Leafing through a seed catalog is exhilarating for gardeners. Colorful pictures and visions of bountiful gardens dance in our heads. Here’s how I went from dreaming to choosing the right vegetable seeds for my garden.
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Before choosing my vegetable seeds, first I had to visualize my growing area.
I sketched out my garden beds on graph paper so that I could measure how much space I had to fill with crops.
As you can see, my official vegetable garden area is very simple – our yard is very small! I didn’t draw the rest of the yard which is an edible landscape that includes black raspberries, strawberries, currants, cherry trees, juneberries, a plum tree, and much more. Often, I tuck annual vegetables and herbs into the landscaping.
There are plenty of electronic garden planners available if you prefer not to draw your own. Here’s a free one that I like for simple gardens. For more serious gardeners, this is one that you’ll have to pay for annually. I used it for many years and really liked it, but it does have a drawback: once you stop paying, you lose access to your records.
I now prefer to draw and maintain my own records in a 3-ring binder.
Now that I’ve sketched out my garden beds, I’m ready to decide what to plant.
A Garden to Suit your Diet
Gardeners can get all googly-eyed as they leaf through seed catalogs. There are so many beautiful and interesting vegetables out there, but why not start with what your household already eats? Don’t try too many new things all at once.
Food sensitivities and allergies are another consideration. Because of my rheumatoid arthritis, I have to reduce my consumption of nightshade vegetables.
It helps to make a list of what you don’t like and what you can’t eat before deciding what to plant.
But I always grow some tomatoes and peppers because I enjoy them! I always grow at least one tiny row of California Wonder peppers. Stuffed peppers are a favorite of mine, and I just couldn’t resist growing a few in exchange for a delicious meal and a few days of feeling sub-par.
A Garden to Suit your Site
Our garden beds are in a partially shaded area. In fact, our entire yard is partially shaded, moving toward full shade as the neighbors’ trees continue to grow. Turns out we wouldn’t be able to grow all those sun-loving nightshade vegetables even if we wanted to!
The shade provides a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity for us to grow salads (I love Parris Island romaine), leafy greens (Kale will always be my one true love), and root vegetables (Beets for everyone!) almost year-round.
Ultimately, all gardeners deal with some kind of challenge, so don’t get discouraged. Regardless of our space, shade, and pest problems here, we’re still able to reap a lovely harvest by choosing appropriate crops for our yard’s conditions.
If you’re new to gardening, you may have to experiment with your site to get to know its challenges and opportunities through trial and error. We all have failures, even seasoned gardeners.
Hybrid seed varieties offer pest resistance or specific qualities that allow us to grow a crop in a challenging situation. For example, container gardening seed varieties have been developed to grow shorter plants with smaller root systems, or varieties of spinach that are slow to bolt in the heat of summer are especially useful.
Seeds Adapted to your Garden
Saving seeds from crops that do exceptionally well in your garden will improve the success of your garden as time goes on. I’ve been able to save years worth of herb and flower seeds such as calendula, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic chives, and parsley, as well as bean, broccoli, collard green, and kale seeds.
How do you choose your seeds?