MJR Landscape Logo

A Primer on Gardening: Selecting Plants

If you’ve been following along on our series about starting your first garden, you have have already done quite a bit of the heavy lifting necessary for a successful garden. Unless, of course, you’re just reading the series to pass the time, maybe on your lunch break at work. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.

With our gardens ready to plant, it’s time for one of the more enjoyable parts of gardening: figuring out what you’re going to grow. Of course, just like anything else, you don’t want to just grab a bunch of random seeds and starters and cram them into the ground. Unless you want a big mess, of course.
What To Consider When Selecting Plants
There are a couple of major factors to keep in mind when you’re figuring out what kind of vegetables you want to plant:

how much space the mature plant will need, whether the plant needs to climb or requires support, and how much sunlight it requires.

These seems like fairly common sense ideas, and they are, but they’re also very easy to overlook when you’re buying a bunch of seeds or tiny starters. First time gardeners often buy way more than they need and their garden can support.

The interesting thing about plants is that they grow. Shocking, I know, but stick with me here. Some plants stay relatively small, while others balloon out, taking up a ton of garden real estate. Zucchini, for instance, will take up a substantial amount of space once it matures, and can easily choke out other plants. Plan according.

In addition to spreading out and taking up more space on the ground, many plants will grow vertically, or climb. This has both benefits and drawbacks. The big plus is that vertical plants take up quite a bit less ground space, but the trade-off is that they can actually shade other plants in your garden, robbing them of the sunlight they need to thrive. If you have plants that need less sun, or those that thrive with partial shade, put them close to your vertical plants.

Many vertical plants also need some sort of support, which you’re going to want to have ready since they can be hard to find further into the season.
Make a Plan
Now it’s time to make like an amateur bank robber, break out the graphing paper and pencils, and make a foolproof plan (please don’t rob any actual banks).

Draw out your garden on the graph paper, making it as close to scale as possible. Now start filling in plants as they will be once they’ve grown in. You will want to do a bit of Googling to find out approximately how big everything gets when it fully matures. Don’t be surprised when you end up with a lot fewer plants than you imagined in your head. You’ll also want to align your vertical plants to minimize the shade they produce.

Finally, identify any climbing plants, and make notes in the margins of any support you will need to purchase or build.

Now it’s time to get dirty. Don’t get too excited, I’m talking literally dirty, in the dirt. This isn’t that kind of blog.