If you can, choose a garden location that's visible from your kitchen window and is close to a water source, so you’re reminded to harvest, water, and care for your garden often. Consider zoning laws, HOA restrictions, and previous (possibly) toxic uses of your property and its soil. Discuss options with your landlord if you’re in a rental.
Observation is an important step before breaking ground and will ensure greater success down the line. Spend some time watching how the sun and shade move across your property during different times of day, keeping in mind that many plants need at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day. Notice areas that are breezy or protected, knowing that most plants don’t enjoy being pushed around by the wind. Go out after a heavy rain to see if the water is diverted from some areas or pooling in others, because many veggies are thirsty but can suffer without good drainage. Observe critters—including those that want to eat your garden, like deer—and garden helpers like bees.
If you don’t have a lot of space, get creative with what you have, and look for places to plant along fence lines, between sidewalks and curbs, and open areas in your neighborhood. You might plant food amongst your existing ornamental landscaping. Want to convert a lawn? Check out this technique.
Dealing with lots of shade? Some plants prefer shade (read your seed packets!), but you’ll likely struggle to grow fruits and vegetables if your yard get less than two hours of sun during the day. Similarly, if you face limitations due to toxic soils, stubborn landlords, or just a lack of open space, consider growing in containers outdoors or even indoors. Community gardens, local farms, and helping friends and neighbors in their gardens are also good options if you don’t have land to grow on.
Read the beginner gardener toolkit for more about choosing a location for your garden.