turn Your Flower Bed Into a Vegetable Garden

Seven tips to keep in mind so your garden can thrive.

With plant-based diets being all the hype these days, and the world calling for more environmentally-friendly practices, growing your own vegetable garden is a hot ticket item. Not only can you lower your carbon footprint, but you can guarantee that your vegetables are fresh and organic. It can also be a rewarding hobby and very “grounding!”

While there are a plethora of ways to start a vegetable garden from scratch, we’ll be focusing on turning your existing flower bed into a vegetable garden. Keep in mind that these principles can be applied whether you have a flower bed or not.

1. Sunlight. Make sure the spot you’re using is suitable to grow vegetables. While some flowers can thrive in minimal sunlight, your soon-to-be vegetable garden needs at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight a day. This is essential.

2. Drainage. This should always be taken into consideration. If your garden bed is constantly wet, the plant’s roots will rot. As long as you’re utilizing loose, healthy soil your plants should thrive.

3. Prepare the bed and soil. Once you are certain of the above, prepare the bed by digging to loosen the soil. Use a spade or fork to dig the soil to a depth of 6-12 inches. Rake the soil until is level. Loose, well-aerated soil allows water and oxygen to reach the plants' roots quickly. If you really want to get down and dirty, here’s a more in-depth look at how to prepare your soil.

4. Pick your veg. This is the fun part! You can get to decide what vegetables you’re going to plant. This might sound obvious, but pick veggies that you enjoy eating! Unlike a flower bed, you can get to enjoy the fruits of your labor by eating the vegetables once they are ripe. Also, start with some of the easier vegetables and work your way up. Here’s a list of easy veggies to start with: tomatoes, onions, peppers, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, ground cherries and green beans.

5. Add Plants (or Seeds). If you’re a novice gardener we suggest that you start with small, budded plants that have already been nurtured. Otherwise, starting with seed works if you have intermediate gardening skills or more. Seeds take tender care, the right timing, and very fertile soil. We always suggest using organic fertilizer.

6. Water. Tend to the vegetables the way you would in your flower garden by watering the vegetables twice a day and weeding them for the best results. Watering at sunrise and sundown is ideal.

7. Fencing (optional). If rabbits, deer, squirrels or other pests are a problem in your area consider fencing to protect your tender vegetables. You can either DIY or head to Home Depot or Amazon to find pre-built fencing.

At the end of the day, expect a little more work than the standard flower garden. Take baby steps. “You gotta be willing to put in some TLC. You should enjoy the work. To me it’s peaceful and very meditative,” says Todd Mikell, a Chicago-area gardener who turned one small plot into a full-on vegetable haven in just a few years.