Winter is the time to plan and prepare our beds for future harvests.  For me, this year is special as it’s the first year in a looong time that I will have my own land to till.  A yard I can do what I want with.  Where neighbors using Roundup won’t kill the pepper plants just lovingly set in earth 2 weeks prior (yea….).  It is essentially my first year planting.   It is all so very overwhelming!

I completely understand, and accept, that my first year will be a learning year.  I will be amazed if something grows where I initially put it, and will learn the regions of our land in terms of water and sun.

Most are telling me to start with veggies.   Fortunately for me (unfortunately?)  I am on the board of our local CSA, and given the nature of the program, am paid in local, organically grown veggies for my time.  I am striving to incorporate more greenery (as well as reds and purples) into my families diet, but right now the CSA fulfills those needs.  I would like more lettuce though, but holy wow are there a TON of variety, do you really just pick a few and try them out?  I would also LOVE to grow fruits!

So then what to plant?  I’m not looking for flowers (dare I say worthless annuals?), and more utilitarian.   I want (need) to start small so I can carve out time to tend the garden and not be overwhelmed.  There are a few herbs on my hit list that I already have seeds for, but again, I don’t want to start too big.  A few weekends ago I went to a local seed swap and was completely AMAZED!   I was able to pick up a couple of packets of seeds saved from local gardens!!

My current hit list (I have seeds for most of these):

  • Echinecea purpurea
  • Hawthorn
  • Lemon Balm
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Mullein
  • Rosemary (I believe transplanting my HUGE plant during winter killed it :’-()
  • Cucumber (for pickling!)
  • Tomatillo (purple & yellow)
  • Pepper-Zulu (it’s purple, and we freeze peppers to use throughout winter)


I also have some seeds to experiment with/play with:

  • louffa gourd
  • peanut
  • oregano
  • lettuce
  • Paw Paw (I’m in Zone 7)
  • bee balm

I’m in Zone 7, just south of DC in a mostly wooded lot in the back, with mostly sun in the front yard.  I’m hoping to do landscape gardening (plant inside designated circles at the base of trees).  I have money set aside for soil improvements, and have several sources for fresh manure.

So where should I start?  I haven’t researched growing cycles (what to grow when, and when to start the seed x days prior), companion planting, crop rotation……these I’m learning this year.

What are your “go-to’s”, your newbie plants that “anyone” can get to grow?  I have had success with seedlings and pots in the past, the ground is a whole new world.

I would love to hear your suggestions!

~Pati D.

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