How to Create an Instant Veggie Garden

This season I began by planting the first seeds indoors on February 16th. Then, on February 28th, I enclosed my future veggie garden with a fence. On March 1st, I installed privacy screening onto the fence, and reconfigured the location of the already existing potted plants. On March 15th, I officially planted all of the remaining seeds into seed trays. After the official planting of all the seeds, I bought two troughs, to be used as raised beds and some soil to fill them. Soon the new seedlings began to grow. Once they were hardened, I began transplanting the seedlings into bucket containers outside and into the raised beds. Since then, I have been constantly checking for seedlings that become mature enough to be transplanted. I am finally down to the last seedlings that have taken a little longer to sprout. I have decided to purchase three kiddie pools to transplant the remaining seedlings. I will create an herb garden in one of the kiddie pools. Another kiddie pool will contain all of the varieties of lettuce, arugula, and kale. The last kiddie pool will contain any overflow seedlings that need a home. So far this season, I have learned that you do not need a collection of dedicated raised beds in order to create a veggie garden. You can create a great veggie garden using whatever containers, or space you have available!

April 19, 2021

How to Create an Instant Veggie Garden
These ideas on how to Create an Instant Veggie Garden are by KATH IRVINE at

I’m Kath Irvine. I’ve been growing all the vegetables to feed my family of 6 for 20 good years. Spray free, natural, low input food gardens are my thing. I believe in smart design – it saves time + money + the planet and makes a garden hum. I recycle + reuse + forage and use as little plastic as poss. I believe in a daily serve of fresh picked organic greens for a happy mind + strong body and it’s my dream that every New Zealander have this. So I aim to provide the best organic gardening advice through my articles, writing books, workshops and garden consults.


This is for the beginner veggie gardener– a quick and easy way to get your gardens off to a strong start. You can begin your garden today! All you need to do is follow the following easy steps.

I sowed some Broccoli seeds in store bought 3 ounce bathroom plastic cups. I contained the cups inside of a plastic shoe storage plastic bin.


I began by sowing my seeds in individual containers. These can be anything that you can repurpose around the house: yogurt cups, plastic cups, used egg cartons, or even white plastic containers that your Restasis (eye drops) came in. I utilized all of these, because it was much easier to recycle. Initially, I also found that my local store was out of the more expensive seeding pod trays (see below). Any of these options will work well.

I planted some veggie seedlings in new store bought food grade five gallon buckets.

I planted garlic in terracotta pots.

I planted different types of veggies in recycled nursery plastic buckets.


Once your seeds germinate, and grow to up to about three to six inches, you are ready to plant them. Gather as many containers as you can. They do not have to match, or even be related. That is, you can use a basket, bucket, ceramic pot, plastic pot (the ones your trees came in from the nursery), kiddie pool, or maybe a plastic general bucket (food grade) from the local hardware store. Gather together all the containers you’ve got. Focus on collecting from 1 quart to 5 gallons (1 litre through 20 liters) anything bigger than that takes a lot of soil to fill. Some examples are: buckets, boxes, feed sacks, compost bags, baths, pots, ever-grow bags, fish bins, crates – as long as water can seep out of it, you can use it. Remember to make some drainage holes at the bottom of your chosen containers so that the water can drain out.

The troughs, raised beds, are in a sunny location.


Just like they say in real-estate: “Location, location, location!” You must plan where you should put your containers. Put your containers together in the sunniest spots you can find and do it before you fill them. They’ll do best when bathed in light for as much of the day as possible. Make 10am – 2pm your minimum. As well as sunlight, they need warmth. The plants I’m recommending today will still grow in the cold, but they’ll grow slowly. Speed the pace of growth along by placing them somewhere warm and out of the shock of the early morning low temperatures.

  • Use the north side of buildings, fences or hedges where the sun is trapped + held and cold southerly flows are cut off.
  • Brick, stone or concrete walls or floors hold heat and slowly release it at night.
  • Sunny, closed in spaces like porches and decks work really well too.

Bunch all the containers together to hold moisture and for good company. Let plants spill over onto each other in a neighbourly way because plants, like people, perform heaps better in a community.


Fill your containers with a free draining, nourishing mixture. You can make your own by mixing a third each of good garden soil (dark and sweetly earthy smelling), compost and grit (river sand, well rotten sawdust or small gravel). If you don’t have good garden soil, go for a 50/50 compost + grit mix. 100% compost is too rich.

Fill your pot to just below the top, leaving a little lip so that when you water the water doesn’t run over the edge. Sprinkle a full spectrum mineral fertiliser or worm castings on top and lightly work in with your fingers.

  • If you are buying potting mix, find one without added fungicides and artificial fertilizers.
  • Find a way to avoid plastic bags – see if you can fill buckets or sacks at your local landscaping yard, or fill a trailer and share it with a few friends.

Spread some mulch on the top of your pots to help retain moisture. Use whatever dry organic matter you have on hand – leaves, well rotten sawdust or trimmings from herbs. You can also use SCRAPS OF FABRICS like sacking, an old towel or a strip of shadecloth. Visit your pots every day and check in on them. This daily visit is your best bet for success.

  • Check your soil to see whether or not you need to water.
  • Check seeds for germination. If its under cover, remove the fabric once seedlings have 2 or 3 leaves.
  • Pull out weeds. If you aren’t sure whats a weed and whats not then just leave things to grow a bit – sometimes it becomes more obvious once they’re a bit bigger.

I discovered that Cutworms are eating my newly transplanted seedlings.

  • Check for snails or slugs. If there are big chomps out of leaves then make an easy beer trap by submerging a small pottle with beer in the soil.
  • If birds have been scratching about, make a tipi with some twigs to protect seedlings until they are big enough.


Check your soil before you get the hose out. You can turn the health of your garden around just with this one change.

  • Water on a needs basis, not just cos its the end of the day and that’s what you always do when you get home.
  • Water only the plants that need it.
  • Only water to that 50% (just moist) mark.

Do these things and your plants will perform so much better, soil life explodes and the reduction in disease is stunning.

  • For established crops, the tall and the sprawling – test by pushing your finger in. The tip of your finger tells you whether to water or not. Yes, really! All the way down there. I know gardeners who push it out further than this to two fingers deep – go on I dare ya! (I dare myself!) If it’s moist at your fingertip let it be. If it’s dry – water.
  • For newly sown seed, new transplants, shallow rooters and little guys test by squeezing a handful of soil together. Open your hand out giving it a small shake as you do. If the soil mostly holds together and a few crumbs fall away then it’s perfectly moist. If it holds its shape and you can infact shape it into something – way too wet. If nothing holds together – way too dry.

I can confirm that this daily checking does work. You can keep an eye on your newly transplanted seedlings and their progress. I have been able to easily maintain my veggie garden by frequently checking for: moisture (Do they need to be watered?), location (Are they getting too much sun, or not enough?), and the latest concern—pests (What is attacking your veggie plants? Mine are being eaten by Cutworms!). Once you discover a problem in your veggie garden, it is best to resolve the issue immediately!

What containers did you select for your instant veggie patch? Please share in the comments. Thank you for sharing!

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