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Gardener's Grapevine 2016.02.03

By JO ERBSKORN

Last week I wrote about starting a garden for the newbie gardener. This week I’d like to expand on that.

There really isn’t a pass or fail with gardening. Everyone strives for perfection, but what is the definition of perfection? I believe that perfection is elusive in almost everything in life. If you are able to plant something, see it to fruition, and harvest something from it, you’ve been successful, and the rest is just frosting. Every gardener has struggles with something.

Of all the articles I’ve read about starting your first garden, the advice I liked best was to start small. Get your feet wet, then expand later. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list. What do you like to eat most in the vegetable world? Think about amounts, how much of one thing do you eat? If you eat one green pepper a year, you don’t need five pepper plants. However, tomatoes are in many dishes and very easy to preserve, so you may want more tomato plants. By making a list at home, it makes shopping at the greenhouse for plants and seeds much easier. If you just go into the greenhouse and buy whatever looks good, you can wind up not only with too much produce, but also things that might not get used.

My husband loves pepper plants and gets all excited about the different kinds. Every year he comes home with a crazy amount of plants and we never use all those peppers. He is the same with tomatoes. That, however, is not a problem, as we love tomatoes and eat bushels of them every year.

So once you make a list of what you want to grow, think about spacing. You’ve already picked the spot for your garden, so you know how much space you have to work with. For example, if you are planting sprawling tomatoes they should be 36 to 48 inches apart, and will need to be caged or staked. So if your garden plot is ten feet long, three tomato plants per row is your limit. Dwarf tomatoes can be planted 12 inches apart so more will fit in your space. It’s really important to consider this when planning a garden.

Another thing to consider is the length of the growing season. If you want big, basketball-sized watermelons, you better head to the grocery store because our growing season is so short, it’s not possible to grow those. However, you can grow the small variety of watermelon and they will be super sweet.

This brings us back to space. If your plant is going to sprawl and crawl on the ground, it will need space. If plants are crowded, your yield will not be very good and you just wasted money on too many plants.

Once you have your list and your layout planned, hit the greenhouse. This is my favorite part. Since it is way too early for greenhouse visits, now is your planning time. If you need to check spacing, Google is always a great resource. It is also a great resource for learning about varieties of vegetables and flowers. The most important advice I can give you is have fun. ​