What Should I Plant? 6 Questions to Guide Decision Making
Here are six guidelines that I use to help me decide what I should plant and what seeds I should purchase.
1) What are my family's favorite veggies?
This is my favorite place to start. Gardening is a complete bust, in my book, if there is nothing to enjoy out of it, not only myself, but also my family. I love to watch my kids harvest fresh peas and shove those sweet, juicy bites straight into their mouths, and I love the healthy taste-buds they are building too.
"Ice Cream" ;) Favorites
-cherry tomatoes (me!)
-pumpkins (for carving)
2) What plants will give me the biggest bang for my buck?
I look at this two ways. 1) The cost of fresh eating produce and for those I plan on preserving for later use 2) the cost of the product (ex - salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, frozen veggies). I try to keep my garden organic & chemical free so I compare to the cost of organic produce/products in the store. This pin on my gardening Pinterest board links to a post that gives some good insight on cost vs production of most common veggies. I use it as a starting point and also pay attention to the normal and sale prices at the grocery store to help me decide where my biggest bang is.
-salsa (tomatoes & hot/sweet peppers)
-hot pepper sauce (hot peppers)
-tomato based sauces (tomatoes/swt peppers/onions/celery/herbs)
-frozen fruit (rasp/rhubarb)
3) How much space do I have?
Here is where I decide what are 'must haves' verses 'wants'. When I was in college and renting, the only space I had was a container or two in the south window. I was very restricted and kept to what was most enjoyable for me to both grow and eat. Now that I have a garden space of my own, I have more options but somehow I still never seem to have as much room as I want! ;} I know that I need to plant more tomatoes and peppers to meet my fresh and preserving needs than I do salad greens. I also know that I can buy raw carrots at the grocery store for less than I can kohlrabi so if space is tight I'll remove carrots from my plan. On the other-hand, I have been know to 'create' more space by planting in containers or scattering the more colorful/unique items into my landscaping.
4) How much time/energy do I expect to have this growing season to care for my garden?
If I know I'm going to be gone for the month of July or have an injury that will restrict my ability to care for the garden, it is a good year to cut back to a few items that we will really enjoy or require minimal maintenance or (Gasp! Don't know if I could pull this off!) let the garden rest of the season.
5) Will I start my own bedding plants from seedlings or purchase them from a garden center?
I can't wait until April/May to get my fingers into the soils so I opt to start my own bedding plants that require a longer growing season (commonly 100+ growing days). Many common garden plants need to/can be started anywhere from 6-12 weeks prior to my average last killing frost. If, for some reason I chose to not start my own plants, I would not purchase seeds for those long season plants (most times they say on the back of the package that they must be started inside).
Early Starters for Northern Gardener
6) Are there any fun or new to me/my family additions I'd like to try this year?
I always consider something new or unique to add to my garden. I find it part of the fun of gardening. Last year I tried garlic, pole beans & kale for the first time. Another year I planted a few soybeans to try edamame. This year I am considering starting some perennial flowers from seed, just for the fun of it. :)
It was good for me think through and put down my thoughts regarding these questions. Even writing this post has helped me begin to bring all my garden dreams into a plan that will work for myself and my family. I hope that you have found them as helpful as I have.
Happy Garden Planning! :)