My garden is currently buried under several feet of snow and ice, but spring — and gardening season — will be here soon. If you’ve never had a home vegetable garden before, now is a good time to start planning.
A garden can either be a small or large commitment on your part. If you have never grown vegetables before, you might want to start out with a container garden. Another option would be to start with only one or two raised beds. I gardened small for several years before I got the confidence to go bigger.
If you’re sure you want a bigger garden, spend some time evaluating your property to determine the best site. Planning an attractive and successful organic garden takes time, so don’t rush. Look to gardening books for inspiration and draw a map of how you’d like your garden to appear.
Some of the things to keep in mind when planning your garden:
- How much sun does your proposed garden site receive? (if it’s less than 6-8 hours a day, it’s probably not an appropriate site for growing vegetables.)
- What do you want to grow? A few basic vegetables or a large assortment of heirloom varieties?
- What is your soil like? Getting a soil test is always a good idea; you can add nutrients by amending your soil with compost and other organic matter.
- Are you going to use raised beds? How many will you need? What dimensions will they be?
- Will you be bringing in soil and compost to fill the beds? How much will you need?
- How will you water? Can you utilize rain barrels or an irrigation system?
- Do you have critters that you want to keep out of your garden? Are they small or large? If you need a fence, how high does it need to be and what will it be made of?
- How will you maximize space in your new garden? Can you utilize structures that will allow your vegetables to grow vertically? (Foi example, cages for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.; fences or trellises for climbing beans/peas, etc.)
It’s important to be realistic about how much time you are willing to put in to the maintenance of your garden. Try not to bite off more than you can chew.
If you find something you need to do is out of your skill set (like building raised beds or a fence), you always can hire help. Or, if you have like-minded friends, you could organize garden work days where you help each other with different projects. I have participated in several garden building days at my childrens’ schools and it always amazes me how much lighter the work is — and how much can get done — when there are lots of people on hand to help.
Connecting with other gardeners in your community can be a great way to get any questions you have about getting started sorted out. I have found that seasoned gardeners love sharing their knowledge and experiences.
–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.
Photo credits: Winnie Abramson