First Time Gardener? Step Right Up, Get Your Expert Advice Here

If you've never grown a garden before, here a few tips to get you started.

  • Easy Herb Garden
    If you’ve never grown a garden before, it’s a good idea to try growing a few simple herbs in a sunny windowsill before going whole-hog on your back yard.

  • Easy Herb Garden

Did you ever want to grow some of your own food but aren't sure how to get started? If you've got access to a spot — even a tiny patch — that gets some sun, it might be easier than you think. Here are tips from a few expert gardeners to help you get started.

Barbara Pleasant, author of The Gardener's Bug Book and The Gardener's Weed Book, advises asking yourself these three questions first:

  1. What do you have in terms of site?
  2. How much time can you spend with your garden each week?
  3. What would be most rewarding to grow ? both in terms of satisfaction and saving money?

William Woys Weaver, author of 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From and Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, says to consider, in this order, 'your microclimate, your soil type, and your level of commitment (the amount of time you imagine you want to give it). Those three things will be the template for everything else that follows.'

According to Lee Reich, author of Weedless Gardening and the 'Easy Garden' cover story for our forthcoming April/May issue, these are the important things to consider:

  1. Location: Put the garden as close to your back door as possible. There's an old saying that 'the best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow' and a garden near your back door invites observation, weeding, harvesting, and ready appreciation of the fun, beauty and good tastes that gardening offers.
  2. Sunlight: Light is what fuels plant growth, and some plants need more of it than others. Without sufficient sunlight, plants are weak and more prone to disease. Fortunately, no matter what the light level, there's always something that can be grown within any category of plants. For instance, fruits generally need abundant sunlight, but red currants do fine in quite a bit of shade. Be sure to be realistic when assessing light conditions; 'full sun' means at least six hours or direct summer sun daily.
  3. Books and magazines: You can garner an abundance of gardening experience through reading. Reading can tell you what's really going on 'behind the scenes' and helps you avoid many mistakes. No need to re-invent the wheel. The hard part is sifting and winnowing the good stuff from the chaff. My favorite basic books would include Robert Kourik's Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally and Hugh Johnson's The Principles of Gardening.

Roger Doiron is the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, and author of our upcoming feature on harvesting wild dandelions (also in the April/May issue). He offers this guidance: 'Start small and scale up as you encounter success. Start by planting things you like to eat (that will motivate you to do more later). Understand the space requirements of each plant before putting seeds and seedlings in the ground.'

Garden photographer David Cavagnaro, co-author of The Complete Vegetable and Herb Gardener and Heirloom Vegetables, offers the following advice:

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