By Julie Martens Forney
Dig into raising your own food. Planning your first vegetable garden isn’t difficult, and if you start small, you’ll easily conquer the learning curve. Plants are wired to grow, and the Mid-Atlantic climate is vegetable-friendly, so success is almost certain. Once you savor the flavors of homegrown vegetables, you’ll be hooked.
Begin the planning process by choosing crops. Think about what your family likes to eat, and grow those plants. If kids help, select fun versions of vegetables such as purple green beans, flying saucer squash, and “Easter Egg” radishes.
Start with Sun
Vegetables thrive in sun. Ideally, choose a spot receiving at least 6 hours of sun daily. I’ve grown veggies in 4 hours of sun with filtered shade the rest of the day, and experienced okay yields. But more sun means bigger yields.
Define Your Design
Will you grow vegetables directly in the ground or do you plan to use raised beds? Raised beds are handy when existing soil is all clay, or too rocky to grow vegetables. Food crops need rich, well-drained soil, which means you mix organic matter into planting beds regularly. If you till in organic matter, design a garden that accommodates a tiller.
Mix In Veggies
You don’t have to design a vegetables-only garden. Try tucking in ornamental plants. Many vegetables, including leaf lettuces, kale, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers, blend beautifully with ornamental plants, especially other annuals like this cleome.
Choose Size Wisely
Seriously consider your time commitments. Growing vegetables demands various amounts of time, depending on the plant and how many you have. Many plants, including tomatoes, require staking, pinching, harvesting, and prepping the harvest.
Tending one tomato is a cinch. Tending a dozen can prove time-consuming. Start small, so you aren’t overwhelmed. Raising vegetables in containers is a great way to get your feet wet—and whet your taste buds.
Do more than dream about growing your own food. Take steps now to start planning your first vegetable garden. You’ll find the results fabulously fresh. Discover more tips on growing vegetable gardens here.