Vegetable garden

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Genevieve M., Nov 16, 2006.

  1. Genevieve M.

    Genevieve M. Well-Known Member

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    I'm planning a garden that I hope will provide most of the vegetables for our family of 6. How big of a garden should we make? The spot is now covered in weeds. Should we plow these under now, and then cover the garden with plastic until Spring? We live in an area where it never snows, and rarely freezes.

    Our soil is very sandy. I have one trash can of finished compost, and another one that might be finished by planting time. Should I plan on buying more, or would that be enough?

    We also have many deer and rabbit. Would a welded wire fence with electric on the top and bottom be the best for discouraging them?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. shar

    shar Well-Known Member

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    I Would Sit Down And Make A List Of What You Would Like To Grow.
    Will You Be Eating Only From This Garden Or Would You Be Also
    Canning And Freezing? How Much Help Will You Have In Taking Care
    Of Your Garden? If You Have Lots Of Help And Plan On Preserving
    As Much As You Can I Would Plant The Largest Possible Garden I
    Could. If You Are New To Gardening And Have Little Or No Help, I'd Go Small For The First Year. I Have Known People Who Plant The Huge Garden And The Weeds Get Out Of Hand And The Weather Makes
    It Uncomfortable To Work The Garden And Soon The Garden Is Ignored, The Time And Money Spent Into Planting It Was Wasted.
    We Plant Our Garden Each Year And Try To Add One New Vegetable,
    If We Like It Its Added To Our Yearly List. I Also Find That We Can't Grow Decent Cucumbers Here So That Is Something That We Don't Bother With, I Can Buy Them From Local Farms Fairly Inexpensively.
    I'm Not Sure What To Tell You About The Weeds In The Garden Space, Hopefully Someone Else Will Be Able To Contribute That Info. Good Luck On The Garden.
     

  3. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    feeding a family of 6 will be alot of work.
    You don't say how big the area is, but you can't have to much compost. If you can, instead of the plastic it would be better to put a layer of leaves and or straw on the garden. Put down a thick layer of cardboard or news paper first, then the leaves.
    If it is a small area you might consiter wide bed gardening. You can do a search on the web for more ideas on that.
    There is also square foot gardening, but I have found if you plant a new garden to thickly you get stunted unproductive plants.
    If you look hard enough on the web you can also get an idea how much you need to plant. And get an Idea if your garden will produce enough to eat during the summer or if you'll have extras to put up for winter use.
    My garden is about 20 beds or 1200 square foot of growing room and I could feed 6. But probably not can much for the winter.
    Good luck and have fun with your garden.
     
  4. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

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    I, too, would put down a thick layer of leaves over the garden area. If you mulch them with your lawn mower, they will break down alot quicker.

    Judging by your comments about your weather, you should have no problems growing a Fall garden. You can spread some lettuce seeds, peas, broccoli plants, cauliflower plants, brussel sprouts plants, etc. These plants grow much better in the cooler temps.
     
  5. Zebraman

    Zebraman Well-Known Member

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    Hey Genevieve M.;First of all,you are going to need a lot more compost.Since yo have sandy soil and No freeze I am assuming W.Coast.Buy 1 of Elliot Colemans books and follow the info provided.Double digging is a lot of work up front,but pretty much eliminates most if not all the work through the growing season.
    Try it before you knock it!I got the same information from Organic Gardening in the early eighties and have been using these principles since then,and know that they work.if you are on the W.Coast www.ebstone.org has the best compost.The electric fence is the best defense against Rabbits and Deer,besides a 12 guage of course.
    It will be better if you start off supplementing your families food as opposed to growing all of it from the start.When you have more experience you'll also have more abilities as well.-
     
  6. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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    That's right, NOTHING -- NO till, then:
    • Cut the grass,
    • Put down 3" or 4" of compost or well-rotted manure,
    • Put down four layers of newspaper,
    • Wet them down,
    • Put on 8" of straw, moldy hay, leaves, etc for mulch,
    • Dig hole just for the seeds and plants you will plant this year,
    • Add more mulch as needed,
    • If up north like we are, start garden a little later, or remove the mulch at the planting area one or two weeks before planting, to let soil warm up,
    • The soil gets worked up well and there is no disruption to the rich upper layer, worms do a lot of the work, I think, and the newspaper adds to the soil, and helps keep out the weeds -- still a few -- but the newspaper blocks them -- mostly.

    That's it, it works, we use drip irrigation with that system, less weeds, and if put drip, or the pump, on a timer, then you don't have to be there to water.

    [​IMG]
    This Was a Hay Field in 2001, Now a Garden, Cucumbers, Lettuce, and Garlic, this picture was in July, 2004

    Good Luck with NO Till,

    Alex
     
  7. Tricky Grama

    Tricky Grama Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to do the garden thing in the spring, too, so all these ideas are much appreciated!

    A lot depends on where you are & what your soil is like.

    I sowed hairy vetch in a 20X10 area in Sept. It's up & lookin' good. We have the dreaded black clay-hard as a rock-w/white rock under it. I've been told I can either plow under the vetch in the spring-its a green manure-or just mow it really short & go ahead & plant in it. I think I'll have to turn it under.

    Other things to do are: spread about 50 lbs of dry molasses (feed grade) per 5,000 sq ft of garden. Also whole corn meal, other amendments to loosen the soil-like lava sand. You wouldn't need that if you have sandy soil, tho.
    Compostcompostcompost. The straw is good too-or any mulch.

    Patty
     
  8. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree with the layering. Get the book, Lasagne Gardening. If you garden this way, instead of tilling, you will be need to think in terms of rows. Carla Emery did not till and had one large plot, no aisles.

    Start small. While you are tending your smaller garden, you can start on another one and get it ready for the late summer or fall, or following year.

    you don't need to keep your vegetables in one spot, either. You can put a few things in your flower beds, and a few flowers in your vegetable beds. Sunflowers are nice to be used as shade for other plants, or a hedge for privacy. Squash and pumpkins will spread themselves out, so I like them on the edge of the garden where they will help shade the soil with the other plants growing above, and they will move out into the lawn.
     
  9. whiterock

    whiterock Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Be a little more specific about your location. This will make a difference in the advice you recieve.
    Ed
     
  10. Genevieve M.

    Genevieve M. Well-Known Member

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    We live outside of Houston

    I would like to be able to can a little, but I have no idea how big of a garden I would need to do that.

    I have lots of help with 4 children.
     
  11. rwinsouthla

    rwinsouthla Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Genevieve,

    I live 300 miles due east of you and I too have 6 people in my family. We are lucky that we have so few freezes. I only buy potatoes, carrots, and lettuce in the summer. We eat everything we grow and give none away, except to family. My goal is to grow almost all of the only other vegetables we eat, but I'm not there yet. My garden is now about 40 X 100 now and will grow to 150 x 100 in the next 2-3 years. And I don't know if that is quite enough. And I have pots growing herbs and other things and mounds of dirt/compost around that hold my sweet potatoes.

    I am getting better at this but I have to outsmart the weather and seasons often to increase my yield. I get 3-4 30 degree or lower nights per year so you can go from beating the weather to beaten by the weather in one night. In order to increase yield and spread out the harvest, you have to have plantings that are spread over 3-4 week intervals and start many of your plants indoors when frosts are still possible. For instance, I start my tomatoes from suckers in the fall, put them under grow lights all winter, and plant my first 3 foot plants around Valentine's day. But, I pick my first tomatoes around March 15th. But also on February 15th, I have rooted some suckers from the original plants and they go in the ground as 6" plants, with first fruit coming April 15th-20th. Then, 4 weeks later, I plant some more suckers. I pick tomatoes until about July 4th and can what we don't eat. I usually have 40-50 tomato plants in a season, depending on how many live. I do the same with cucumbers, beans, and squash, starting some seeds inside under grow lights around January 15th, and plant them out mid-Feb, and 3 other plantings outside every 4 weeks, and usually pick cucumbers until mid July. I don't grow peppers or things I use only rarely. In addition to tomatoes, cukes, squash, 6 different beans, I grow strawberries that produce from end of January til early June. I also grow a fall garden, which is tricky because instead of beating the frost, you have to beat the heat. I start keeping tomato suckers in mid June, plant some cucumbers and squash in early August with lots of watering, start broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, chard, lettuce in early August for planting in late September. I also plant sweet peas in mid September, carrots and strawberry transplants in late September, plant all of the started broccoli, cauliflower, etc in early October when the heat breaks.

    On top of all of that, I compost EVERYTHING. Paper is shredded, cardboard put in the garden with grass clippings on top, grass clippings spread thinly in the bottom of the garden for weed control, manure from a friend is composted then spread.

    The key to all of this is getting into the books available from Ag Extension (maybe Texas A&M or UT websites, or feel free to use Lsuagcenter.com as our weather is close) and getting into perfect tune with timing of ALL vegetables, their soil needs and likes, seasons, varieties, and harvesting tips. I'm like everyone else, I started small thinking I just wanted to supplement. Now, it is getting bigger and I have a goal of growing EVERY vegetable I eat because it is addictive. Also, while I have a tiller, I have found that I use it mostly to mix up the compost and START new rows, but it is not used to till every season. I'd till 3-4 times a year! Use it to break the ground if you so desire, but my sweet potatoes grow on top of the ground in my leaf piles with very little else in there.

    Start small, add on, check locally for best varieties, and don't expect to fully feed your family on less than about 100x100 without lots of work and much attention to detail and planning.

    Good luck. Feel free to ask questions also on the gardening and propogation forum. By the way, I would assume that you live west of Houston right? NW or SW? I would assume SW, because I lived in Sugarland for awhile about 15 years ago.

    Ray

    ETA: I forgot to mention that you can also grow fruit, believe it or not. Citrus (satsumas, orange, lemon, lime, loquat) will do well, some apples, grapes (muscadines and concord), blackberries, blueberries, figs, peaches are iffy, persimmons, pawpaws, bananas, as well as nut trees like pecan. Just be prepared to water alot because your summers are about 3-7 degrees warmer than us and we are hot!!!
     
  12. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    i agree on the 100x100 size. i am currently using 60x60 of a larger garden and it seems like i need more. be sure to plant the fall crop as well. don't forget the greenbeans, they are a great producer.
     
  13. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well I might be crazy, but I plan to Go over-board with my garden this coming year. My Plan is to plant about 5 times as much as I feel I need. I got so tired of my garden this year--I would cut a few pods of okra, never getting enough to "can" any---trying to keep it in the fridge till I got enough to put up---then some would be looking bad. The same with squash, cucumbers etc. This Coming year I hope to get a 5 gallon bucket of okra and squash per cutting--------Maybe 2, 5 gal buckets of cucumbers per picking-----that way I can work my Butt off for a couple weeks----Pick and can/freeze all I need for winter------then disk up all but a few plants of each so I can have fresh vegetables daily through the growing season. What you think?? Randy
     
  14. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The biggest drawback I can see is when the weeds get ahead of you. It happens when you plant a lot and simply cannot keep up with them! If you plant 24 peppers and they get lost in weeds you will not get any peppers. If you plant 6 in a raised bed and keep them well mulched, you might actually get some peppers (ask me how I know :rolleyes: ). If you have time to apply and reapply grass clippings, pull weeds, etc., you might get a good crop.
     
  15. Genevieve M.

    Genevieve M. Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, guys.

    Ray, we are NW of Houston by Hockley and Waller.

    I'm interested in the cardboard method. I'll have to research that. We certainly have a ton of cardboard since we moved in June.

    I'm going to go ahead and shoot for 100x100. My husband said that we could fence the garden, but run the dogs around the perimeter of that fence. The deer and rabbits would have a hard time getting past the dogs.
     
  16. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I Know what you are saying, but I have a tractor with cultivators, then when it gets to tall for the tractor I have what is called a Mule plow---Not sure if the name is right but it is similiar to a garden tiller with a motor, but with one wheel and instead of a tiller it uses a sweep like the tractor cultivator uses---it will go up and down the garden rows at a fast walk (if I don't let the weeds get to tall). After using this I only have a few inches to hoe around the plant stem. I usually have to spend around 2 maybe 3 hours per week weeding a 1/2 acre garden. I just want to "Can" a couple hundred jars of something for next winter. I didn't can anything this year. But I had plenty to eat out the garden-----hmmmmm maybe I eat to much, might be the reason I didn't can anything--LOL. I Love them Home Grown Vegetables!!! Randy
     
  17. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

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    I've got to say WHOA! We're talking Louisiana - year round gardening.
    That 100x100 plot is 10,000 square feet. Now, multiply that by 4-5 plantings per year if you do seedling transplants like is commercially done in California (and which I copied when I lived in zone 10) and that 100x100 sf garden is now effectively between 40,000 and 50,000 square feet!
    You'll feed more like 60 people a year! Remember in Zones 9 & 10 there is ALWAYS a harvest from the garden - it never stops! There's no such thing as surviving from the pantry waiting for planting season! Every week is planting season! You may want to seriously consider raised beds so your planting areas dry more quickly since rain is something Louisiana seems to have in abundance.

    If this helps, I grew everything except corn (didn't have the space) when we lived 6 blocks from the beach with sandy loam soil in southern California and my garden was 24x30. I fed a family of 4 plus canned plus froze plus gave away probably a truckload over the year. Frankly, I don't think you'll need much more than that - jump to 30x60 if you want. Make your corn garden a separate small garden, rotating between two small plots, planting legume cover crops for a year (peas, then snap beans then more peas) following the corn. Flipping back and forth between the two plots. Corn is a heavy feeder.

    Use the airspace whenever you can - grow pole beans instead of bush, trellis your cucumbers etc so that you get more per square foot. Plant quick crops between longer maturing ones that will be out of the ground before the others even begin to bloom/yield.

    Plant everything in its season. Example, in a zone 9-10, broccoli has no business in the summer garden. Nor do peas, cauliflower, spinach, any of the cool/cold season crops. We didn't finish harvesting tomatoes until Christmas and they were replanted by the first of March. (If you want to plant some of the Siberian heirlooms for your cool season, you can harvest tomatoes 12 months a year in zones 9 &10).

    Your county agricultural extension office should have a month by month planting schedule. It is based on AVERAGE growing days/crop. I'll give a hearty recommendation to Johnnie's Seeds and to www.seedstrust.com (High Altitude Gardening). You might think - what do I need cool season/short season seeds for? Well, in Zones 9 & 10 where frost is unknown, you can use those cool/short season crops to push your harvests earlier and to use in the late fall even winter. Truthfully, you'll have a challenge deciding what to NOT plant - the world is yours in zones 9 & 10 in row crops (there are limitations in orcharding). And if you have sandy loam, you've got it all!

    Conversations like this make me long for 80 degree winter days again - winter is when zones 9 & 10 shine! (Slopes are already open here in Colorado!)
    Happy Gardening!

    BW
     
  18. Alice In TX/MO

    Alice In TX/MO More dharma, less drama. Supporter

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    I'm southwest of Houston, and it's going to hit the low 70's today. I do raised bed lasagne gardens. I dislike rows because that's where the weeds start and with the amount of rain we get in the Houston area, the bottoms of the rows are always soggy.

    When you buy hay or straw for mulch, try to get rice straw or some type that doesn't have seeds. If you use regular pasture hay, you are bringing in next year's weed crop.

    You might want to look at the book Square Food Gardening, too.

    We can often harvest tomatoes year round here, nary a freeze!
     
  19. Genevieve M.

    Genevieve M. Well-Known Member

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    I went out and measured today. The place where I have the most sun is a 40x60 spot, so that is where I'll start.

    We did raised beds years ago with treated lumber before we found out that the chemicals could leach into our food. We have been enriching the soil, and planting in the ground since then, and we haven't had nearly as much success.

    What do you use as edging? We have tons of fallen leaves right now. I guess I'd better save them.

    We got the square foot gardening book with my daughter's home Economics set. I guess I'd better read it.

    I want to put cardboard over the weeds, then add compost, and maybe peat moss, and of course mulch. Do I need to add a layer of newspaper? I'm not sure what the purpose of that is.
     
  20. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    Genevieve, there is no need for you to wait. You can still plant right now. Cabbage, lettuces, onions(from sets), mustard greens, radishes. Many of these will grow right through the "cold" we will get. It is a little late but you can still expect some growth and production.
    If I had the ability and was in your situation, I would plow up and try to hill up the rows now. It will make a big difference if we have a wet spring.