Getting Started in the Garden

Adam Weiss

Adam Weiss › I left my position as a CEO in the hospitality industry a little over a decade ...


A Simple Guide to Figuring Out What to Plant, Where to Find it, and When to Get it Into the Ground.

What to Grow

The number one factor when deciding what to grow is the amount of space you have. Here’s a list of popular vegetables and type of space they’re best suited to:

Small Gardens (multiple medium to large pots on a terrace or roof deck): Lettuces, peas, spinach, herbs, beets, carrots, and radishes.

Medium Gardens (small section of a yard with a bed of soil): All of the above plus kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, bush beans, onions, leaks, and bok choy.

Large Gardens (more than one bed of soil): All of the above plus tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and cauliflower.

Extra Large Gardens (multiple large beds of soil): All of the above plus winter squash, melons, and pumpkins (which need 30-36 inches between them).

Note: There are always exceptions to the above. If you love tomatoes and only have a small terrace, for instance, you may choose to just grow tomatoes. That said, if you grow butternut squash in your small garden, you might only have one plant.

Where to Get It

Online or Mail-Order

First and foremost, always buy organic. Mail order catalogs and online garden stores are becoming an increasingly popular way to stock up on seeds. The advantages are value and variety. Also, seeds can be ordered for the upcoming season as early as January and bought all at once, at a time when a lot of garden stores are either closed or running with minimal stock. I like Territorial Seed Company, Totally Tomatoes, and Seeds of Change. If you do buy early, store seeds in a cool, dark place to keep them fresh until planting. While fancy packaging and boutique seed companies are on the rise, it’s all down to individual taste and trial and error — experimentation is half the fun.

Your Local Garden Store

As the season gets going, nothing beats a personal relationship with a good local shop. If you happen to have one near you, limited selection can be made up for in expert advice and a well-curated stock. Either way, the back of your seed packet provides most of the information you’ll need to plant, including seed depth, soil temperature, days to germination, light requirements, and seed spacing.

Seeds vs Starter Plants

Most vegetables —  tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli, Swiss chard, peppers, and melons — are better off being put into the ground as starter plants and, therefore, can be seeded early indoors. If you have the space for this, you’ll end up with stronger, healthier and more mature plants once it’s time to move them outside. But you’ll need special equipment like heat mats and ultra-violet lights and a little extra know-how. A simpler way to get a head start is to buy starter plants from your local garden shop and put them into the ground the same day. If seeding directly into the ground, pay special attention to timing. Vegetables such as lettuces, beets, and carrots are best planted as seeds directly into the ground because they’re hearty against early season chill and don’t like to be moved once planted.

When to Plant

Timing is entirely dependent on the weather and it changes from season to season – last spring was a particularly cold and wet one, for instance, which resulted in poor germination.

• As a general rule, the first seeds that go into the ground are unusually peas around mid-March.

• Early to mid April also is the time to seed lettuces, carrots, and beets.

• By early May, it’s time to plant, larger leafy greens such as Swiss chard and kale.

• The week following Memorial Day (or once the ground temperature has warmed to 65-75 degrees), is when to put your warm weather vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants into the ground.

This article originally appeared on It is re-posted here with permission of the author.

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