Getting ready for a garden isn’t hard at all.
You just need to put a bit of thought into it and plan ahead BEFORE you get lost in those colorful seed catalogs. Ask yourself a few questions like “What do you like to eat?”, “How much room and time do I have” and “Can I compost”?
What do you like to eat?
A “rule of thumb” that my family likes to follow is to plant what you eat. No sense in planting acorn squash if no one in your family likes it, right? So, we go down the list and think of what we like to eat. Things like pizza and salsa (needs tomatoes, onions and peppers), salads (lettuce, spinach, kale), peas, green beans and corn. So, those top our list for what we plant. Then, we pick one “new” item to try in a small bed each year, like okra or butternut squash.
How much room do you have?
Obviously, if you only have containers or a small space to plant, you most likely are not going to plant corn, or lots of squash. You may want to stick with lettuces, spinach, kale, and a tomato plant. Of course, if you don’t like spinach, or tomatoes, you will want to stick with things you DO like.
Other things that grow well in pots are carrots, bell peppers, and even a couple pole bean plants. I’ve seen a cucumber plant growing in a 5 gallon bucket, with a large stake in the middle for it to grow around. Another idea is to re-purpose 2 liter bottles and hang them on a fence.
Think outside the box, and you’ll find you have more space than you ever realized! The best thing we have ever done is to plant more of less items. Instead of 12 different types of beans or tomatoes, we planted 12 beds of 1 kind of green bean, or 12 roma tomatoes instead of 12 different tomato varieties.
How much time do you have?
Gardening is pretty easy, really. You drop a seed into the ground, water it, make sure it has some sun and pull weeds once in a while. But, multiply that times 10 beds of different veggies, and you and it can be time consuming.
I think there is nothing more disheartening than planting a huge garden, with high hopes and dreams, only to have “life” stop you from getting out there and weeding or watering, and most of dies. Yes, that’s happened to us…
So, if you are working at a full time job, running kids to various activities, etc…you may want to scale back your garden a bit. 1-2 tomato plants, a cucumber and some lettuce will make for a fresh, crisp salad all summer long. Consider planting a few of your favorite herbs in a container in your kitchen windowsill as well. They will be easy to remember to maintain, and having fresh herbs at your fingertips while cooking is AAAH-mazing!
Can I compost? Why, yes you can!
Compost is like “black gold” to a gardener. It’ll help replace nutrients in the soil and nourish the plants. A super duper easy way to get started composting is to re-purpose an old bucket with a lid. Ice cream bucket, kitty litter, basically anything. If you can eat it, it can be composted.
I would recommend staying away from adding meat, cheese or citrus in the bucket, though, as those can take a long time to decompose. Once the bucket is full, you will want to have a place outside for it. If you have the room, a large area that is dedicated to composting is great.
You can use pallets (see a picture of ours here) or plain chicken wire around 4 posts to make a compost area. Live in an apartment or don’t have a place to have a large compost area? Try a worm composter like this one from my affiliate partner to keep it going.
If you have the ability to have chickens, let THEM compost the kitchen scraps for you. They eat the scraps, and their droppings are perfect in a compost tea (1 cup poop to 1 gallon water). Putting some compost in with your soil, even in a container will greatly improve your plants growth. For containers, I like to use a ratio of 1:1:1 or 1 part “dirt”, 1 part potting mix, and 1 part compost. In beds, I like to add 1/3 of the total mass as fresh compost and mix well.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.