Extreme Novice Questions,please Help?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by BASIC, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. BASIC

    BASIC Well-Known Member

    Jul 20, 2002
    Hi,I've never had a garden before and I need help,please.We live in extreme northwestern NJ,zone 5,on about 2 acres,on a bit of a slope.We have alot of deer,groundhogs,rabbit,crows,etc.Whats best,row,raised beds or square foot?Organic or not?Is it to late to start this year?How big a garden?Any books you can suggest?What do we do?Thankyou for any help you may give us,BASIC.
  2. wormlady

    wormlady Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 8, 2004
    We live in Northern WI with lots of deer. We never had much gardening success until we fenced in the area with an 8 foot fence. So that is the first thing I would advise.

    We have some square foot, some row and some raised. They each fit specific characteristics of our site.

    Definitely advise organic.

    We raise worms and add the worm castings to enrich the garden soil.

    It is not too late to start. I haven't planted anything yet here, too early, altho' I
    will probably do lettuce and peas this week.

    Read anything you can from the library on gardening. All Old Countryside magazines and some Organic Gardening are good.

    I would start small and learn as you grow (and go).
    Read all the back posts here.
    Lots of info on the 'net too!

    Enjoy your new hobby!
    Post questions here, folks are very helpful.

    Plant what you eat, eat what you plant.

  3. Manny

    Manny Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2003
    For a novice I would recommend the "Square Foot" method. It's surprising how much you can grow in a small, easy to maintain space and since the growing areas are small, 4'x4', it is easier to build fences or cages to protect the veggies. This method will make it easier to get the correct spacing for your veggies, is easier to weed, uses less water and allows you to improve your soil one square foot at a time. Unless you have extremely cool summers or huge amounts of rainfall or if you have really poor draining soil I don't think that raised beds are worth the expense to build or the labor to maintain and, oddly enough, they take a lot of water. Here in Oklahoma, where the summers are hot and sometimes not enough rain, I grow my row crops in a trench.
  4. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 6, 2003
    All good advice! Something else to consider is, Keep your expectations reasonable. Your first garden will produce some food, and then you're hooked. After that, each year the garden gets better and better. Your soil improves, you learn more about what grows best in your area, pick up new techniques...

    Have fun with it! The world started with a garden, and I always feel like I'm doing my part to bring a bit of that back into the world. :)

  5. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    All the above advice is excellent--I agree with the "start small". A new garden will have more weeds to deal with, you will learn how much to plant for the size of your family, much about the general cultivation of a garden.

    You are bordering the Poconos, therefore borderline zone 5-6a, I'm guessing. I am just south of you and the traditional time for planting everything here is Memorial Day Weekend, so you are not too late. I would buy plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. The latter three can be planted a few weeks earlier. Plant beans and corn with seed on Mem Day. Depending on your space, you can plant both every two weeks, up til Aug 1 for crops all season long.

    Books!! Have I got books! Start with Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening, and quickly acquire Pat Lanza's Lasagna Gardening and Lee Reich's Weedless Gardening. The Bible of Gardening IMO is Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower and digest it slowly. Another book many have found helpful is John Jeavon's How To Grow More Vegetables. The latter seems like too much work for me since I start with pretty nice soil here and there are bazillions of earthworms that go down 2-3' to double dig for me.

    I choose to garden organically for several reasons. I like the concept that in using natural methods, there are probably lots of things happening that we don't know about yet. Not so with strict NPK by the bag. I do not like using pesticides at all, even the "safe" organic types. Many of the degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's are now being linked with pesticides such as Rotenone. I have a family history here and just don't want to mess with it. I will be eating my food, and want just that, food, going into my body. Rodale Publishing has a great many books on the subject about composting, organic pest control, companion planting etc. Many of these and the above books can be found used on Amazon or Half.com

    I love raised beds and would, if possible have mine 18" high. There are several reasons for this also. One is that I am now 70 and find getting up off the ground is not as easy as it uster be! Two, I can control what goes into the bed. The beds warm up a little earlier, and dry out a little earlier. They are a nice size to put wire hoops over and cover with either row cloth or earlier, plastic. I would like to use two rows of 4x8x16" concrete blocks to border the beds which are all 4' wide. One can sit on the edge of this and tend to the plants for hours and hours without many aches and pains. However, this is very expensive, so we are starting on the ground using path dirt, additions (leaf mulch, manure, etc.) to build up the beds. I will be adding mulch and other stuff as the years go by and brick in the beds as we can afford it. I have a little rolling cart I perch on and this seems to work pretty well.

    I would fence my perimeter with sturdy 8' fencing. If you love wildlife, feed them outside the fence. There are all kinds of repellents, organic or otherwise, but the real solution to deer is fencing tall enough to discourage them. Planting tall bushes or vines, also keeps them from seeing where they are going and they will just pass by on the outside. I am farming my daughter's two acres of suburbia. She's an enthusiastic supporter, but hasn't dealt with the harsh realities of deer in the garden. So, we have patchy fences all over the place; I'll succeed eventually.

    Finally, plan to keep rabbits and chickens. Keep them out of the garden, but value their output as pure gold. You want to compost chicken poo before using, but can use rabbit poo directly.

    You are in for a happy ride, will probably be hooked for life if you are patient. The gardens are a bit of work for the first three years. When you have spent a very pleasant day out in the sun participating in nature, you will find it all worth while. There is no limit to where you can take this hobby, including going commercial. Just take it one step at a time, slowly, and enjoy every moment.