Growing your very own culinary oasis is a real treat, and if you can, you should totally do it. But before you do, remember this: Newbie gardeners have a tragic tendency to plant too many things in their inaugural season. They get overwhelmed, a bunch of shit dies and everything sucks. To avoid being one of these sad, sorry suckers, you need a plan. Check this thing I scribbled once for how to make said plan.
Once you have assessed your garden's exposure, soil, potential pest problems and slope, you get to create your master design for food garden domination and plot out all the delicious things you're going to grow and eat this year. This is where you're like, yah, I'm so awesome at stuff and growing a garden is a cinch and I'm gonna grow corn and quinoa and a gangload of peppers and tomatoes and then I'm gonna can all this shit and probs get chickens and maybe a goat and make my own cheese and throw my iphone in the compost tea I'm gonna make next week.
Slow your shit hot roll, homes. You are awesome at stuff and you can do all those things but if you try to become a homesteading permaculture hippie in your first year, you'll probably throw in the towel mid season. After watching your all your time, money and energy die a slow, agonizing garden death you'll say fuck this shit and become a banker on Wall Street - and the last thing the world needs is another bloody banker, so let's avoid that by getting you started on the right Blundstone.
Start small. Start with these 8 things - and buy starts at a nursery or farmer's market. It's more expensive, yes, but seeding requires a whole other set of skills and methodologies. Sure, experiment with it if you really want to, but don't rely on your seeded kale to be the the only bumper crop you're expecting this year.
Limiting what you plant this time 'round does not mean that you won't be consuming an abundance of fresh goodies from your garden everyday. it means that you will have a way higher success rate and actually end up saving money and stress for more appropriate things like flying away from a family reunion early to go get hammered on a beach somewhere far far away.
1. LEAFY GREENS
Lettuces, mustards, arugula, spinach. These guys are a cinch to grow. Plant them in sun with dappled shade so they're not getting over blasted with heat rays.
Something to consider: Arugula will last a couple of hair cuts and then will shoot up a flower and go to seed. Actually, if things get super hot and dry, all these guys will bolt up and go to seed. This makes the leaves bitter and mostly useless. Once this happens you'll need to replant. Try to avoid this by laying down a layer of straw or rotted leaf mulch after transplanting to keep the soil cool.
2. KALE & COLLARDS
You can grow a bazillion types of kale and cook an array of different dishes with it so plant away. Basically plant and let em do their thing for the whole year. It's awesome. Collards are in the same fam as kale but grow gigantic leaves that look like they came from the Cretaceous period. They'll grow their asses off all year, too. AMAZING juicing greens.
Again, leafy plant but with some other shit going on. Those colours they bear will add different nutrients to your body. Important to have an array of nutrition in your garden. And who doesn't love having a rainbow in their yard? Who?
4. HOT PEPPERS
If you have full sun, these guys will just hang the fuck out and pump out a bunch of spicy treats. No need for pruning, teasing or petting. They just go. Harvest when they look like hot peppers (cayenne is my fave).
Of all kinds. Well, almost. If you're going to plant mint or lemon balm, put them in their own pots unless you want a minty lemon forrest and nothing else. And for your first year, just skip the dill and cilantro. They're fussy AF and will make you mad or sad at some point. But as for oregano, thyme, sage, lemon verbena, rosemary etc, have at 'er.
You can't plant these babies until October but you most absolutely should. It's insane that we import this shit from China. Absolutely bonkers. It grows all over North America, damnit. Plant in October (maybe where your peppers were cuz those batches will be done by now), mulch over top and watch them grow until harvest in July. Magic.
Plant no more than 2 unless you plan on having zucchini noodles for breakfast, zucchini soup for lunch and roasted zucchini for dinner. They are maniacally productive. Start with two plants and see how you do with that. Give them lots of room to breathe or they'll get all mildewy. But basically just plant em and let em go.
If you're in an urban zone that might not get any pollinating buggies, you may want to help your zucchini have sex with itself so it actually makes fruit. Here's how. It's really quick and easy and won't be anything like you're first time with a human, I promise.
Strawberries multiply like crazy. They will create a carpet of berry bliss in one season if they're really feelin' it. So best to plant them in their own bed or if you didn't listen to me and you went out and bought some blueberry plants (I forgive you), you can plant them in the same bed and the strawbs will create a nice ground cover under the berries. You'll want to lay straw around the strawberries so the fruit doesn't sit in the soil and rot. Just think STRAWberry and you'll never forget. Or if you're feeling creative, growing strawbs vertically or in hanging baskets is the way man.
OHHHHHHHH YAH! Also, don't overlook watering. Almost forgot that. How do you plan to water all your baby foods? SUPER IMPORTANT! Successful killing of the garden that you planned so well can be easily achieved if you don't work out a feasible watering schedule or install a simple irrigation system. Check this shit for tips on how to get you planties' thirst quenched.
If you reaallllly need to expand your horizons and try a bunch of things, reserve a small bed for experimentation with no emotional attachments to the harvest you plan to reap.
Okokok I'm goooing! Go plant this shiz.