Ask yourself the question: What do you REALLY want to grow?
I sometimes get really carried away when buying seeds and I end up buying a whole bunch of exciting new varieties. Nothing is wrong with this in the slightest, and in fact, I heartily encourage experimentation! But the thing that irks me is when I fill up my garden space with all these cool new plants but forget to leave space for the more “regular” things that I eat the most: kale, tomatoes, salad greens, etc. Nothing bothers me more than having to buy kale at the store when I could’ve had it growing in my backyard!
Think about these main details:
Size: How big of a space do you really have to grow things? Draw a map of your garden space to help visualize. Seed buying season can be intoxicating, and sometimes it gets out of control. Having 100 plants to plant when you only have a tiny garden can be discouraging. However, if you do find yourself in this scenario, just give them to your neighbor. If you grow the tomatoes and they grow the squash, you can just trade with each other. Or you could always sell plant starts on your driveway.
Sun: Where is the sunniest part of your garden? Where is the shade? Remember that shady areas can still grow plants. I seed my salad greens in the height of summer in a shady area that receives ~4hrs of light per day, and they do really well! Think about how your pea trellis can be multifunctional as a shade structure for those shade loving plants.
Wind: Remember that plants need protection from wind. Not only is wind cooling and sometimes destructive, it is also very drying. However, on the other hand, sometimes I put a small fan in my greenhouse to ensure that seedlings are a slightly “wind blown” – this helps strengthen their cell walls in their stems, making them more resilient plants in the long term. A little “tough love” goes a long way.
Slope: Remember that plants usually love a south facing slope! And remember that at the bottom of that slope you may find water pooling, as well as cooler pockets. Even a small “divet” in the ground can be a type of microclimate, which will hold frost a little longer in early spring, and keep things cooler on a hot summer day.
Soil: Where is the best soil in your garden? Use a simple soil texture test to see if you soil is sandy, silty or rich in clay (see this site for details http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/214.html). Remember that the greatest thing about soil is that you can improve it pretty easily. If you are concerned about any toxins or heavy metals in your soil, be sure to get a professional soil test (Integrity Sales on Keating Cross rd. can help with this). Keep those kitchen scraps so you can make your own compost (a.k.a black gold) in your backyard.
Water: makes sure that your water is easily accessible, or else you will never water those seedlings! Use mulch (straw, cardboard, leaves, etc.) on your beds to help reduce evaporation and create a nice moist environment for the plants, as well as other microorganisms and critters that make up a healthy garden ecosystem.
Keep a Garden Journal:
This has got to be one of the harder things to do (for me at least), but it has culminated as one of the most significant learning tools. Keeping track of things that worked and things that didn’t has helped me understand various microclimates and other little details about soils and pests in this area. I highly recommend it.
Last but not least – have fun:)