IF YOU'RE THINKING about wading into vegetable or herb gardening for the first time, take courage. With a little reading and research, you can be successful!

Okay, if you think you're ready to think about beginning, remember this: It's better to be proud of a small garden, than frustrated by a big one.

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic or enough broccoli to feed the state of Ohio, plan carefully. It's best to start small and expand with the years and experience. For example, one tomato plant per person is really sufficient, unless you plan to be the supplier of your neighborhood or want to sell them at the Saturday Farmer's Market.

Here are some very basic concepts on topics you'll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

Vegetables love the sun. They require six hours (continuous, if possible) of sunlight each day, at least.

Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Most backyard soil is not perfect and needs a helping hand. Check with your local nursery or county extension office about soil testing, soil types, and soil enrichments.

Placement is everything. Like humans, vegetables need proper nutrition. A vegetable garden too near a tree will lose its nutrients to the tree's greedy root system. On the other hand, a garden close to the house will help discourage rabbits, raccoons, deer, mice, and opossums from nibbling away your potential harvest.

Vegetables need lots of water. At least one inch of water a week. In the early spring, walk around your property to see where the snow melts first, when the sun catches in warm pockets. This will make a difference in how well your vegetables grow.

Study those seed catalogs and order early.

A good-sized beginner vegetable garden is 10 x 16 feet, and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away). Adjust proportionately to your family size, don't be afraid to do less than prescribed here, and feel free to adjust quantities to what your family and you are likely to enjoy eating!

If you think you can manage more than what's listed here, consider a couple of barrels or wooden containers with some extras that will be easy to maintain. Cherry tomatoes are a great choice for a container and are very easy.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, turnips. To plan for a second crop, check the days to maturity in the seed catalogs or on seed packets. For the plan below, your rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Make your garden eleven rows of 10-feet each of the following:

Tomatoes -- 5 plants staked

Zucchini squash -- 4 plants

Peppers -- 6 plants


Bush Beans

Lettuce, leaf and/or Bibb





Marigolds to discourage rabbits!

Leave two feet between bush beans, one half foot between bush beans and lettuce, and one foot between all the rest.

A Beginner's Garden
from The Old Farmer's Almanac
Helping our community grow