Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis

I’ll never forget the first time I ate something I’d grown all by myself. I was seven years old, and my “treasure” was a green bean, plucked from my tiny patch of our family’s small backyard garden. No bean has ever tasted so good since.

Vegetable gardening is a rewarding and surprisingly easy activity, but like anything else, getting started can be intimidating. So take it step by step and before you know it, you’ll be chomping on your own best-ever green bean (or tomato, or pepper, or zucchini.)

First things first: Decide what to plant. Here are a few basic questions to get you started.

What Will Grow Well?

Where you live can help you narrow down your options. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map is one guideline, but other factors like soil type and weather patterns will also affect your region’s perfect produce. Your local agricultural extension, nursery owners, and gardeners in your community can all be rich resources as you determine what to grow. People love to talk about their gardens, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Also consider your specific yard. Many veggie plants need 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. If your yard is less sunny, you might want to go with shade-tolerant plants like salad greens, broccoli, or peas.

What Will You Eat?

The veggies you already eat a lot of make logical choices for your home vegetable garden. Also, consider the costs and availability of specific vegetables: If you know you can buy plenty of organic spinach dirt-cheap from the farm stand down the street, you might skip growing it in favor of something more expensive or harder to come by.

Keep in mind that it’s a lot less overwhelming to start with a few veggies the first time, then add more as you gain confidence and skills.

How Much Time and Energy Can You Devote to Your Garden?

Some plants are very forgiving of busy (or lazy) gardeners, while others need closer care and almost immediate harvesting to stay healthy and keep producing. Lettuce, green beans, and zucchini are three examples of veggies with a reputation for being novice-friendly.

Gardening is part art and part science, so the above guidelines are more suggestions than “rules.” Expect some trial and error as you figure out which veggies are just right for your particular garden. Experimenting is part of the fun.

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