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Planting a Vegetable Garden

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Jambruins, Feb 6, 2009.

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  1. Jambruins

    Jambruins New Member

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    I live in upstate NY (near Plattsburgh - 45 miles South of Montreal) and am interested in growing a vegetable garden this year. My father-in-law had one a few years and I will be plating where he did. I have a few questions for some of the experienced people in here:

    Can I just rent a roto tiller and and till the area or do I need to have a tractor plow it?

    I will probably try to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, peas. When should I plant the sees?

    Anyone know of any good websites to get more info on gardening.

    Thanks.

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  2. 11 Bravo

    11 Bravo New Member

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    The tomatoes are established plants and we plant after the risk of frost is gone, usually Memorial Day here in SW Michigan. The rest we start by seed early........More importantly, where are you doing this ? Whats the soil like and can you protect from rabbits and other pests ? As far as the rototillar rental, I did this years ago when I wanted a garden in a stretch of established lawn. I figured, no prob, I will roto an area. It was a heckuva job controlling the tillar trying to cut through that lawn...I was sore for days
  3. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    The best advice I can give is not to start too big of a garden.

    It's not hard to become overwhelmed by a large garden and loose interest entirely. I'd start small and then add on every year.

    Check out intensive gardening practices. You can get a surprising amount of produce from a small plot.

    Matt
  4. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    Check out Mel Bartholomew


    http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

    I rediscoverd him last year, when I planted my first vegetable garden in years. It helped alot.

    I agree with small at first.

    I recommend composted horse manure, but what the hay %-P
  5. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I use composted bull shirt.

    I do something pretty close to what SFG looks like. I use 2' x 8' raised beds. I plant on a 4" diagonal grid.

    Matt
  6. njtomatoguy

    njtomatoguy Feeling the Heat

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    If you rent a tiller, be sure to get the rear tine model.
    I like to garden, agree with previous posters about going small/square foot gardening, and a GOOD fence.
  7. dvellone

    dvellone Feeling the Heat

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    lots of seed catalogs out there. I use fedco quite a bit as they are out of maine and specialize in cold-hardy varieties.
  8. Burn-1

    Burn-1 Feeling the Heat

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  9. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    All good advice here. I get my seeds from Johnny's Seeds of Maine. As dvellone says, if you live up north, it's best to buy seeds from a company that has cold-weather varieties. And keeping it simple is also good advice. Tomatoes are fine, easy to grow and everybody likes them, but be sure you start out with an easy-to-grow variety. I have had good luck with cherry tomatoes in the Adirondacks, as they mature early so you're always going to get ripe fruit. Up your way near the St. Lawrence you might have milder temps then in the mtns, but better safe than sorry. Ditto on the fence, too, if you can. Nothing worse than having your hard work trashed by the long-eared locusts. Most of the other deer repellents (human hair, pepper spray, big cat urine, etc.) will work for awhile, but a 6-foot fence is the only thing that will keep them out for sure. I have a four-foot fence that I hang sweaty workshirts on, and by the end of the season, it doesn't stop them anymore.

    It's a good idea to start a compost pile if you have room and raw material. Basically, just create a big pile of leaves, grass clippings, trimmings--anything organic will eventually rot down into beautiful compost. Bigger is always better. You can bury your kitchen waste in the pile. It acts as a catalyst and saves putting valuable organic matter into the landfill. I keep a five-gallon bucket in the garage and dump the scraps in it every day until it's full, then I go out and dig a hole in the compost pile and dump the contents into it. Cover enough to keep the critters away, and forgetaboutit. If you start your pile in the spring, by fall or the following spring, the base of the pile will be a mixture of compost and worm castings. Turn that stuff into the soil in prep for the upcoming season and use some for mulch. The only time you need to turn the pile is excavating it to get the goodies out.

    And don't go bananas when perusing the seed catalogs. All those beautiful pictures are designed to get you to buy more stuff than you can handle. I'd stick with the basics the first couple of years until you get the hang of it:

    Bush Beans
    Pole Beans (if you really like beans)
    Lettuce
    Cherry Tomatoes
    Early maturing regular tomatoes
    Radishes (easy to grow and they mature very early)
    Cukes
    Carrots
    Herbs (basil, parsley)

    I don't grow potatoes and onions, but if you have the room and like them, why not? Ditto with squash.

    Zuccini doesn't take up a lot of room, is easy to grow and you get fantastic yields. When you get sick of eating them, dry the zukes out and throw them into the wood stove. Zuclear Energy. (Just kidding.)

    June 1 is a good target date for getting your garden in. Don't be tempted by those beautiful early- to mid-May days. They're almost always followed by at least one hard frost. Use the beautiful weather to get the soil prepped for planting.
  10. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I started my first garden 2 years ago, 5' x 25', and started from the beginning with sustainable gardening practices, heritage seeds, no fertilizers other than natural compost, and no herbicides/insecticides (except initially to kill the grass). Best advice is start small and keep and keep it simple, you don't want to get discouraged or fail at the beginning.

    I planted only two varieties of green beans (early and later maturation), carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and tried a few hills of sweet corn. Wife and I had all of everything we could eat (except corn), and the carrots lasted us through most of the winter. Won't plant corn again, takes up too much space for what you get.

    This year will expand to 2 - 5 x 25 plots. Double dug, no walking on garden soil, intensive planting, etc. Bountiful Gardens is a great resource for intensive, sustainable gardening.

    Don't forgot to keep the garden near a source of water.
  11. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    If you have a neighbor nearby that keeps a healthy garden, stop by and say hi. That would be huge! Don't wait long to tell them why you stopped or they might scare you off before you get a chance. Once you break the ice, you could have a friend for life.
    A garden can be a lot of work.
    I found I can grow more veggies than I want in a dozen large flower pots. They're way easier to take care of and can be easily moved if and when you need to.
    Don't forget strawberries and a few wild berries out of the nearest hedgrow are the best way to start your own berry patch. You know they already thrive in your area!
    The wife grows different herbs in her flower bed next to the back door. The closer the garden is to the house, the better.
    Have fun with it.
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If you have kids or grandchildren, by all means get them involved and learn together. Seeing a child's expression the first time he or she pulls a carrot or radish out of the ground is priceless. Jim's point about sustainable organics is a great one. I garden organically for many reasons, but one big motivator is that's it's easier in the long run. All you really need to know about fertilizer to get started is: compost. Turn as much of it into the soil as you can, and use it to mulch your plants. It will build the soil, control weeds, retain moisture and provide nutrients to your garden. Also, what he said about corn. Don't bother unless you have a big garden. Mine is 25x25', and that's way too small for corn.

    Now you got me all excited about the upcoming gardening season. Here's a few photos.

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  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    This is my compost pile and a shot of how I spread it on the beds and turn them over, either in the fall or spring, depending on how ambitious I am in the fall. In the picture of the piles, the one in the back is the excavation side. Anything that needs more time to cook goes into the pile in the foreground, which is next year's pile.

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  14. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Here's how I use sifted compost to mulch young plants, in this case oakleaf lettuce. I've found the most efficient way to grow lettuce is by starting the seeds all together in a pot, and then transplanting them individually into the garden. It's more work upfront, but easier and more successful in the long run than thinning. And it stretches your seed supply out. That might seem like an inconsequential savings, but as you'll find, seeds ain't cheap. I typically spend about $75 on seeds. That's up from $50 a few years ago for the same order.

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  15. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Soil can vary a lot in your area and much depends on what your particular plot is like.
    Plowing with a farm tractor in a small plot can be more trouble than its worth. I plant 10 acres of vegetables every year, which is a bit different.

    In regard to weather, it can also vary quite a bit, just in 20 miles one way or the other. Talking to the county ag-extension might help - but all depends who's working there when you call.

    I'm in central New York and where I farm, we sometimes get frost in July. 20 miles north of me, in a large valley area, it never happens. That's why you need specific local information.

    If you want corn, pick some short corn, 68-80 day max, along with some old and late SU types e.g. Silver King. For the short corn, as long as you plant when the soil is warn, frost won't hurt it much when its at the two-leaf stage. It will burn down, but then come back stronger.

    Cold weather hard plants e.g. brocolli will do great in the cold, and if you keep it cut all summer, it will come back and make heads in the fall.

    With tomatoes, unless your climate is unusually warm for the area, you must use plants and memorial day is the minimum for first settting out. In my area, we wait for two weeks past that date to be safe. One hard freeze will kill them, so have some means of covering them if frost warnings come after they are planted.

    With curcubits, e.g. pumpkins, squash, etc. they are apt to best planted from seed. I sell pumpkins here and after years of screwing around with plants, found that late planted seeds made better crops than late planted plants. Just make sure you pick short-season varieties.

    I'll add that unless you have a lot to time for weeding, hand cultivating, etc. , you do well to use heavy black plastic for mulch. Besides keeping weeds out, it keeps the soil warm and moisture in and works great for cold areas in central to northern NY.

    You also should check PH. Some areas in this region suffer from acid rain and need a lot of lime to balance the soil. If the PH is too high, the plants starve for nutrients and fertilizers won't work.

    The Iroquois and Huron Indians in these and more northern areas farmed with the "three sisters" approach and it works pretty well if you have room. Short corn in hills with squash/pumpkins and pole beans all intermixed. Pole beans climb the corn stalks and fixate nitrogen in the soil, and the squash spreads all over the ground and chokes out weeds and holds in moisture.
  16. Tom Pencil

    Tom Pencil New Member

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    I would also reccomend a rear tined tiller. Starting a small garden and adding yearly is a good start. I have used Johnnies seeds from maine in the past and like the way they do their business. Some municipalities that have leaf pick-up may also deliver leaves to you for free or small fee. These are great in composting but you also may get unwanted items mixed in. It is easy to pick the trash out. If you have a lot of space You might grow one of these.......

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  17. dbjc364

    dbjc364 New Member

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    We're hooked on raised beds here. We invested in a "Mantis" 3 yrs ago and never regretted it. We sold our big tiller,we compost-and do no chemicals. There was a good size garden when we moved in, we made that area into a compost area for 3 yrs,now turning it into another large raised bed. We now have a new compost area-much more sturdy-made from stockade fencing,this year taking it to a new level by making an insulated box to quicken the compost time.They say dont overseed,but you will lose some to pests or critters,so I throw in a little extra.Try to water the soil not the plants,as thats where they need it the most,in the roots. If its already been planted in previous years,you can get by with spades and forks,turning it over,to keep costs down,if you've got the energy...
  18. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I do all my soil turning with a shovel. It's a lot easier once you've got the soil loosened up and full of organic matter. As somebody said earlier, I never walk in or step on the planting beds. Plants grow easier in loose soil, and it makes pulling weeds A LOT EASIER.
  19. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Soil turning with a shovel also reduces compaction. The double digging technique goes a step further in reducing compaction and achieving a loose, aerated soil for really good plant growth. Some say soil turning is undesirable, and simply loosening the soil is better, as normal microbes, etc., in the soil live at different depths, and soil turning disturbs normal soil activity, while only loosening combined with compost top dressing preserves normal biologic soil activity while adding desirable nutrients and organic matter.
  20. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I've read that also. I can't say it's true, but I've noticed that when I would turn the soil I'd find the soil packed with worms. A week or two later I'd go back to plant and there wouldn't be any. A few weeks after that and it was still vacant. It takes a while for the worms to come back.

    Matt
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    The only reason to turn the soil, IMO, is to bury compost. I put a 4" or so layer of aged compost on the beds and then turn it in with the shovel. That gets it about 8 to 12 inches under the surface. Then I just loosen up the new layer of soil on top when it's time to plant--usually with my hands, since I like handling it. Microbes need oxygen, so I think you need to aerate their environment periodically. I think that when the plants' roots hit that layer of compost around mid-season, it gives them a nice shot of nutrients and moisture. I don't know that for a fact--it just makes sense to me.

    On the earthworms: my understanding from worm farming is that European earthworms, which is what you find in most garden soil, don't handle being disturbed very well. So it makes sense that they would find another place to hang out. Redworms, on the other hand, don't seem to mind it. That's one reason you use redworms in a worm bin and not Euro worms. Euro earthworms seem to love sawdust. I put sawdust between the beds, and it's full of worms. I don't know why, since there's nothing to eat in there, but maybe they use it as a sanctuary.
  22. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    There are areas here in Otsego County NY where top soil is only 1". Areas like that respond well to constant plowing and/or tilling and adding nutrients every year - to get the soil base deeper.

    I idea of destroying soil horizons and "poisoning" it has been debated since the plow was invented in England in 1795 and in New Jersey in 1797. Same happened later when the rototiller was invented in 1910. There's truth to both arguments. All depends on the specific area and soil.
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Eric, great info! Hard to add to your good shots and information. There is one thing very different from your shots and our gardens - the fence height. If you have a garden in a rural area that has giant 4 legged rats (aka deer) roaming around, don't scrimp on the fencing. They can wipe out a full crop of strawberries, raspberries, beans, lettuce, etc. before you sip your morning coffee. Our fences are 7 and 8 ft. high. Every year the deer probe for weaknesses. I'll be replacing the rotting chicken wire fencing around the lower garden this month with some heavy duty deer fencing. Don't ask why.
  24. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Long eared locusts around here.

    That fence doesn't keep the deer out. Part of the reason I garden is to relax and lower my blood pressure. That backfires when my hard work and loving care gets trampled all over and ripped out by the roots. I'm planning to get a solar electric fence this year. The sweaty work shirts hanging on the fence only work for awhile.
  25. dvellone

    dvellone Feeling the Heat

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    I put in electric fencing powered by a small solar panel and have had great luck keeping deer out. When my garden was smaller I had galvanized welded wire - 6'- and never had a problem with deer. I ran the support poles a couple feet higher with aluminum wire stretched around the top and pieces of rags tied on here and there to dissuade the deer from trying to jump the fence. My garden perimeter now is much larger so galvanized welded wire is cost prohibitive, and the aluminum wire for electric fence is fairly cheap. I just have to trim close to the ground with the brush cutter every few weeks. "Chicken wire" actually costs about the same as welded wire and doesn't last as long though the smaller holes will keep out the smaller critters.
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