Starting a Garden or Orchard: Plant Selection

Starting a Garden or Orchard: Plant Selection

You’re almost ready to start gardening. You have designed a water system, assigned tasks, chosen a site, and mapped out a garden you can navigate. All that remains is to buy your seeds and plants.

Choosing Plants

What do you plan on growing? Fruits? Vegetables? Herbs? Flowers? A little of everything? Write it down on a list.

Now take a second look at your selection. Are the fruits and vegetables that you have listed things you eat frequently? If you don’t ordinarily go to the store and buy rutabagas just because you like the taste of rutabagas, you probably don’t need to plant them in any great quantities, either. You’ll have enough work to do in your garden without tending to plants you aren’t partial to.

This is not to say that you should never experiment—sometimes that is how you’ll find your favorite vegetables. But until you know it’s a keeper, don’t buy a lot of seeds, and only set aside a small place for it in the garden.

Choosing Varieties

Which varieties of each plant to try is a harder question. The answer will largely depend on what you are trying to accomplish:

  • If you want to save seeds, consider an heirloom variety.
  • If you will sell certified organic produce, organic seeds are a must.
  • If your goal is great taste, go with a best-selling favorite.

Also be sure to factor in which varieties are best suited for your climate, soil, and other growing conditions. This is obviously important with perennials, but it makes a surprisingly big difference with annual vegetables, as well. Heirlooms frequently thrive better than modern hybrids under suboptimal conditions, but every variety has its own preferences. In some cases, you might consider growing several varieties each year to ensure a bountiful harvest. For instance, the classic Beefsteak tomato likes hot, relatively dry weather, while the old Mortgage Lifter enjoys cooler, wetter conditions; in areas with a variable climate, you might try growing one of each.

Keep a notebook listing your favorite varieties. With time, you will discover what grows well in your garden and tastes great on your table.

So are you finally ready to get your hands dirty? Happy gardening!

Helpful Resources

Top 10 Plants for Beginning Kitchen Gardeners
Our own recommendations on what to grow your first year.

Recommended Vegetable Varieties
A list of suggestions from K-State.

The Family Garden Journal

The Family Garden Journal
This journal from Homestead on the Range contains reference pages with space for noting your favorite plant varieties. Free sample pages are available here.

Complete Series

Starting a Garden or Orchard

Starting a Garden or Orchard

By hsotr

Pulling from nearly 20 years of experience, Michelle Lindsey started Homestead on the Range to help Kansans and others around flyover country achieve an abundant country lifestyle. Michelle is the author of four country living books. She is also a serious student of history, specializing in Kansas, agriculture, and the American West. When not gardening or pursuing hobbies ranging from music to cooking to birdwatching, she can usually be found researching or writing about her many interests.