Deciding where and how to plant your first garden

If you are thinking about starting a garden, you may be wondering about what kind of garden you want and where you should put it.  First on the agenda is finding an appropriate spot.  Sun is the key here.  Watch your potential garden spot.  Observe how much sun it gets.  Are there trees in the way?  Is it easily accessible?  Your ideal spot will get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight.  Less sunlight means less growth.  This is particularly important for sun and heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash and eggplant.  If you get less direct sun, but would still like to garden, don’t despair.  There are still plenty of things you can plant.  Lettuce, beets, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts are just a few that can tolerate less than ideal sun conditions.

Next is proximity to your house.  If it isn’t easy to get to, you’ll likely not spend any time there.  The joy of running out and grabbing  a few things from the garden for dinner is wonderful.  If you see it, you’re also more likely to take care of it. Weeding can get out of hand if your garden is ignored.  If it is only a few steps from your back door, you can spend a few minutes in your garden here and there.  There is no need to spend hours at a time, spend a few minutes every day caring for your garden and it will reward you.

Row garden

After you have the ideal garden spot picked out, you need to decide what style of garden you want.  The traditional row garden is probably the first thing we think about when we consider a vegetable garden.  In this style, you would mark out the size and shape of your garden.  Then the whole thing would be tilled up and fertilized.  You can mark off your rows of vegetables, allowing at least 12 inches for pathways in between each row.  Make sure that you allow for the size of the final plant.  Those tomato plants seem small in May, but by August will be 3 feet in diameter.  These gardens can be beautiful.  Their neat rows of beautiful, colorful vegetables can bring out the gardener in all of us. Since a row garden is quick, easy and inexpensive to begin, it can be a wonderful way to start.

Another type of garden is becoming very popular as well.  Raised beds have become the hottest way to create a garden.  This method requires a little more work up front, but actually reduces the amount of work as the season wears on.  Raised beds can be made of wood, rocks, pavers or cinder blocks.  My own garden has beds from cinder blocks and wood.  If you use wood, I would recommend using untreated wood.  The treated wood will last longer, but it will also leach some rather nasty chemicals into your garden.  Untreated wood will need to be replaced after a few years, but in my opinion it’s worth it for the peace of mind.  I garden to avoid chemicals in my food.  You will need to remove any grass where the bed will go and then fill it with a good, quality soil.

A wooden raised bed.

Raised beds can also be any size you want.  It is generally recommended to keep them no bigger than 4 feet across although the length is up to you.  This allows you to work the beds from either side without stepping onto the soil.  Since the soil doesn’t get compacted from being walked on, it is easier to work.  When I started out, I had four 4×4 beds.  There was an 18 inch pathway between all of them and I could easily care for the whole thing.  In raised beds you can also plant all the way to the edges.  All of the space you have can be used.  When you fertilize it all goes directly to where you want it, with no waste.

Eggplant in a container

Lastly are container gardens.  These are of course the most flexible.  If you don’t have a yard, or don’t wish to dig it up, this is the garden for you.  Container gardens are becoming very popular.  There are now many varieties of vegetables that are specifically designed to grow in pots.  Be sure if you are growing tomatoes that you get a variety for containers.  It does make a difference.  The varieties for the garden get huge and will overwhelm most containers.  Pots can be moved around to take advantage of sun and to provide protection from the elements as well.  They can be grown on balconies, patios, or even upside down.

I’ve done each of these methods in the past.   They all have good points and bad.  Only you can decide which will work for you.  Once you’ve picked out where you’ll put your garden, we’ll talk about planning what to plant.

Submitted by Heather Smith of Heather’s Homemaking.


About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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2 Responses to Deciding where and how to plant your first garden

  1. Thanks Heather! I have started my first vegetable garden this year and decided on raised beds to make it easier from year to year. This is a new adventure and I am reading all I can to help make it a success. Have started everything from seed – not so easy! Check out my blog to see how it is going.

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