Gardening Basics — Deciding what you want

You have already decided that you want to plant a garden. Now you have to decide what to plant. There are many ways to decide, but one way that may provide you with a more satisfying experience is to decide what you want your end goal to be. Some examples with some possible answers are:

Salsa Garden

Tomatoes
Onions
Garlic
Jalepeños
Cilantro

Salad

Greens
Carrots
Tomatoes
Red onions
Cucumbers   

Italian inspired Garden

Basil
Oregano
Tomatoes
Thyme
Fennel
Peppers
Arugula
Onions
Garlic

Additional Considerations

After you decide what to plant and before you head off to the store, ask these questions, and ideally, answer them.

  1. Do I have enough space?
  2. Does the spot I have chosen get enough sun? Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun each day. If you only have shade, you can still grow lettuce and other greens that prefer the cooler weather.
  3. How are you going to water?
  4. Am I going to build raised beds or grow a traditional garden?

How Much Space Do I Need?

The answer to this question depends on a lot of things. Let’s start with how you are going to plant your garden. Are you going to use raised beds? Or are you going to do a traditional in-ground garden? Or are you just going to stick to containers?

Traditional Garden

Pros:

Easy to start
You can use machinery to till and weed

Cons

You have to till it
You have to have walk ways between rows. This means it might require more space compared to a raised bed garden.
Soil content is harder to control

Raised Bed

Pros

No tilling required (no machinery to buy).
You can more precisely control the soil content
Generally higher yields out of similar square footage
Reduced weeds due to proximity of plants

Cons

More expensive to start and maintain
You have to weed and turn the soil by hand

My Choice

I chose the raised bed garden for several of these reasons. The soil here is very hard and would need lots of amending to create a workable garden. I filled my raised beds with the soil I wanted. I also think it looks nice though it was a considerable cost and effort to create it.

So, to answer the “how big” question. A 16x10 foot plot for a traditional garden or two or three 4x4 foot raised beds can provide enough fresh vegetables for a family of four for a summer with the possibility of extra for canning–at least according to this site.

Notes on Berries

Raspberries spread quickly. A few plants will be many plants in a couple years. Also, they only produce fruit on the previous year’s canes. Blackberries also spread but not like raspberries. There is much information online regarding berries and how to prune and grow them. If you want jam, you will need 4 or 5 raspberry plants. Freeze the berries as they ripen until you have enough to make jam. Check this pruning guide. http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/hg_363.pdf for more information.