A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Own Garden

Do sky-rocketing foods prices have you longing for another option? Or are you concerned about what chemicals are in your family’s food? Now is a good time to start planning your very own vegetable garden.

Many gardeners out there will tell you to plan everything early, straight down to using a ruler to get the seeds the right distance apart. That’s not me. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gardener, which has worked okay in the past, but perhaps something can be said for a little bit of prep work.

If your idea of gardening is heading out to the nursery and buying plants that already have tiny vegetables on them, then keep reading. That has been me…for several years. And will probably still be me for years to come. I just can’t pass up those happy little plants that are already producing. I am at the point in my gardening abilities that I can start plants from seeds and successfully transplant them, but I still fill a good portion of my garden with starter plants. It’s instant gratification in vegetable form.

You need less supplies for the starter plant type of gardening versus starting your own seeds. So if you are a beginner and want to ease into your first gardening experience, then this is probably the best route for you. You’ll need to find a spot in your yard that receives at least a good amount of morning sun. A spot that is sunny for at least eight hours of the day is ideal, however. Remember wind and water when you are picking out your location. You don’t want your fragile plants to be blown over because you planted them in a wind tunnel. Likewise, you don’t want your plants to die because you planted them a mile from any water source and you’ve decided you don’t like hauling pails of water. If you have a sunny and calm area that is within hose distance from a water spigot then your garden is practically a success already. For the beginners, growing your own food is the greenest thing you can do claims Martha Moore. The information provided for the home garden will be effective for the fruits and vegetables. There will be success in the growing of the plants. 

Once you have your location, you’ll need to clear out any grass and other debris. Use a tiller to work the soil until you’ve removed every weed and rock. It’s a lot of work, I won’t sugar coat that part of it, but the end results make it worth it. This is a good time to work in some compost while your at it. Ask your nursery for an appropriate type for your area. A richer soil will help produce better plants.

Now that you have a place to put those plants, you’ll need to think of what you want to grow. This is where the planning part comes into play. I’ve had many hodge podge type of gardens that worked moderately well, but if I had planned a little better then my cucumbers wouldn’t have choked the life out of my peppers. By putting a little thought into it you can make sure you don’t have money thrown down the drain by bullying plants.

Carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all easy plants to grow for beginners. They are pretty hearty and can withstand a little abuse. Of course, make sure you consult a gardening guide or an expert from your nursery for advice on what grows well in your specific area, but you usually can’t go wrong with these. Learn from my mistake and remember that cucumbers will spread. A lot. So plant them in their own little area and only sparingly if you have a small garden. You’ll be surprised by the number of cucumbers you’ll get from a single plant. Read those little tags that come with your plants to make sure you are spacing everything correctly.

A good way to utilize a small space is to plant something referred to as a “Three Sisters” garden. Native Americans planted their garden this way so the vegetables worked together, rather than snuff each other out. You’ll do this by planting corn, squash, and beans in close proximity. The corn will provide a pole for the beans to grow and the squash will spread around and help control weeds. To plant a successful Three Sisters garden, plant corn in several rows to encourage pollination. When corn is around four inches high, plant your beans in a circle six inches from the corn stalk (we’re talking around the stalk here, not random circles off to the side. A garden smiley face is not our goal.) At this time you should also plant some squash about a foot from the corn. As things start to grow just keep an eye on weeds and direct the squash as needed to make sure it doesn’t smother anything out.

Now that you have a plan in place for what you want to grow, all that is left is the maintenance. Remember to water at least once a week, more often if it gets very hot during the day. You’ll need a good soaking during that weekly watering, so don’t be stingy. If you are experiencing a particularly rainy week then you can relax a little.

Pull those weeds out frequently, otherwise they can easily take over. Adding some mulch will help keep it under control, but they always seem to sneak through no matter what you do.

Once your plants are ready to be harvested, make sure you pick the vegetables frequently. This will help encourage production and you will be able to harvest several more times.

Now go forth, start your garden, and turn up your nose at those mushy tomatoes and wilted lettuce from the grocery store. You have a salad growing in your back yard!