Vegetable Gardening: Which Methods Are Right for You? A Complete Guide


You have decided that you want to start vegetable gardening, maybe it is so you can improve your health by eating more vegetables, maybe you want to save money on groceries, or maybe you just want to feel accomplished. The next step is to decide what gardening method is right for you.

Which vegetable gardening method is right for you? To determine what gardening method is right for you you’ll need to consider your planting season, how many plants you want to grow, the level of exertion you are able to put out, as well as soil, pests, and weed control considerations. Options include:

The type of gardening method that you choose will depend on the resources that you have, where you live, and how much time you can to devote to gardening. Let’s walk through the different vegetable gardening methods in more detail, so you can find the best fit.

Which Type of Vegetable Gardening Is Best For You?

Learning about the considerations of the different types of gardening methods will help you decide which method to choose, so you can start planting those vegetables.

Outdoor Gardening

Outdoor gardening includes raised bed gardening, row gardening, and in-ground gardening. When people think about gardening, they traditionally think about outdoor gardening. 

A benefit of outdoor gardening is getting out into the fresh air, but with these types of outdoor gardening techniques, you do not have as much control of the environment as with indoor gardening.

Outdoor gardening is a great option for those who like to be active, and it is often more strenuous than types of indoor gardening.  

Raised Beds

A raised bed garden is a garden that sits on top of existing soil and not down in the earth. Raised bed gardens are usually long and narrow, allowing you to walk around them. 

Most raised bed gardens have frames. These frames are often made from wood or plastic, but they can be made from any material. For those who are not too handy or do not have the time, you can buy raised bed garden kits that come with everything you need to get started: the raised bed, soils, plants, and plant food.

Considerations of a raised bed garden are:

  • Location: Raised bed gardens can be placed anywhere since they are set in a container. Even if you do not have a big yard, you can still have a raised bed or two.
  • Planting Season: You can get a head start on your garden with a raised bed because the soil will warm up faster in spring, and you have more control over drainage. You will still be subject to planting seasons.
  • Soil Control: With a raised bed, you get to choose your soil, so even if you live in an area where the soil in the ground is not good for growing your favorite vegetables, you will still be able to create the right conditions and grow the vegetables you crave.
  • Pest Control: Pests such as chipmunks, birds, and insects are easier to exclude in a raised bed garden because you can cover the beds with netting or special covers, and you can put solid bottoms on the beds to keep out rodents.
  • Amount of Plants: Plants in a raised bed garden can be planted closer together. This means you can maximize your space and produce more produce.
  • Weeds: Weeds are easier to tackle in a raised bed because plants are planted closer together, leaving less room for weeds to invade. Weeding is also easy in a raised bed garden because the soil is not as compact as in an in-ground garden.
  • Exertion: Raised bed gardens are higher off the ground, so gardening with raised beds will be easier on the back and legs.

Row Gardening

Row Gardening is the traditional form of gardening where vegetables are planted in rows in the ground. This method uses rows to allow for easy access to walking through the garden to tend to the plants. Many farmers use this method of farming so that their tractors can drive through the field, but you do not need a farm to have a row garden.

Raised row gardening is another method where you have traditional rows, but instead of digging in the soil, you put soil on top of the existing dirt, like raised beds.

Row gardening is a good choice for those who like to be outside and who have the time to till the soil, weed, and water rows of plants. To get started, you will need the right tools and the plants you want to grow. 

Considerations of a row garden are:

  • Location: Row gardens are placed in the yard or in a field. If you have a large yard, then row gardening may be a good option. If you live in a condo or have a small back yard, row gardening will not work.
  • Planting Season: Traditional planting seasons will apply to row gardening since this type of gardening is done outside and usually in the soil. You will have less control over the planting schedule that you need to follow if you choose this method.
  • Soil Control: Choosing a traditional row garden, you will have to work with the soil and climate that you have. If you live in an area that is not good for growing lettuce, then you will have to choose another vegetable. You have less control over what you can grow. With a raised row garden, you will have more options, but the climate will still be a factor.
  • Pest Control: Pests such as chipmunks, birds, and insects are harder to exclude in a row garden because it is harder to cover the rows with netting or special covers. Rodents will be a problem since the plants will be on the ground.  
  • Amount of Plants: Plants in a row garden are more spread out. There will be space in between the rows, so it is not the most efficient for maximizing space.
  • Weeds: Weeds are harder to tackle in a raised bed because the plants are planted farther apart. Weeding is also harder because the soil is more compact, making it harder to pull out weeds.
  • Exertion: Row gardens will be harder on your back and knees since the plants are in or low-to the ground.

In-Ground Gardening

In-ground gardening is when you go outside, dig up your yard, and plant vegetables. Row gardening, discussed above, is a type of in-ground gardening. In-ground gardens are easy to start without a lot of upfront costs spent on materials, unlike raised beds, where you must build or buy beds to get started.

In-ground gardening will be more work, and you will be subject to mother nature, but it can be a good option if you have the time and space to devote to it. As with row gardening, you will need the right tools and the plants you want to grow to get started.

Considerations of in-ground gardening are:

  • Location: In-ground gardens are planted in your yard. If you have a good piece of land that gets enough sun, in-ground gardening is a great use of that land. You will be limited on where you can place an in-ground garden because soil and light conditions must be right for the vegetables you are growing.
  • Planting Season: Traditional planting seasons will apply to in-ground gardening. If you live in colder climates, you will likely have a shorter growing season. You will have to make your planting schedule around the climate where you live if you choose this option.
  • Soil Control: Choosing an in-ground garden, you will have to work with the soil and climate that you have. If you have poor soil, you can add fertilizer and other nutrients, but you cannot dramatically change the soil. You have less control over what you can grow.
  • Pest Control: Pests control will be harder. Keeping out chipmunks, birds, and insects will take a lot of your time.  Rodents can burrow underground and into your garden.  You can try to put up netting or other coverings, but insects will still be able to get in. Also, it will make it harder for you to tend to the plants if they are covered. 
  • Amount of Plants: You can be creative with an in-ground garden, so you will likely be able to utilize the space well.  You will need to be able to access the plants without stepping on them, so there will be some space constraints and wasted space.
  • Weeds: Weeding an in-ground garden is challenging.  You will have more weeds than in a raised bed garden because the plants are planted farther apart. The compact soil will also make it harder to pull out weeds.

Exertion: In-ground gardens may not be as expensive to start, but they will be labor-intensive. The soil must be tilled, you may have to rip out sod to start, and more weeding will be involved. In-ground gardening is harder on your back and knees since the plants are in the ground.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening includes potted or planter box gardening, hydroponic gardening, and greenhouse gardening. Indoor gardening allows you to grow vegetables, even if you do not have outdoor space. 

With these types of gardening techniques, you control the environment. Even if your home does not get natural light, you can purchase grow lights. If you live in a cold climate, you can still grow vegetables all year round.

Indoor gardening is a great option for those who want to garden, but who do not have the traditional outdoor space for it.

Potted or Planter Box Gardening

Potted or planter box gardens are ideal for those living in small spaces or those with little outdoor space. It is possible to grow a variety of vegetables in pots and planter boxes.

To get started, you will need a pot or planter box, soil, and plants.  You will need to find a place that gets the right amount of light, but that can be natural or artificial light.

Considerations of a potted or planter box garden are:

  • Location: Potted or planter gardens can be placed anywhere a pot or planter box will fit if the plants get the recommended amount of light. If you live in a condo or cold climates, this may be the best option for you.  
  • Planting Season: Planting seasons will be more flexible for potted or planter box gardens since you can keep them inside or off the ground. You will have more control over the planting schedule that you need to follow if you choose this method.
  • Soil Control: As with raised bed, potted or planter box gardens allow you to choose your soil, so you will be able to create the right conditions and grow the vegetables you crave even if you do not live in the optimal climate to grow those vegetables.
  • Pest Control: Pests are easier to exclude in potted or planter box gardens because these gardens are often on your porch, windowsill, or in your house. For potted or planter boxes that are outside, you can get netting or special covers to keep out pests.
  • Amount of Plants: You may be more limited in the number of vegetables you can grow since most people who choose this option are limited by space. As with raised bets though, you can plant vegetables closer together, so you will be able to maximize what space you do have. 
  • Weeds: Weeds are much easier to tackle in a potted or planter box garden because plants are planted closer together.
  • Exertion: Potted or planter box gardens are usually raised at a height that will make it easy to tend to. This will save your back and legs as compared with row gardening or in-ground gardening.   

Hydroponic Gardening

If you do not like getting your hands dirty, Hydroponic gardening might be for you. This is a method of gardening that does not require soil. Vegetables and other plants grow in water.

Hydroponic gardening is becoming popular because of its versatility. You can grow vegetables anywhere, even with limited space.

There are several types of hydroponic garden systems. To start, you will need to choose the right system for you, and you will need plants, nutrients, and a light source. 

Considerations of hydroponic gardening are:

  • Location: Hydroponic gardens can be planted anywhere, indoors or outdoors. They can be as small as a pot, so even if you do not have a lot of space, you can have a hydroponic garden.
  • Planting Season: Traditional planting seasons do not apply to hydroponic gardening. You control the climate and growing conditions with a hydroponic garden, so you are not limited by traditional seasons.
  • Soil Control: There is no soil with hydroponic gardening. The water acts as the soil.
  • Pest Control: Plant pests often thrive in soil and outdoors. With hydroponic gardening, there is no soil, and it is usually done indoors, so pests are less of a problem. 
  • Amount of Plants: Plants can be placed close together in hydroponic gardens. It has been suggested that hydroponic gardens yield 20 percent more than soil gardens and hydroponic plants grow 20% faster.
  • Weeds: One of the best things about hydroponic gardening is that there are no weeds to pull.
  • Exertion: There are some start-up costs to hydroponic gardens, but once it is set up, maintenance is not labor-intensive. You will need to change the water, check nutrient levels, and make sure the water is being properly aerated, but you will not be down on your hands and knees, pulling weeds and digging in the dirt.

Greenhouse Gardening

Greenhouse gardening is often used when you want to extend the growing season, or you want to grow vegetables that would not otherwise grow in the climate in which you live. Greenhouses are buildings that provide shelter for plants from excessive temperatures and pests.

To start your greenhouse, you will need to buy or build a greenhouse building and purchase plants, soil containers, and a light source. You will also need to make sure the greenhouse is properly ventilated. This option is more labor-intensive at the outset than many other types of gardening.

Considerations of greenhouse gardening are:

  • Location: Greenhouses are standalone buildings built to protect plants. You will need to have space to put a greenhouse, so this option will not work if you do not have outdoor space. 
  • Planting Season: Planting seasons can be extended or even ignored when doing greenhouse gardening because you control the climate in the greenhouse. Greenhouses can protect plants from extreme heat or cold.
  • Soil Control: As with raised beds and potted or planter box gardens, greenhouse gardening allows you to choose your soil. This means you have more of a variety of what you can grow, as opposed to outdoor gardening.
  • Pest Control: While it is still possible that insects and other pests can be a problem, pests are easier to exclude in greenhouse gardening because the greenhouse building helps keep rodents and bugs out.
  • Amount of Plants: The amount of plants you can have depends on how big your greenhouse is. You can choose the spacing of your plants. 
  • Weeds: Weeds can still creep in, in a greenhouse, but because you control the environment, you can keep weeds at bay. If you take care to keep up the area in and around the greenhouse, you will have an easier time managing weeds.
  • Exertion: Most plants in a greenhouse are at waist level, minimizing the bending and kneeling needed.  You will have to work hard to take care of plants in a greenhouse, but conditions will be easier than an in-ground garden of the same size.  

Climate, your living situation, time, and resources will all play a factor in which type of gardening method you choose. No matter what your dedication to gardening might be, there is a type of gardening that is right for you.

Eyerly Family

The Eyerly Family is a family of 8 that loves gardening. Over the past several years we have been applying what we learn about gardening to our own 16x16 raised back yard garden. Our garden is very prolific and we grow a wide variety of vegetables which we love to eat! Click here to learn more about the Eyerly Family.

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