What are the best things to plant for a new gardener?
Before we dive into plant selection, it is important to make a few observations about your proposed gardening area. Ideally, you want to understand if your vegetable garden will be in partial shade or full sun. Next, you want to visualize your space and decide whether you will be growing a raised bed, container garden, or vertical garden. Lastly, I would recommend making a list of things you would like to grow and account for the spacing per square foot that each variety requires. Now that you have an overview of your garden plan, it’s time to get growing!
For new gardeners, I would recommend starting small and only picking a few varieties. If this is your first time caring for a vegetable garden, things can get out of hand quickly. There is a lot of work associated with owning a garden besides planting and harvesting. It is easy to grab food from the grocery store and not recognize the amount of time and effort that went into the end product. It is important to consider your hardiness zone and growing season when selecting your desired crops. There are plenty of herbs and veggies that are great for beginner gardeners! Some of my favorites include: green beans, bush beans, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, summer squash, swiss chard, salad greens, turnips, and cherry tomatoes. A lot of the easiest vegetables to grow tend to be leafy greens and root vegetables. Many of the vining vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, and beans will require a trellis system to keep them from overgrowing your space. Everything on this list can be purchased from your local garden center as a seed packet or young plants in early spring.
Something else to consider would be the number of pollinators you observe in your garden area. If you don’t see that many, I recommend some companion planting. Vegetables need pollination in order to bear fruit, and the best way to attract pollinators is with some annuals. Annual flowers add a ton of beauty while providing some great added benefits. Marigolds provide natural pest resistance and can be a great addition to any garden bed! Sunflowers are another great option for attracting bees, while providing some tasty seeds at the end of the season. It is important to remember that you are trying to recreate a sustainable biome in your backyard. This requires insects, pollinators, healthy garden soil, and some hard work on your part. It can be very rewarding to see the amount of life your vegetable garden attracts throughout the growing season. You will start to notice more birds, rabbits, squirrels, and insects than you ever have before. They may snack on some of your leafy greens or tomato plants, but they are all very important to your local ecology.
I would like to mention a few gardening tips that may be useful for new gardeners. If you are painting in a raised bed or container garden, I would suggest adding mulch on top of the soil and mounded around your plants. Mulch does a great job of regulating soil temperature and soil moisture. This becomes extremely helpful through the hot summer months. It will definitely cut down on some of the weed pressure and the amount of supplemental water needed to keep things thriving. Mulch also breaks down and decomposes over time. This decomposed mulch is rich with nutrients and healthy microorganisms. It will provide your young plants with a boost of nitrogen and will also regulate your soil pH. Creating a garden soil that is rich in organic matter will keep your plants extremely happy season after season. Before and after each growing season, I would recommend tilling the soil to keep all of your components mixed together. Add fresh compost and mulch each spring and you will greatly increase your soil biodiversity. I am a big fan of adding a compost tea or worm tea, this can be found at your local garden center. There are plenty of ways to increase your soil health and it is very important to consider when planting your first garden.
If you are keeping all of these things in mind, you will be on your way to a successful growing season. I know it may seem like a lot of work, but it is definitely worth the end result. There is nothing more rewarding than harvesting your first vegetable or herb. If this seems like a lot of work for your first growing season, I would recommend checking out one of our 2’x3’ Varden Kits. Growing vertically can remove the headaches, while saving a lot of space! Weed pressure is absolutely nonexistent, no more bending over to plant or harvest, and the irrigation system is built right in. Consider adding an irrigation timer for a truly hands-off gardening experience. Our Varden System makes gardening accessible to anyone, anywhere!