Beginning gardeners should choose easy-to-grow crops for the area in which they live to start. More items can be added to the garden in subsequent years. This allows the homesteader to get used to preparing the foods straight from the garden, as well as provide them the opportunity to learn to preserve the food that they grow without feeling overwhelmed.
Most homesteaders prefer to grow their food in organic soil. They may also need to build up their soil to make it more healthy. Composting is a great way to do this, even if it means purchasing the compost the first year.
Build compost piles and begin adding everything possible to it, from organic table scraps to leaves. Make sure that the soil in the pile is stays moist, not too wet or dry. Mix the soil often for it to work.
Homesteaders enjoy using heirloom seeds that are organic and open-pollinated. These are old-fashioned varieties of seed that have exceptional taste. Another reason to use these types of seeds is so that the gardener can practice the art of seed saving. These seeds can then be used to plant the next years' garden. The Seed Savers Exchange is a source that helps its members share heirloom seeds.
What to Grow
Easy vegetables, fruits and herbs can be grown in the garden the first year. Good vegetable choices, depending on where you live, may be peas and beans, tomatoes and zucchini. Cucumbers and salad greens are good choices as well.
Pumpkins may also be easy to grow. Try a variety of sizes: a few for carving and others for baking. Berries can be grown as well, to make pies and preserves with.
Some easy to grow herbs to start with would be parsley, thyme and chives.
The garden should be kept weeded weekly, so that the weeds do not overtake the garden and steal the nutrients from the soil. Keeping the garden watered is also important. The soil should be moist, but not too wet.
To add extra growing space to a smaller garden, add trellises and grow vining varieties of some of the produce.
It may be necessary to erect a fence around the garden is animals are a problem. Research the animal to see what type and height of fencing will work best.
Harvest and Preserve
It is important to know how the produce from the garden will be preserved before harvesting. Determine if the food will be canned, frozen or dried. Learn the steps necessary to accomplish these tasks and you will be ready for the harvest.
Most likely, all of the foods planted will not need harvesting at the same time. Figure out when it may be time to harvest, and be prepared.