First Garden help...

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Snugglebunny, Sep 27, 2006.

  1. Snugglebunny

    Snugglebunny Well-Known Member

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    Okay, we've been in this house less than a year, but it came with a fenced off garden area. It was horribly overgrown with God-Knows-What (though I do know it has/had tons of English Mint, red clover, Morning glory and wild blackberries). I did my best to rip it all out, but we didn't have a tiller at the time, so I did it all by hand. Not fun.

    Anyway, we planted a few things despite all the weeds and horrible roots running through it. Some corn, lettuce, radishes, beets, melons, peas, green beans and cucumbers, mostly purchased plants we got from Home Depot, and a few seeds I got from Johnny's. Oh, I think we planted a few carrots too. Basically, a little of everything. It started off okay, growing okay, but the end result?

    Funny-looking corn with very little yeild. Maybe 3 cucumbers, a handful of green beans, a few handfuls of greens, 1 radish, 1 wimpy carrot, and nothing else.

    I've heard you do EVERYTHING wrong your first garden. Did I?
    What can I do NOW to prepare for my next-year's garden? This is important to me.

    ANY advice would be great.

    And no, DH won't let me have a compost pile - he's afraid of vermin and smell (despite all I do to convince him otherwise). BUT my neighbor has a mini-horse and she's going to collect some manure for me to till into my garden in a couple of weeks to compost over the winter. Of course, with Autumn in full swing I have an abundance of leaves, and my DH's Ebay addiction has left me with a ton of cardboard.

    I was thinking of tilling the manure in, and piling cardboard on top to try to smother everything to death. Any advice??

    AND YES, I do have the Square foot gardening book, but he doesn't help me much with soil preparation on an overgrown garden.
     
  2. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    What I do is bury food waste, but manure if well composted or applied in the fall will work.
     

  3. Snugglebunny

    Snugglebunny Well-Known Member

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    So, you can collect kitchen scraps and just dig a hole and bury it? Doesn't that attract rodents? We have a skunk living nearby, but our garden is fenced in.
     
  4. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    Do a soil test and amend your soil as needed.
    Nitrogen - composted manure
    Potassium - greensand
    Phosphorus - I don't remember, that's all our soil had!

    You'll also want to get the pH around 6 or 7 for most veggies.

    Also you'll want to have some means of digging very deep and loosening the soil, and getting all those roots out of there so your veggies' roots can easily reach out and get the nutrients they need. Look up "double digging." You can do this by hand; we were lazy and used the backhoe on the tractor. It only has to be done once. After that you just cultivate the top of the soil with regular hand tools like hoe and rake -- as long as you plant in the same areas (beds) and don't walk on the beds so they don't get compacted.

    If I were in your shoes this year I'd till in the manure and put out the cardboard as you suggested, then on top of that I'd put wood chips, chopped up leaves, straw, grass... anything that would break down over the winter and help enrich my soil by spring. Come spring you *may* be able to plant directly into the stuff.

    In subsequent years, in the fall you can plant winter rye and then hoe it in right as it begins to bloom (before it can make seeds). This enriches your soil with organic material (the dead winter rye); it prevents erosion, and the roots go way down in the soil and help tilth. I haven't done the winter rye thing yet but I've heard good things about it and my local feed store guy (who I trust) recommends it.

    The soil test is a pain in the butt but don't skip it. I'd say it's the single most helpful thing in getting a new garden going. You can use a $3 test kit from WalMart.
     
  5. Snugglebunny

    Snugglebunny Well-Known Member

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    THANK YOU!!! So I should just lay the cardboard out flat or should I shred it? Will the cardboard break down over winter?
     
  6. dennisjp

    dennisjp dennisjp

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    You didn't say how big the garden is. A good way to beet down weeds and make it composte right where it is at is to cover sections with a tarp. Beet it down somewhat with your feet and then lay a tarp over it for a few days and if it isn't large enough to cover it all, move it around and till where you moveed it from, section by section.Throw all the vegegtable scrapes, especially leaves, wood chips, manure for one little pony you can get , and cover it up.
    As soon as I finish cutting mine up this year, I am going to get several dozen fishing worms, (night crawlers), and turn them loose.
    Any suggestions for that, from anyone?
    What everyone else said was good, also. IMHO
     
  7. rwinsouthla

    rwinsouthla Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Just lay the cardboard on the soil where you want your garden. I like to wet the ground first, well. Put the cardboard down and the manure on top. The cardboard won't last long. Just keep doing this year after year after year. Plant in between the cardboard sheets or poke a hole in it and drop the seeds or plants in. Yucky with manure on top? A little. But hopefully your new house has a shower. Maybe get a little sand every now and then but no more than 5-10% of the manure.
     
  8. Snugglebunny

    Snugglebunny Well-Known Member

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    Well I believe it is a 13' X 9' garden, completely fenced in on all sides. We have plenty of tarp, though, so that would work great! This way I don't have to wait for DH to till before I can start getting rid of weeds.
     
  9. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    Read Ruth Stout.
     
  10. Snugglebunny

    Snugglebunny Well-Known Member

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    OH MY GOODNESS!! My library ACTUALLY HAS RUTH STOUT!!!
    LOL sorry about the shock, but they don't usually have exactly what I'm looking for.

    Guess I'm heading there tomorrow!
     
  11. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    13x9 and you planted corn, melons, and cucumbers? Plus a lot of other stuff? And expected more than you got? Sounds like too many things were competing for the available space and nutrients. There weren't enough corn plants to allow proper pollination. Corn plants probably shaded the melons and cucumbers which in turn spent more time trying to somewhere to grow. Skip the corn and melons next year while giving a few cucumbers something to climb on.

    As for what to do now to enrich the soil, get the pony manure and lay on at least an inch or more. (Horse manure has almost all required NPK if enough is used.) Till or spade it in as soon as it is dry enough to do so. That will give the soil bacteria plenty of time to break it down between now and planting time next spring. That same tilling will also disrupt a lot of weed seeds and insects. Tilling again next spring will further reduce the weeds.

    Using cardboard now will have little effect on anything and has virtually zero food value. In a ton, there is only barely 2 pounds of nutrients. Using it as a thick base for "lasagna" gardening is a mistake unless the material above it is high in nitrogen. (Wood chips and cardboard both require a lot of soil nitrogen in order to break down.) The cardboard would be better used between the rows for weed suppression after planting.

    If leaves are to be tilled in, be certain to shred them first. (Rotary mower does a good job.) In that form, they may also be worked into the soil in the fall. If left entire, some larger leaves will clump and form either soggy or dry pockets in the soil, neither of which is good for the plants.

    Martin
     
  12. northstarpermie

    northstarpermie Well-Known Member

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    Yes, please read Ruth Stout. Get your hands on a good composting book as well. They don't smell if done right...mine never have. I recommend the Humanure Handbook. It has all the ins & outs of composting you need to know, no matter what your are composting.