– Determine your goal – is it to produce as much food as possible? To teach your kids where food comes from? Mental relaxation? Being clear about your goal can help you determine what to plant, how much to plant, and what time of garden system will work best for you (raised beds, containers, in the ground)
– Be realistic about your time to maintain your garden. Planting is so fun and easy that many of us get carried away, failing to think about the time required to weed or who will really eat all the tomatoes off 20 plants. Excess produce brings its own stress, so best to plant a modest garden and use 100% of the produce.
– There is an adage for farmers that goes ‘only plant as much as you can weed.’ If you are planting directly into the ground, be prepared to do a lot of weeding! With that goes the advice to mark your beds and rows so you know what to look for.
– Start with a plan. Use graph paper to sketch your garden, marking out how much space plants will need when they are mature. It won’t look like much when you first put seedlings in the ground, but by August those tomato plants will likely be out of control! The plan pictured here is for a 4’x8′ bed. It includes a double row of peas down the middle and sections of lettuce, arugula, beets, kale, chard, and broccoli.
– Pick five vegetables to try your first year, then plan to add one or two more each year. It is best to be successful with a few things than be overwhelmed trying to learn how to grow many different vegetables.