So you want to grow garden fresh vegetables to make your favorite Mexican dishes. Where do you start? Simply looking at seed packets in catalogs or local nurseries will not get the job done. One must garden smartly if economical production and utilization are expected.

First, determine where to put the garden. If you are an "ole timer," you may need to think in terms of garden relocation. The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. "Full" sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure. If such exposure is not received by crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash (vegetables that contain seed), the plants grow spindly, they have weak stems, drop blooms and are generally nonproductive.

Some gardeners believe shading is beneficial, but remember that commercial vegetable producers never shade crops. Crops such as lettuce, onions and garlic tolerate shady conditions, but even those produce better in full sun. Use shade-tolerant crops for planting between larger growing vegetables such as tomatoes. During the early establishment period of a crop such as tomatoes, leave several feet of vacant space between transplants in which short, fast-maturing, shade-tolerant vegetables can be produced.

Do not locate the garden within 6 feet of hedges, shrubs or trees. Not only do these larger, more permanent plants compete for light, but they also gobble up nutrients and water necessary for healthy vegetables.

Another consideration in garden location is availability of water. Mother Nature does not always provide rain when needed. At least 1 inch of rain or supplemental watering is required per week.