Ordered seed catalogs, now what do I do???

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by ellebeaux, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I hope you guys aren't getting tired of newbie questions but I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm a home-owner now and have a whole quarter-acre to play with. And no idea where to start. Fruit trees? Strawberries? Blueberries? Roses? Perennials? Lavendar? I'm awesome with animals but haven't a clue what to do with plants.

    So it's almost January. I'm in Virginia. Is there anything I can be doing to promote the health of my spring garden? Or the rest of my yard? Besides throwing my veggie scraps in the compost pile?

    thanks!
     
  2. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Ooooh, a newbie gardener! :D

    You musy plant tomatoes and basil. Get the plain ordinary basil, not the fancy sorts, because the flavor is so wonderful and you can do so many things with it.

    Tomatoes are usually pretty troublefree, making them perfect for a newbie. Just keep an eye on this board and ask questions if you should have problems.

    And basil grows like a weed, so is esp. satisfying for the new garden.

    Think about growing some domestic sage. It's a perennial and can be used to form hedges --- messy hedges, yes, but workable. It's very easy to grow from seed and almost indestructible. In your climate (I think I saw you're in Virginia?), they might even stay evergreen. They do here --- I'm zone 6-7, far eastern Oklahoma, and my sage is still going strong.

    trawberries can be a bit more troublesome, depending on the variety. The easiest I've found have been Tri-Stars from www.gardeners.com. My parents always kept patches of wild strawberries, and they survived everything. If you can find the wild strawberries, you might want to start with them.

    Loofah is also very, very easy, but requires strong support, as it forms very long vines heavy with gourds (unless you eat up all the baby ones).

    As for preparing beds, first you need to decide where. Then --- well, if you haven't gardened there before, you don't know what your soil is like. Mine is pure rock, so I do lasagna gardening with lots of straw on top of the ground. Extremely messy while establishing beds --- I'm on 2,d-3rd year with a couple of beds now and they're still very messy looking in the winter --- but it works and is esp. good if your summers are hot.

    Just some suggestions. Are you planning to start seeds inside? If so, get starter flats and those 6-pack seed things. I got a mess of them on eBay a couple of years ago for almost nothing. i just reuse them every year, after bleaching them to sterilize. I also splurged this past year and got starter soil at www.gardeners.com --- oooh, it's yummy stuff! best soil I've ever bought and was definitely worth the extra cost.

    Also, if you're planning on starting seeds inside, stake out a place now and consider lighting. I have a huge window with full south sun, but when starting seeds, I supplement the light with a full spectrum floor lamp. I use the floor lamp in my office area (which is actually the junk room :nana: ) the rest of the time.

    Hope this helps. Being a newbie gardener sounds exciting! I've been doing it so long, I can look back on some spectacular successes and some amazing disasters. :D
     

  3. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

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    What ever you decide to do, start small, and grow into gardening. If you bite off too much, you will overload yourself and not have any fun with it. I'd suggest a small garden plot at first. If done right you will be surprised what a 10 by 16 plot will produce (I use the wide row concept so that would be 4 4 feet wide rows by 10 feet long). Le Jardin du Gourmet is a good source for small amounts of seed (to try things as well as herbs ((you really don't need many plants of dill or sage etc.))). Their website is http://www.artisticgardens.com/catalog/.

    I'd also put the vegatable garden close to your water source, and close to your kitchen door. If it's close enough you'll start going out for herbs to cook with, and you'll keep a closer eye (just by having to go by it) for ripeness or getting a little weedy or maybe needs to be watered.

    I would suggest a couple of fruit trees (and maybe some cane berries). The trees will need 5 gallons of water a week if you don't get a inch of rain, but that's about all the work they need (and that's only for the first year). I will supplement water the first year for raspberries / blackberries too. If you have a real long spell without rain, you'll have to help them then too.

    I'd plant what you really like to eat too. The first couple of years are trying... as countrygrrrl says "some spectacular successes and some amazing disasters" if one of those amazing disasters hits it's hard to keep trying. (Another reason not to plant only one type of vegatable ((or fruit trees or cane berries)), usually those "amazing disasters" will only affect one thing).

    Pat
     
  4. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Thanks you guys! I guess I'll have to get that Lasagna Gardening book. I bought the Rodale's Organic Gardening one but haven't really read alot of it yet.

    16' x 10' sounds HUGE to me!! That's too funny. I have the sunny spot in the yard all picked out. I just am not sure how to prepare the beds or what sort of tools I need.

    I guess I'll start some seeds. I have some extra fluorescent light fixtures that I can put the grow bulbs in. But they'd have to be in the basement - it's about 50-60 degrees down there so I guess it would be warm enough. Do I have to worry about humidity?
     
  5. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You might look for "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew -- he makes gardening easier by breaking down the area into manageable sections and tells you how to handle it by plant type.

    Check with your local Extension office and see what publications they have -- they'll know what you can do when. Also, any local greenhouses and nurseries will have good information for your area. The helpers in the big box store plant sections rarely know much.
     
  6. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Want to know the easiest way to start off a superior gardening bed?


    Go off to WalMart/Home Depot/Lowes and buy yourself a bunch of bags of top soil or organic humus. Cost last year was 96 cents per bag (with diesel prices up the way they are, I wouldn't be surprised to see soil go up in price this year). You will need about one and a fourth bags for every square foot of garden space you intend on setting up.


    Also, while you are there, get yourself alot of cardboard boxes (the stores just throw these away), or newspaper.


    OK, come home. Mow the area you want to use for your garden as short as your mower can get it. Then pull out your weed eater and whack the remaining grass stubs even more.


    Then split the boxes and lay the cardboard over the area you plan on using for your garden. (Alternatively, take newspaper pads -- at least six sheets thick -- and lay them down where you want the garden to go.) Wet the paper or cardboard to keep it down.


    Then begin opening bags of soil and dumping them on top of the cardboard or newspaper. If you bought enough bags of soil, your garden will be about 8 to 10 inches above the ground when you finish.


    Get yourself some good, well rounded, organic fertilizer, such as Garden Tone or Plant Tone. Mix it into the soil.


    Then plant. That's all there is to it. I have grown prize winning tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, green beans -- you name it, I've grown it in beds I built this way.


    One of the things your books will tell you is that your soil never needs to be tilled IF you replenish it periodically with a sufficient amount of organic matter.


    Well, that IS correct, and here is the easiest way to handle that project:


    Most crops grow better with an organic mulch placed on the ground, as you probably already know.


    As a mulch for my crops, I specifically use a product that Home Depot sells called "Soil Conditioner." This is a finely shredded tree bark product that is generally sold to mix into the soil BEFORE crops are grown. It helps to break up the hard clay soil we have around here.


    But I use it differently.


    I use the soil conditioner as a mulch for my plants. I put it down in about April, same time my plants go in. Three to four inches thick. Never thinner than three inches. Four is better. The mulch will block most weed growth and help regulate moisture and temperature under the mulch where the roots area.


    There it stays all summer and autumn.


    Then, sometime between Hallowween and Thanksgiving -- after the growing season is over and I no longer need the material as a mulch -- I get out there and fork the soil conditioner into the soil. I add some cotton seed meal into the soil at the same time, as a source of extra nitrogen, so that the soil conditioner has something to draw nitrogen from as it composts in the soil over the winter. Blood meal can also be used for this purpose.


    By the next planting season (late March, early April) the soil conditioner and cotton seed meal have composted in the garden bed, and it is sitting there ready for planting again.


    Each year I do the same thing: plant and mulch with the soil conditioner in the spring, grow crops during the spring, summer and early fall, and then turn the mulch (soil conditioner) into the soil along with cotton seed meal after Halloween.


    After the second year of using my garden beds, I never have to put organic fertilizers in the bed (cuz by then earthworms have taken over the bed, and they poop all the natural fertilizer I could ever want). And yet, each year my garden beds get richer and richer and richer.


    Really easy way to set up a garden, and then maintain it.


    But the three things you must ALWAYS remember in order for this system to work:


    1, NEVER use inorganic chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides or insecticides) in the garden bed or on the plants that are growing in the garden bed; and

    2, NEVER use a roto-tiller in the bed (it will kill the earthworms and destroy the soil structure that takes so long -- at least two years -- to build).

    3, ALWAYS fold in that soil conditioner and cotton seed meal together -- not just one of them, but both of them -- at the end of the growing season. Your garden bed MUST be replenished with organic matter in order to be able to grow excellent food the next year.
     
  7. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Oh, yeah...


    Lots of folks will tell you that you need to build a border around your raised garden beds.


    Horse hockey!


    I do not have a single border around a single garden of mine, and have no real problems. Just pile on that mulch thick enough to handle any grass that might want to creep in.
     
  8. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! This is the easiest idea yet! I know it may cost a little more but it will give me good soil this year and that's what I'm concerned about!

    Do you think if I did it right now and mixed the fall leaves in that would work okay? It's almost 60 degrees here today and supposed to be that way for the next week but it will eventually snow (I hope).

    Thanks again!

    Beaux
     
  9. SelfSufficientO

    SelfSufficientO becky3086

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    Yup, I would start now. However I think you will be surprised to find how little the soil at Wal-mart will grow, how many bags of soil it will take and how much the fertilizer or mulch will cost. Still if you keep with it you will eventually have a good garden though I think that way it will cost more than it might be worth.
    I think you will find a 1/4 acre to be very small for growing fruit trees and all that, but the raised beds can be fit in.
     
  10. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    If you decide to buy wal-mart soil ask about torn bags. They sale them for half price. Just pick the ones with the smallest holes and leaste lost product.

    I myself would not worry about buying soil, A compost pile is much more helpfull. Or if you can check around for horse manure. Most places you can get that free. Just make sure it is at least 6 monthes old.
     
  11. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    SelfSufficient,


    I build ALL my new garden beds with WalMart soil. Now, frankly, I choose to use the Organic Humus -- for one penny per bag more than the Topsoil, it is a richer growing medium.


    And you don't think you can grow much in that WalMart soil? Well, I've only had my home here for a little over a year, so ALL my beds were new last year. I put quite a bit of Garden Tone in those beds to supplement them, but once I did I was able to grow as much as a bushel of tomatoes a week (in July, peak season) from just sixteen tomato plants, plus I was growing lots of peppers, squash, eggplant, beans (lima and green), watermelon, herbs -- and even corn.

    About 120 ears of sweet corn alone grew on a 5 foot by 47 foot bed (the other three feet had pink cosmos daisies growing in them) built of WalMart soil with Garden Tone. (I use intensive gardening methods, and my corn method is basically Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method for corn planting, except I don't build his fancy containers and don't worry about keeping my growing in 4 foot by 4 foot cubicles like he does).

    All together, I built four garden beds, fifty feet long. Two of these beds are three and a half feet wide (for tomatoes, peppers, and bush beans) and two of these beds are five feet wide (for squash and corn).

    My produce was so robust and healthy that in my first year competing, I won in every produce category I entered at the county fair. First place with my corn, green bell peppers, and watermelon, third place with my green beans, and fifth place with my tomatoes.


    Bottom Line: Yes, you can easily grow good, even excellent produce -- and lots of it, with the Organic Humus that WalMart sells for 97 cents a bag. Just make sure to fertilize it well with Garden Tone or another complete, organic fertilizer mix. I probably put a third to a half more Garden Tone into the soil than the directions call for. But remember -- this is an ORGANIC mix, not a chemical mix, so there is no danger of "burning" the crops by adding some extra in.


    By the way, this is the second placce where I've established these type gardens. I did the same thing in my city garden back in 1997, and by the year 1999, I never had to add fertilizer again because the soil was so rich with earthworms after just two years of proper maintenance.


    BTW, yes, Self Sufficient is right about the cost of organic fertilizers being higher than the cost of chemical fertilizers, but that is because the quality is so much better. Remember that using the system outlined above, you are only going to have to add the organic fertilizer in for maybe two years (three years tops). But if you use chemical fertilizers you run the risk of killing the very earthworms that will save you so much work and money in years to come, plus you run the risk of burning your plants -- something Garden Tone will not do.


    I bought Garden Tone last year in 50 pound bags-- they were around 25 bucks a bag that way, or in other words, about 50 cents per pound.


    Plant Tone is a little cheaper than Garden Tone, and almost as good.


    I'll look up the website for Garden Tone and Plant Tone, and post it here.
     
  12. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    The company that manufactures Garden Tone and Plant Tone is found at:

    www.espoma.com


    If you go there, there is a search engine that allows you to enter in your zip code and it will come back with the closest dealers to your home that sell their products.


    I buy mine from a dealer in Eads, TN who is willing to discount the 25 pound bags for me to the 50 pound per bag price when he does not have the 50 pound bags in stock. That saves me a few bucks.


    If you get to know your supplier, maybe they will cut you a break too.
     
  13. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Buying broken bags of produce is a good way to save money, as Squash Nut has already pointed out. Home Depot sells it this way, too.


    Also, home grown compost is a great way to go -- but only if you have the time to create it. Also, it is labor intensive to grow any kind of volume of home grown compost.


    I gather the leaf bags that neighbors put on the street for trashmen to collect; bring them back home, shred them, add cottonseed meal and water, and airate them weekly. That produces lots of compost, but even so, it takes six months to get a batch ready.


    It's a lot quicker and easier to just go to Wally World and buy some bagged Organic Humus or Topsoil, add generous portions of GArden Tone, and plant to my heart's content.


    But I do create my own compost to put under my acre of newly planted fruit trees.


    ----------------------------


    Patricia Lanza has a book called Lasagna Gardening, which talks about how to build layers of material (often times free stuff, other than her insistance on lots of Peat Moss) and then plant in that material. With her method, you layer down shredded leaves, grass clippings, peat moss and other types of stuff like that, and build your bed on the spot with that kind of stuff. She contends that you can lay down the stuff and then, if you build it her way, plant in it before the day is out.


    While I feel I benefited from reading Lanza's book, and probably borrowed a bit from her ideas, I chose not to build her gardens her way because I wanted my gardens to be a huge success in their FIRST YEAR, not their second year.


    You can definitely grow some produce in beds built her way the first year, but you will not be able to grow a whole lot per square foot during that first year. By the second year, however, all that material will have composted, and you will have a rich garden then.


    ---------------------


    Squash Nut has a good idea about looking for someone who has manure you can get. Horse manure, chicken litter, plus the dung from cows, rabbits, sheep and goats are all good for vegetable gardens -- but ONLY after they have "aged" for six months or more. Allowing them in your garden earlier than six months will run the risk of dangerous disease pathogens getting to your family's food table.


    ------------------------


    So when I consider all of this stuff, that is when I came to the conclusion that jump starting a garden with Wally World bagged Organic Humus or Topsoil was, in fact, an excellent, and very viable way to have a bountiful harvest the first year. Just be liberal with your use of your organic fertilizers, and you will be on your way.
     
  14. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    You all are the best!

    I'm going to start a new thread on my next question...your input will be welcome.

    Happy New Year!
     
  15. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Rose,


    Certainly she could do it that way, and it would be cheaper (though more labor intensive) in the short haul.


    There are three reasons why I would not, personally, choose to do it that way:

    1, It IS considerably more labor intensive, and I am over 50 years old with high blood pressure. (But that is a personal thing, and may not apply to Elle)

    2, It would take alot more time to get the garden established. My method only takes a single afternoon per bed, and you are planting before sun down.

    3, There are some distinct advantages to raised bed gardening that are lost when you double dig and plant level to the ground. Raised beds warm sooner in the spring, drain better all year long, and their defined boundaries keep people from walking all over them and thus compressing the root systems of the plants.


    Of course, we each must choose our own way, Rose, and your method -- along with alot of other folks here -- surely will work well too. There are a number of good methods and good ideas presented on this thread, so Elle should have alot of good advice to ponder as she makes her own decisions and develops her own plans. :)
     
  16. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Today I laid out three 3 ft. x 8 ft. beds. I put the cardboard down and then raked a bunch of leaves over them. And added the little compost that I have. Plus I looked online at all the dirt and additive sites. And started picking out seeds from the Gurney's catalog (sic?) since it's the only one I have so far.

    So I feel like I accomplished something - yay!
     
  17. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    I'm on a little over 1/4 acre, and I have fruit trees and berries growing quite well here. :)

    It's a long-term investment to plant fruit, and I encourage you to start now. Pick out good spots for your fruit trees/berry patch/grape vines/whatevers. Start small, as others have already suggested, and develop a FLEXIBLE long-term plan.

    Make sure you follow specific directions for your plants when you put them in the ground. A little time in the beginning pays off big-time over the long haul.

    And while you don't have to have borders around your raised beds, I have found that they are functional and look nice. Not something you MUST have, but something that's helpful and keeps things somewhat orderly.

    Pony!
     
  18. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

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    Try to order a Pinetree catalog. They have lots of seeds to choose from and shipping is cheap.
     
  19. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I ordered a dozen catalogs. Should I go ahead and order seeds now? Store them at room temp until starting seedlings in March?

    Thanks as usual!
     
  20. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Seeds can be stored at room temperature, especially for a short period of time like you are talking about.


    The BEST conditions for seed saving is cool and dry. But room temperature will generally be OK.


    BTW, I don't know if you are gonna grow sweet bell peppers, but I have found that the "Lady Bell" sweet bell peppers to be far superior to other sweet peppers.


    Also, beware of watermelon seeds -- there is a seed borne disease that is infecting alot of the watermelon seeds. It causes the melon to crack open in the field, right before harvest. If you buy more than just a packet, seed sellers will actually make you sign a waiver that says you do not hold them responsible if the melon seeds they sell you are diseased!

    FYI