When I was a kid, my grandparents' house was my favorite place in the world. No. That's not quite true. My grandparents' yard was my favorite place in the world. My grandma is a Master Gardener and has the most gorgeous landscaping I've ever seen. My grandpa's specialty was the vegetable garden. All around the yard were blueberry bushes, strawberry plants, grapevines, and fruit trees. We kids would wander around the yard and just graze. Fresh, delicious food, as much as we wanted, whenever we wanted it. Beats candy hands down, every time.
I wanted to grow things myself, but never was able to do it. Seriously, I tried to grow dandelions once and failed. Of course I had no idea what I was doing. My mom doesn't garden, and our yard was not a good place for gardening. But I did enjoy helping my grandma do soil testing or helping my grandpa pick cherries.
Growing my own food is the part that really appeals to me. I don't care particularly for flowers. Those I do like are generally wildflowers; I don't think I could make a landscape I liked as well as a natural one. But food, now -- I have always wanted to put seeds in the ground and have something come up that I can eat. I guess it's a natural extension of my desire to cook from scratch. What's more "from scratch" than digging around in the dirt?
As we go forward toward buying a house (things continue to look promising!), I'm getting closer to my dream. The house has a mid-size yard, mostly shady, but with some sunny areas on the south and east sides where I could garden. Enough for me to grow a few of my key favorites.
The soil around here is heavy and full of clay. I'm going to have to do a lot of cultivation to make it fertile. My plan is to build raised beds and fertilize them with compost. I've been studying a TON about it (from Composting 101 on a gardening-advice blog to the nitrogen cycle on Wikipedia) but I still have no practical expertise aside from growing basil on my porch. Here is my chance to get my feet wet.
Here's what I want to grow. For the first summer (I won't have time to get a spring crop in), I want to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers. In the fall, I'll add garlic and perhaps lettuce and spinach (I hear you can grow these in the fall?). And next spring, I'll do all those things and also some herbs. I'd like to do root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beets, but I hear they don't grow well in heavy soil. Perhaps once I've enriched the soil for a few years, I might be able to add those.
I'm really, really excited, but still not very knowledgeable. Do any of you have any good advice for me, or any links that might be helpful?