I have a few things that I keep in mind when I plant my garden.
- What does my family really love?
- What grows well in my gardening zone?
- What do I have space for?
What To Plant
I make a list of my family's favorite veggies. Things like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, green beans, corn, and strawberries...these are a must each and every year.
They are all easy to grow here, I have few pest problems with them, and some of them are quite expensive to buy organically.
Besides there is nothing in the world like a warm tomato eaten out of hand standing in your own garden!
I grow bushels of tomatoes because we love them and I use them to make tomatoes sauce, ketchup, and also dry them. On the other hand I only grow a few eggplant because I have yet to figure out a way to prepare them that my family likes!
Ohhh but they are just lovely so I keep trying!
Next I grow what grows well in my gardening zone. On the back of any seed packet you will find a place that says what gardening zone that particular plant grows in. This refers to the plant hardiness zones established by the USDA, it is easy to find your zone by going to this site by the National Gardening Association and looking up your particular area.
In my zone 8 I can grow a lot of things due to our very temperate weather. I grow a lot of greens including spinach, kale and swiss chard. Things that are more challenging are melons and sweet potatoes.
For a beginning gardener I would suggest finding out what is the easiest to grow in your area, talk to your neighbors, ask at the farmer's market, read or look on the internet.
If you are limited on space choose things that take up little room or can be grown easily in pots. Strawberries are a prime example of something that grows very easily in a pot...that is why you can buy pots specifically for strawberries!
Lettuce is very compact as are many greens. Onions, carrots, beets, and garlic are all root crops that take up little room.
Cabbage and broccoli are larger and will need more room as are peas and beans which may need trellising.
Things like melons and squash take up enormous plots of real estate, in fact every year my squash invariably takes over more garden than I designate for it!
Again look on the back of the seed packet and read how far apart the plants need to be. If it is just inches you know you have a more compact plant. If it is 6 feet in the case of many squash...well then you know you have a land hog! Although to be fair you can grow squash on a deck cascading out of a large pot, just don't be surprised if it grows over, under and around all your patio furniture!
My best advice is to plant what you will eat...what your family loves. Then make sure it will grow easily in your gardening zone. This will make for an easy and delicious gardening season!
And if anyone has a really great vegetarian eggplant recipe I would really appreciate it!
How to Garden Series:Step 1 - Ground Site Selection Step 2 Improve Gardening Soils Step 3 Garden Beds, Pockets and Pots 101 Step 4 - What To Plant
Kim is a small organic farmer who lives in the Pacific Northwest raising organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and a camel! She blogs at the inadvertent farmer where she dishes on living the authentic country life. She also hosts a yearly summer-long series and contest called KinderGARDENS that is aimed at instilling the love of gardening to the next generation believing that dirty hands make for healthy happy kids!
Join us on May 5th and bring your kiddos!