Yarden How-To

Guest post by LaManda Joy*

To me, gardening is all about inspiration. My own home garden - The Yarden - was inspired by the time my parents and I spent in the garden when I was a child. The first thing I planted in The Yarden was rhubarb.Coincidentally this was also the first thing my parents planted when we moved to our new home in 1971. That old rhubarb plant is still producing years later and is the first indicator of spring on our hill in Oregon. If you think you might want to start your own Yarden, think about what you like to eat first. If you've never gardened before, you might try some simple and tasty things like beans, greens or cherry tomatoes. Maybe you've been a landscape gardener but never tried food, some of your existing skills will translate nicely into your Yarden and you might want to try some more advanced crops like heirloom melons or maybe ground cherries. In either case, a nice way to get started year one is with containers or one small raised bed. It is best to get the feel of food gardening before you commit a lot of time or financial resources to it - although I'm quite sure you'll love it and expand your Yarden year two.

  • Find a sunny spot (6-8 hours) that you walk by frequently (maybe by the back door or garage).
  • Make sure a water source is close.
  • If you're using containers, find a few large ones (36" or bigger) to accommodate your plants. If you're building a raised bed, start with something small like 4x8'. Make sure the bed is no wider than you can reach across from either side. view instructions>
  • Pick out the veggies you want to grow. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatillos should start from seedlings you buy. Most everything else can start from seed.
  • Put the tall things that need support (like tomatoes and pole beans) on the side of your bed that won't shade out your other veggies.
  • Follow seed package directions on spacing your plants. HINT: When you water, water the base of the plant–not the leaves! If you were thirsty you wouldn't pour a glass of water on your head–you'd pour it in your mouth. The plants "mouth" is at the base by the roots. This is very important.

Consider your first Yarden a learning experience, have fun with it! Enjoy the triumphs and the mistakes... my father gave me the best gardening advice years ago and I want to share it with you as you start your adventure "Take it easy, honey! Stuff wants to grow!" Those words have inspired me for decades... and I hope they inspire you too!


There's lots more to say about starting your first garden–these are just the highlights. To learn more, you can find instructions on my blog TheYarden.com, or follow me on Facebook. You can also join the Facebook page for The Peterson Garden Project where we provide lots of information for new gardeners.


*LaManda Joy is an award-winning Master Gardener, author of the popular urban gardening blog "The Yarden", a Square Foot Gardening Certified Instructor and founder of The Peterson Garden Project, a community and edible garden education program in Chicago, Illinois. LaManda is a featured individual in ourGrow Inspired Films Series, which celebrates folks whose generosity, hard work and connection with the outdoors inspires us every day.