Narrowing down your garden plant choices

How to narrow down the choices

So many choices! Have you been receiving the seed catalogs in the mail? Checking out the gardening books from the library? Admiring the racks of seed choices? Do they ALL look like something you want to grow?

Yes, it is addicting. The pictures look so great. Your mouth waters at the thought of all those warm from the sun vegetables you can walk outside and pick……

WAIT!!!! You are only one person! Unless you are really lucky, you will have to narrow your choices to a reasonable amount. How to begin? Step one: Put down the seed catalog and keep reading!

Step two-budget for the garden

Unless you are a millionaire or higher, you will need to set a budget.

Think about your finances, sit down and REALLY think about them.

Pick an amount that you can afford to waste (keep reading….), withdraw it in CASH from the bank, and commit yourself to only spending that much. Don’t forget that on top of the seeds or plants themselves, you will need soil or additivies, fertilizers, gloves, tools, row markers, string, possible rental of a tiller or other ground prep, containers for container gardening, bug spray, and something else will probably occur to you.

Keep the garden off the credit cards. Growing your own food isn’t the CHEAP and EASY thing that the catalogs want to tell you-it can be more nutritious than the store, is a great learning experience, but the first several years are not cheap and easy.

Step 3 – Look at zones

Now that you have your budget, lets talk zoning. You need to know what zone you live in. One of the best sources of this is your local USDA extension office (a quick google search will pull it up). You can also check out the pulished map here :

http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ USDA plant hardiness

You might be able to fudge a little on this, but a plant that wants nothing warmer than zone 5 is not going to be cost effective to keep alive in zone 10.

Step 4: Make a list

Budget, check. Zones, check.

Now, sit down and make a list of things you’d like in the garden. Do those tomatoes look good? Cucumbers calling your name? Some exotic fruit looking yummy? Write them down!

Now, go down the list and eliminate anything out of your zone. You may love okra but without a greenhouse you won’t get much in Maine. You can go a zone (sometimes two) away, so put those on the “maybe” list.

Out of the survivors, take a good hard look at what you will actually eat. Seriously. Growing mangoes may sound like fun but if you’re allergic, they won’t be!

Out of the survivors of this round, check the space requirements. If all you have is a container to grow in, pumpkins won’t like it. Eliminate anything that gets too big.

Also check for anything that takes long to mature. For example, asparagus won’t be ready to eat for three years. Research research!

Keep paring the list down until you have a reasonable amount of plants. Planting 20 varieties will get overwhelming when the bugs strike! Decide what you can reasonable handle.

One last caveat: Check how much water the plants require. You may have to dig for this information… I decided not to grow cucumbers in my current area because I couldn’t keep the watered last summer. However, the collards and okra did just fine on the water I had for them.

You’re all set!

Now that you’ve chosen plants in your budget, that like your zone, and meet your space and time requirements, you’re all ready to hit the seed catalogs and garden centers! Good luck!

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