Tips for Starting a Garden: Learn How to Start a Garden and Reap the Rewards!

Interested in starting a garden?

Glad to hear it!

Starting a vegetable garden requires some planning and effort, but the rewards are substantial – both tangible and intangible.

The most obvious reward of vegetable gardening? Fresh, healthy veggies, of course!

And not only will your veggies be farm-fresh and healthy (you won’t be worried about what might have been sprayed on your veggies), they’ll offer one additional benefit: they’ll be T-A-S-T-Y!  

Garden Fresh Really Are the Best

If you haven’t had garden fresh vegetables in a while – or maybe ever – you’re in for a treat.

If you’ve been eating supermarket veggies, then you’ve probably been eating vegetables that were rudely harvested before Mother Nature was quite finished with them.

(You can almost imagine Mom Nature hollering, “Hey, wait – I wasn’t finished with that yet!”)

To be able to hold up to being shipped hundreds, maybe thousands of miles, and then to be displayed on the store shelf for days before you buy them and take them home, most veggies have to be harvested early.

When’s the last time you got a really good tomato from the grocery store, for example? You know – a tomato that’s juicy and has that rich tomatoey flavor that tomatoes are supposed to have?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s been awhile since you’ve had a tomato like that from a grocery store. I’m going to inch out just a bit further on that limb and also guess that your grocery store tomatoes are mostly mealy and bland. Did I guess right?

You want to know why grocery store tomatoes are so bad?

It’s because most of them are picked green and gassed with a ripening agent called ethylene. Not terribly appetizing! (Does that give you some incentive for starting a garden?)  

You Can’t Really Blame the Grocery Store…

It’s probably not fair to blame the grocery store that sells those cardboard tomatoes. It’s not really fair to blame the farmer that grew them, either.

After all, what do you think would happen to a plump, juicy tomato that’s allowed to fully ripen before it’s picked, tossed into a box with 25 pounds of other ripe tomatoes, thrown on a truck, shipped 2000 miles, spends a few days languishing in your grocery store’s display case, and then finally ends up on your table?

Umm …can you say ‘pass the ketchup, please?!’

Unfortunately, that’s just the way our food system has evolved. Massive quantities of crops like tomatoes are grown monoculture style on a factory farm and shipped great distances to the consumer.

You go veggie shopping at your local grocery, and that’s what you’re going to get. (There are some refreshing exceptions, of course. Some stores are making a real effort to buy local and sell local.)

Vegetables that are produced in this system just won’t be – CAN’T be – as good as what you could grow in your own backyard. And that alone is a great incentive to many people for starting a garden.

But as you probably already know, there’s more to be concerned about than just the flavor of those factory-farm veggies.

The Flavor Might Be the Least of Your Concerns

I’m not going to open up the pesticides can of worms right now. I’ll save that for another page and another time.

Suffice it to say that at least most of the massive factory farms use lots of pesticides to keep insect pests, weeds and fungal diseases under control. Some experts are greatly worried about what those pesticides might be doing to us and to the environment, and other experts – not so much.

You already know whether the pesticides issue is of particular concern to you. (FWIW, my vote is yes, that’s a bit of a concern!).

But what about the nutrient levels in the foods cranked out by our factory-farm system? Do you think that tomato that was picked green offers the same nutritional value as a tomato that’s allowed to ripen fully on the vine? (No, gassing the green tomato with ethylene to turn it red doesn’t add any nutrients.)

How about forcing production on land that’s essentially depleted by dumping lots of petroleum-derived N, P and K on the land? Are foods produced on that land going to contain all of the minerals, vitamins and trace elements that nature intended?

Concerns about the safety and the nutritional value of our modern food supply have provided an additional incentive for many to learn how to start a garden.  

There Are Lots of Intangible Benefits to Starting a Garden

The tangible benefits that you can derive from starting a garden and growing your own food are obvious.

But there are other benefits to starting a garden beyond the enjoyment of tastier, healthier food.

There’s the exercise that you’ll get from gardening, outside in the fresh air and sunshine. (Did you know that an hour of gardening is roughly equivalent to an hour of walking?)

There’s the self-satisfaction of being at least a little bit more self-sufficient. Or if you go large-scale with it, you can be a LOT more self-sufficient.

There’s the thrill and fascination of working hand in hand with Mother Nature. (And she’ll appreciate you allowing her to put her finishing touches on that tomato!)  

OK, Sounds Great. So How Do You Go About Starting a Garden?

Glad you asked!

I’ll try to provide lots of information to help you along with the process of starting your garden. Just browse the links below for more specifics about the process of starting a vegetable garden.

(If you’ve happened along during the early phase of constructing this part of the website, please check back. I’ll be adding more!)

A slight note of caution, though: Some offline and online resources sort of give the impression that starting a vegetable garden is as simple as scratching in the ground a bit, scattering a packet of seeds, dumping on some fertilizer, and then just waiting to start harvesting those seed-catalog-picture-pretty veggies.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Starting a garden correctly takes some planning. You’ll do a fair amount of thinking and planning and deciding before ever turning a single spade of soil.

But like most worthwhile activities, doing it properly from the very beginning is really the only way to do it, and pays dividends in the long run.


Planning a Vegetable Garden: Determining the Size and Location

Planning a vegetable garden is all about options: determining which options are available to you, and selecting the options that best serve your gardening goals. Planning a garden properly should set you on the path to having a garden that thrives in your environment and makes the best use of your available land.


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, and deciding what you CAN grow.


Garden Soil Testing

There are two garden soil testing methods: Using a soil testing lab, or using soil testing kits. Both soil testing methods can yield reliable results. Unfortunately, both soil testing methods can also yield unreliable results.


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