A beginning gardener's first concerns are the most basic: how to prepare the soil, what vegetables to plant, determining how much water the garden needs. After a few successful growing seasons, gardeners begin to realize there are many other benefits to this activity besides having fresh and flavorful vegetables for your family's table. Growing vegetables can be a social experience for family members. Working in the soil can provide relief from the stress and pressures of daily life. And a healthy garden adds an extra dimension of beauty to a homeowner's overall landscape design.
Get the Kids Involved
Introducing kids to the joys of gardening early on can help them make vegetables a permanent part of their diet as they grow up. Carve out a section of your vegetable garden and designate it the "kids' area." You might even put up a divider such as a low wire fence so they know that garden space is theirs. Plant vegetables that grow quickly and easily such as radishes, so especially younger children get the positive reinforcement from a successful first harvest. Tasty vegetables such as cherry tomatoes they can pick right off the vine and eat are also good choices. After they eat freshly harvested peas--that they grew themselves--they will never complain when they see peas on their dinner plate again.
Make Cuisine Your Garden Theme
Professional chefs often have a garden near the back entrance to their restaurant, so they can quickly harvest the freshest vegetables and herbs for that day's menu. What they plant is based on the type of cuisine their restaurant serves. Do the same thing with your home garden. Plant garlic, basil, onions, eggplant and tomatoes for your Mediterranean-themed meals. Those who enjoy preparing spicy southwestern dishes could plant cilantro, onions, tomatoes and hot pepper varieties such as serranos and jalapenos. Having what you need right outside your kitchen can also save you time--you'll not have to make as many trips to the supermarket.
Pots and Planters in Small Garden Spaces
Particularly in urban areas, a homeowner's backyard might consist of nothing besides a small cement patio or deck area. There might not be anything resembling a planting bed available for the would-be vegetable gardener. Pots and planters can make effective mini-gardens, providing their soil depth is at least 12 inches--18 inches is even better. Portability is an advantage of this gardening method. You can move the pots in an out of the sun depending on the time of year and the preferences of the particular vegetable variety. Gardeners in small spaces take advantage of vertical space. They grow climbing vegetables such as pole beans rather than vegetables that spread out. Small herb gardens work really well in pots.
Create a Space to Relax
Why not take full advantage of the vegetable garden's beauty and spend some quiet, relaxing time amid the lush, green plants. Put a natural stone path through the garden and set aside a modest area in the center, perhaps 10 feet in diameter, to put a small table and chairs or even several lounge chairs. A newly watered garden can be a cool oasis on a hot summer evening, a great place to sit out and enjoy a glass of wine. You work hard to plant and care for your garden. Enjoy it from an aesthetic standpoint, not just for the fruit it gives you at harvest time.