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With spring just around the corner, you may find yourself getting the urge to start your own vegetable garden as magazines and newspapers are full of gardening stories. There are plenty of places to learn the step-by-step instructions on how to do this

Plan ahead. Whether you grow from seed or from transplants, things take time; you have to plant at the right time, in the right place, and with the right conditions. Pick the location that will work for what you want to grow. Is there enough sun? What about your soil and what else do you have in that area that might interfere or help you grow there? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, find out. Nothing frustrates and discourages beginning gardeners more than having things die unexpectedly. Use your enthusiasm to your advantage by taking the time to learn.

Which brings me to this: get educated, learn as much as you can, and never stop learning. When are your favorite vegetables in season? When do they need to be planted to be ready in this season? You can’t expect bushels of corn in July if you only planted them in June. Or, do you want to grow your own Halloween pumpkins? Then you need to plant those pumpkins months before October, usually no later than June 15. Not finding out the most basic things about what you are growing is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment.

Resist the urge to overdo. Start small. You don’t have to use the entire space you have available, or plant everything all at once. In your enthusiasm to start gardening, did you request a copy of every seed catalog you found online and then order way more than you’d ever eat? Or, did you make a trip to the local nursery and couldn’t resist all the great bargains they have for spring planting? Once you buy all those seeds or all those plants, then you have already committed yourself to planting them all. Even if you use succession planting, you may still feel overwhelmed. Instead, choose one small site in your garden, and pick one or two of your absolute favorite veggies and start with them.

Think of your garden as a test gardenExperiment. Test out your sun, soil and skills. That’s how you learn. If things didn’t grow as well as you expected, don’t think of it as a failure, or that you have no “green thumb.” Take the time to analyze what might have been missing, and what you could have done better. Take notes and keep track of what worked for you and what didn’t. I always say that there are no failures in gardening, just failure to prepare.

Have fun, enjoy what you are doing! If you make it a chore, or work, you will not want to keep gardening. Do not overdo or over buy; you run the risk of overwhelming yourself. Remember why you wanted to grow your own food in the first place. Aside from eating better, or saving money, part of the reason most of us garden is to play in the dirt. Never stop playing.

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