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First Time Gardeners
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I love gardening. I love tucking seeds into soil, and watching the miracle of life unfold right in front of me. Gardening is hard work, but each little leaf and each bit of progress from sprout to mature plant feels like a milestone of summer. Here are three things to keep in mind if you are thinking about growing a garden for the first time.

Keep it Small - I use to think that growing a garden required a lot of space and time, but that’s not true. If you don’t have time or space to maintain a large garden, you can keep it small and still have the benefits of fresh produce.

Try square foot gardening to get the most out of small places in your back yard. Use a few gallon buckets and plant a tomato or cucumber on your porch where it is easy to maintain. Plant a miniature herb garden in your kitchen window sill.

Keep it Simple - You don’t have to plant two dozen different kinds of things in order to have a great garden! Pick out the kinds of plants that are easy to grow and don’t require an extensive know-how or a lot of maintenance to produce successfully. Summer squash is a notoriously great producer, and typically does well in a large variety of climates. Spring peas and root veggies are also often easy to grow.

Pick things you know you and your family will enjoy eating. For my family, that’s cucumbers and tomatoes!

Make sure you pick out things that grow well in your area. Ask a garden savvy friend or the local greenhouse to help you choose plants that are best suited for your region. You can also use the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder to figure out when the best times to plant are and what to plant that will thrive in your climate.

Keep Trying - Most importantly, don’t give up on gardening. Every gardener has at least a few stories of failure tucked in with the success stories. Gardening is perfected by experimenting and experience. Instead of giving up on gardening, use the less-than-successful experiences as a chance to learn something new.

Ask questions about your plants and what you can do to make them grow better. Learn about common diseases in your area and how to prevent or minimize them. Go to the library and check out some books, such as The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward Smith, to give yourself something to turn to when you have questions along the way.

Think of gardening as an adventure, and keep experimenting until you find the perfect plants for you. I promise you that you won’t regret the time you’ve spent tending your plants!

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By Chantel Brankshire. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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