One of the most common questions I receive is “What should I grow first?”. Here’s what I tell people our strategy was in response:
- Start with something you like and buy a lot of – We started with kale, spinach, lettuce. These items cost us $10 a week at the grocery store whenever we tried to eat healthy and I loved the idea of having unlimited salad greens in my backyard. I had a feeling it would cause me to eat more salad greens and it certainly has. Kale and spinach are also incredibly nutritious and can easily be snuck into pasta and smoothies for the kids. |
- Replace your dry seasonings with fresh herbs – Another reason I started a garden is that I wanted to have access to fresh herbs for cooking. They’re ridiculously marked up at the grocery store and the flavor and nutritional value of fresh herbs compared to store bought dry seasonings are simply remarkable. Carrie’s homemade pizza with fresh oregano, basil, and thyme is incredible and I love adding rosemary to chicken and steak dishes. You can also dehydrate them to preserve them for long-term use. The difference in taste and quality vs store bought herbs will astound you. The herbs will also help keep pests away from other plants in the garden.
- Try a three sisters (corn, beans, squash) garden! – The “three sisters” method of planting originated with the Native Americans and involves growing corn, squash, and beans together in the same bed. All three plants work together to help each other out. You start by planting the corn and squash sometime in mid-May (I’m zone 7 in Oklahoma, adjust for where you are). Then you plant the beans a few weeks later. The corn provide vertical support for the beans to grow up, the beans feed the soil by taking nitrogen out of the air, and the squash vines out through the corn blocking weeds from sprouting and helping the soil retain moisture. It’s a fun way to start gardening and you’ll learn a lot about how plants work together in the process.
- Whatever you want! – One of the things I love about gardening is the sense of adventure and freedom it provides. The garden is a blank canvas in which you can fill however you want. Each new season is an opportunity to try something new and find a new food you love. The main thing that’s important is that you’re trying. Even if something doesn’t grow the way you want or if you don’t have the success you want, keep trying. I’ve failed more times than I can recall but it’s all worth it when you sink your teeth into a watermelon you’ve raised all the way from a baby seedling.