BY Lauren Olbeter

If you’ve thought about growing your own produce but haven’t gotten past the first steps toward making it happen, you may just need a few fresh thoughts on what a garden should look like in order to make it a reality.

It may be that an over ambitious, generic garden plan has been putting your kitchen garden just out of reach. If you think of creating a kitchen garden that is customized to your household rather than following traditional gardening protocol, you can reshape those vague ideas into practical plans that are right for you.

Think simple. Most likely, you aren’t going to transform your schedule or your entire outdoor space overnight.

A very simple plan, rather than a total overhaul, will leave you more time for focusing on growing well what you do plant and will make getting started a more pleasant experience.

Growing just a handful of vegetables and herbs together in one plot can make an attractive presentation while providing nutritious ingredients to your pantry.

Again, try to think of adding just a little at a time. Try to see your kitchen garden as a way to add a little more beauty to your home and a little more health to your diet.

Start with your top five favorite, fresh foods and try growing just those. Let your first growing season be mostly about having fun and experimenting.

Arm yourself with basic care instructions for each variety, but don’t spend too much time sifting through all the information available on specific varieties and planting methods.

There are thousands of great garden bloggers out there ready to share what they’ve learned.

While it is wonderful to have access to so much information, all those different suggestions and strategies can also cause indecision.

It is, perhaps, best to use a handful of trusted resources to begin with and then compare notes after a season or two.

Now throw out the image you may have in your mind of Mr. McGregor’s garden. A garden doesn’t have to be a huge rectangle with long rows.

Think of how to arrange your choices in one or two plots that are no more than three or four feet wide. Rather than a dozen tomato plants, start with three or four.

Consider grouping plants in bunches with a stepping place in between rather than stretched out rows.

Plan to create a frame of 1 x 6 or 8 inches untreated, pine board or use any border material you have.

This will hold out the grass and hold in what compost and garden soil you add. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate or costly raised bed structure.

Before you invest in something heavy and expensive you want to take at least one season to test out the location of your garden.

You may also find that you prefer a simple border rather than larger raised bed options.

Look for inspiration from garden plan sketches on the Better Homes and Gardens website found here: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plans/vegetable/raised-garden-bed-plans/#page=10 .

Remember, the garden plan you’re mostly likely to use is the best garden plan.

FACT SHEETS ON VEGETABLES ONLINE

For straightforward fact sheets about each vegetable, herb or fruit use this webpage:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/easy-gardening-series/.

You may also want to look here for recommendations about local varieties:

http://txmg.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/cameron/files/Vegetables-Spring.pdf,

Or use the variety selection tool at:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/veg_variety/select.php.