First and foremost you need to identify what your family likes to eat. Make a list. Maybe you adore fresh garden tomatoes but can’t stand cabbage. You get the idea. Write down what you enjoy the most. I also like to identify what vegetables are most expensive at the stores so that my garden is as cost effective as possible. I used to grow corn because we adore fresh sweet corn, but after being disappointed in my yields, I found it was much more cost effective to get my organic corn from a local farmer at the market instead of growing it on my own. Green beans, peppers, herbs and berries are crops that I love to grow because they produce a lot and they are much more cost effective growing them at home.
2. WHAT IS YOUR GROWING ZONE?
Of those vegetables and herbs that you typically cook with, find which of those grow well in your growing zone. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it will be successful in your area. Find your grow zone here in this handy interactive map.
3. CHOOSE A GARDEN PLOT.
Next you are going to need to find an area in which to plant. You need to find a space that gets plenty of sunlight the majority of the day.
Once you identify your plot ask yourself these questions: How much space do I have? Will I plant in raised beds, traditional garden beds, pots, or some other alternative? Different plants grow better in different conditions so plan accordingly.
4. KEEP IN MIND THE NATURE OF THE PLANT
Now that you know how much space you have, you can start thinking about if your list that you made coincides with how much space you have. Some vegetables like tomatoes, corn, winter squash, and melons naturally take up a lot of space. Melons, winter squashes, and pumpkins are all vine plants and tend to spread out tremendously. If you have plenty of space, by all means, go for the vine plants, but if you garden in raised beds like me, you may need to reconsider. A single melon plant can easily take over the entire bed and then some. I’ve had them spill out of the beds and onto our walking path. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and I don’t do watermelons and pumpkins anymore since those particular plants need to be planted about 6 feet apart. I prefer to grow more variety in each box instead. Plants that take up less room will be your beets, carrots, greens, lettuces, and things that can grow vertical on trellises like peas and beans.