For many, growing a garden is their first step to leading a healthier lifestyle. Who can resist eating fresh fruits and vegetables still warm from the sun or the peaceful, meditative qualities of watering the plants on a summer evening? Gardening really is good for the soul, the body, and, according to research, the mind.
Seeds versus starts for your first garden
There are benefits to both starting plants from seed or just buying them already started. While we start most of our plants from seed, there are a few, like tomatoes and peppers) that require a bit more effort with potting up (transplanting seedlings into bigger and bigger pots as they grow) that we choose not to bother with.
Starting your garden from seed is usually cheaper, especially if you direct sow (put seeds directly into the ground where you want the plant) and you also have a wider choice in varieties when starting with seed. It can be a bit more costly if you have to purchase all of the trays, pots, and soil (and possibly even grow lights).
Purchasing starts is a little more cost upfront and there won’t be as many plant varieties to choose from. On the upside, they’re ready to go into the ground right now so if you missed the window to plant seed in your garden you can still expect a harvest.
For your very first garden, I would recommend purchasing starts except for some plants that are super easy to grow from seed like peas and sunflowers.
What your plants need
Most vegetable and fruit plants will need plenty of sun. Certain plants, like salad greens, can tolerate partial shade. All plants will also need to be watered at least daily if it hasn’t rained or the soil isn’t wet below 1″, and sometimes multiple times a day if it’s really hot and dry. All plants will benefit from having compost mixed into the soil before planting.
Other than that you’ll need to watch out for garden pests, like aphids and slugs, and some plant diseases, like blossom end rot on tomatoes.
Your garden will need to be located somewhere where the plants can get sun. You also want to make sure you have nutrient-rich, well-drained soil for the plants to grow in. If you have heavy red clay like us, you’ll benefit from growing in raised beds and containers until you can get enough compost and mulch mixed directly into the ground to improve it.
What do you like to eat?
Don’t care for Brussels sprouts but love peppers? There isn’t much point in devoting space and time to growing things that you don’t like to eat. So, don’t! Make a list of the fruits and vegetables that your family enjoys eating. Now, from that list, cross off the items that take up too much space or won’t grow well, or at all, in your gardening zone. Lastly, circle the items that are either expensive or of poor quality at the grocery store. Those are things you should seriously consider growing this year. Use this handy worksheet to help you figure out what to grow!