Start small with your vegetable garden
By Susan Reimer
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
If you missed the vegetable gardening bandwagon last season, there's plenty of time to jump on for 2010.
Start with small steps, because your first garden should be a small garden. No need to try to grow the entire produce aisle the first year.
The first step? Location, location, location.
"The first step is siting the garden," said Carrie Engel of Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, Md. "You need to take into consideration sun and the availability of water."
Most vegetable gardeners plant in full sun, but there are crops that can do OK with some shade. Spinach and lettuce, for example, will not bolt as quickly if planted in some shade.
"And look for a site where you don't have to compete with tree roots, like the silver maple I once went up against," said Engel.
After you pick a spot for your vegetable garden, decide whether or not it will be a raised bed, because that will determine how you prepare the soil.
Engel says it might be easiest to create a raised bed. There are kits available in catalogs, and they range from an 1 1/4-by-3-foot bed from Gardener's Supply for $39.95 to a terraced triangular raised bed from White Flower Farms for $349. But you can create your own out of treated wood.
A raised bed means you don't have to worry about the quality of your local soil because you'll fill it with fresh compost. This eliminates the need for soil testing, too, and for the soil amendments you would no doubt otherwise need to use.
Once you choose a spot for your garden and decide how big it can be, start thinking about what to grow — and how much of it.
"Start with what you actually eat," said Engel. "Think about what you serve at the dinner table. A family of four might do fine with six tomato plants and a couple of pepper plants."
Here are some suggested seed catalogs to order: Tomato Growers Supply Co.; The Cook's Garden; Seeds of Change; John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; D. Landreth Seed Co.; White Flower Farms; Burpee; and Johnny's Select Seeds.
Many of these companies, and others, also sell online.