Before you Plant, Questions to Ask Yourself
If you’ve been considering starting a garden, now is the time to start planning. If this is your first time starting a garden, here are some basic questions to ask before you start.
#1: “Do I have the space?”
By using creative gardening techniques, gardening can be done indoors as well as outdoors. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment building (rooftop gardening) or a home with a concrete backyard (raised bed gardening). Gardening is versatile, easy, and fun.
For small yards, choose compact, high-yielding crops such as cherry tomatoes, spinach, or greens and avoid sprawlers such as melons, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
#2: “What do I want to grow?”
My suggestion would be to grow what you eat, and concentrate on your favorite vegetables. For beginners, start off with the basics: tomatoes, peppers, onions, greens etc. Once you’ve mastered these staples foods, then you can move on to more ambitious projects, like varieties that are hard to find in the grocery store or better yet, indigenous crops.
#3: “Do I have the time?”
Depending on how big your garden is, it is not a task for the faint of heart. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember gardening should be a fun filled project not a chore. For those of you who don’t have a lot of time, a herb garden might be more your speed. For bigger gardens, time must be spent for turning over the soil (in the beginning), then during the growing period, you have to spend time weeding, and of course watering.
#4: “How much light do I have?”
Most vegetables need lots of light. Fruiting crops, such as tomatoes and eggplants, require six hours of full sun each day. Look over your potential gardening space and observe over the course of a day how many hours of direct, unobstructed sunlight you get. Note that this changes depending on the time of year. When you are ready to plant, maximize the light you have by placing tall crops where they won’t block small plants. Also for indoor gardeners, orient your plants in southeast facing windows to maximize sunlight.
#5: “How good is my soil?”
The last and most important point I’m going to cover with you today: Your food quality will only be as good as your soil quality. Healthy soil is the basis for any garden and that goes double when you’re growing vegetables. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your soil so your soil will have the right combination of elements and nutrients to make it rich and fertile.
In later articles, I will discuss the how-to's of composting. For now these questions will help get you started on your journey to start a garden and your quest for self-sufficiency.