I was mulling over a conversation I had the other day with a friend who wants to start gardening. I was showing her my seed-starting stuff and my specially mixed potting soil and she was very excited to get started. But after she left, I realized that I forgot the one piece of advice that every gardener tells someone who's just starting -
So here's my not-really-sage advice. Feel free to ignore it, but I'm pretty sure it has merit.
1) Make a SMALL plot.
Whether this is digging up your current soil or putting in a small raised bed, do it small. I promise you that the first year, you will have a TON of weeds (unless you buy weed-free soil from the greenhouse, but that's kinda pricey). You WILL regret digging up half your yard at one time, unless of course you love weeding so much that there's nothing else you'd rather do all summer. I, on the other hand, must also keep small boys from maiming each other while maintaining my garden, so I'm VERY glad I started with two raised beds and added more in subsequent years.
2) Make a SMALL grocery list.
Go into your first garden knowing that what you're going to plant is probably going to work out. For example, if you plant eggplant, celery, cauliflower, and peppers in your garden, you may have some success. But frankly, in central Alberta, you'll probably just get leaves and immature veggies. On the other hand, if you put in carrots, lettuce, zucchini, and a few tomato plants, you'll probably feel so happy at the end of the summer that you'll be dying to put in more garden space for next year! This will also help convince those skeptical spouses/children/neighbours. When they see that stuff is actually growing and that you really can eat it, they'll probably give you the green light. Heck, they'll probably give you next year's grocery list. :)
3) Buy transplants.
Yeah, I know it's more expensive. But seriously, if this is your first crack at gardening, it makes sense to avoid the sometimes-finicky seeding part. Let the pros do that and then reap from their labor by buying a nice big tomato plant. Take the year to learn how to feed and water your plants. Those things are rather important. And you'll feel AMAZING when your neighbour compliments you on your tomato crop. Next year, you can grow it from seed with the confidence that you actually know how to keep it alive in the summer.
If I've forgotten something, feel free to comment. But I hope that helps!