Planning a Garden: What To Grow

Among the most basic of decisions when planning a garden is deciding what to grow.

And when you’re planning a vegetable garden, deciding what to grow is really a 2-step process:

-deciding what you WANT to grow

-deciding what you CAN grow.

More often than not, fortunately, the plants you want to grow will also be among the plants you can grow.

But not always…  

Planning a Garden: Deciding What You WANT to Grow

Now that you’ve made decisions about where and how large your garden will be, it’s time to decide what your garden will be.

There’s a world of choices available to you.

After all, even the most basic of vegetables would compose quite a long list. And if you add in fruits, flowers and exotic veggies, you’ll have a huge selection of plants to choose from.

Would you be able to grow everything in that list? No, probably not.

But let’s not worry about that for now.

Instead, let’s make a list of what you want to grow. Later, we’ll prune out anything from your list that won’t be a good candidate for growing in your garden.

Be careful, though.

Making out the wish list is where newbie gardeners sometimes get into a bit of trouble. Sometimes the imagination runs a bit wild, and all kinds of exotic and semi-rare plants end up on the wish list.

As you gain gardening experience, you’ll want to try your hand at growing new and different things. That’s part of the fun of gardening.

But for now as you’re just learning how to garden, why not keep things simple and basic?

And what could be more basic than…  

Growing What You Eat

Nobody in your family likes brussels sprouts? No point, then, in putting them on your to-grow list. Does every nose in your family turn up at cauliflower? Then it makes no point in adding that one to the list, either.

In fact, a good starting point for your to-grow list is your grocery list.

What veggies do you buy on a regular basis – carrots, peas, tomatoes, lettuce? Then put those on the list.

When you’re planning a garden, planning to grow what you eat is a great approach.

That way, you’ll know that the work and effort you put into growing those plants won’t be wasted, and you’ll be able to start making significant reductions in your grocery bill right off the bat.  

Planning a Garden: Deciding What You CAN Grow

OK, got a list made of basic, everyday fare; stuff that you know will be eaten if you can grow it successfully?

Good. Now it’s time to prune the list.

How much will be pruned? Maybe a lot, maybe none. But here’s a suggestion: prune your list based on these two criteria:

  • Just keep the relatively easy-to-grow plants on your list.
  • Make sure the plants on your list are adaptable to your area.

Easy-to-Grow Garden Vegetables

Here are some of the easiest-to-grow vegetables, all of which would be great candidates for a first-timer’s garden:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Radishes (Radishes are about as easy as it gets. They were my first garden crop!)
  • Snap Peas
  • Spinich
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes (Not the absolute easiest on the list, but who wants a garden without tomatoes?)
  • Zucchini

Just growing these easiest-to-grow veggies would make for quite a nice garden, and a very bountiful dinner table! Selecting several from this list would make a great beginner’s garden.  

When Planning a Garden, How Do You Know Which Plants Are Suitable For Your Area?

The best way to know which plants will do best in your area is to glean that knowledge from a friend who has been gardening in your area for years.

Such a person can be a wealth of information in knowing what works best in your specific area. You could likely take your list to such a person, and they could run down your list and say: “yep, yep, yep, maybe on that one – it’ll take some babying, yep, yep, no – I wouldn’t try that one.”

An experienced gardening friend can be a wonderful resource for a newbie gardener. They can make suggestions about what types of plants to grow, along with the specific varieties with which they’ve been most successful.

And they can also offer lots of valuable how-to tips.

Your local extension office can also be a great help in deciding what to grow. They, too, will know what grows best in your area, and might even have some publications that you’ll find quite useful.

(Not sure where your nearest extension office is? You can find it here.)

And finally, good reference books belong in every gardener’s library. They can offer lots of plant-specific info such as recommended soil types, recommended growing zones, recommended planting dates, recommended varieties, seed-starting techniques, and lots of additional information targeted to the specific plants you’re considering growing.

Here are a couple of recommendations (links open to Amazon.com):

You’re Making Great Progress in Planning Your Garden…

You now know where your garden is going to be located, and you know how large it will be. And you’ve also got your to-grow list at hand, ready to go.

A lot of the planning is behind you; now it’s time for action!

The next step is to start preparing your garden soil. Actually, this will be a long-term process. As long as you’re gardening, you’ll be working on maintaining and improving your soil.

But there are some specific steps you can take to get the process underway. A good starting point is testing your garden soil.  

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