Somerset, Somerset County, New Jersey
Sure as a beginner you can just simply sprinkle some seeds in the ground, toss around some water, take a step back and see what comes of it, but chances are you will end up with anything but the picturesque garden. The result is likely to be having areas of your garden resembling a forest that you can barely walk through, while other areas appear to reflect the Sahara Desert, merely missing the presence of tumbleweeds.
Putting that enthusiasm aside for a moment of getting your first garden going, to sensibly blueprint your vision is your best bet, because planning and patience will yield the greatest results. The 3 key factors that need to be defined to home-growing that magical garden is Variety, Location and Method.
I see time and time again folks tend to pinpoint their gardens location first and then contemplate what to plant in it after, but I highly recommend doing that sequence in reverse. Different plants require different growing conditions, ranging from full sunlight to mostly shade, drier soil to consistently moist, or from requiring minimal space of a few inches to grow, upward of a couple of feet. First determining exactly what you would like to harvest, will aid you with not only noting growth conditions beforehand, but also with pairing, which is vital to adequate growth and future crop rotation. Pairing is the process of exactly that Pairing fruits and vegetables that necessitate equal growing conditions together, which is key to ensuring that you are efficiently utilizing your chosen garden space, as well will make crop rotation easy.
As mentioned in a previous article “Gardens on the Rise amid Pandemic” I suggest beginners utilize a Garden Planner for adequate growing. I personal recommend the Old Farmers Almanac’s Garden Planner. The Garden Planner will assist you in not only optimizing every square foot of your garden space, but will also specify which crops can be paired, keep you up to date on which veggies are ready to be harvested, and will keep track of your crop rotation timeline, as well as suggest what new vegetation can be replanted in previously harvested areas.
Location, Location, Location is Key! Once you have determined which crop you desire to yield, how much room each plant variety needs to grow, the difference in growth times and what amount of sunlight is required, you are ready to locate a spot that has a sufficient amount of openness and/or shade. If you are working with a relatively small space on a property, or an area that does not have many shade options, no fret, because there are workarounds that can be done that I will discuss shortly. Once you have located the ideal spot for your garden, you will then need to determine whether to go the route of planting traditional rows, or to utilize garden be