Beginners Garden 101 – My First Garden

A Beginner’s First Vegetable Garden
If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, remember this: It’s better to be happy and proud of a small garden than to be mad and frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Think small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, or hoe. If you’re new to gardening, start off with a garden no larger than about a 8 foot by 10 foot plot. You can always expand later if you can’t get enough of those fresh, crispy vegetables.

Next, examine the soil. Is it predominantly clay, sand or a sandy loam? The latter is the best. You can distinguish a sandy loam from the other two by giving it the squeeze test. If you can take a handful of dirt and squeeze it in a ball then watch it crumble when you let go, you’ve got a sandy loam soil type. Adding a quality compost is always a good thing to do for your garden.

The Very Basics
Here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire.

* Vegetables love the sun. They require six hours (continuous, if possible) of sunlight each day, at least. Choose a location that receives as much sun as possible throughout the day. Northern gardeners should insist on full sun.
* Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Most backyard soil is not perfect and needs a helping hand. It is best to check with your local nursery or county extension office about soil testing, soil types, and soil enrichment. Remember adding a small amount of quality compost is always helful.
* Placement is everything. Like humans, vegetables need proper nutrition. A vegetable garden too near a tree will lose its nutrients to the tree’s greedy root system. On the other hand, a garden close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
* Vegetables need lots of water, at least one inch of water a week. In the early spring, walk around your property to see where the snow melts first, when the sun catches in warm pockets. This will make a difference in how well your vegetables grow.
* Here’s the fun part. Study those seed catalogs and order early. You can purchase seeds from the store or order them through the many catalogs on the market. Whatever you do, buy quality seeds. Don’t spend hours preparing your garden and then skimp and purchase 10 packets for a $1.00 seeds.

Deciding How Big
One or two Tomato’s, Cucumbers or Squash in a container or unused flower bed is better than no garden!

A good beginner-size vegetable garden is 8 foot by 10 foot. If you have some to help you in your new garden a 10 foot by 16 foot garden may better fit your needs. For you first garden, grow crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. If you plan to double crop your garden, plan and plant your fall garden crops by the 15th of July to allow them to reach maturity before falls first frost. If you can, it is best if your rows run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Allow enough space between rows to allow you to walk between rows for weeding and harvesting.

Easy to grow, Beginners garden plant selection list.
* Tomatoes
* Zucchini squash
* Peppers, Sweet and Hot types
* Cabbage
* Bush beans
* Lettuce, leaf and/or head
* Beetroot
* Carrots
* Chard
* Radish
* Onions
* Okra
* Bush Cucumbers
* Bush Yellow Summer Squash
* Turnip
* Marigolds to discourage rabbits!

READ and follow the planting and spacing recommendations on the seed package. They do this for a living and will not give you bad or incorrect planting / growing instructions.

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant the entire garden plot, you can also make the rows shorter. You should choose the vegetables that you’d like to eat!)

Things to consider:
*Corn only produces 2 ears per stalk, takes up a great deal of a small garden for what you get in return.
*Watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers are large vine plants that require a lot of water and a large space for growing.
*Cucumbers can be trained to climb a trellis saving space and making them easy to harvest.
*If you’re interested in planting potatoes, just remember that tomatoes and potatoes are not ideal companions and need to be planted some distance apart. Plant tomato’s on one side of the garden and your potato’s on the other side of your garden.

DIY composting for your Gardens Health.
University of Missouri Extension has a very useful publication fact sheet covering:
Selecting a compost method
# Wire-mesh holding unit
# Snow-fence holding unit
# Wood and wire three-bin turning unit
# Worm composting bin
# Heap composting
As well as information on constructing your composting unit.

Why is common sense so uncommon?
Don’t be shy. Leave me your comment(s)

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