One of the first questions the person who wants to start a vegetable garden asks is How big a garden should I create. It depends on many factors, but from our observations, we can tell that:
For most people, the beginner’s garden size should be 25 square feet (2.3 square meters). It’s better to start a smaller garden that you will have time to maintain. You can always increase the size of your garden in the next year.
However large you ultimately want your garden to be, use small and slow solutions to get to your goal. Over time, you can grow your garden successfully and produce plenty of food for yourself and your family – no matter where you live.
Consider Your Environment, Resources, and the Space Available
Deciding how large a beginner garden should be should always begin with an analysis of the situation. You should think about:
- How much time you have available
- Your gardening skill level
- The climate zone and conditions in your area.
- Which growing method or methods to employ.
- Your budget for the project (and the resources and materials already available to you for starting your garden).
- The space available and the restrictions of the site.
Consider How Much Time You Have Available
One crucial factor in deciding how large a beginner garden should be is how much time you have. Think carefully about how much time you have to devote to your new garden before taking the plunge.
If you work full time, homesteading or small-scale farming will likely be challenging. It can be difficult to maintain a large garden if you have a lot on your plate though it is not impossible.
Different people have different capabilities and energy levels. But it is important to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
Container gardening on a small scale may seem like the easiest option. But sometimes, paradoxically, a somewhat larger garden can be less time-consuming to maintain.
Take the time, for example, to create a forest garden, and once established, it will require less effort and time to maintain. Plants in pots need more watering. And choosing perennial plants rather than annual crops will let you reap more rewards and gain higher yields with less time expended on your part.
Consider Your Gardening Skill Level
Another crucial factor in deciding how large your beginner garden should be is your own skill and experience. Even if you have not grown your own food before, you may have a green thumb already. You may already be familiar with plants and their needs. If so, it is likely that you will be able to manage a larger garden.
If, on the other hand, you have not yet had the chance to learn much at all about gardening and food production, it is important to start smaller – and give yourself time to hone skills on the job. No matter your skill and experience level, you can succeed. But you have to accept that you will sometimes fail, and when you do, you have to try, try again.
Where you live in the world will have a bearing on how easy it will be to start a garden. Creating a large edible garden outdoors is much easier if you live in a mild climate. If you live in a very cold environment or an arid desert, food production will often be much more challenging. So your climate zone will have a bearing on how easy it will be to get started and potentially on how ambitious you can be.
If you have access to a fertile, rich area of soil, starting a garden can be much easier. But if the soil is poor, damaged, or degraded, you may have to start off in a smaller way.
In addition to thinking about the environmental conditions where you live, it is also important to consider which methods to employ. The conditions will often help you to determine which method or methods is/are right for where you live. And the type of garden you choose to create will play a role in determining how large or small your garden should be.
Some growing methods that you might like to consider are:
- Container growing. (Indoors or outside. Remember, you can start a small windowsill garden even if you don’t have any outside space at all.)
- Hydroponics/ aquaponics. (Growing food in water rather than soil, and perhaps raising fish as well as plants, can be an interesting option – especially when less space is available and in arid areas.)
- Creating polyculture annual planters raised beds or in-ground growing areas. (Creating diverse planting schemes, growing multiple plant types in the same growing areas, is a great way to make the most of your space.)
- Forest gardening. (A forest garden is a food-producing system that mimics a natural woodland or forest. It has fruit or nut-bearing trees and other trees, with multiple layers below them. All the plants and other elements in a forest garden work together for the benefit of the whole. A beginner forest garden will be larger than other beginner gardens – but once established, it can take much less work to maintain.)
Wherever you live, and whichever methods you choose to employ, deciding how large your beginner garden should also involve thinking about resources.
What do you have to help you start your project?
Starting a garden does not need to cost the earth. Often, you can get started with minimal financial outlay. But there will likely be some things that you will need to buy. So it is important to think about how much seed money you have when deciding on the scale of the project.
But in addition to thinking about the financial budget, you should also think about other resources already available to help you start your garden.
Before you begin to create any garden, it is a good idea to think about the basics – water and how to maintain fertility over time. Can you set up a rainwater harvesting system? How much water is available?
Composting at home is also crucial. Do you already have a composting system in place? If not, starting one and determining how much compost you can create can help you decide how large a garden should initially be.
Remember, you can also use other natural resources to start your garden. Think about what your existing garden or surrounding area can already provide. You may find materials for building structures or bed edging and organic material to build beds, mulch, and make your own organic fertilizers for your new garden.
Reclaimed materials and household rubbish can also help you start your garden. Think about how you can use ‘waste’ materials in and around your property to get started.
Of course, how large your beginner garden can be will be restricted by the space available. If you only have space indoors, you will likely have to start small – with a few containers on a sunny windowsill.
If you have a garden, you will have more options. You don’t have to create a full kitchen garden right away. But you have more choices about how much space your new garden takes up.
Think not only about horizontal space but vertical space too. Vertical gardening can increase the size of the garden that is possible on your property and how much food you could potentially grow.
Consult Your Own Feelings Regarding How Ambitious You Would Like To Be
Your own personality will also be a factor to consider. Some people are ambitious and like to grab the bull by its horns. While others are far more circumspect and timid. It is important to think about how you feel and look within yourself for the answer to your question.
Are you a risk-taker? Then go for it! Be ambitious when creating your beginner garden. Set out a full kitchen garden design to meet your household needs and begin to build it a step at a time.
Risk-averse and wary? Take things slowly. Accept your personality and go for a trial run. Start with a container or two, a small raised bed, or a fruit tree and guild planting. Every individual is different, and every beginner garden is different too.
Use Small And Slow Solutions
One crucial thing to remember, whether you are going big or starting small, is that Rome was not built in a day. No matter what form your beginner garden takes, remember, building a successful food-producing garden takes time.
Take things a step at a time, and value small and slow solutions, no matter how large your garden will ultimately be.