When I think of gardening, I get all excited and buy way too many seed packets. Oooh, that’s so pretty! We need purple carrots, really, honey, we do. Our grandson loves cucumbers. We should start a few of those too.
I can find a bazillion reasons for growing a bazillion different veggies.
Where to Start
And, honestly, I think it’s fine to go a little crazy in your garden. Who doesn’t love growing plants and harvesting fresh produce? It’s healthy to play in the dirt and grow your own stuff (and if you wind up with too much, you can share with friends).
In the long term, however, it helps to do a little planning and make choices that will give you enough of the veggies and fruits you truly enjoy eating.
What Should I Grow?
Here are a few questions that can help you narrow down your choices.
- What do you normally eat?
- What do you enjoy eating?
- What produce do you buy that is expensive or hard to get?
- What grows well in your area?
- Something just for fun?
If you have a salad with your meal most days, grow a few salad ingredients. If you love eggplant, grow eggplant. Buy those seeds for the unique pepper you love, but can rarely find in the grocery store. If you’d love to have more of something in your diet, plant that. And those purple carrots? Go for it. 🙂
Don’t plant okra if you hate okra. Stay away from plants (or varieties) that don’t grow well in your area (ask me about my bay tree, I should take my own advice).
If you’re still a little uncertain, tape a piece of paper to your fridge and write down what fruits and veggies you eat during the next couple of weeks. This will show you what you use and enjoy. Start with those choices.
How Much Should I Plant?
This question is a little harder to answer. There are a few factors to take into consideration.
- How much garden space do you have?
If you have containers on a patio, pick a couple of your favorites and enjoy doing a little gardening. Get comfortable with the workload that comes with a few plants. If one Sweet 100 tomato plant almost takes care of your salad needs, consider growing two plants next year. It should fully cover your needs and give you a few to share with your neighbor. Perhaps add a pot of basil or thyme. Baby steps. 🙂
Also, consider the size of your plants. A giant squash vine is not a great choice, but a cucumber plant in a pot with trellis could work.
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If you have more space like a raised bed in your backyard, pick a few veggies and experiment. Did you like what you planted? How much produce did you get? Was that enough? Too much?
One easy way to start is to gather a few salad ingredients. Most are easy to grow and seeds are readily available.
Related Reading: Make-Your-Own-Salad Garden Bed - An easy garden project.
If you have a good deal of garden space (lucky you), then other factors will come into play.
- How much money do you want to spend?
- How much time and energy do you have to give to gardening?
- Are you trying to augment your food supply or raise all your fruits and veggies?
- Are you going to eat your produce in season or preserve some of your harvest?
I’m a firm believer in baby steps, especially if you are just starting out.
Start with a few plants. Keep a record of how much you plant and how much produce you get. Is that enough for your family? How much more would you need to plant to cover your needs? If you’re not sure. Grow a few more each year until you find you have a bit more than enough. (It’s always good to have a little to share or to barter with.)
Related Reading: Garden Journals - Why do you need one?
The first year I grew pumpkins, I was tickled they actually grew and produced pumpkins. It was clearly not enough, but woohoo! They were pumpkins! The next year I planted two hills and got a lot of pumpkins, but because of the pumpkin demand on the property, it still wasn’t enough. This year I’m going to almost double that. (We’ll see how it goes.) If that turns out to be enough, that will be my go-to number each year.
You can get a jump on your garden planning by using numbers from experienced gardeners.
Related Reading: Garden Gate: Calculate How Many Vegetables to Plant
You will still need to play with the amounts a bit to get them to work for you and your unique household, but it’s a decent place to start.
My only concern is that jumping into a large garden can mean a lot of unknowns in terms of care and amount of work. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Just go into it knowing there will be a lot of learning, a lot of work, and maybe a few mistakes (which you’ll learn from too, so it’s not wasted).
The bottom line here is that your needs will be unique and it will take a bit of trial and error to figure them out. Whether you start large or small, take good notes so you can adjust your numbers from year to year.
… and try the colored carrots. They’re fun. 🙂
Related Reading: Starting Seeds with Sticky Notes
Take the crazy out of your planting schedule.