Q&A: In The Garden


This is the first of several posts (about 6 or 7, I believe) in which I am attempting to get caught up on all of the great questions that have been sitting in my inbox this spring!!! I'll be answering them according to theme, so some of the upcoming posts will be focused on Nutrition, Natural Living, PCOS, Mothering/Homemaking, etc. I'll try to post up at least 2 of them each week for the next several weeks!

husband is so excited for me to start a small vegetable garden this
year since we finally now have our own land.  I am excited, too, but
overwhelmed since I am a "city girl" and know NOTHING about gardens.  I
have read the posts you've written so far this year on how you're
getting started.  I live in Tennessee so obviously it's even warmer
here than where you're at.  So am I too late to just begin learning and
thinking about this???  What would you recommend doing to get started? 
Should I just buy some starter soil and maybe some tomato and green
pepper plants and get them going?  What other vegetable plants are
"easy"?  Do you have a site recommendation for newbies trying to learn
how to do this?


Hi Amy! There are very few times of the year when I would consider it too late to get started! :) Even if it's winter time, there's always room for a windowsill pot of herbs or to start planning out your garden for the next spring!

For a simple but rewarding first year, you can't go wrong with trying out either a very small garden plot (4 x 4 ft is a nice size for a beginner) or several patio style planters (whether they're on your patio or not).

Some easy veggies to get started with include:

  • tomatoes (especially if you buy well-established plants from a nursery)
  • peppers (again, buying good plants and these do best if you live somewhere quite warm and sunny- they're not for beginners in Canada, that's for sure! LOL!)
  • lettuce and other greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, etc.)
  • carrots (easy if you have nice soil or are starting with bought soil, but a bit tougher if your soil is very clayish and rough)
  • peas (both snow/snap and shelling)
  • radishes (these grow and can be eaten within a month- talk about rewarding!)
  • herbs: parsley, basil, oregano, dill and cilantro are among the easiest I've tried to grow
  • bush or pole beans

A few sites to help you out:
You Grow Girl
Square Foot Gardening Official Site
Life on the Balcony (specifically for those doing container gardening)

A few books that I've found helpful:
Square Foot Gardening

Joy of Gardening

Rodale's Vegetable Garden Problem Solver


I'm looking for some tips on how to grow lettuce, tomatoes,
and strawberries in containers.  I'm hoping to develop a green thumb,
but seem to overlove my plants.  Any ideas on things like how much sun,
water, etc.  I live in a hot climate, but very dry.  Do they like
larger containers?  Probably true of the tomatoes, but what about the
others?  Any advice would be helpful.

Robin, I think that the issue isn't so much whether they're in containers (although that does make a difference) but that it's more about learning how to work with specific plants in your particular climate, and also just learning exactly what different plants prefer (more sun, less sun, more of a certan nutrient like calcium or nitrogen, etc.).

I would start out with the book I mention above, Rodale's Vegetable Garden Problem Solver. It is organized by topic, and you can look up each vegetable alphabetically, so it's a quick and easy reference. It discusses some of the issues for those in more Northern or Southern climates, the types of nutrients that each plant requires, specifics for how to plant them, different methods of planting and staking/caging/using support poles, how much water they like, etc. It includes diagrams where relevant, and I found it just so simple for a relative beginner (which I still am!) to understand.

As far as specifics for container gardening, the site mentioned above, Life on the Balcony, seems to be a good starting place. She lists some container gardening books on her sidebar that she recommends (which I would know nothing about!), which may be worthwhile for you to check out from your local library or maybe purchase for reference. It seems easiest to find what you're looking for by using the search bar near the top right hand and entering something like "strawberries".

Another great reference is a good gardening forum. Here you can ask specific questions to other gardeners, including some who will be from a similar climate to yours or perhaps are container gardeners also! One that I like is the idigmygarden.com forum, from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds site, but there are many others out there if you google a bit for "gardening forums".

Any other answers or suggestions for these two questions? For beginning gardeners, what veggies have you found the easiest to grow? Any good resource recommendations for either beginners or for container gardening?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. Hi! I’m new to your blog – but thought I’d pass along my container experience. For the last 2 years, we’ve used “earthboxes”. They are WONDERFUL! We’ve done tomatoes, eggplant, and green beans. Last year, we had more tomatoes than we could eat! They are totally easy… “self-watering”, covered so you don’t have to worry about weeds, on wheels so they’re easy to move around. We have three of them on our deck again this year (4 tomato plants and 10 bush bean plants) and they are doing fabulous! For more info, just google their name… TONS of info! :)

  2. My biggest recommendation for beginners is to stick with things that are easy to grow in YOUR area and season. From what I have heard, its hard to grow certain things in the high heat of the southern US, and I know for me, its super hard to grow any of the fruiting crops due to lack of warmth. However, I can grow “spring” crops all summer (peas, lettuce, that sort of thing) super well. I am trying to work on growing the other things but it takes more time and effort and a greater susceptibility to failure and disease to grow things that aren’t suited to where you live.

  3. I’m a beginning gardener also. I have found that I am learning as I go. Thanks for these tips. The hardest thing for me is learning what is the actual plant and what is the weed. If I had started my seeds indoors before planting them in the ground, it wouldn’t be so confusing.

  4. candace says:

    I live in the same region as Amy.
    I would say it is a good time to plant squash, beans (bush type if you don’t have support), tomato transplants, cucumbers, and herbs. In another month or so, start cool weather crops for fall harvest- turnip greens do esp well, plant instead of spinach.

  5. I love the Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. It has a reference section with tips for each type of vegetable. This is most helpful, but the rest of the book is excellent as well. It is so useful that I do not recommend borrowing a copy from the library. You will want your own copy to refer to again and again.

    Stephanie, you mentioned that you do not water as often in order to allow the roots to go deep and make for stronger plants (I think I have this right!). This has inspired me to give it a try, but I also live where it is hot and dry. Can you tell me about how often it rains in your area? (Have I asked you this before? Can’t remember! My mind!!!) I’m trying to get an idea of how often I should water. I am using a water meter that you stick into the soil, but I have not been confident enough to completely trust it.

  6. These are some great tips, thanks! I found a great gardening blogger from Australia. You can visit her blog at: http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/