13 Smart Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Garden

comments (3) December 20th, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Ask yourself some good questions before planting your garden.
Photo by Eraphernalia under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Ask yourself some good questions before planting your garden.


Photo by Eraphernalia under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Before you buy the jean overalls and have a dump truck of manure dropped on your driveway, it's worth it to take a day or so to think about your gardening goals. It may seem like a small thing, but to avoid being disappointed (or disillusioned) it's a step you'll be happy you took.

You may dream of roses, cutting flowers, or herbs. Or maybe succulents are your thing. You may want to try some vegetables such as tomatoes, green beans, or squash. Maybe your dream garden includes fruit trees such as lemons and yard-perfect, columnar apples. There's also blueberries to consider or a wildlife garden. There are even plants you can grow for crafts. The possibilities are endless. But before you jump in with both feet, you should have a plan - even if it's a rough sketch on the back of your third-grader's homework.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself before you choose your garden site:

  1. What part of your yard gets full sun (6-8 hours)? The least? In-between? You should know at least this much  about your yard.
  2. What is the first vegetable, fruit, or herb that immediately comes to mind when you think of garden produce? This is the crop you should start with.
  3. What kinds of foods do you and your family eat often? These are the first (and the most) types vegetables to go with. But gardeners should always plant something new to try, as well.
  4. Are you going to have help from family members? Think about how much you can feasibly do by yourself verses if you have backup.
  5. What areas in your yard can you reasonably give to raising food crops? You can always mix flowers in with your produce, you know.
  6. Would you be willing to give up some of your lawn? Nice raised beds look lovely with a green lawn path for walking rows.
  7. Think about your specific growing and garden zone. Do you have a long growing season or a short one? This will affect which plant varieties you choose.
  8. Do you get heavy snow or none at all? This affects whether you purchase winter-hardy types of plants versus more tender ones.
  9. What plants do you see at your local nursery? In your neighbor's yard? This will clue you in to what grow well in your area and give you a head-start without the guessing.
  10. Do you want crops you can store for some months like potatoes, onions and carrots? 10. Do you like to can fruits or berries? Consider berry plants and a couple of fruit trees..
  11. Do you like caring for animals? Rabbit and chicken manures are top notch for gardens (not to mention the fresh eggs).
  12. Do you enjoy cut flowers in the house? Look for long-lasting cutting types.
  13. Are you a crafter? Then you may want to consider birdhouse gourds or sunflowers to use as a creative medium.

While it isn't necessary to hire a professional to draw up blueprints (although this is an excellent option) before you start planting; you'll give yourself a tremendous advantage by taking a little time to think about what you'd like to grow, where it will go, and how you would like to use it.

posted in: planning, 112613137, starting a garden

Comments (3)

humperdink writes: I didn't even know you could get eggs from a rabbit!
Posted: 11:51 am on March 19th
kenackr writes: Thanks for the list of questions to ask, they're helpful.

Unlike jolj, I wasn't raised on a farm and I'm starting at ground zero. At the moment, I'm trying to learn: how to construct some raised beds (because my knees are going), where to put which veggies & fruit in which areas of sun, what soil amendments work best for which type of plant, and 50 gazillion other things. Want some butterfly magnets and cut flowers too.

I don't know how long it will take the extension service to run a soil sample, but I need to get going on that.

Right now I'm thinking: blueberries, lemons, limes, tomatoes, herbs:(basil, oregano, thyme), romaine, cukes, red potatoes, red onions, snap beans, broccoli, carrots, chives, & cilantro. More may come along as I learn.
Posted: 12:50 pm on March 17th
jolj writes: Hi,
I was raised on a 32 acre farm, I can not remember a time when we did not grow veggies. I now own 10 acre of that farm, so I did not need your 10 questions.
However, I think that it is great for someone new, who has never experienced gardening before.
I am planting grouds this spring, and will be tring to craft some of them.
Posted: 5:20 pm on January 3rd
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