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Rural Living: Growing Basics for the Novice Gardener

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Compeer Financial
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Home > Education & Events > January 2020 > Rural Living: Growing Basics for the Novice Gardener
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Maybe you've just purchased your dream rural property or maybe you've been living the country lifestyle for a while. Either way, as snow begins to blanket your landscape, it's a great time to brew a cup of tea, light a fire in the fireplace and start planning for planting season. Yes, planting!

Just because you're not a full-time farmer, it doesn't mean you can't get in on the action come spring. Why not plant a produce garden for your family? Even for a novice gardener, it's easy, it's satisfying to work the land, and it's a great way to get more vegetables onto your dinner table. If you've never tasted veggies that have just been picked from the garden — in today's fast-paced world, few people have — you've got a treat in store for you. Even your kids will eat them!

Here are some gardening basics to get you started:

Decide on location
Hint: it's all about the sun. If you have an expansive property, it might be a little tricky to decide where to plant your vegetable garden. A couple of guidelines to follow: Plant in a sunny location. Your veggies will need to soak up at least six hours of direct sunlight every day, so no shady spots behind the barn, please. Also, choose a spot that you know won't be prone to flooding or high winds, and has good soil.

Size of the garden
You might be tempted to go big right out of the gate, but trust us, start small. For a planting newbie, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it all. You want your garden to be small enough to easily manage, but large enough to feed your family for the summer.

The sweet spot in that equation is to plan on 100 square feet for each person in your family. Family of four? 400 to 500 square feet. That's about 20 x 20. You'll be able to manage it without feeling overwhelmed, have plenty of fresh, delicious veggies for your dinner table all summer long, and have enough to can or freeze, too.

How to decide what to plant
Now that you've got the planting bug, it's time to decide what to put into your garden. Some of it is based on personal preference (hate beets? Leave them out!), but a great place to start is with your state's cooperative extension service. Partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they're the experts on what grows best in your corner of the world. They can tell you the best time to plant, too, and have tactics for repelling pests.

Common suggestions for beginner gardeners include
 
- tomatoes,
 
- zucchini,
 
- lettuce,
 
- beans,
 
- cabbage,
 
- carrots,
 
- radishes,
 
- spinach,
 
- onions and
 
- cukes.
 
You can also add herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary and whatever else your family favors.

Pro tip: Plant marigolds in your veggie garden to repel pests.

Seeds
Use the best seeds you can find (your salad will only be as good as the seeds) and whatever you do, don't toss those packets! The packet your seeds come in is a treasure trove of information. It will not only tell you the name of what's inside, but also what it should look like, the best growing conditions, the best time to plant, how far to space your seeds, how deep to plant your seeds, how much sun and water they need, and when you can expect to harvest.

Planning on canning?
When your garden is growing, take some time to plan for the end of the season. If you’ve never canned vegetables before, it can be intimidating because, if done improperly, deadly bacteria can grow. Your grandmother may have used boiling water to can foods, but today, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends using a pressure canner as the only safe method. The good news? It’s not difficult to learn.

Having the space for planting a produce garden for your family is a great benefit of rural living. A little planning now will ensure that you’re ready to work that soil when spring comes.

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