Consider Sun and Shade Requirements
In general, plants described as requiring “full sun” (most vegetable plants fall under this category) need at least six hours of exposure to direct sunlight daily. “Part sun” or “semi-shade” plants flourish where periods of direct sunlight alternate with periods of shade, or where the sunlight is filtered by an intermittent canopy of branches or a trellis overhead. “Full shade” describes a spot where direct sunlight never penetrates, due to shadows cast by dense evergreens or solid man-made structures, such as a high wall or porch roof.
Understand the Difference in Seeds
Open-Pollinated (OP): These plants come from a parent of the same variety and they can, in turn, produce offspring of the same variety. This is called “coming true from seed.” The seed from open-pollinated varieties can be collected from the plants you’ve grown and saved to grow again next year.
Heirloom Vegetables: Heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties that have been cultivated for at least 50 years. They are often more flavorful, colorful, and interesting than hybrids, but they may lack disease-resistance or require staking.
Hybrids: These plants are the result of cross-breeding to produce offspring with certain desirable traits, such as disease-resistance or uniform color or size. Their complicated genetics mean that the seed inside the fruit you grow one season will not produce a plant like its parent. Each year, you will have to buy new seeds of this variety if you want to grow it again.
Learn About Crop Timing
Vegetable crops fall into two categories:
Cool-Season Crops: Peas, lettuces, radishes, brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards), and spinach germinate and thrive in the lower temperatures of spring and fall and tolerate light frosts. Many cool-season crops can be direct-sown in the garden around before the last frost.
Warm-Season Crops: Tomatoes, eggplants, summer and winter squash, beans, and corn prefer summer’s heat. Plant these only after the soil has warmed. Many warm-season crops require a long growing season and should be started indoors in late winter or early spring or purchased as seedlings ready to be transplanted.
Consider Easy-to-Grow Varieties
If you are beginner gardener, learn about some heartier vegetable varieties for a successful harvest.
Estimate Mature Size
Before installing any plant in your garden, check the size it will reach at maturity, and make sure the planting spot can accommodate that. You can maximize your growing space by choosing some vertical plants like tomatoes.
Map Out Your Plants
Sketch out your plan on paper. Use graph paper and draw to scale, keeping in mind the mature size and habit of each kind of plant. Site larger plants like corn and tomatoes where they won’t cast shade over shorter plants. Choose compact varieties if you have limited space. Start small: You can always dig more beds or enlarge existing ones in subsequent years. Check out Urban Garden Solutions for a handy Garden Planner.