There are two main suggestions that I would give to any would be gardener who is starting out for the first time. Today, I'm going to focus on these two main points, with more to come later, because I believe every other suggestion I could give still hinges on these two.
One, grow what you know. If you already know you love fresh tomatoes, well then beyond all means, plant tomatoes. But if you don't like tomatoes but you do favor cucumbers, well then, devote the most space to the cucumber. Grow what you already know you like or love. At least starting out. If you are not excited about the prospect of a harvest, then you will always find something "better" to do with your time and thus, your garden will suffer. Trying new produce and vegetables is good and personally, we love it. But when first starting out keep experimentation to a minimum. Many a soul has become discouraged after they labored for weeks or even months, only to find out they don't even like to eat the fruits of their labors. Sadly, that can all too often cause one to never pick up a shovel or hoe again.
Which brings me to my second most important suggestion for a successful first year. Don't grow more than your willing to hoe. Perhaps no other action has killed more interest in gardening than that of planting too much, too soon. Never, I repeat never, be afraid to start small. In fact, I recommend it. Then work your way up in size, as your skills develop and as you acquire the wisdom of time saving methods that can only come with experience.
Last year we had several acres under plow but we sure didn't start out that way. It took years upon years. Not to mention the addition of equipment that makes such possible. But still, we enjoy it and for us it's a way of life. Personally, I love spending several hours a day with the sun on my back and a hoe in my hand. But I admit, many if not most, do not.
If you do not know how much time you want to invest in your new found love for all things green, then a kitchen garden may be just right for you. Especially that first year. And for those out there who might be unfamiliar with the term "kitchen garden," well that's simply a small plot, usually around the size of a kitchen table. Designed to add fresh treats to your dinner. Not to sustain a family thru a hard winter. That comes later. That is if you so desire.
Container gardening is great too for those just starting out or even the old pro who now finds his or herself with a shortage of good flat soil. Just about anything that can drain and will hold soil can be used as a container. Once, I even grew tomatoes in a 50 pound bag of topsoil. Didn't even take it out of the bag! But I will save that "trick" for a future post later this spring. But it can be done.
Starting out and taking that first plunge into the brave, new world that is growing your own food, can be both exciting and frustrating. It is our deepest hope that we can help reduce the latter and that your bounty will always overflow. After all, we might just drop in one day for dinner. John