The trick to a successful first garden: start out small

You might not think so from the countless words that have been written about it, but vegetable gardening is a pretty simple process. Plants are genetically programmed to grow (even our pampered crop plants) and all you have to do is give them the right things at the right times. You take seed, put it in the soil and it grows. The basic requirements are soil, sunlight, seed, water and motivation.

Gardening is the ultimate democratic activity; anyone who has access to some soil can have a successful garden. It appeals to humans on an instinctive level. In fact we appear to be genetically programmed to need plants around us and our health suffers if they are absent.

Growing a vegetable garden can become one of the most satisfying activities in your life, so it’s important that your introduction to it to be successful and rewarding. The surest way to ensure that it works out this way is to start out small.


Gardening is the ultimate democratic activity;
anyone who has access to some soil
can have a successful garden.


When spring comes and you can finally get outside and get planting, it’s easy to get carried away and make that first garden too big. As the season progresses and other activities appear, the garden then slips down the list of priorities. You miss doing things at the right time, neglect thinning and weeding, skimp on the watering because it takes too long and before you know it the garden is out of control (and a disappointment). You decide vegetable gardening is too much work and swear you will never do it again.

It is much better to start out small until you get an idea of what you can handle. Maybe a few tomato plants, a patch of salad mix and 50 square feet of mixed vegetables (a total of 100 square feet is a good start).

The work then comes in small manageable portions. Thinning, weeding and watering are a pleasure rather than a chore and you can take pride in keeping the area producing and looking good.

You even learn the important lesson that productivity is more closely connected to your activities than to the square footage covered. With the experience gained from this first year, you can then expand with some knowledge of what you are doing.


Smart Gardener makes it easy! We help you plan the right size garden for your needs and experience level, and then help you select the plants that will work for you.

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Author: Frank Tozer

Frank is the author of four popular and comprehensive books on food gardening including The Vegetable Growers Handbook, The Organic Gardeners Handbook, The Uses of Wild Plants and The New Food Garden.

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