My garden confuses me. The calendar tells me it's spring. But from the looks of things, no one has told my very bare garden. I know that I need to fix this. But where do I start? And what vegetables can I plant now?
After researching many resources, I learned there are multiple vegetables I can plant now. Many factors shaped my choices but, mainly, these three: (1) identifying the hardiness zone I live in (zone 10 in sunny California) and what would work best in our climate, (2) finding spaces in our yard that get enough sunlight to grow vegetables, and (3) taking into account what my family likes. I chose five plants: beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and lettuce. Hopefully, this article will show you how to decide what vegetables to plant now in your garden.
Start with a Vegetable Garden Plan
Recently, I moved into our old family home, so I'm starting from scratch with planning my garden.
How do you plan a vegetable garden? I had so many questions.
As you can see, I really needed help.
Get Expert Input at Your Local Garden Store
So, I started my research by visiting several local garden centers near my home.
I never realized just how much expertise was available there. Often, you'll find experienced horticulturalists working in these centers. And what they can teach you about your home gardening needs is more than worth the trip.
Best, you'll find they love helping. And, they can talk to you about local conditions and what vegetables grow best in your area.
So, start there.
Creating Your Vegetable Garden Map
Creating a garden plan was a new idea for me. And once I started researching garden mapping online, I was blown away by the examples I found.
I particularly enjoyed one site's sample vegetable garden plans, because they featured a variety of veggies mapped to fit differences in available space.
Today, there are even apps you can download to help you map out and plan your garden.
Of course, if you're good at sketching and representing available space accurately, you can map your yard the old-fashioned way with a pencil and paper.
I wound up using this easy free online garden planner. I liked this one because when you select a vegetable for a 1 square-foot space, it shows how many you can plant in that space. The page also gives tips on how to plant each of your selections for best results.
Be sure to watch the video on the page, which explains in detail how to use the options there.
One great thing about using a planner is you can adjust your plans as you learn more about what works in your garden. You'll see that we had to adjust our initial plan a few times to accommodate differences in soil, sunlight, and other requirements among our vegetable plants.
Study Gardening Websites
I expanded my research by taking advantage of the many wonderful websites online that specialize in gardening and growing vegetables. Just Google phrases like "vegetable garden planner" and "how to map your garden for planting" and a whole world of expertise will offer itself to you for free.
Contact Your Local Cooperative Extension Services for Expert Advice
This was another great discovery for me: cooperative extension services. These services are your taxpayer dollars at work in a way you'll love. They are partnerships between the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and local universities. What began as service branches formed to offer advice to farmers from agricultural experts grew into services we all can use.
Contact them for advice on everything from battling insects that can destroy your plants to the best plants to grow in your neighborhood.
Today, there are cooperative extension services in all 50 states.
How to Decide What to Plant Now
After all our research, we made our decision on what to plant after narrowing our options based on these factors:
Our Hardiness Zone
First, we had to identify our "hardiness" zone, using zone maps. Hardiness zone maps are determined by the USDA. Think of them as guidelines for which plants are hardiest, or most likely to thrive, within a given zone. Gardeners depend on this information to make good plant choices.
There are 11 zones, and they are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature in an area. We live in zone 10, so we only considered plants known to thrive in our hardiness zone.
Last Frost Dates
For spring plan