This year my siblings, children, and I decided to grow a garden for the entire family at my sisters place. She inherited it from our parents, and we wanted to carry on our family tradition of fresh, organic produce. We had never taken on such a large garden before as a group, but it really is very simple to do yourself, if you plan ahead. It is important when starting out to plant vegetables that are easy to grow and maintain. Not everyone has the space to grow large gardens, so we thought working together to keep up the maintenance and pooling the costs as a group would make this manageable for us and my sister. We purchased a rain barrel as a group to save on watering for such a large garden, and now have several tomato plants, lettuce, zucchini, herbs, and peppers. We have been taking turns with the gardening, and it has been a very rewarding experience. We actually found a great article on how to set up a garden for yourself. Here are a few simple tricks from Vegetable Gardening For Dummies by Charlie Nardozzi:
“The Five S’s of Vegetable Gardening Success”
You can break down the essential elements of a successful vegetable garden into five words, all starting with the letter S. Here’s a foolproof formula:
Selection: Grow what you like to eat! While the easiest vegetables to grow are bush beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and squash, grow vegetables that you know you and your family will enjoy. That being said, grow a variety of vegetables and try a few new veggies each year. You never know who may acquire a taste for Brussels sprouts!
Site: Locate your garden near a walkway, next to the house, or someplace where you pass it each day. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. By visiting the garden for ten minutes each day, you can keep it in good shape. Make sure that your site also has easy access to a water source and is relatively flat.
Size: Start small. A 3-foot-x-6-foot raised bed and a few containers are plenty to get started in a small area. If you have the room, try a 10-foot-x-10-foot garden. It’s better to have success with a small garden the first year, and then graduate into something larger the next year. (For example, if you want to produce food for storing and sharing, a 20-foot-x-30-foot plot is a great size. You can produce an abundance of different vegetables and still keep the plot looking good.)
Soil: The best garden has fertile, well-drained soil amended with compost annually. Building raised beds allows the soil to drain faster and warm more quickly in spring. (Raised beds are kind of like wide, flat-topped rows. They’re usually at least 2 feet wide and raised at least 6 inches high, but any planting area that’s raised above the surrounding ground level is a raised bed.) Plus, you won’t be compacting the soil by stepping on it, so your plants will grow stronger.
Sun: Most vegetables grow best with at least six hours of direct sun a day. If you have only three to four hours a day, try growing leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, mesclun greens, and Swiss chard, or root crops like carrots, beets, and radishes. You can also consider planting a movable garden. Plant crops in containers and move them to the sunniest spots in your yard throughout the year.”
“Deciding Which Vegetables to Plant in Your Garden
Are you having trouble deciding which vegetables to plant in your garden? This list is a quick reference to help you determine which vegetables are good for your particular needs:
Attractive vegetables: Why hide your love of vegetables? You can plant these vegetables right in your front yard where everyone can enjoy their beauty. Try these plants for an attractive-looking and productive garden: asparagus, eggplant, fennel, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, lettuce, peppers, rhubarb, sunflower, and Swiss chard.
Easy-to-grow vegetables: If you plant at the right time of the year, these vegetables are almost foolproof: broccoli, bush beans, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, peas, potatoes, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.
Heat-loving vegetables: These vegetables can take the heat (and perhaps even better than you can!): beans, corn, eggplant, melons, okra, peanuts, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Short-season vegetables: If your growing season is short and sweet, try growing these vegetables: bush beans, carrots, cress, lettuce, mesclun greens, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, and summer squash.
Vegetables for shadier gardens: If you have a garden plot that receives fewer than six hours of direct sunlight, try these vegetables: beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, and Swiss chard.
Vegetables kids love to grow: The following vegetables are fun, easy-to-grow plants, and kids love to harvest and eat them (sometimes right in the garden): blue potatoes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, gourds, peanuts, pole beans on a teepee, pumpkins, seedless watermelons, sweet potatoes, and Swiss chard.”
To print off the whole Cheat Sheet, click here for more tips and tricks!