Homesteaders in the past, totally counted on that years Garden for survival . Today, we don’t have to rely on the Home Garden like they did. But for most Homesteaders, the vegetable Garden is the main way we provide food for the family. So…..mastering Gardening techniques is, well, important.

For some folks, Gardening can be a little intimidating. There are so many different crops you can plant, there is the WHEN and HOW to plant, where to locate the Garden, soil types and soil amendment, composting, weeding, pest control……well, we get the idea. There are many questions and decisions you face when starting a Home Garden. And this could be why many never get their Garden “off the ground”.

Part 1 of this series deals with some of the basic principles we share with our friends, family or whoever comes to us for advice on where to begin with their Gardening adventure. So for anyone who has wanted to start a Garden but then never got it “off the ground”, here is a list of some basic principle followed with an explanation of the principles.


  1. Keep Your Garden Simple and Start Small
  2. Start A Compost Pile
  3. Do Mulch
  4. Check On Your Garden Often
  5. Keep A Journal
  6. Grow Veggies You Love
  7. Talk With Others Who Garden-What Are They Growing

These may seem like small things to do…they are! But these things will definitely take away a lot of stress when you do them. Another benefit is, you will learn good Gardening habits, save you money, save you time and get you in touch with what you want from your Garden.

1. Keep Your Garden Simple and Start Small!         Don’t try to grow everything that is available out there!  That would be a formula for failure and a big waste of money and time.  A small Garden plot…say a  10′ x 10′ is a very manageable size to begin with. You can grow a lot of food in that size Garden. (You will want to pay attention to #6 because it ties in well with this one.) If you have the space and time you can start with a 10′ x 20′ plot. Just be selective about what you chose to grow and with a simple plan and a small plot you will have time to care for it and learn about Gardening and about your crops. I will list the most popular crops for small plots at the end of this article.

2. Start A Compost Pile!       We call this stuff the “Black Gold” of Gardening.  Composting is something every Gardener should be doing. It provides natural fertilizer and is great for building up your soil. Of course you can purchase bagged or bulk compost at a Gardening center….but it is so easy to turn all those leaves, grass clippings, veggie trimmings, livestock manure and other natural waste matter you have around, into “Black Gold” for your Garden. And remember…you can never have too much of it! Lay it on thick every year.

3. Do Some Mulching!      Mulching reduces the hard work associated with Gardening.  Yep….it keeps those weeds down!! We love this. Not only does it control the weeds it keeps that soil nice and moist.  Now we have used a lot of different things for mulch over the years…like straw, grass clippings, leaves, hay, newspapers…we really don’t like using hay because it grew some really nice weeds for us.  If you use straw…make sure it is clean…no weeds in it.  We thistle weeds one years from hay and straw we used for mulch and thought we’d never get rid of them.  We have been using leaves  and just love them.  You need to put mulch on thick and put it around all your plants and even in the walkways.  Mulch will rot down in the garden and improve the soil. We till it in that fall or in the spring.

4. Check Your Garden Often!      This is one of the habits a gardener should develop. Why? Because when you visit your Garden often you can check for weeds and pull them, water if any plants need it, check the plants for disease or pests ( those pests can destroy a crop in a couple days if not caught in time). You can keep your finger on the pulse of your Garden by checking it often and ensure a big harvest.  Also, you can look for any veggie that is ready to eat!!!!  BONUS!

5. Keep A Gardening Journal!      Write it down!!! Weather, What seeds you ordered/bought, Where you got the seeds/plants, date you started your seeds, when you planted seeds/plants in the Garden, What pests you had to deal with and what worked on them, Which crops did well and how much harvest you had with each one. Record your Garden diagram so you can rotate next years crops.  All of your Gardening information will help you with next years Garden planning.

6. Grow Veggies You Love!     Now doesn’t that make sense?  But we know people today who still plant crops that no one in the family will eat. Why??? I don’t know…but I do know that it is taking up valuable real estate. They could be growing things the family loves to eat.  So…make a list of what each one in the family loves and select those seeds and plants.  As you gain experience and learn more you can branch out and try other varieties of the veggies you love.  My family loves the Green Beans called Half Runners.  If you look at that particular Green Bean you will soon find out that there are a dozen or more varieties. We focus on the White Half Runners, Mountain Half Runners and this year I got a variety called the Pink Half Runner. That is the case with every veggie out there. You may be enlarging that Garden sooner than you planned.

7. Talk With Your Neighbors-What Do They Grow?     Most people love to show off their Garden’s and share their secrets and what they learned from the old folks before them. They are a wealth of information. What have they found grows well in your area? Where do they find good seeds/plants at? Check with the local Garden Clubs, Cooperative Extension Office, Garden Centers and Universities nearby. All experienced Gardeners around you are an invaluable source of information….spend some time picking their brains.

Start implementing these great ideas and good habits now. Make some decisions based on these principles and you should have that Garden “off the ground” in no time!  Part 2 will discuss Plants and their requirements. Part 3 is going to help you choose a great garden spot and soil condition.

  • Here is that list of Easy Crops that are great for Small Gardens!

Radishes, Bush Green Beans, Bunching Onions, Cabbages, Zucchini and Summer Squash, Leaf Lettuces, Swiss Chard, Kale, Spinach, Beets, Snap Peas, Cucumbers, Bush Tomatoes, and I think Peppers are easy.  Select ones you love and get started planning!

  • Bonus List- Which Plants you have to start early or purchase.

Cabbages, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes all have to be started in greenhouse or inside under a grow light. Or you can purchase plants at a Greenhouse.

  • Seeds that can be sown in ground, check packets because some can go out before danger of frost is over and some have to go out after frost threat.

Radishes, lettuces, peas, kale, chard, beets, onion sets, spinach, most leafy greens, kohlrabi, potatoes can all go out before last frost date.

Beans, cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, melons, corn, herbs can be sown after threat of frost has past.  

Again check for that information when planning your garden….learn all you can about the crops you want to grow.

Happy Gardening and Homesteading

Marcia and Mel

The Beginning of Our Garden 2014