There is something completely satisfying about growing your own food. Produce from your own garden has more flavor than its supermarket counterpart. And maybe it’s just proud parent syndrome, but I think home-grown fruits and veggies are a lot prettier, too.
One of the hardest parts of having a garden to call your own is actually getting started. Navigating all the options and variables can easily become overwhelming. With the guidance of a friend who is also a garden guru, I compiled five garden ideas for beginners to get you on the path to vegetable goodness. I should warn you, it takes a bit of time and effort, but the harvest is well worth the cost.
1. Locate appropriate space. Vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, preferably eight, so avoid shady areas. Planting close to your house will not only deter animals from raiding your garden, but it will also make it more convenient to spend enough time there to keep it properly maintained.
2. Start small. A common temptation is to start with a big plot because you’re so eager to get started. Who doesn’t want all those vegetables? But, if the space is too large you’ll quickly become discouraged and then the garden is doomed to fail. A 10 x 15 plot is plenty big for a family of four—if laid out efficiently. There are numerous online tools to help you with planning your layout. The Gardner’s Supply Company has great one that you can find here.
3. Know your soil. OK, this tip takes some legwork, but it will be well worth it. Take soil samples from your plot to your local County Extension office for analysis. They will provide you with a report detailing the condition of your soil, as well as the proper amount of fertilization to apply. If your soil is in bad shape from the start, consider a raised bed garden which can be filled with high-quality soil for less money than you think.
4. Choose vegetables that are easy to grow. Choosing easy growers will help ensure your success and keep the gardening fire burning in your heart. Easy vegetables include tomatoes, bush beans, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, lettuces and peppers. There are certainly others, but these are the common choices. Stay away from corn, cantaloupes, watermelons and pumpkins until you have a little more experience, and a lot more space.
5. Pest control and maintenance. Take the time to learn about the various pests which will inevitably show up to help you with the harvest: hornworms on tomatoes, squash bugs and vine borers, etc. Daily inspection of the garden will help keep them under control. In the same vein, the more you prevent weeds from taking hold, the better off you’ll be. All this goes back to tip #2 and starting small. Daily maintenance and inspection is far easier if the plot is smaller.
You can do this! Get yourself a cute straw hat, throw on some overalls, and go dig in the dirt. And remember, new gardeners learn by trowel and error. (Nailed it.)