How much space do you have for a garden?
Or maybe I should ask—how big do you want to make your garden? My first major garden, but not my first garden, was quite large. So much so, when I had dug up all the sod and unwanted dirt and was waiting for good soil to be brought in, friends asked if I was putting in a swimming pool. The funny thing was . . . they were dead serious! It took several days to put in over 500 plants to fill the area. I don’t suggest doing that unless you are a seasoned gardener.
It boils down to how much do you want to grow? I’ve grown a successful vegetable garden in not much more than a six-by-six foot plot. It provided tomatoes, peppers and green beans—enough for what I call a taste of summer. If you are planning on canning or freezing your crops for winter meals, you’ll need something much bigger.
Some plants are space intensive. This goes for both vegetables as well as some perennials. Plants spread, which is sometimes hard to picture when you are putting a seedlings not much bigger than your pinky into the ground.
Vegetables such as cucumber, squash, or melons have vines that travel several feet from their source. So if you are limited for space, consider growing them up a fence, or purchase the bush varieties. Either choice still produces an abundance of fruit.
Some flowers in the perennial group are quite invasive. Lily of the valley sends roots in all directions over the course of one season. And if you think you can dig them out, think again. Many plants that spread via their roots multiply faster when the roots are severed. Make sure you read the habits of each plant before purchasing.
For the beginner gardener, I’d say start small.
Do you have an area that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day?
This is critical when deciding what type of garden you’ll have. If you want to grow vegetables but have a shade-covered yard, it will be nearly impossible to have a successful garden. Flowers, both annuals and perennials, vary in the amount of sunlight needed.
The important thing is to check before buying. If you have a shady spot to fill perennials such as Hosta, Astible, or Lily of the Valley can fill that area nicely. Annuals such as Impatiens, Begonias, or Coleus can brighten any container. The key is to plant them where they are best suited. If you stick a shade-lover in the sun, it will not last. If you put a plant that loves the sun in the shade, it may not die, but it may not flower either.
How much time do you want to spend?
Even the smallest garden requires time out of the day for watering, weeding, and deadheading of plants. Certain times of the year require more, like spring when the beds need to be cleared of their winter debris.
For a vegetable garden, especially one large enough to provide food into the winter, you must allow time to pick, clean, cook, and store your harvest. Something to keep in mind—plants do not only put out their crops on the weekend. I have spent several days a week preparing food for storage all the while wondering why I put in so many plants.
Your turn: So what do you think, do you still want to start a garden?