Never gardened a day in your life? Not to worry, it’s not complicated. Growing food doesn’t have to be. If you want to start a kitchen garden for the first time ever, you can do so in about five square feet of space, or in pots if you don’t have the ground space. It’s just enough to get your feet wet and have some delicious salads and fresh veg to munch on. You’ll need either a 5′ by 1′ patch of ground, or a couple of large window box planters with potting soil. Some plant markers will be nice so you can tell what’s what (you can get started with popsicle sticks). And of course, some plants – in your very first garden, I recommend buying establish seedlings at your local farmer’s market or nursery. Here are my recommendations –
Lettuce – there are so many varieties of lettuce, but my favorite ones are the “single serve” varieties. Each head of lettuce is just big enough for a single salad, so you can grown quite a few in a small space, and have a harvest that’s just enough. The best varieties are Tom Thumb and Little Gem.
Green Onions – fantastic in small spaces, you get a lot of return on the space. Since it’s a naturally smaller plant, you can grow any variety, but I particularly like the Crimson Forest Bunching variety – it’s got lovely streaks of red up the bulb, so gives a little splash of color to fresh salads.
Carrots – carrots can be finicky to grow, no doubt – they like a loose, loamy soil and getting beautifully long, tapered carrots can challenge even the most experienced gardener. A stunted ball-type variety mitigates this problem, and makes carrots possible to grow in containers as well. Parisian and Thumbelina are popular round varieties to try.
Cherry Tomatoes – the perfect addition to summer salads, you can’t really do without cherry tomatoes. The key for the beginner is to choose a variety that doesn’t vine and has a bushy growing habit (otherwise known as determinate). Tumbling Tom and Totem are excellent determinate varieties to try for the beginner, and bear prolifically.
Cucumber – in addition to being nice in a green salad, cucumbers are also fantastic by themselves in cucumber salad, with a tangy vinegar dressing. Summer isn’t summer without a crisp cucumber salad. Like tomatoes, a vine that grows big and gets out of control can be challenging for the beginning gardener, so a bush varietal is the best bet. Bush Crop and Spacemaster are both great varieties with shorter vines.
So – don’t be intimidated by huge catalogs and tons of supplies. A few basic supplies and some high quality plant starts will get you off on the right foot if you’re looking to get into vegetable gardening for the first time.