Veggie Gardening the Smart Way

By George Graine, Fairfax Master Gardener
Life already has so many boundaries and pressures — why add more in the garden.
—Felder Rushing
Smart Garden Planner Book CoverIf you are prone to steer clear of vegetable gardening, there is a helpful solution available in a self-published book this year by Megan Cain, The Smart Garden Planner. Unabashedly, she rightfully claims that “your garden dreams can come true…you just have to plan for them.” Smart Start Garden Planner: Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Season will show you the way. Some vegetable books tend to scare folks because they make it sound so difficult with all of those rules and do’s and don’ts. It does not have to be that way and with Cain’s guidance she will remedy your concerns. Reading her book should make you feel confident about your garden and at the same time be able to skip over some common beginner mistakes. Her book is in large type with beautiful colorful photos and helpful charts, all designed to take away any fear you may have had about planting your own vegetable garden.

The author defines a smart garden as “…a beautiful garden that yields lots of food for the least amount of time and money invested.” By way of contrast, The $64 Tomato, a book by William Alexander noted how one man nearly lost his sanity, spent a fortune, and endured an existential crisis in the quest for the perfect garden. Actually the Alexander book is full of guffaws and at the same time provides some gardening insight. It is a great read! Cain’s book teaches you how to go about creating a smart garden by you as the gardener and be able to transform yourself into a smart gardener. That is what her book is all about.

Think of gardening as a process and how much effort you are willing to devote to making your gardening dream become a reality. In this regard, throughout the book the author has scripted diary-like questions that will help to organize your thoughts. These she refers to as garden reflections. After that exercise, you need to consider your own vegetable wish list for this year. To a large extent, you should bone up on the growing characteristics of whatever vegetable or herb you want to plant. This includes many of the environmental considerations such as sun, shade, soil type, spacing, etc. regardless of what you plant. Some of the unique aspects of vegetable gardening include the season for planting and harvest value. (Do you want a reputation as the neighborhood zucchini person?)

You should also consider a vegetable garden in terms of nutrient value and as an investment of time and money. No doubt, each gardener will have a different set of priorities. Putting thi