Growing a vegetable garden is an exciting prospect. It can also be overwhelming. This post is aimed at beginner vegetable gardeners but I think even the old pro’s can get something from it.
Trying to Do Too Much
This is hands down the number one reason your garden will fail. I still struggle with this so much. I want to do everything, I want to grow 6 kinds of tomatoes, a dozen squash varieties and enough raspberries to keep a small country set with pie for a decade.
While I’m doing all of this I have two kids, a full time job, a part time job, this site and a home/hobby farm to take care of. There isn’t enough time in the day.
I’m sure you’re just as busy and I am. Don’t set yourself up with a garden that needs 3 hours of work a day just to keep up.
Last year my oldest was 3 and she was determined to help me in the garden. I’m not sure how much work she got done but she had a great time and found quite a few frogs in the process.
Don’t think you need to grow every thing you eat. It’s an admirable goal for sure but that’s a lot of work and a lot of land.
Start small with a few garden beds or even containers. Try it out before you go all in and dig up your whole lawn only to see it turn into a feral wilderness when you fall behind.
You don’t need to start everything from seed either. I love starting seeds, it gives me something to do in the winter before I can get into the garden. But it’s not necessary. I still prefer to grow my onions from plants.
It’s way better to pop over to the local greenhouse and buy a healthy tomato plant to start with than limping along with a sad, leggy tomato you started in the window two months too early wondering why you suck at gardening.
It’s ok to make things easier on yourself! I bought the broccoli above when I accidentally fried the seedling I’d started a month before.
And.. You don’t need everything to be an heirloom variety. They make hybrid plants for a reason (hybrid not GMO, they’re different). Hybrids are grown for disease resistance, higher yields and a more robust nature. Buy the blight resistant tomatoes, I give you permission 😉
I’m guilty of both over and under planning. Every year I start out with a grandiose plan, everything has a place and I’ve maximized my vegetable production. It’s awesome!
Then reality hits and the plan goes out the window. Occasionally I even end up with a 30 pound turkey tap dancing on my greens, that’s not something you typically plan for haha.
I end up planting beans in the dark that later turn homicidal and try to kill the peppers. Pro tip – don’t plant pole beans where you’re trying to plant bush beans. If you look behind the turkey you can see my hasty been teepee (this was years before the Cattle Panel Trellis) constructed for the misplaced beans.
The truth is gardens are wild things, you can plan every square inch but it’s not going to work out how you plan and you’ll get frustrated. It’s really easy to burn out when your vision and reality are at odds. It’s important to leave some flexibility in your plan.
The weather can have the biggest impact on your planning. In New York we have very wet springs, it’s actually pretty wet all the time.
I have heavy clay soil, that combined with the rain leaves little pockets of time where I can actually get in the dirt without trashing my soil structure. Sometimes I have to wait a week or more to transplant something but that’s just the way it goes.
I think it’s important to remember you have to start somewhere. Make it easy on yourself. Gardening is hard enough without adding in all the little specialty things like companion planting or succession planting or lasagna gardening or Back to Eden….
Stay away from Pinterest
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great ideas on the internet. I even put some of them there myself 😉 But. You will drive yourself crazy with all the contradictions.
Everyone has an idea on the best way to do something. It’s better to make a decision and say “I’m gonna try growing my potatoes in burlap sacks” and then stick to it.
You might not pick the best method the first time. That’s fine. You will fail at something. Plants will die. That’s how you learn and you always have next year.
It’s a cucumber, not a child.
Accept it as a learning experience and move on.
Remember that everything on the internet is hyperbole. We’re all over-acting you sell you on our ideas. Hence the click-baity title of this post… Hopefully I made up for it with my charming personality and some legit advice.
Even worse than the overload of ideas on Pinterest is the comparison. There are so many gorgeous garden on there. It makes my Beatrix Potter-loving heart ache for a quaint cottage garden with pots of herbs and rows of cabbage.
But… My garden is a mess 97% of the time. No one’s taking pictures of it (other than me) and showing it off online. Your garden doesn’t have to look like a magazine. As long as you can find the peas, even if it takes a few minutes, you’re fine.
If you find yourself succumbing to garden envy, put down the phone, throw on your Elsa wig and yell “Let it goooooooooooooo” at the green beans. Your neighbors might think you’re nuts but they probably do anyway.
To sum things up, start small, make a flexible plan and stick with it. Failing in the vegetable garden isn’t the worst thing you can do. No matter what you’re still learning, having fun and hopefully eating some great food.
I realize I didn’t give you very much actual beginner gardening advice but I have a few blogger friends that have already done a better job than me. Check these posts out and then make your plan:
- 10 Easy to Grow Vegetables for the Beginner Gardener
- Printable Garden Planting Schedule
- 8 Steps to Start a Garden
- Low-Till Gardening
- Starting a Suburban Micro-Farm
- Square Foot Gardening
Check out my Garden page for more information or start here: