Planning your First Vegetable Garden

My First Vegetable Garden

I can remember my first vegetable garden very clearly I was probably 10 or 12 years old and I had been tormenting my mother about letting me put in a garden forever. I do not know what fascinated me so much about watching vegetables grow; I did not even like them that much at that age, but something about watching seeds germinate and grow into food fascinated me.

My first garden was a flop, I only had a tiny plot that was maybe 5ft by 10ft and it was right next to the house, facing west so it only got a few hours of sun, and the dirt there was some of the worst dirt I have ever dug in, dry, dusty and full of rocks. The end result was seedlings that came up but never grew, and spindly little plants that always looked like they were dying a slow agonizing death. But I still remember how excited I was when those first seedlings popped up through the crust of the dirt and I have never lost that passion since.

These days I have somewhat more luck with my gardens although I still have my share of failures. I am fortunate enough to live now in an area where most vegetables grow good, so I have been lucky enough be able to experiment a bit and enjoy the fruits our labors.

Planning starts with an Idea of Why you are Planting a Garden

I know this sounds a bit simplistic, but it is really true, planting a garden depends on knowing what you hope to accomplish, with this information you can begin to decide what you should plant.

This is different for everyone, for me, I love to grow food, but also like to eat it now too! So we try to plant things that we would especially enjoy eating fresh out of the garden.  There is simply nothing like fresh vegetables and even more so when you grow them yourself. There is no use in planting something you will not eat, take it from someone that knows, I have planted plenty of crops that I had to give away or just went to waste because I wanted to grow them but nobody would eat them.

I used to love canning in my Presto Canner but time does not give me that luxury so much anymore. But there are many families that grow gardens to put up a harvest for the long winter months.

Pick a few reasons why you want to garden, then use this information to get an idea of what you want to grow.

What you Grow Also Depends on Where you Live

Not everybody is fortunately to live in a good climate for gardening; in fact most of us will find several things we cannot grow. But the reverse is also true; there is not too many places that will not grow something if you are determined enough.

To determine what you can and cannot grow, you will have to do some research, if you happen to be lucky enough to know someone else that gardens in the area, Perfect! There is no one better to ask than someone who is actually gardening. If you don’t know anyone you can look at frost charts, visit your local extension agency and talk to the people at your local nursery.

As you become more experienced you will find out what you can get away with and what you can’t. I remember being told one year that I could not grow watermelons where we live at the time because the nights were too cool. I proved them wrong; I built a hot bed and planted watermelons. I was very happy to share those little jewels with the person who told me it was impossible. There are plenty of ways to extend your harvest, grow crops that require warmer temperatures, and expand your growing space, you will learn many of these as you plant more gardens.

Deciding Where to Put your Garden

So you know what you want to plant, what will grow in the area, next thing to decide is whether you have enough sun and space to grow the things on your list. Take it from someone with experience planting your garden next to the house on a west facing wall is probably not the best place to garden if you have another choice.

Ideally you want to have 6-10 hours of sunlight every day, you want to make sure that the land drains properly and is close enough to the house to get water to it.

Keep in mind that desperate gardeners like me have overcome obstacles where ever they were, so don’t let a few setbacks stop you from having your garden, there are always alternatives. You can put your garden in containers, you can add amendments to your soil to help it drain better or you can put in raised beds. Some people are determined to put in gardens regardless of the obstacles and you can too.

Deciding How you are Going to Garden

When it comes to how to set up your garden there are so many different alternatives, that really leaves no excuse why anyone who wants to cannot have at least a small vegetable garden. I have had opportunities to try them all, I had a farm for a while where I had more gardens than sense, and other times I have been fortunate enough to have a few containers on a patio to enjoy fresh lettuce and tomatoes during the summer months.

There are plenty of choices to choose from but if this is your first garden the best thing to do is to start with a few containers or a small garden plot that you can easily manage.

It is Finally Time to Plan

There are lots of ways to plan out a garden but I prefer to use a sheet of graph paper and measure out my garden. This ensures that I allow plenty of space for all of my crops (although I tend to push this a little bit to get more into a smaller space) and that I do not over plan or plant. I measure out my garden and lay it out onto graph paper, each large square = one square foot or if you are using the graph paper with only small blocks then  I usually do either 5 or 10 block squares, depending on the size of a garden you are trying to graph.

You can get the necessary space needed for each crop off of the Internet, keep in mind that you should put the taller crops in a place where they will not interfere with the sun for the smaller crops. I usually put my taller crops to the north. You should also keep in mind that you will want to leave space to plant at intervals, crops such as lettuce, beans, radishes and cucumbers bear after a certain number of days, so if you want a continuous harvest you will want to plant them every two weeks.

There You Have It

The beginnings of your first vegetable garden, While there is plenty more to learn and a lot of experience to gain, you will be well on your way to getting your first garden planted and enjoying the fruits of your hard work. There is nothing more rewarding than growing your own food, it is also a great way to get the kids involved in a healthy activity that not only teaches them where their food comes from but encourages them to eat a bit healthier.

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