About Soil

soil, gardening, raised beds
My neighbor Ellie Fisher and her boys with a load of soil.

Question: Hi Lisa!   We have a small garden area, maybe 4'x6’, where I can plant vegetables.   I do not have a green thumb so haven't had a lot of luck over the years, but want to give it a go again this year.  What do you recommend for getting the soil ready to plant? What should we add to it and should we test it in some way first?   Thank you :-)


Answer: Hi Ellen! Where to begin? There are a range of approaches to getting the soil ready for a new garden, from not doing much at all to testing the soil you have and amending it if necessary. You can also bring in new soil.

The New Gardener: What to Plant and Where to Get Seeds

Bounty from the Plageman garden

Recently I read the following query on a Facebook group for gardeners in my town (Milton, MA): “Hi. I’m a new gardener. My husband made me a raised bed. What are some good vegetables to start with? And any recommendations on where to get seeds?”

What a great topic for this blog, especially as the gardening season is about to begin.

In my opinion, must-haves for the new gardener with a relatively small plot include lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The first three are quite easy to grow from seed planted directly into the garden. Where to get that seed? I love Ocean State Job Lot, which carries seeds from Burpee’s at a 40 percent discount. You can also often find seeds at your local supermarket. 

And, NEW THIS YEAR for gardeners in Milton, MA (where I live): the Milton Public Library has started a Seed Library through its Milton Grows program! Residents can "check out" up to three packets of seeds. Folks are also encouraged to donate seeds, although it's not necessary. (The cilantro, kale, and a few tomato varieties are all from my garden.) If you're not a Miltonite, check YOUR library's home page. They may well have a Seed Library too. They're becoming ever more popular.

More unusual varieties of a given plant—“Cimarron Romaine” lettuce, for example—can be ordered online. A few of my favorite sources include Rare Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds.

You can also find helpful information on these seed sites. For example, Pinetree includes a section called “Easy to Grow Varieties.”