You’ve been thinking about starting a vegetable garden for some time now. You’ve seen pictures of these beautiful, bountiful gardens and you dream of carrying a basket full of homegrown veggies into the kitchen. Maybe you’ve taken the first step toward knowing where your food is coming from by shopping at the farmer’s market. Does gardening seem like too much work or something your black thumb could never do?
Then I want to help you! One of the easiest ways to manage doubt or stress over something is to plan first. Am I right? You know with a little thought those things that seemed too difficult to start or impossible to do were accomplished.
Now, I’m not saying gardening comes without heartache. It certainly does. Pests will mow down a row of beans overnight. Your soil won’t be fertile enough to grow more than a handful of tomatoes. Gardening can and does bring heartache, but it’s about the experience, the memories. The good, hard work. You’ll see. You grow attached to those little sprouts. When they get their first blossom you’ll want to post it all over social media so everyone can see that your thumb IS actually green.
I think you’re ready! But first, let’s do a little planning to help make this new adventure a bit easier.
5 Reasons to Start a Garden
If you’re looking for a hobby that can keep you busy outside, gardening might be what you need. Trust me, pulling weeds could keep you outside all day! If you enjoy working with your hands, gardening might be for you. If you can find a way to fit gardening into your interests, love of nature, working with hands, cooking, you will love doing it! It will become a hobby.
Are you wanting to spend more family time outside? Kids are great gardeners! Get them their own little gloves and a hat, and they’ll probably look forward to spending some time with you, with your undivided attention, picking berries or pulling weeds. Some of the best stories come out when life is at a slower pace, outside, working together. My husband and I love being in the garden together, pointing out each new blossom to the other. Gardening can bring families closer.
To Save Money
It’s true that growing your food can save loads of money, especially if you start your plants from seed! Aside from the seeds/plants, there will likely be some other investments so be prepared for that. You may need to put in raised garden beds or bring in some good composted soil. We use bamboo poles and twine to get our plants to grow up, which is cheaper than some other routes. By the middle of summer though, you will definitely see a decrease in your grocery bill.
Going back to the idea of gardening being a great way to occupy your time, you may find that you look forward to your evening in the garden. Your life can be simpler by gardening in ways you may not have imagined. You’ll spend less time doing other things. Your grocery trips will be shorter and further between. Meal planning will revolve around what came out of the ground. Plus, there is something about watching things grow that takes you back to simpler times. Face two rocking chairs toward the garden, and when there’s no more work to be done, enjoy the view.
Maybe you have acreage or at least more than a two by two yard, why not try to grow something edible? Make that ground work for you. Think about it, if you put in a garden, it’s less space to mow! If you have the room maybe it’s time to at least consider container gardening.
Any reason to start gardening is a good reason. Homegrown veggies are good for your health, maintaining them can simplify your life and bring your family closer. Let’s shed those excuses or doubt and jump into how to plan next year’s garden!
How to Plan Next Year’s Garden
If you haven’t gardened before or haven’t done it well, let’s start small. That may go against everything you believe in, but keeping things simple at the beginning is a key to success. We can always add to it later. Don’t make this new adventure so complicated that you can’t finish it out.
Since we have awhile until it’s time to get our hands dirty, let’s use this time now to observe. What part of your yard gets the most sun? Does it also drain well or does water stand/pool after it rains? We want to look for the flattest piece of land that gets the most sun. We also want it to be close to the house too. Watch from one month to the next to see if the best piece of real estate changes. Once you’ve located the perfect garden plot, dig up a chunk of the soil. Is it nice and dark? Is it holding moisture or does it crumble in your hand? Is it moldable when squeezed or is it rock hard?
Now that we’ve looked over the soil and it’s dark, hold moisture and squeezes to the touch, let’s go ahead and test the soil. You may have heard that the most important aspect to gardening is good soil. I’m not sure if I agree, but I think that saying started because of all the necessary components (water, sun, soil), the soil is the most difficult for us to understand and control. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil is absolutely vital to a flourishing garden. We bought this $6 kit, which you can also find at your local hardware or garden store.
Hopefully your soil was adequate for gardening. If not, then you’ll need to look up ways to “amend soil” as that goes beyond the scope of this article. Whether or not your soil is awesome, one thing you can easily do to keep it healthy is to compost. Chances are you’re throwing your scraps in the trash anyway, why not give them a second life? We keep a small bucket like this one under our sink and once it’s full, we take it outside. Now, you can buy compost bins that look nice and work quickly (we have used this one before with great success) or you can dig a hole and put your scraps in there. We are planning on making a 3-bin compost area from pallets this year. Adding composted soil from vegetable scraps will add a ton of nutrients to your soil, I highly recommend starting this now!
Note Your Favorites
One of the most common mistakes new gardeners make, including planting too much, is planting the wrong stuff. You’re going to love going through the seed catalogs and websites. The idea of growing artichoke and collard greens sounds like so much fun!! And it is, but you and your family don’t normally buy those things from the store, chances are your garden grown harvest will spoil in the fridge. Resist the urge to buy anything and everything and stick with what you love. Other the next few months, start a list of fruits and veggies that you buy the most often. Some of our most frequently purchased veggies include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, and onions. Each of these vegetables can easily be grown in most areas in the US.
You have a TON of options as far as where you can get seeds and plants. I know I mentioned it already, but starting your garden from seed is going to be much, much more cost effective than plants. I can get a pack of 50-100 seeds for less than a dollar, most plants range from $1-3 each. If you’re going to start seeds, I recommend using something like this to get them started. I’ve used this for a few years now and have seen great results.
Another thing you should know is that most seeds and plants that you can get from the big box stores come from large farms, farms that very likely spray their plants with pesticides and use genetically-modified seed. If avoiding those things is important to you, you’ll need to do some research to find seeds/plant that work for you. I have always bought all of my seeds from two places, each committed to organic, non-GMO seeds. The first is in California and is called Seeds Now. The other is in Missouri, Baker Creek. Both companies ship pretty quickly and have a large selection of seeds. Year after year I go back to them both.
Research Pest Control
One of the unfortunate aspects of gardening that you’ll most likely have to face is pests. You’re not the only one who will want to enjoy that yummy food. If you’re like me, you may not want to spray your food in unknown chemicals, so you’re going to have to do some research. The common remedies of today just aren’t okay with me. I want something that’s natural and effective. You should still do your own research, but here are a few things that have worked for me. I’ve sprinkled diatomaceous earth on my plants to successfully ward off ants and other pests. I’ve hung old CD’s and other reflective objects in the garden to keep birds away. I’ve also made a spray of mostly water with a bit of dish soap and peppermint essential oil to keep pests away. Do some research and take note of the action steps you’ll take when the time comes.