Note: This series focuses on growing vegetables and herbs for summer harvest. Many of the concepts, tips, and tricks can be used to help you grow other crops or grow things during a different season too but will require some additional research.
So you’ve taken the leap…you’re committing! 2022 is the year you’re going to start gardening, or maybe the year you start gardening again. You’re dreaming of a thriving veggie garden. It’s so exciting, isn’t it? We know you can do it, and we’re here to help along the way!
We’ve broken it down into 4 steps:
Join us as we teach you 4 steps to grow your own veggies and herbs this summer!
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Step One: Plan
In order to be a successful gardener, you are going to need a plan! If you’re like me and like every idea you see, this can be overwhelming. So, start small and keep it simple, especially if you’re a first time gardener. Focus on the mechanics of gardening with a few crops rather than trying every method and vegetable.
The following questions will guide your planning. Record your answers and thoughts somewhere – or use our handy free garden planner to help guide decisions so you’ll be ready for the ‘prep’ stage next week!
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions – there are a lot of viable options for gardens.
The best choices are the ones that work for the space, time, and resources that you have available.
What will you grow?
There are so many options out there when it comes to growing your own food! Unfortunately, most people simply don’t have the space, time, or money to plant every single thing they want in their garden.
Things to consider:
What veggies and herbs do you use most often?
What are the favorite veggies of the people in your household?
Are you wanting to eat them fresh or grow them for freezing/canning/cooking?
Can what you want to grow thrive in your climate?
Brainstorm some options and ideas, then narrow them down to your top picks. We recommend you pick 2-6 things you really love and focus on growing those for this year. Even if you have 5 acres worth of ground to garden, we still recommend starting small. Remember, you can always add more next year!
Once you have your picks, take some time to consider what varieties or sizes you want to grow. Do you want cherry tomatoes for snacking, or big tomatoes for cooking? Do you want bell peppers for your salad, or hot peppers for salsa? Do you want loose-leaf lettuce for fresh salads, or are you growing head lettuce for your animals?
How will you start your garden?
There are two main ways to start a garden: growing from seed or purchasing starts (baby plants) from a local nursery or farm. Some people choose one, and some people will do a little of both.
Helen’s Tip: Peas, Beans, and Carrots are an exception. They tend to be fast and easy to grow, so you are better off planting them directly into the ground at the appropriate time rather than trying to start seeds indoors or purchasing starts.
- Seeds give you the biggest selection when choosing what you grow
- You have complete control over how you grow things it from the start
- It’s VERY exciting to see the progress they make week after week!
- You can save money in the long run over buying new starts annually.
- They require a lot of care and time (a minimum of 6-8 weeks before they go in the garden)
- Seeds require a lot of space, warmth, and light
- You have to start early and plan ahead
- The initial investment for supplies and seeds can add up quickly (but ideally you will be able to use them for a few years, making it more cost-effective in the end)
- Less time and care required up front
- They are already established and can better survive brief periods of stress (like forgetting to water them once or twice)
- You can purchase them and plant them in your garden within a day or two
- You don’t have to purchase seed starting supplies
- You are limited in the type of starts and varieties you can find
- They can vary a lot in quality from store to store
- You don’t know how they were grown or what was used to grow them
- You are paying a little more because someone else has put the time and care into getting them started
Where will your garden be located?
Location is one of the most important parts of your garden. You will want to choose a location that gets at least 6+ hours of sun per day, is level and well drained, and has easy access to a water source. Brainstorm some ideas, then make sure you check on potential locations to ensure they fit the criteria.
South facing locations are the best choice, followed by East or West facing spots.
Avoid north facing areas as they are least ideal due to the limited amount of sunlight.
What will your vegetables & herbs grow in?
There are a lot of great ideas for growing veggies and herbs. This is where your creativity gets to come alive! Your set up can be flashy and high-tech or sweet and simple. You can DIY and upcycle things you already have, or create something brand new! Either option will yield a great garden, it’s all about your preferences with a couple exceptions.
Helen’s Tip: Herbs are perennials and tend to be more sensitive to extreme weather, so planting them in containers is best. This is especially true of mint, which is a hefty grower and will take over your entire yard if left un-contained! Keeping herbs in containers means you can bring them inside during the cold winter months or extreme weather periods. You can also keep them close to your house for baking, cooking, and garnishing.
Options to consider (these can all be DIY, upcycled, or purchased):
In the ground
Containers require less space, require no ground prep, less soil overall and you have the flexibility to move them or bring them inside when needed. They allow you to create a non-permanent garden anywhere you’d like (decks, patios, front porch, yard, etc). Containers also allow you to isolate plants if pests or disease problems arrive. Container gardening offers options for every budget and every size of growing space, however it does have some size limitations when it comes to what you can grow.
If you’re using containers, you will typically need vegetable varieties that are meant for containers or pretty big containers. Some vegetables will require bigger containers than others.
This article has great information about the best varieties for containers AND for container size requirements: https://cdn-ext.agnet.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/EHT-062-vegetable-gardening-in-containers.pdf)
Raised beds will require more soil than containers but allow you to create a garden anywhere with little to no ground prep required. They can be created for spaces of different sizes and also have options for different budgets, though most are still more expensive than container gardening options. It provides more space and depth for planting, which means plants have plenty of room to let their roots grow wide and deep. This means you have fewer restrictions when choosing what you can grow in them.
For best results, make sure that:
1. The walls are at least 18” (24” – 36” tall is best) to give roots deep soil to grow down into
2. You put a liner or bottom on your raised bed that allows for good water drainage
(This helps keep soil in and keep pests and weeds out)
Planting in the ground gives you the most space and depth but requires you to do some prep work to ensure you have good quality soil. As long as you have the equipment, this isn’t a problem and means you can easily expand your growing space and the amount you grow. Some ground may already have pests or diseases and that means they can spread more easily when everything is planted in one place, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for problems (though this is true of ALL gardening).
We’ve created a Pinterest board with some great ideas for different budgets and garden designs. Browse through it and if you choose an idea from there, click through to read more information about the particular idea! Hopefully it will help inspire you and make your decision easier.
How will you water your garden?
If you are growing your starts from seed, you will need a spray bottle and/or a hose attachment with a mist setting when they are little.
Once you transplant them into your garden, you have more options for watering…
Options to Consider:
Hose (you will want an attachment with settings for best results)
Automatic Watering System
WHEW! That was a lot of decisions, but YOU DID IT! You should now have a planned outline for your very own garden! Give yourself a pat on the back, get excited, and spend a little time envisioning what your garden will look like this summer because it’s going to be here sooner than you know it. We’ll be back next week with the next step in the process – how you can start to ‘prep’ for your garden!
In the meantime, finalize design decisions and start browsing for containers or supplies you’ll need. Spend some time looking at different seed options, scoping out garden centers to shop at, and researching seed varieties.
You might decide to change your plan a couple times and that’s okay too! Just make sure you have your plan finalized by next week because we’ll be back with another blog post on step 2 of growing your own veggies and herbs this summer!
Additional Resources for Planning
Where to browse seeds/starts:
https://territorialseed.com/ (We like that territorial seed is a local Oregon business!)
https://www.highmowingseeds.com (100% organic if that’s important to you)
Local Feed & Garden Stores (Burns Feed Store is our pick – they also have starts!)
Local Garden Centers
Soil Calculator for Raised Beds & Containers
Still needing some inspiration? Check out these pre-planned garden layouts!
Limited on space? “Square foot gardening” utilizes a 4ft x 4ft square divided into a grid to maximize output with limited space!
Click HERE to learn more…