Setting up my garden, first time.

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Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby snyder66 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:32 am

I would really like to start a real garden this year. We have dabbled with container gardening in the past, but I want to have an honest vegetable garden. Any advice on setting it up? I think I have a rough idea of where I want it. I just need some hints on soil amendment. Should I sow everything in the ground? Buy transplants? I will also need a fence. Any bit of advice will help. Thanks
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby runner9 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:40 am

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=113153&newpost=1649099

I don't know how helpful this will be to your specific questions, but here's a current thread on gardening.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby kitteh » Sun Mar 24, 2013 8:11 am

snyder66 wrote:I would really like to start a real garden this year. We have dabbled with container gardening in the past, but I want to have an honest vegetable garden. Any advice on setting it up? I think I have a rough idea of where I want it. I just need some hints on soil amendment. Should I sow everything in the ground? Buy transplants? I will also need a fence. Any bit of advice will help. Thanks


In theory, you should have the soil tested to see what needs to be corrected. I've never done that however in decades. But I have an area in my new yard where things struggle, so I am about to have that soil tested. Your local agricultural extension likely does it for a small fee, $10 or so. You bring or mail them samples collected in a prescribed manner.

Be sure you have enough sun for what you want to grow. In general, vegetables need a lot of sun, although I got good tomatoes for years with part of my vegetable garden in shade 2-3 hours a day.

I used to grow seedlings and set them out. This takes a lot of attention, however. In my lazy old age I buy seedlings. You can get nice ones on the net if your local garden places are not into interesting ones. If you want to start them, you don't need fancy stuff. A shop light will do and half milk cartons with a hole in the bottom so they drain. A sterile potting mix or seed starting mix is almost a necessity to avoid damp off.

Pay attention to what vegetables can grow in your zone and which can't. That should be info you can find on seed packages or on the web.

I don't pay much attention to pest control or disease control. If things can't survive by themselves, their days are numbered.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby Trev H » Sun Mar 24, 2013 8:35 am

Something that is very important to growing good, healthy veggies...

SUNSHINE !

A lot of first time garden attempts do not do so well simply because of site location. You need to locate your garden so that the "sun shine on it" time is maximized. Pick a spot where the sun hits it early, and stays late, where it will get full sun as long as possible.

Early sunshine helps to burn off the moisture that collects overnight, and that is important to help minimize fungal type diseases and long direct sunshine is important for healthy plants and good taste in the fruit & veggies.

So get out on your property early in the morning, mid day, and late evening and select the spot that gets the most direct sunshine for the longest period of time, and make your garden there.

SOIL !

Check the soil in that location and see how good it looks, how deep the top soil is, have a soil test done to check for base requirements, PH, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, etc...

A PH of (6.0-7.0) would be OK, with around 6.5 being ideal (just slightly acidic)... for most garden veggies...

It does not matter how rich your soil is (N, P, K, and other nutrient wise)... the plants will not be able to use that good stuff if the PH is not right. So make sure you get that adjusted up or down as needed.

Lime will raise the PH (and add calcium). My soil naturally runs a little too acidic (in the 5.5 - 5.8 range) and each year I put down a nice bed of straw around my plants for mulch, keeps the weeds down, and helps retain moisture. Then in the fall when I clean up my garden beds, I fluff up and burn that straw. The ash that is left is worked into the soil and that raises the PH. That is usually all that I need to get up into the 6.5 range.

Sulfur can be used to lower PH and also (organic matter - a few bales of peat moss for example or your own compost) will lower the PH. If your PH is only slightly high (say 7.0 - 7.5) then I would mostly add organic matter to lower it. If it is higher than that you may have to both work in organic matter, and use some sulfur.

SOIL DEPTH (RAISED BEDS)

We live on a ridge and the top soil layer is very shallow (only 3-4 inches of good stuff) and then you run into hard red rocky stuff below that. I used a tractor and disk and box blade when I prepaired my raised beds. I broke up a large area, and then raked the good top soil up into raised beds. I have 3 of those and the are about 6' wide by 40' long. The topsoil in those raised beds is a good 10-12" deep. Raised beds help with soil drainage and gives the plants plenty of room to go deep with roots into good soil. The raised beds also dry out a little sooner in the spring, so the soil is workable a little earlier than it would be otherwise.

COMPOST

Do it ! Make your own compost pile. This does not have to be complicated. Just pile up stuff and give it time and it will breakdown into black gold. A combination of dry stuff (like straw or maple leaves), and wet stuff, like veggie pealings, bananna pealings, apple pealings, any left over veggie scraps, or even some soil, green stuff like grass clippings... Just pile it up and let it break down. Turn it over now and then with a fork and it will turn into some great stuff to fertilize your garden with given a little time. Do not put any meat in the pile, only veggie material, but do put in Egg shells (good add for calcium).

Other good fertilizers that I use include, Bonemeal, Bloodmeal, Epson Salt, Gypsum.
Note on Gypsum - it loosens the soil (makes it much easier to work, and easier for plant roots to penetrate deep) and it also adds Calcium (and Gypsum will not affect your PH).
If your PH is low and you need to raise it, you can add Lime. Lime will raise the PH and add calcium.
If your PH is good, but you need to add Calcium, you can use Gypsum instead. Gypsum will add calcium and loosen soil, but does not affect PH.

So there you go... get started and get some good exercise, good food, and have some fun.

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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby pennstater2005 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:38 am

I had a co worker who did a square foot garden and she really seemed to like it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby likegarden » Sun Mar 24, 2013 10:11 am

I garden for many many years. The basic requirement is to have good soil, a lot of humus in it. You can buy bags of amendments, or you should have started last year to collect shreaded leaves, that is your own and neighbor's tree leaves and run over them with your lawnmower, and dig those into the soil. Vegetable gardening needs sun and water, as others stated well already. Please read also about Lasagna gardening for preparing garden beds.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby MP173 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:55 am

This will be our fourth year. We started with a 4 x 8 raised garden which we built and did the square foot gardening. It produced an incredible amount of food. Now, we have 2 - 12 x 12 plots at the community garden plus a 12 x 18 lot at the church garden in addition to the square foot garden.

The above mentions about soil is important, but to be honest with you the first year we shoveled the area, added bags of top soil and manure and things grew well. Each year I work the soil, not necessarily to a formula, but add available compost (community garden has a huge pile) and a bag or two of Dr. Earth (not sure why I add it...probably marketing). Each year I learn a little more.

Living in Indiana, we have a good agricultural school (Purdue) and they have online resources thru the extention service for gardening. See what resources are available in your state.

I have had good luck with growing seeds indoors. Right now we have peppers and tomatoes going. Might plant spinach later today if the spirit moves me. I have found that lettuce and spinach grows well broadcast into the garden...much better than the transplants. Had luck last year with peppers and cabbage seeds/transplants.

What do you like to eat? Plant those and find out about how they grow and what is needed. One great vegetable to grow are potatoes. Pretty easy as long as you mound the plants as they grow.

Dont over do it the first year. Start early with cold weather vegetables and if you enjoy that, then expand your garden as it warms up.

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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby Mudpuppy » Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:38 pm

If this is an area that does not get irrigated currently, make sure you test your water pH along with your soil pH. I added raised beds into a portion of the yard that had been never been irrigated by the prior owners, so the only water it had seen prior to me running the drip irrigation out there was rain water. The soil pH kept rising through the first season, and I tracked that down to the extremely hard and high pH water we have coming out of the tap here. Now I use gypsum instead of lime for adding calcium and I've worked peat moss down into the beds. We'll see what that does for pH control this year.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:07 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:If this is an area that does not get irrigated currently, make sure you test your water pH along with your soil pH. I added raised beds into a portion of the yard that had been never been irrigated by the prior owners, so the only water it had seen prior to me running the drip irrigation out there was rain water. The soil pH kept rising through the first season, and I tracked that down to the extremely hard and high pH water we have coming out of the tap here. Now I use gypsum instead of lime for adding calcium and I've worked peat moss down into the beds. We'll see what that does for pH control this year.


Peat moss will work well to drop the pH. Living in the Northeast, no problem with pH, coal burning plants around here helped us out, but with the new scrubbers not so much now. I use peat moss - my tomato's thank me for that and the gypsum (great for saying goodbye to black-rot).
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby EternalOptimist » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:51 am

Youtube has a lot of useful videos on household issues, here's one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83KP77CSasg
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby ddj » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:50 am

I set up my first garden last year: 4x8 ft raised bed, using square foot gardening principles as a guide. My neighbors are organic farmers and gave me some organic sheep manure ("What a pile of ...!) that I mixed with black dirt. I made a bunch of mistakes and had a bunch of successes. Zucchinis and summer squash overran one end of the garden. Watermelon didn't take. Tomatoes grew like wildfire. Oh, and rabbits almost destroyed the garden before it got going: my neighbor, I think wisely, advised me to put up a chicken wire fence to keep them out. I was late getting started so I bought transplants for the most part.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby MP173 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:34 am

ddj:
The important thing is you got your hands dirty the first year and learned from "mistakes". Gotta be careful with squash and other space eaters in a 4x8. Our first garden was a 4x8 and it has done quite well.

There is a great website for square foot gardening...My Square Foot Garden. Great suggestions in there as to what to grow and spacing. I have a tendancy to cram too much in the 4x8.

This year I am going to plant spinach, lettuce, peas, and arugula early then double back with peppers in June.

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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby jej » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:06 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:I had a co worker who did a square foot garden and she really seemed to like it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening


We started this last year. It is great. We have three raised beds, each one three feet around, about 8 inches deep. It is amazing how much more productive this is than our native clay soil, and how much less work it is to make it all happen once you have built the beds.

OTOH, a couple of moves ago, we lived in a neighborhood that used to be a commercial citrus grove. Anything that you planted and watered would grow in abundance. If you already have great soil and weather, maybe you don't need the square foot garden beds.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby ddj » Thu Mar 28, 2013 7:57 pm

Thanks Ed (MP173) for the wedsite suggestion and, yes, it's just good to get the hands dirty. I'm going to try for carrots, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini (relegated to one corner), and my girlfriend insists upon-and I'm happy to comply-on a sunflower or two. Also, I tened my first herb garden last year: froze basil and rosemary. I've been enjoying it throughout winter. Now, I'm waiting for snow to melt.
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Re: Setting up my garden, first time.

Postby MP173 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:40 am

It is truly amazing how much food can be grown from a small raised plot.

As mentioned this will be our fourth year of gardening. The first year my wife wanted to do this and we built the 4x8. I kidded her that we would spend $100 for a couple of salads. WRONG. We ate spinach and lettuce salads for nearly 2 months. Then the peppers kicked in later in the year...and tomatoes. It got my attention.

Carrots are fun to grow, as are the herbs. If you want, try a few containers also. I grew a head of cabbage in a container last year. I have been told you can grow potatoes also. There is a potato bag available at the local garden centers. The cost is $13 which is not a very product use of capital. Try a container and my guess is the pototoes will do fine.

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