Getting Started: site, soil, seeds and more

Where to begin?

seedlingsIf you've never gardened before, knowing where, how and when to start can seem overwhelming. There's a lot to learn!

Each food crop has unique requirements for optimal growth. Most crops are suseptible to a host of insect pests and plant diseases.

Deer or woodchucks can lay waste to the most carefully planned and lovingly tended garden. Weeds spring up out of nowhere to compete for sunlight, soil nutrients and water.

Study up. Start small; build on success.

It pays to learn as much as possible by reading, attending workshops, and--best of all--talking with experienced food gardeners. Consider spending your first garden season "apprenticing" to an experienced home producer who'll give you a little of your own space in exchange for some labor and a contribution towards the costs involved. At least get to know other food gardeners in your community.

However and wherever you start, it's wise to start small and build on your success.

Start with the soil

Good soil is the foundation of a productive food garden. Learn how to help create and maintain it. Get it tested!

seed packet and planting potMore information

Choosing a Garden Site Fact sheet helps choose the best spot for a garden based on plants' essential needs.

Planning a Home Vegetable Garden Brief, well-organized fact sheet from the UMaine Extension covers the keys points for planning a garden.

The Basics: 10 Steps to Success Enough said!

Grow It Eat It Learn all the basics in this University of Maryland beginner's guide to vegetable gardening.

Detailed Guides to Growing 58 Vegetables Cornell University's online reference manual makes a great place for home gardeners to start and keep coming back to.

Each vegetable profile contains a detailed description and growing instructions, site and soil requirements, instructions for ongoing care, and ideas for managing pests and diseases. 

Find me the space! (and the time!)

Visit our time and space page for tips on finding more food-growing space, producing more in the space you already have, and organizing your life so you have time for gardening. 

Aspiring gardeners without an established garden space have transformed front or back lawns, the south edge of a building, patios, small and large containers large window boxes, vacant lots--even rooftops--into lush, food-producing spaces.

Some people may have access to an established community garden. Others might consider organizing and participating in an informal neighborhood garden located on someone else's land. 

The average American spends more than four hours a day watching TV. Many folks could carve half an hour of gardening time before and after work and a couple of extra hours each weekend. Bone up on tchniques such as mulching and drip irrigation, which save labor and benefit plants.

If you build exercise into your day, you can find ways to turn gardening activities into workouts.