Planning Your Spring Garden

Despite the frigid temperatures in many parts of the country, Spring is just around the corner. And with it: the return to gardening.

Planning out your Spring garden can bring some joy and light to your life while temps are still low. Seed companies have already sent out a lot of catalogs to help inspire.

Current economic conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic make it likely that we'll see seed shortages again later in the growing season. If you want to grow a garden in 2021, it's advisable to start securing your seeds as soon as you can.

What Should You Grow?

Generally, it's a good idea to grow the more expensive vegetables that your family likes to eat regularly.

For example, it makes more sense to grow a bed of organic salad greens that cost $7/lb at the grocery store than a bed of potatoes that cost $0.50/lb.

Dedicate the majority of your space to the pricey veggies and then fill in the other room with whatever you want. Or buy the inexpensive vegetables at the grocery store or through a local farmer's market or cooperative.

Calories mean a lot. Some of you reading this may be more concerned with getting the most calories out of your space rather than what costs the most at the grocery store.

If this is your main concern, then calorie-dense potatoes are a better idea than lettuce. Though of course, you can grow a lot of lettuce in a small space if you remember to reseed regularly, so it is easy to find a good balance to meet your priorities and objectives.

Consider which vegetables offer the most nutritional value and calories per sq ft of garden space. Luckily many of the highest-yielding crops also contain the most calories.

Out of the list below, collards and radishes have the least caloric value.

Spring Garden Crops With Highest Yield Per Sq Ft

  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Radishes
  • Collards

Determining When To Plant

I live in USDA Zone 7, and my husband has already planted a lot of different veggies. He's planted beets, rutabagas, turnips, Romaine lettuce, mustard, chard, snow peas, cabbage, bok choi, collards, kale, red lettuce, cilantro, and green bunching onions.

Those in colder climates can start seeds indoors or utilize cold frames to get a headstart on the growing season, or just wait until the ground is workable.

Microclimates and USDA Zones

The USDA Zone Map is the standard that many gardeners use to determine what will grow in their area.

It's a handy tool, but it doesn't take into account microclimates. It's possible to live in Zone 7 technically but have growing conditions closer to Zone 6B.

I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina on a Southern slope. When it snows here, ours will melt off quickly when temperatures rise. Just a mile up the road, the snow can stick for a week longer or more. It's a dramatic difference over such a short distance.

It's crucial to observe these things so that you can choose the right crops to grow.

Click here for an interactive USDA Zone Map. You can zoom in on your state and get a more accurate picture of what zone you are actually in.

Average Last Frost Date

Frost dates are another factor that can vary a bit based on topography within a region.

It's best not to plant tender starts and crops suited for hot weather until the last frost has passed. Sometimes you can get away with protecting them on a few cold nights using row covers or special plant covers.

Where I live, the average last frost is May 12. My husband's parents are a 35-minute drive away and have their average last frost 1-2 weeks before that.

Testing Your Soil

Soil test kits are inexpensive and easy to use. Any major online retailer or farm and garden store sells them.

Testing your soil will tell you the data you need to determine how much fertilizer or other soil amendments you'll need for a bountiful crop. You'll also learn the pH of your soil, another important factor.

The type of soil you have on your property can vary if you have a larger parcel, so you will want to test each major planting site.

Obtaining Seeds

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a major shortage of seeds. The inventory of both small and large seed companies sold out fast.

I remember some companies stopped taking orders for most of the week. I set my alarm to get up and put my order in as soon as they opened up a two-day window for new orders.

If you plan to grow anything this year, I advise ordering any of the seeds or plant starts you need right away. Even if they don't ship out until later, you can reserve them by paying in advance. If you plan on purchasing at brick-and-mortar stores, pick them up as soon as you see them on the shelf.

Generally speaking, if you need a lot of one particular type of seed, you're better off ordering from a seed catalog that sells different size packets. Some farm and garden stores sell seeds by the scoop, which also offers bulk pricing.

Here are a few seed suppliers that offer high-quality seeds and gardening supplies.

Open Pollinated Vs. Hybrid Seeds

Hybrid seeds get a lot of bad press because you can't save the seeds and then expect to get the same crop next year if you plant them then. The advantage of hybrids is that they can help with disease resistance and yield. If you don’t plan on saving seeds, growing some hybrids will work fine for you.

Open-pollinated or "heirloom seeds" produce fruit and vegetables that yield seeds that you can save and use to plant next year. From a sustainability standpoint, please choose open-pollinated or heirloom seeds. Some heirloom seeds are rarer than others, so you might have to pay a little more for your seeds. The additional cost is very minimal and well worth it.

Crops grown from some heirloom seeds often fetch a higher price at farmer’s markets. A good example is tomatoes. I live in an area that produces a lot of commercial tomatoes. A 25 lb box of conventional tomatoes costs around $10-$12. But a box of Cherokee Purple or other heirlooms is $25-$35.

Setting Realistic Goals

Gardening can be very enjoyable, but it takes some work too.

If you've never gardened before, you might consider starting with a smaller-sized one. Starting smaller will help you learn and develop your green thumb.

And don't forget that gardening is a project that can involve the whole family. Don't take it all on yourself; recruit the family members and/or neighbors who will enjoy eating the joys it produces.

Spring Garden Veggies That Are Easiest To Grow

(We have good luck growing carrots and rutabagas even during the colder parts of the year in Western NC.)

Note: the colder the climate, the later in Spring you'll need to planet these.

If you're a new gardener, you may be wondering what's easiest to grow.

The following vegetables offer good results with minimal inputs.

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
(You can grow potatoes from seed stock purchased from seed suppliers or you can just pick up 5 lbs at the grocery store and use those as seed stock)
(Potato grown from store bought potatoes.)
  • Carrots
  • Rutabagas
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Chard
  • Green Bunching Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Snow Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choi
  • Collards
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
(Our beet bed in our raised bed garden. We ate our beets in soups, as a side dish. In my hands are some beets we pickled. Pickled beets are a delicious snack or salad garnish!)

Fertilizing Your Garden

I previously mentioned testing the soil in your garden. The results can help you determine overall fertility.

For most Spring gardens, adding a little fertilizer is a good idea. How much you need depends on the crop you're growing and how suitable your starting soil is.

Some crops will strip out nutrients faster than others. Adding fertilizer ensures that you're putting back as much or more than you are taking away.

Organic vs. Conventional Fertilizers

Gardeners have the choice between organic and conventional fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers come from composted animal by-products or plants. Both are available in dry or liquid forms.

Common Organic Fertilizers

  • Mulch
  • Bone Meal
  • Blood Meal
  • Manure Based
  • Fish Emulsion
  • Mushroom Compost
  • Mixed Compost

There are organic fertilizers that are all-in-one and very specific to growing needs. We often used Garden Tone.

Local feed and farm supply stores are known to offer discounts if you buy a lot of fertilizer at once. Local stores also have access to fertilizers that you can't purchase online without paying exorbitant shipping fees.

Organic fertilizers are less likely to burn plants because they tend not to be as concentrated as conventional fertilizers. If you accidentally over-fertilize a bit, organic fertilizers are far less likely to cause crop damage or loss. Of course, if you apply too much, even organic fertilizers can cause losses.

Common Conventional Fertilizers

  • Miracle-Gro
  • 10-10-10
  • Scott’s

Conventional fertilizer is comprised of naturally occurring components but is heavily processed.

A product like 10-10-10 or 17-17-17 is very concentrated. Concentrated fertilizers are great for storing for a long-term emergency. A single bag can go a long way.

The disadvantages of conventional fertilizer are that it is a lot easier to over-fertilize and can create runoff that contaminates waterways. Too much fertilizer can severely damage or even kill your plants.

Whether using organize or conventional fertilizer, it's important to follow the guidelines provided on the bag and check a good gardening book for fertilizing tips. Some vegetables are heavier feeders than others and require more plant food to get the maximum yield for your area.

Maximizing Your Growing Space

Edible Landscaping

Edible landscaping has become very popular. Plenty of people are switching from ornamental plants and trees to those that can provide food for the table.

Anywhere that you have shrubby things or ornamentals planted, you could be growing food instead. The same goes for lawns.

While I completely understand wanting to have some lawn for your kids or dogs to use, consider using half or more for vegetable and fruit production if you have a huge yard. Fruit trees can provide shade and allow the area below to be a nice place to sit or play.

(When the COVID-19 pandemic started, my husband and I converted our side yard into a raised bed garden. Above the beds has a beautiful view and is such a nice place to sit and enjoy rural life)

Container Gardens

For those without much/any available outside area, you can maximize your growing space by using window boxes and containers where you have some extra room.

Container gardens and window boxes are great for people that live in apartments, condos, and townhouses. And hanging baskets are another great container that can add a lot of beauty to your home.

Here are just a few of the crops you can grow in a container.

  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Columnar Apple Trees
( I received a Garden Tower in exchange for an honest review. A Garden Tower is nice for making the most of your space but the cost is prohibitive for many.)
(Cherry tomatoes grew well in the top of the Garden Tower later in the year.)

Troubleshooting Common Gardening Problems


When ordering onions, it's important to make sure you get onions that are suitable for the number of daylight hours you have during the growing season.

Follow this link to determine what onions are suitable for your area.

I order from Dixondale Farms. They are located in Texas and have very reasonable prices.

If you buy your onion starts locally, you don't have to worry about getting the right type. Local feed stores are a great place to get onion bulbs to start.

Tips for Carrot Success

When people have trouble growing carrots, it is often due to hard, rocky, or clay soils. You can loosen the dirt up by adding some sand and tilling well.

Another thing that helps enormously is growing shorter and fatter varieties of carrots. These carrots do well in heavy soils and produce an abundant crop.

Disease & Pest Control

Over the years, my husband and I have noticed that many beginning gardening articles overlook spraying. It's just not something that people like to address.

Pretty much everyone I know uses some sprays or powders in their gardens to deter disease and insects. The choice between organic and conventional pest and disease control is yours. Most things can be managed quite well with organic sprays and practices.

Considering how common supply chain shortages are these days, you should stock up on some disease and pest control products at the same time you buy your seeds.

Below are a few common organic sprays and powders that you can utilize in an organic garden.

Always follow the instructions and wear the appropriate personal protective gear. Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it won’t cause irritation or other serious health issues if inhaled or ingested.

  • Copper - Control common fungi like tomato blight.
  • Neem - offers some protection from mildews and will eliminate and deter insects.
  • Milky Spore - Spread this powder every ten years, and you will see a substantial reduction in Japanese Beetles and grubs.
  • Sulfur - This comes in a water-soluble powder form that you can use in a sprayer or use in a duster to control powdery mildew, rust, scab, brown rot, and rose black spot.
  • Pyrethrin - Effective against a wide range of insects. Pyrethrins are derived from chrysanthemums. This spray is sold under the brand name Pyganic. Another popular insecticide called Permethrin is the synthetic and non-organic version of pyrethrin. It's easy to mistake one for the other when purchasing.
  • Spinosad - Controls Japanese Beetles and other hard-shelled insects. Spinosad has negative impacts on bee populations, so make sure not to use it if you or your neighbors have bee hives.
  • Stylet Oil - Effective against powdery mildew, as an insecticide, and for virus control. Do not mix with sulfur ore or copper.
  • Dr. Earth Final Stop - This spray controls powdery mildew, rust, black spot, peach leaf curl, shot hole, leaf blotch, scab, dollar spot, brown rot, fusarium blight, botrytis, downy mildew, scab anthracnose, phytophthora blight, and other plant diseases.
  • Potassium Bicarbonate - This powder is frequently sold under the brand names Green Cure or Mil Stop. It's effective against powdery mildews.

It's always less expensive to buy the concentrated forms of garden sprays and dilute them in a hand sprayer or spray bottle at the time of application.

You should mix sprays immediately before use. Some sprays start to lose their potency 24-48 hours after they are mixed. Buying concentrates also reduces how much space your sprays will take up in your storage areas.


Some crops do best if you reseed regularly.

For example, if you want to have a continuous supply of salad greens or carrots, you need to reseed every few weeks. When you plan out your garden and order seeds, it's important to order extras of the crops you're planning on continuously harvesting.

In some areas, salad greens and carrots can be grown practically year-round with the help of a small cold frame or some row covers.

Grow Your Transplants For Summer Plantings

Buying started plans can be expensive. When you're starting your spring garden, you might consider getting some peat pellets or growing trays so that you can get a head start on your summer garden. A heating pad that goes under starting trays can help speed the process along.

Growing your transplants enables you to have transplants ready to go that you cannot buy at local stores. Some of the heirloom varieties of vegetables are impossible to find as transplants, so you must do them yourself or direct seed in your garden.

Remember that the bigger your transplants are when that all-important last frost date arrives, the sooner you'll be enjoying the bounty of your gardening efforts.

Recommended Books & Resources

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! By Patricia Lanza

Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces: A Layering System for Big Results in Small Gardens and Containers By Patricia Lanza

The Encyclopedia of Country Living By Carla Emery

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way

For (many) more great gardening book recommendations, check out Peak Prosperity's The Essential Gardening and Food Resilience Library

Also, your local cooperative extension service website should have some great local gardening advice and info.


A well-planned Spring garden means greater food security during uncertain times.

Anything you can do to reduce trips to the grocery store will save money. With inflation on the rise, growing some of your food helps insulate your family from rising food costs.

You also eat healthier when you have a garden. My husband and I aren't the only ones who have seen health benefits like reduced heartburn and indigestion when eating fresher and more nutritious foods.

So get started!

And don't forget to buy seeds as soon as possible to avoid possible supply disruptions or total lack of availability due to economic conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are you planning your spring garden? Do you have any questions about Spring gardening? Please ask in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them for you!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Great book thats just about considered the Holy Bible of seed saving, it’s called “Seed to seed”.
Breaks seed saving and reseeding down into two basic categories “large seed” and “small seed”. Beans would be an example of “large seed”. Carrot seed would be an example of small.
Its generally easier to save large seed as often the crop is the seed itself. Corn/beans would be an example.
Seed saving and reseeding from your previous crop has never been more important. I’d suggest planting a garden with that in mind. My garden goal this year is to plant a plot where the entire garden is reseedable.
The old Indian “3 sisters garden” is a great example of this. Corn with beans sewn when corn stalks begin to grow, and squash between rows. The corn provides a trellis for beans to climb and the broad leaves of the squash act like mulch to keep weeds down between rows.
All three are large seed, easily reseedable crops.

For northern gardens, Pinetree Seeds in Maine ( is a great source.  Excellent prices and smaller seed packs available so you can afford more variety.  

Again, if you have a northern garden, purslane is an awesome green to grow, especially high in Omega 3.  It is a very aggressive reseeder which is why it wouldn’t be as appropriate further south.  I especially like the Goldgelber variety.  Last year I grew it interspersed around other vegetables.

I’m also a fan of beet greens because of their nutrition.  Last year the beets never grew very large but the greens were prolific.

Because I was working from home last year I had extra time in the morning to mess around in the garden.  I have individual 3x5 raised beds in a 3 by 3 pattern (ie, nine in total) in the middle of my suburban lawn.  I don’t want a fence around the entire area but made out well with individual chicken wire cages that I reformed as the veggies grew in height.  Achieved their purpose of keeping deer out.

If you plan to eat a lot of foods from your garden, you need to manage it so that the veggies provide a good balance of all of the minerals you need for excellent health. If you will eat most of your food from your garden, it’s essential to do this. Steve Solomon’s book, The Intelligent Gardener, provides an overview of this approach, but he also offers a basic fertilizer/mineral mix recipe that you can make up yourself. YOU SHOULD GET YOUR SOIL TESTED FOR MINERALS! This means collecting some soil in a plastic bag and mailing it to a lab where they can do the analysis you need. I recommend Logan Lab in Ohio, and Black Lake Organics in the NW.

You don’t need to do this every year, but now and then is good. Best to do once you’ve gotten your new garden beds dug. Black Lake is also a good place to get anything other than the standard stuff, such as copper sulfate. They have it all in amounts that you might need.

Balancing minerals also does wonders for making your plants disease and pest proof!! Not all soils or compost carry all the minerals that you will need. Rock dust may not either, depending on what you need. Get a test and go from there. Black Lake will provide you a recommended amendment recipe tailored to your test results. Good luck this season!!

Such great information, thank you Sam!
I just ordered tomatoes and melon seeds. A little late in doing so as I just purchased two greenhouses! and are easy to work with.
Several of the seed companies are already sold out. My go to for years has been (non-gmo, etc). For the PNW Upraising Seeds ( still has (had) seeds available.
happy growing!

Love my Garden Tower! Although the author is correct, it’s not cheap. I was able to justify it because I don’t own my house and want to be able to take my garden with me if I move, and if you get the wheel kit you can bring it inside in the winter and keep your plants going with grow lights.

Another great advantage of a garden tower - it has a worm compost tube for your food scraps, and produces worm compost and compost tea. So for me, it’s a central fixture of all of my container plants as it fertilizes all the rest of them and keeps me from needing commercial fertilizers for my containers.

Buy organic potatoes if you go the supermarket route. Otherwise they are likely sprayed with a chemical to inhibit sprouting. Sprouts bad for storage, but absolutely necessary for growing. Last year my main crop potato order from Johnny’s was cancelled due to supply chain issues even though I’d ordered in January. Got a huge crop from planting potatoes left from the previous year, some supermarket varieties and an order from Seed Savers Exchange that was processed. My biggest warning is to remember you need to store these to make it worth growing! So think about where you’ll cure them and store them before running amok.

Confession: I have hurt as many plants as I have helped adding too much fertilizer. When in doubt, forget it.

I am going big this year on food growing (hopefully) due to the '20 kick in the ass, but I am heeding your advice to stay within my means and abilities, Samantha.

It was good advice from your first post about not taking on too much at once, and has kept me a bit reigned in. A bit.


With that said, I fell into the whole “grow your own food” rabbit hole pretty hard and fast last year and this one.

I’m going to lay out my food growing plan in these comments all year, mainly because I need to tell somebody as my family and friends look at me and literally say “I can get all those veggies at the store easier and cheaper.” If they don’t buy into the first sentences of the reasoning behind growing your own food, they’ll never listen to or understand the rest of the plan.

So here’s my plan for the year:

  • five acres of land with Driftless Wisconsin soil - CHECK
  • 165 feet of 8' high deer fencing, gates and perimeter electric fence - CHECK
  • $200 of Baker Creek heirloom seeds bought 10 days before the website shut down - CHECK
  • $180 of seed potatoes in storage at a community farm until March/April- CHECK
  • Well drilling - SCHEDULED
  • Electric supplied to the land - SCHEDULED
  • Sibley canvas tent for overnighting at the property - ORDERED
  • Uphill water storage tanks and drip irrigation - RESEARCHING NOW
What I still need are some very long handled gardening tools as I'm 6'2" and will be doing all the soil tending by hand. Anyone who has a link or suggestion please reply.

NOTE - I have scaled back on doing the orchard and chickens this year. Those items and the home build (lumber is just insane right now, f*ck!ng futures speculators) are on stall for now. 1600 square feet of gardening seems like it’s going to keep me tan and busy enough this year.

I’ll probably get the orchard fencing done at the end of the summer, but wait until next spring to start planting trees.


ANYWAY… It’s great to have you contributing here, Samantha. Keep it up!

I am seeing grass today for the first time since I can remember. Snow had me feeling lazy but the article has me ready to go. :slight_smile:

Pappy: I’m fairly tall and will tell you carpenter’s knee pads and shortened tool handles did wonders to spare my back.


Just thought I could use this as a place to ask about my biggest gardening challenge:

When I grow any kinds of greens (swiss chard, beets, kale, etc.) I get holes in the leaves. Probably from some insect that likes my property. I have row covers but never got around to putting them on. Do you think that would solve the problem?

I still eat the greens, but what if I want to scale up and start selling or trading what I produce? Then looks will matter.

Depending on the size of the holes in your produce, it might just be flea beetles. They are tiny and hard to find. Row covers or low tunnels should go a long way to reducing the damage. Good luck!

The problem you are having might be easily solved by spraying Neem Oil. It is made from the oil of the Neem Tree and does a wonderful job at keeping insects away. We use it often. It is safe enough that you can use it within a day of harvest. It does smell a bit. You will want to wash your produce a little better if you harvest close to the time you sprayed. Another option is pyrethrin, sometimes sold under the brand name Pyganic. I would start with neem and if the problem persists, use pyrethrin. Hope that helps!

I forgot to say that row covers may help but I don’t think it will solve the problem entirely. People are picky about what they buy so I think you would do best if you used a two-fold approach of row covers and spraying to get beautiful produce.

for minerals you can use azomite. it is a mineral from a deposit in utah. azomite stands for a-z minerals. i put some on every year. i also use rock phosphate every year. sometimes i use granite dust. my secret ingredient is paramagnetic rock dust. i have a friend who knows a lot about energetic farming. he turned me on to it years ago. you only add it once. it is not a fertilizer. i know a retired usda scientist who uses it and his corn which normally takes 92 days to mature only takes 57.’t%20magnetic%2C%20but,your%20soil%20is%2C%20the%20better.

if you have your own land i suggest start planning with perennials. plant once and done. we have asparagus, blueberries, raspberries and elderberries. we also grow bamboo which requires no care at all.

an excellent no burn fertilizer is worm castings. i especially like them during the growing season. they are very easy to sprinkle around. also lots of compost. speaking of worms they really love rock dust.

late for planning a spring garden. we are planning our summer garden now

I used to get this problem , particularly in spring. Newly planted seedlings would get shredded. Until I caught the culprits red handed - birds nibbling at the tender leaves of beets, spinach, lettuce. Now I put netting over cloche hoops for at least the first month in the ground. Oddly enough this didn’t happen when I first started gardening a decade ago - but for the last few years its been required practice.

Really enjoying the discussion on gardening. Last year I did the fabric pots. Was actually very successful though it required much more attention to watering (nearly every day). The heat in Florida makes it much more difficult. I also had a serious deer problem. This year, God willing things will go better.
Over the winter I cleared a 60X90 patch and put up a 6’ deer and wildlife fence with barbed wire above it. All my corner and brace posts were set in concrete with every 3rd post also in concrete. Gates on the end to allow my tractor access. Much better to use a wire staple gun to attach fence rather than hand nail the staples (loosens posts). Already have my potatoes, beets, bush beans, white acres, black eyes, snow peas, spinach, and different greens planted. Hoping we don’t get a late freeze. Also have my cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, and dill doing well. Have a bunch’o seeds coming up to transplant, lettuces, squash’s, green peppers, eggplant, jalapeno’s, and 10 different tomato varieties. Will plant my sweet onions sets, garlic, and carrots today. Corn will come a bit later followed by okra which will grow well in the heat. Hopefully I’m gonna need a 2nd larger freezer.
We still have canned tomatoes and salsa from last year. Years ago I kept bees, was fun working them with the boy scouts, a good learning experience for them. Though pricey, I noticed Rural King recently advertising bees w/queen.
Something just got in my chicken pen and killed one of my girls (golden buff) crazy thing is that I can’t see where the critter got in. No holes under the pin, metal roof and pen looks secure. I suspect a possum, coon, or feral cat. Whatever it was tried to drag the chicken out the door but wasn’t successful. Trail cam needs moved to the pen. I had been reluctant to set a live trap as the bait just attracts predators to the pen but that changed last night.
Folks here have been a real source of knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration, to get this done. My thanks to all. Will add pictures as things progress. Agree with Sam about the neem oil. I also use it on my citrus trees which really need spayed and fertilized now. Trilogy makes a neem oil concentrate available at chem supply stores. If you don’t have need for the larger size, perhaps splitting with a friend or neighbor might work? Spring is almost here in Florida, for those further north (if you haven’t already) time to think about getting your seeds started.

Great article Samantha, and I can’t wait to get out there in the garden too. I’m relatively new to growing my own food, I know I could buy it more easily and cheaply at the store, but that’s not the point - I want to learn how to do it in order to lessen my dependence on other people and “the system”.

I live in the Isle of Man, British Isles, and I’m so new to gardening that I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else how to do it, but my most important piece of advice is: grow within your means, particularly the amount of time you can spend on it. Here is a summary of my gardening attempts for the last three years:

Year 1: I rented an allotment plot 30 x 100 feet and tried to plant the whole thing with annual vegetables. Complete flop: I have a full time job, I could only spend about half a day a week on the allotment, and everything (including me) just got overwhelmed by weeds.

Year 2: learning from my failure in Year 1, I planted half the plot with perennials (fruit trees, raspberry canes, strawberry beds) and used a lawnmower to keep the weeds down. Much better result but still struggling with the weeds.

Year 3 (this year): planted another quarter of the plot with perennials (more strawberry beds, fruit bushes and an asparagus bed) so three-quarters of the plot is now perennials which don’t need digging up and re-planting every year. You have to wait longer for results, especially with fruit trees, but they are much less work.

In case anyone is interested I write a quarterly blog about my gardening attempts:

Build one of these suckers.

Does anyone know who the manufacturer is?  Seems like they have excellent customer service at a moment’s notice.

Those amazing hills with mixed forest and pastures. Home of the Amish. My sister lives in La Valle. I would have settled somewhere between La Crosse and Viroqua, if I hadn’t discovered the Pacific NW. Very different climates. I’ve been gardening here for 40 years after growing up and getting my undergrad degree in WI. Good luck with your ventures!