I’m brand spankin’ new to this „hobby/business”, and am solicing advice on good start-up projects. I’m very interested in starting out with a small vegetable garden. (In the Humboldt County area- Northern CA) We have 5 acres of previously un-gardened/tilled land. I’ve often thought that perhaps we should look into some semi-dwarf apple trees for possible future marketing, as well. Can anyone suggest good „starting” projects for the non-green thumb? We especially enjoy fresh tomatoes, carrots and spinach, but have no experience growing. Is there a best „first crop” that we should try? Pointers, thoughts, ideas?

From what I have heard, it is generally best to start fruit trees ASAP after moving to a new place, as it often takes a while for them to bear fruit. But, in terms of veggie gardening, I have been surprised at how easy lettuces are to grow, and they are wonderful for fresh salads (I can’t tell you the last time I bought iceberg lettuce from the store!). We started with a seed mix called Mesclun, and it has a wonderful variety of leafies! Potatoes are fun to grow, but we lost our crop this year to bugs (and no time to be in the garden due to family medical crises throughout the summer). I personally love fresh peas, and have little trouble getting them to grow, although sometimes the amount of yield seems disappointing for the amount of time it takes to shell the little buggers! But, to me, there is nothing like having fresh peas from the garden, or from the freezer in the middle of winter.

It is just as well that you have not bought Ice Berg lettuce from the store! It has so little(practically none) nutrients compared to darker leaf varieties!

Regarding your question of what to grow, there is a saying that goes, „Grow what you eat and then eat what you grow”. The „you” should take into consideration your family’s eating habits. I would plant; tomatoes (I like the paste type – 100 plants is what I usually grow and it’s never enough) for salsa, for drying (main ingredient in tomato pesto), cooked down and canned to use in so many recipees, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, peppers (especially jalapenos for your salsa), melons (grow them on black weed cloth for extra heat), etc. get a good seed catalogue and experiment. I usually look for non-hybrid, open pollinating seeds so I can keep my own seed for next year or two years planting (carrots, etc. take two years to produce seed) lots of fruit and nut trees, the M-111 root stock for your apples – they can tolerate your dry summers and grow 75%. Start looking for some good fertilizers like animal manure, etc. now to build up the organic matter and NPK in your soil.

The most useable advice for you should come locally. Have you looked up your county extension service? Although they’re not likely to have an organic slant, they will be able to tell you what should be easy to grow in your area. Quite frankly, I would suspect that most everything grows there. Isn’t your area Luther Burbank country? My best advice would be to grow what you love to eat, especially if it’s relatively expensive in the stores. Have your soil tested. Take a pile of books out of the library (Gardening books, of course ) Make a SMALL garden the first year. Have fun. Experiment. Learn. There’s no crime in having a crop failure. Gardening is nothing like skydiving. It’s one hobby where you’re free to make mistakes.