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Are You Up for a Challenge?

January 16th, 2013

I get a lot of questions and comments from new gardeners. Growing your own food is becoming more and more popular and more people I know are taking the plunge and putting in a garden. After much thought, I decided it would be easiest to have a separate small garden and to start a series chronicling each step of the process, what to plant, when to plant, how to weed; everything a beginner needs to know for a successful edible garden throughout the year.
edible garden
I’ll be putting in a small garden in my yard somewhere off by itself. This spring, it will be started in the sod just like a new gardener would. A few vegetables will be grown, nothing too exotic, things that will be chosen for ease of growth and delicious eating. Each week or two (let me know how often you want to see an update) I’ll post an update to the blog with chores you need to be doing in the garden, things to look for, how things are growing, etc.
freshly picked radishes
Frost Kissed Seed Tin from Peaceful Valley 5
This is where you come in. If you are a new or an experienced gardener please answer the following questions:
Would you be interested in a series like this?

Would you join in by planting a garden?

Would you be willing to participate as mentor if you’re an experienced gardener?

What size garden do you think is a good manageable size for starting out? I’m thinking 5 foot by 5 foot

How many different kinds of vegetables should be planted? I’m thinking 5

What kinds of vegetables do you think are best for beginners? tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, and peas are among my top choices so far.

Do you think it would be easiest to choose a seed collection from a seed company (like the EZ to Grow Rainbow Kitchen Collection from Renee’s Garden?)

Do you think any herbs and flowers should be included? I was thinking basil & marigolds for companion planting

68 Comments to “Are You Up for a Challenge?”
  1. Dinah on January 16, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I love this idea. I read your blog all the time and am a relatively new gardener and would love advice in the basics. Although I am from BC Canada and probably a different zone.

    Reply to Dinah's comment

  2. Zeb on January 16, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Great idea! I’m looking forward to following along. Tomatoes, basil, and marigolds sound great – how about peppers, too?

    Reply to Zeb's comment

  3. Sharyn Whiting on January 16, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Great idea. I’m happy to be a mentor with 40 years experience behind me. We hardly have to buy fruit or vegetables in Summer and Autumn. BUT – I live in Australia so my seasons are the opposite to yours. But I could offer ideas about companion planting, natural pest control , fertilising etc.
    I think seedlings are better for new gardeners; start small; lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini and beans are sure winners. Radishes are so quick they make you feel like you are getting somewhere.
    Water is the other big necessity – you can’t grow healthy plants without it.

    Reply to Sharyn Whiting's comment

  4. Charlotte on January 16, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Thank you, *thank* you for proposing this! I am a beginning gardener in Cortland, NY/Shreveport, LA (Confusing, I know. We’re in the military…), and I would love to use your blog as a mentor-medium for myrookie year(s). I have one 7 year old boy who is very excited to help put in a garden this year, and I really want it to be a success. Some weekly guidance would be outstanding! Suzy, I love your blog and I love this idea. Thank you.

    Reply to Charlotte's comment

  5. Hazel on January 16, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I think it’s a great idea. Having converted over 6000 square feet from sod to garden over the past 3 years, I could see a beginning gardener becoming discouraged as they start a new garden in sod – getting perennial grasses and weeds out of the way for vegetables can be a real challenge.

    What size garden do you think is a good manageable size for starting out?
    I like working with 4 x 8 or 3 x 8 beds, as I can avoid walking on the soil.

    What kinds of vegetables do you think are best for beginners? To tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, and peas; I would add bush beans, basil, parsley, and chives or green onions grown from sets. Oh, and maybe radishes for some immediate gratification.

    Do you think it would be easiest to choose a seed collection from a seed company (like the EZ to Grow Rainbow Kitchen Collection from Renee’s Garden?)
    I would suggest either several seed collections, or that people seek out varieties from regional seed companies, at the very least for the tomato selection. Some might need shorter season varieties, others more heat tolerance, etc. Beginner gardeners might prefer to purchase one or two tomato plants locally rather than grow them from seed.

    Do you think any herbs and flowers should be included? Nasturtiums and pansies can make nice additions to salads and are pretty easy to grow too.

    Reply to Hazel's comment

  6. Janet Anderson on January 17, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I think this is a great idea and a great teaching tool. I will follow along with glee! I put in 4 raised beds in my wee back yard last year and am still working out how to plant the veggies – it is a mix of tree, perennial and annual (herbs veggies and flowers) in 2 beds and pure annual in one larger bed (about 5′ x 4′) and undecided on the last minute 3′ sq bed that we made out of the understructure of the porch we tore off. LoL

    Looking forward to your ideas, advice and inspiration!!!!

    Reply to Janet Anderson's comment

  7. Erin on January 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I would definitely appreciate companion planting. I want to do it but don’t really understand it very well, and haven’t found anything that really explains where/how you plant things. It’s like, I get that I want to plant carrots with tomatoes, but what configuration do they go in?

    Related! Carrots! I have no idea if they’re actually a beginner-level vegetable, though. Peas are an awesome idea — they’re the only thing I’ve managed to successfully grow, so they’re pretty idiot-proof.

    I’d appreciate once a week posts.
    Erin´s last post ..Soup it to Me

    Reply to Erin's comment

  8. Tammey on January 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    As usual you have come up with a great idea! My daughter in law wants to start a small garden this spring and she will love following along with you..I am helping her also! The young moms at our church want help with a garden also…I will pass this along! It should be very helpful :)
    Everyone I know wants some of my garlic…Its a must for first time gardeners..and so easy!!! Thank You!

    Reply to Tammey's comment

  9. EL on January 18, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Great Idea. I do think that experienced gardeners from around the country should participate, as you have readers in diverse places. I know from experience that gardening in the south is way different from gardening in the northeast or the Rocky Mtn West (where I reside). But because of soil types and rain patterns, sometimes there are more similarities in regions from North to South than from East to West (the intermountain region of the West is a good example).

    I do garden and will have a garden (as well as enlarging the one that I have), but I don’t tend to set aside an area for vegetables alone. I like mixing flowers and vegetables and treat my vegetables much like annual flowers. So I don’t know how much help I could be as far as how to set up a garden.

    As far as planting times and seed starting though, I’m certainly willing to help.

    Whether you pick types of seeds to plant or a set of types (such as the Renee’s garden set that you mentioned) is unimportant, as long as you let people know what varieties you plant and stick with that. I would suggest that along with the “easy” plants that you are doing, you also pick one variety or species that is novel to you and let people know how this works for you. I think that it is encouraging to beginners to see that even experienced gardeners have to put a lot of thought into trying new things.

    All around a great idea. Hope I can help.

    Reply to EL's comment

  10. Debbie on January 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I am not an avid Gardner, but every year I do plant a few rows of a variety of tomatoes and tough jalapeños. I love the fresh taste of both and have found jalapeños the easiest thing to grow in my little plot.

    Reply to Debbie's comment

  11. Natalie on January 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I would appreciate this! I am trying to start gardening again after a long hiatus. I’m also trying to start my own seeds, as non-GMO seeds are important and I haven’t found anywhere locally to get non-GMO seedlings.

    I’m just hoping to not fail 100%, like I did last year (though I had a baby, so I’m forgiving myself!)

    Also, I really like your blog. I just stumbled upon it a few days ago.

    Reply to Natalie's comment

  12. Natalie on January 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Oh, I’ve already purchased tomatoes, carrots, onions and cucumber seeds.

    Reply to Natalie's comment

  13. Renee on January 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Would you be interested in a series like this? Yes. This will be my 3rd summer with a small 8×8 plot at home and 2nd with a larger community garden plot, and I have really benefited from the tips on your blog. I have not used chemicals on my garden and hope to have the organic success you have!
    Here are photo sets from each year of my garden(s), where I tried to document the process, challenges, and successes.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/59064186@N00/sets/72157623622062144/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/59064186@N00/sets/72157626353755912/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/59064186@N00/sets/72157629141907442/

    Would you join in by planting a garden?
    Yes, I would follow along with my 8×8 home plot.

    Would you be willing to participate as mentor if you’re an experienced gardener?
    I only have a few years experience, but I’m between “newbie” and “experienced”, so I would offer my experiences when possible since I still see things like the beginners would, but have had a couple years to experiment!

    What size garden do you think is a good manageable size for starting out? I’m thinking 5 foot by 5 foot.
    Slightly bigger wouldn’t hurt. A lot of beginners I’ve been in touch with started with an 8×4 raised bed (because of lumber size). I did 8×8 because I could easily make a square border out of wood that size from the hardware store, and it was small enough to fence in with chicken wire and stakes at minimal expense.

    How many different kinds of vegetables should be planted? 5 vegetables with a couple companion herbs and flowers added on sounds perfect.

    What kinds of vegetables do you think are best for beginners?
    Snow peas (don’t have to shell), lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini or yellow squash, green beans, and onions have all been pretty straightforward to do and successful at least 1 year in my small plot!

    Do you think it would be easiest to choose a seed collection from a seed company (like the EZ to Grow Rainbow Kitchen Collection from Renee’s Garden?)
    If you do, be sure to also include a list of similar substitutions that can be used if the person can get seeds from a seed exchange or prefers to buy at a local store.

    Do you think any herbs and flowers should be included? I was thinking basil & marigolds for companion planting
    Yes! I have done both of these in my small plot and think they’re a great idea.

    The only thing I’m wondering about that may be tough for beginners is the difference in climate, since you are in Maine. You will be starting a lot later and your crops will be cooler than many of your readers around the country, so you may want to include a lot of tips for those of us in warmer weather, or include mini progress-reports from readers following along in other climates so the beginners can compare where they are to others in their zone.

    This is a great idea! Looking forward to it!!

    Reply to Renee's comment

  14. Karla on January 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    I think garlic is good for a new gardener; it requires some patience, but it’s almost certain to be successful.

    Reply to Karla's comment

  15. laura on January 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I love this idea! I have been gardening for over 10 years, but one can never have too much instruction or advice when gardening. I will definitely be planting a garden this spring. (In fact, I currently have turnips, collard and garlic in one of the beds.) I’d be willing to share what I know or what I’ve experienced in growing my own garden. I think the size you mentioned is good and everything else you already listed too.
    blessings
    ~*~
    laura´s last post ..It’s all in how you look at it…

    Reply to laura's comment

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