The Five S’s of Starting an Edible Garden

basket of vegetables and herbs from a home garden
Wouldn’t it be nice to gather vegetables and herbs from your home garden? You can and it won’t be as hard as you might think. Source: Pixaby

I was fortunate to grow up in a rural area of Southern California where fruit trees, berry vines, and vegetable gardens were a common sight. I have lots of happy memories about sweet corn ripening on the stalk and strawberries peeking out from their bed of leaves. While toddling between rows of carrots and beans, I learned the rudiments of gardening from watching my parents and family friends.

Alas, not everyone has enjoyed this early training. For them, gardening can be a puzzling and sometimes frustrating activity. Lately the fun of growing edibles in small spaces has become trendy, something I can heartily support. Maybe this is the year you grow your own fresh foods. To help smooth out the bumps in your edible garden adventures, here are five basic rules to remember.

  • Size – Start small. Don’t feel obligated to create a big garden like you might have seen in your grandparent’s day. Pick two or three easy items like bush beans and basil and plant them. If this is your first time gardening, use containers. Add quality potting soil, plunk in the plants, and you’re ready to go.
sweet basil growing in a container on the patio table
Even if all you have is basil in a container on the patio, it’s a start in the right direction. Source: Pixaby
  • Selection – Grow what you like to eat, not what you think you should eat. I hate beets so you’ll never see them in my garden. Try growing some of the herbs and vegetables you often reach for in the produce section of your grocer. If you don’t know where to start, try easy-care bush beans, radishes, carrots, oregano, and basil.
  • Sun – The light of the sun is pure energy for plant growth. Find a place where your vegetables and herbs can get 4 to 6 hours of direct sun daily. When planting, be aware of the shifting shadows created by trees and buildings. Edibles are best planted on the south and east sides of building for best sun exposure.
scoop of potting soil for growing vegetables
When buying potting soil, get a quality mix that is lightweight. Bonus points for soils with water-retaining crystals. Source: Pixaby
  • Soil – Many of us have clay or rocky soil. Create more fertile soil for vegetable and herb growing by adding organic material to your garden beds or pots as you plant. Remember also that most edibles want good drainage so find a spot where it isn’t soggy when heavy rains come.
  • Site – Select a site with easy access to your home so you can visit it frequently to weed, water, harvest, and enjoy your garden as it changes through the season. Make sure there is water within easy reach and watch your edibles grow.

That’s all you need to know to get started growing your own fresh foods. Keep the size manageable, select what you like, plant in a spot with plenty of sun, make the soil more productive with organic material, and find a site where you can enjoy your plants. So get out there this weekend and garden like a rock star.

Ann McCormick, Southwest Gardening contributor

If you enjoy herbs and organic gardening, you’ll want to meet Ann McCormick, the Herb ‘n Cowgirl. A life-long gardener, she has devoted her time for the last 20 years to writing and speaking about her favorite subject. Ann is a feature writer for The Dallas Morning News.The Herb ‘n Cowgirl also shares her love of herbs and her gardening techniques as a speaker and media guest. She lives in Fort Worth, TX with her husband of 35 years and an assortment of dogs. To find out more about the Herb ‘n Cowgirl visit her at

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