Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 2: Planning Your Garden
[…] So, when creating a vegetable garden today, how do you know what size and type of garden to create? This is easy enough to answer. Since the size of your garden will be limited to your available space, the first thing to do is look at what is available as far as this space. Then you need to look at how much time you have to commit to the garden, as well as what is to be grown.
If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to a garden, a container garden may work best, no matter how much space you have available. If you live in an area where drainage or soil is not good, then raised beds may be the answer (see page 19 for more information on these topics). Whatever you decide, should you want to change course the following year, you can (provided you have the space). Don’t assume that the garden you choose this year will be what you’re stuck with next.
Another thing to consider is what you want to grow. For example, if you want to sell lots of pumpkins for Halloween, then a little two-by-three-foot garden of pumpkin plantings won’t cut it. But if you need just a few pumpkins for a jack-o’-lantern and some holiday pies, the two-by-three-foot garden would be perfect.
Don’t forget to consider your own physical abilities. If you have a difficult time bending, then a vertical garden could be for you. In a wheelchair? Then consider raised beds with wide, smooth walkways to allow for your chair to operate. You can also adjust the height of your raised bed to whatever is comfortable for you.
There are a number of things to look at when deciding on the type and size of garden. But saying this, don’t make thinking about the size or type of your garden an entire project in itself. Remember, if you make a mistake in this year’s garden, you can correct it next year.
Finding the Right Type of Garden
A garden, be it flowers or food, can be as simple or as complex as you like.
For the purpose of this book, we will use the most basic of styles that were discussed earlier:
Traditional: With the traditional garden, the plants or seeds are planted into flat, tilled (or untilled) ground. This is what most people picture when they think of a garden. These are the most inexpensive types of gardens to put in.
Raised bed: Raised beds are exactly what they say: garden beds raised off the ground by inches or by feet. The garden beds are created in wooden frames and are usually built up at least eleven inches off the ground. Raised beds may be in frames built on the ground or in frames that are raised up on legs.
Container: These are simply gardens in pots or other containers. The containers can be flower pots, wooden boxes, bags, or anything else that a plant can be put in for growing. While some plants may have individual needs once planted in a container, if you can pot a flower, you can certainly pot a food plant.
Vertical: Vertical gardens may be either traditional or raised bed gardens. The difference is that everything grows upward. If the plant does not naturally grow upward, it can be trained to do so by using supports. Supports will need to be used with the vertical gardens, which will allow the vertical growth of the plants.
Any one of these garden styles may be found in backyards, city lots, rooftops, or on rural farms and homesteads throughout not only the United States, but many other parts of the world as well.
Of course, your selection may automatically be narrowed down by what space is available to you.
An apartment dweller, for example, will have nowhere near the same space available for a garden as someone with rural acreage or even an urban backyard. And depending on the type of building, there may not even be a rooftop to use. In some cases, it may come down to a small balcony or some bright windows, in which case a container garden would be the only option. But no matter what the space, each will allow some sort of way to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, or even some edible flowers.
Excerpt from Chapter 4: Deciding What to Plant
Now that you’ve decided on your desired gardening method (or methods), it is time to determine what will be in your garden and where. You have already put together your “wish list” in Chapter 2, but now is the time when reality needs to set in as to what will actually work for you. As a new gardener, you may be a bit unsure about whether you can devote the proper time to your garden. A good rule of thumb for beginners is to start small and stay with basic, easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, and many herbs are easy to find in both seed and plant form, being easy to grow either way you choose. Otherwise, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, as well as edible flowers, that you can select for the garden.
Types of Plants
When selecting plants and/or seeds for the garden, it is important to remember that there are four types of plants. They are:
· Tender perennials
Annuals are plants that come up for one year or season only. The following year, new plants must be replanted as the plants from the season before would have died off after the first hard frost or during the winter. Most vegetables will fall under this category, especially when growing in a region with four seasons. (In milder areas with three seasons or less, annuals may last longer than a single season before replacement is required.)
Biannuals are plants that will go to seed in the second year. Foxglove, a medicinal plant that is also commonly grown for garden decoration, falls into this category, as do carrots, onions, and beets.
Perennials are plants that will come back year to year. Many herbs and some edible flowers fall under this category, as well as vegetables such as asparagus and lovage. Many berries also fall into this category, as do all fruit trees.
Tender perennials are perennial plants that are grown as perennials in mild climates and annuals in cold climates, as they cannot survive extreme cold and snow. Some excellent examples of tender perennials include the rosemary plant, French tarragon, and various lavender plants.
There are also two more types of plants to take into consideration. They are heirlooms and hybrids. These plants may be annuals, biannuals, perennials, or tender perennials. The differences in these plant types are as follows:
Heirloom plants are pure, meaning there has been no crossbreeding with other plants. Heirlooms can date back decades or centuries. They may have unusual names as well as unusual colors or markings. Heirlooms are making a comeback into home gardens. They can be heartier to weather conditions and tastier than hybrids. However, they can also be a little smaller in fruit size and have a few problems in extreme situations. Heirloom seeds may be saved for planting the following year. They may also have some very colorful or interesting origins.
Hybrids are crossbreeds between two types of the same species. Hybrids usually date back decades, although some may go back farther. They may not be as interesting to grow as heirlooms, but some have been bred to stand weather extremes. Flavors may vary, and many gardeners who have grown heirlooms think that many hybrids have lesser flavor. Hybrid seeds may be saved, however, when planted, and results may be disappointing, as there may be little or no development.
As a result, the saving of hybrid seeds is often unpredictable. If you have the time and some extra space, it could be fun to experiment and see what happens. But keep in mind that results will be mixed, maybe even nonexistent. And if some seeds do work with one planting, it doesn’t mean the same results will be obtained the next.
As a result, the use of heirlooms or hybrids is up to your personal preference. Some gardeners will decide to grow only heirlooms, while some may want only hybrids. Many will opt for a combination.