Are you gearing up to plant your garden this year? Is this your first year gardening or a new location, and you are feeling uncertain of what to plant in your garden?
Well, there are a few basic tips you can follow to help narrow down the best options for your garden. When you step into a local nursery or garden center it is easy to see all of those plants and become instantly overwhelmed.
But don’t be! Instead, walk yourself through these few basic questions, and you will be well on your way to growing a beautiful and fulfilling garden this season.
Deciding What Goes Into Your Garden
Here is what you need to ask yourself when choosing what to plant in your garden:
1. What Do I Like?
The first step to picking what should go into your garden is making a list of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you enjoy. Think about what you buy from the grocery store, or what you eat normally as part of a meal or as a snack.
Then write those items down. You will be narrowing this list down as you continue to ask yourself questions, so be sure to write down anything and everything that you enjoy eating or that you use regularly.
Read these articles to help you narrow down the list:
- 8 Easiest Vegetables to Grow Even If You Don’t Know Anything About Gardening
- 10 Best Vegetables and Fruits to Grow If You Don’t Have Big Backyard
- 24 Newbie-Friendly Vegetables You Can Easily Grow Indoors
2. What Zone Am I in?
If you are new to gardening, then you may not know what ‘zone’ you are in. You can fix this with an easy internet search.
You’ll just need to look up a zoning map. As a rule of thumb, zones 9 and 10 are the warmest climates, zones 7 and 8 are fairly warm and have mild winters, and zones 6 and below are the colder areas.
Depending upon what zone you are in should narrow your list because you can’t grow everything you like in every location (or at least not for longer periods of time.)
Knowing your zone is vital when deciding what to include in your garden.
3. What Will I Get the Most Out Of?
Next, you are going to need to consider what you will get the most out of if you grow it yourself. For instance, there are some plants that produce once only, such as an onion.
With onions, you plant the bulb, leave it in the ground, and when it matures it is done.
Then you have other plants that will continue to give and give until the growing season is out, such as green beans. You will pick green beans many times per plant because they keep on producing.
If you are going to put in the effort to raise your own food, then you certainly want to pick food varieties that will give you as much as possible from one planting.
4. What Is Already Grown Around Me?
Once you’ve considered what you want to grow, what you can grow in your area, and what will give you the most if you grow it, then you need to consider what is already being grown locally.
If you can go down the street to a local Farmer’s Market and buy certain products at a reasonable price that tastes just as delicious as what you can grow, then why would you duplicate that in your own garden?
Instead, try to grow items that you can’t purchase locally or at a reasonable price. Then it will be worth your investment of time and energy to grow it yourself.
But let’s say you can buy locally grown lettuce for .99 cents a lettuce head, then you probably won’t feel as accomplished when you produce your own head of lettuce because you didn’t really save anything.
Yet, if you love tomatoes, and you can’t buy a locally grown tomato for less than $2 per pound, then you would most likely be content in planting a couple of tomato plants.
Then in getting multiple tomatoes from those plants and knowing that they taste wonderful, and you spent a ton less you should feel more gratified.
5. What Type of Garden Am I Raising?
Thinking about what kind of garden you are growing is going to help you narrow down your options for what you grow in that garden tremendously.
For starters, if you aren’t aware, there are many different options for growing a garden. If you live in an apartment with a balcony, or in a home that has virtually no backyard, then a container garden would be a good option.
However, you could also grow a vertical garden as well, and you could save even more space by having a gardening wall. Growing up is becoming very popular because it does save a great amount of space.
If you have a small yard, then you could still choose to raise a garden in a raised garden bed. This makes gardening less labor-intensive and has a way of keeping everything looking tidy in your yard as well.
Finally, you could grow a traditional garden as well. It could be a smaller traditional garden, for the sake of space. You could also go with a larger garden if you have space and the time to dedicate to it.
However, I will say this, if this is your first year gardening, then go with a smaller garden option. Biting off a large garden is a lot to handle when you are still knee-deep in the learning curve of gardening.
6. Where is My Garden Located?
This is another question that should help narrow down what goes into your garden as well. Is your garden going to be in a sunny spot?
If you have this option, then I highly recommend that be the location. The reason being is that most plants desire six to eight hours of full sun every day, if not more.
But if you don’t have this, then you have to do with what you have. Our first garden only had partial sun. This meant that I had to be selective in choosing what plants to grow.
Take a long look at your garden space. Make a rough estimate of how much sunlight you will be able to get in a day.
Then go through the plants you want to grow on your list and see which ones will fit into your gardening space based on sunlight requirements.
7. Will I Be Around to Enjoy Everything I Grow?
This is a tough question, but how much time do you have to devote to your garden? I’m not asking you this question to deter you from growing a garden.
But I am asking you to be realistic. If you work late hours all week long, then you probably won’t be out in your garden after work. It would be more realistic to think that your garden will get most of its attention from you on the weekend.
Well, if that is the case, then you need plants that won’t produce so quickly that you lose your harvest. An example would be tomatoes vs. squash.
If a tomato turns red in the middle of the week, it will still be delicious if it doesn’t get picked until Saturday morning (in most cases.)
But if you have a squash that is ready to be picked on Tuesday, and you don’t get to it until Saturday, it’s going to be huge and quite seedy.
Take this into consideration before you go to town planting lots of different plants in your garden because you want a harvest you can enjoy. Not a harvest that you find yourself composting or feeding to the chickens.
8. Why Am I Growing This Garden?
Next, you need to ask yourself why you are growing this garden as a start. Again, this isn’t to deter you from growing a garden.
Instead, it is causing you to be realistic about what you need to grow in it. If you are growing your garden because you want fresh vegetables all summer long, then you will want to plant vegetation that will produce over and over.
An example of items you might want to plant would be tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, berry bushes, green beans, and even melons.
But what if you are planting a garden to preserve and feed your family throughout the year? Then you will want to plant differently. I grow a garden for this reason and there are some items I’ll plant and some I won’t.
For example, we always plant green beans every year because they produce large quantities without planting an enormous amount of plants.
Yet, I don’t plant melons (or only a single plant) because they are difficult to preserve, and they don’t serve much of a purpose for our family.
Take into consideration as well, if your goal is planting a kid-friendly garden. I plant a separate garden every year with my youngest son. He calls it his ‘pizza garden.’
In it, we grow tomatoes, peppers, and basil which are all solid ingredients in most pizzas. He eats these vegetables because he grew them.
Which means, if you are planting a garden in hopes of getting your little one’s onboard with eating their veggies, then you need to take that into consideration as well when you are deciding what to fill your garden with.
9. Have I Had an Experience with Anything on My List?
This is a good final question. Now that you have narrowed your list down to things that will grow in your zone, in your garden location, around your schedule, that will be enjoyable for you to eat, and will also work for your gardening purpose, your list should have gotten much smaller.
But you should now look at the list (and if you have any previous growing experience) and see if there are any plants on this list that you’ve had either a positive or negative experience with when growing before.
If you have plants that you did particularly well with before, make sure that they make their way into your garden.
However, if you have a certain plant that you’ve tried to grow and haven’t had a good experience, then you need to make a conscious decision. You need to either decide to do more research and try it again or to cut the plant from the list.
For me, a plant I will grow every year simply because I’m good at it is green beans. They are simple to grow, and I enjoy eating them.
But a plant I will not grow (usually) is cabbage. It took me forever to learn how to grow cabbage. I finally got the hang of growing it because I learned how to beat the bugs.
Then I got to a point where I ate so much cabbage, I got rather sick of it, so unless I’m just in a generous mood on planting day, I don’t grow cabbage.
Do you have any plants like that? If so, then let that reflect on your gardening list.
You now have nine solid tips on things you need to ask yourself when deciding what to plant in your garden this year.
Now that you know what to plant, you might wonder how much to plant. To answer that question, use the vegetable garden size calculator.