The Q&A Archives: First Garden

Question: I'd like to have a small vegetable garden for the first time. How much space do I need, and what should I plant? We are a family of three adults and two small children.

Answer: This should be a fun endeavor. I hope you'll include your children in the planning, planting, cultivation and harvesting of the vegetables. It's a wonderful way to instill a life-long hobby of gardening!<br><br>How much space do you need? How much do you have available? You should pick a spot that gets full sun has well-drained soil (vegetable crops don't like standing in water). If you make the garden too big, it's easy to get discouraged by all the work involved. Better to make it smallthe first year - a 10x10 foot is room enough to grow lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and then some. You can always expand it next year. Weeds are probably the hardest part for beginners, because you may not know at first which seedlings are weeds and which are your crops! Mulch all unplanted areas well with layers of newspaper and straw to keep weeds from getting established, and to conserve soil moisture.<br><br>What should you plant? Which vegetables do you enjoy? Most vegetables mature fairly quickly, so anything in the Burpee catalog is fair game. Ask your children what they'd like to grow. If they're in charge of tending their choice plants, they'll develop a sense of responsiblity and "ownership". Purchase live plants when availableto make your first year easier. Some crops aren't available as transplants (carrots, peas, beans, corn, etc.), because they prefer to be sown right in the soil. Include a few flowers, too - they not only look and smell beautiful, but they attract pollinating insects. <br><br>It would be a good idea to have the soil tested by your State University Extension Service. They'll tell you EXACTLY what you need to add to the soil in order to be successful. Here is their web site and phone number: 860-241-4940;<br>Also, a GREAT book for beginning gardeners is "Real Gardeners' True Confessions" by Pat Stone (Storey Publishing, Pownal, VT; ISBN# 0-88266-946-X; $12.95). It's a humorous and reassuring book becuase it stresses that even the famous experts make gardening mistakes - but that's how we all learn!

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