Friday, December 7, 2012

How do you decide what to grow?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Deciding what to grow can be exhilarating and overwhelming.  The varieties are endless, the options infinite.  Where do you begin when you are deciding what to grow for the first time or for the tenth time?

First, grow what you love to eat!  Make a list of your favorite fruits and veggies.  The caution for a new gardener, start small.  From your list of favs, pick your top 5-7 to start with.

I would start with plants that you get from your local nursery for first time gardeners.  Nurseries will get plants that are proven to do well in your area.

If you have made it through your first season and are ready to branch out, I would head to your Farmers Market.  Most farmers are happy to share their knowledge.  

Many veggies that you buy at farmers markets, you can save the seeds to use for your own garden!  Examples-tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, any pepper, just to name a few.  Be sure they are not hybrid varieties as they will not grow up to be the same as the parent plant.  Most organic farmers prefer open pollinated or heirloom varieties, both of which grow true.

Ask around at work; you may be surprised at the number of people that are backyard, or front yard gardeners.  They may even have seeds they would be happy to share with you so you can get started!

When you start purchasing seed, you can look for seed companies that are located in a similar climate/zone as you are.  Seed companies do trials of all the seeds and plants that they sell and choose the ones that do the best in their trials.  So, if you pick a seed company in your zone, you have a great chance that they will grow well for you.

If you are like we are, space is also a concern (and who wants to till up more than they have to even if you do have the space??).  Key words to look for in varieties to grow-prolific, produces until frost, vigorous.  I know I want to get the most from my effort and my space!

So, if I were to share the easiest to get started with, what would I grow my first season?  I would start with plants and grow lettuce, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and peppers.  If I loved beets and green beans, I would plant these as seeds.  Beets can be planted all around your eggplant, peppers, and zucchini and are ready to harvest well before the summer lovers are.  I would plant pole beans on a pretty trellis or arbor.  If I liked to cook with onions and use chives, I would get Egyptian walking onions because they are perennials and can be harvested year round.

Hmmm.  I said 5-7 didn’t I?  I just counted and I did pick 7 plants, but then threw in seeds for beets, pole green beans and an onion.  See how hard it is to keep it manageable?

The next question many ask, is how many do I plant?  There is just my husband and I.  For us, I plant 3 Earthboxes with greens, 1  eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 cucumber, 3 tomatoes (but I can or freeze the extras).  I would plant a small type tomato (like yellow or red pear) and 1 or 2 large tomatoes as they are not as prolific as the smaller ones.  For peppers, it depends on the type you like.  1 hot pepper plant will produce a lot in a pot!  I have found I need 3 sweet pepper plants to get even close to what 1 hot pepper plant will produce.

After your first year, you may decide you are ready to try seeds.  I highly recommend the Aerogarden for seed starting.  For me, I get a 90+% germination rate using this system.  I have found it amazingly effective.

Happy dreaming!

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