Zone5Newbie
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Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Hi all,

I'm Josh, 1st post here, just found this forum. I'm from the NW suburbs of IL, gardening zone 5. My girlfriend and I are taking our 1st shot at vegetable gardening this year and want to do it organic. I have a lot of questions of course, but couldn't find a "Newbie read this" sort of sticky. Some of my main questions would be:

-Names of trusted organic fertilizers.

-Store bought organic soil/compost. (doing raised beds and would like a pre-mixed bag is possible that is ready to plant in). (I don't have a compost pile)

-Pest prevention: I bought diatamacious earth (recommended by organic youtube gardener) would it be wise to dust the garden with that as a preventative measure? Do you guys praise DE like this youtuber does?

looking to grow: carrots, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, potato, chives, jalepenos, pumpkin, beets (I am aware that I can't necessarily grow them all at the same time.)

any tips are much appreciated! : ) thanks

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Hi and WELCOME to the Forum! Congratulations on getting ready to start on what I expect will be a very rewarding hobby (with the possibility of morphing in to an obsession as it has with some of us :) ).

Something to think about re the basics thread, but it is hard because we have people writing in here, not only from all over the country, but all around the world. What you can say that would apply to all of those people would be very limited. Tomatoes are a summer crop where you are, a spring/fall crop in places like TX. The needs of people with clay soil are very different from those with sandy soil. Things that people swear by for their tomatoes in very dry climates, totally don't work for me in my humid climate (fungal diseases proliferate) and so forth.

There is a composting basics thread at the top of the Composting Forum and a seed starting basics thread at the top of the Seed Starting Forum and maybe a few others.

Someone else will have to answer the fertilizer question. I don't use any, just work on having good, rich, organic soil and add compost and mulch.

Re soil. You didn't say how big an area you are talking about (for all that you want to grow, including pumpkins, which get huge, it better be a large garden space). If you are talking about a large area, buying bags of stuff is prohibitively expensive (unless of course you have a fat wallet and money is no object :) ). Look around for people who sell top soil by the cubic yard delivered. Fill up your beds with that and then work on amending it heavily with some bags of compost, peat moss, and other soil enrichments.

Diatomaceous earth is good stuff and pretty harmless for using preventatively, so you could do that. I usually don't recommend any pest control until you have pests and know what it is you are trying to control. DE works against a lot of crawling things. It is useless for example against squash bugs, which fly and land on leaves.

RE: carrots, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, potato, chives, jalepenos, pumpkin, beets Especially this season, while you are still making your garden, etc. , I recommend that you don't think about getting involved in indoor seed starting.

Carrots, spinach, lettuce, beets/chard, chives are cool weather crops that are direct seeded in the ground "as soon as the ground can be worked" i.e. is unfrozen and has dried out enough that it won't clump up. I am at that spot now, but I'm in zone 6. You may have a few weeks left.

Potatoes can be grown from grocery store potatoes, sprouted and cut up and they are planted pretty early also, traditionally when the forsythia blooms.

Tomatoes and peppers and pumpkins you should just buy well started transplants from a good local nursery (NOT big box store). Asparagus you buy crowns, which is roots plus the growing points where the stems will start. But you do know, asparagus has to get established. You are not supposed to harvest any until the third year after planting.

That's as much as I can do for you now, but stay in touch, let us know how it is going for you, post pictures! :) , ask lots of questions. We will guide you through this. It's like having a bunch of wise aunts and uncles at your side. The internet is a wonderful thing!
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Wow, thanks for the detailed reply rainbowgardener! I'm working with about 100 sq ft but it'll really be about 70-80 sq ft worth of planting space in the rasied beds. (I was planning on doing the pumpkins in ground soil away from main garden, as well as the asparagus which I do realize I can't harvest until 3rd year or so). I am doing the potatoes in 5 gallon buckets, so the 70-80 sq ft won't be expected to house pumpkins, asparagus or potatoes.

I did start seeds indoors already :) however is did them in a window sill and am afraid they are "leggy". I have a 4' adjustable grow light on its way in case I need to re-do the germination process. I'd like to grow everything from seed if possible. I'll try to save some leggy seedlings, but realize they may have been a sacrifice in my learning experience.

I totally understand why a "one size fits all" basics thread doesn't totally work. Just didn't want to bug people if a sticky was available. Have you been able to save leggy seedlings? I wanted to do without a grow light to do this as "naturally" as possible, but want good results too lol thank again! Josh

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Leggy seedlings of what? Leggy seedlings of tomatoes aren't so bad, if not too serious, because you can bury the long stem and it will root all along it. I have trouble if the tomatoes get too leggy, because the stems can get fragile and snap easily (the tomatoes get brought in and out in hardening and then they get transported back and forth for the plant sale days).

Other things can be more problematic. Maybe post a couple pictures, see what people think.

80 sq feet is very little, 8x10 or two 4x10 raised beds. Leaving pumpkin, asparagus, potato out, you can probably grow the rest, but not in big quantity.

Put a row of carrots down one long edge of one bed. Put a row of one of the other cold weather things, lettuce, spinach, broccoli down the other long edge of the bed. All of that goes in as soon as the ground can be worked, which is probably pretty soon. Then later, after all danger of frost has passed, and the soil isn't so cold, plant the tomatoes/ peppers in the middle. You could probably put 4 tomato plants down the middle of each bed, which will be plenty of tomatoes. Or plant 2 or 3 tomatoes and 2-4 pepper plants, which are smaller. By the time the tomato plants are getting big, the lettuce, spinach or broccoli will be about done, and can be pulled to make room. The carrots are slower and will be there most of the summer, but they don't take up much room and they are good companion plants for the tomatoes.

Orient your beds N-S so taller things don't shade out shorter ones.

Fill in spaces with chives, onion sets, basil (you have to grow basil!), marigolds, etc. Think about planting flowers to attract beneficial insects, other places in your garden (conserving the space in your two raised beds) or in containers. It is really helpful.

Flowers to attract beneficial insects include; Yarrow, coriander, carrot family (parsley, dill, fennel, carrot, Queen Anne’s lace) when left to bloom, tansy, alyssum, milkweed, buckwheat, marigold , feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, anise hyssop (licorice mint), mint, oregano, sage, thyme, bee balm, annual lobelia, zinnia, ironweed, Joe Pye weed

You don't need to have all of them, but a selection of several is good.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Welcome to the forum. Please add your location and zone to your profile.

What Rainbow said is true.

Basics no matter where you are

If you don't know anything about your soil. Get a soil test. It can usually be gotten from the land grant college closest to you.

Take advantage of the master gardeners in your area to answer specific questions and point you toward resources in your ares

Amend the soil with lots of organic matter and if you have the space start a compost pile. If you don't, think about vermicomposting on a smaller scale.

Look for agricultural resources in your area. Network with other gardeners. There may be garden clubs or specialty clubs like for roses, orchids, lilies where there will be a lot of fellowship and opportunities to learn more.
The big box stores are not the best place to buy. Find the agricultural suppliers in your area. Get with a few friends and buy in bulk if you can and get an account for a better discount. If you live in a farming community you will have access to many more suppliers and usually can get cheap or free stuff like manures from stables, and farms (good to add to a compost pile, not so good fresh). Irrigation suppliers often sell retail. Some things can be found on the internet.

Look for seeds and cultivars that will do well in your area. Different climates, soil conditions, pests will mean that some things will do better than others. This is where local networking really helps. Most catalogs are free or online, and it doesn't cost you anything to browse and you will have more choices than what is served up at the local big box store.

If you are new to gardening. Start small, but plan ahead so you can expand
Select only 3 or four plants to start with and pick a garden size you can handle, add to it when you have the time and skill.

Align planting beds north south. Put trellis for tall plants on the north end and do not make the planting bed wider than 4 feet with access all around. Do not site the bed up against a fence or wall. This is a common mistake. You cannot get to the back of the bed easily and the wall either reflects heat, blocks air or can cast shadows on the growing bed.

Automate watering. Install a sprinkler or drip system. It saves a lot of time. Water as needed. How often is that? It depends on your soil. Learn to do the finger test. If the soil is damp 3-4 inches down, and your plants are doing o.k. wait. When you do water, water slow and deep to encourage deep roots. Organic matter in the soil and a good layer of mulch on top will hold on to water longer. Watering needs will change with the seasons and when it is hot and windy you will need to water more.

Fertilizer. When you do your soil test request organic recommendations. It takes the guesswork out of how much and what kind to add.

Remember if you are just starting an organic garden from bare earth it will take up to three years to really be productive.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Hi Rainbow and Imafan! thanks for more great replies! busy day so I couldnt' get on here to reply until now. I have attached some pictures and a tentative layout. My neighors house and trees make the southern sun blocked to some degree, however when it rises in the morning it would soak my garden area in sun. I'm guessing 6 hours of direct sun is really the best I can do ;( Hopefully that doesn't mess up too many veggie options.

My broccoli is particularly leggy. the spinach and lettuce are less, but maybe still leggy. Here are some pics of 10 days since planting. (darn it wouldnt' let me upload the layout I had in mind) no PDF's allowed?

Do I need a soil test if I plan on planting in store bought soil? wouldn't that already to PH friendly?

The automated watering sounds great, but I have well water and heard a drip system won't work for that. plus I spend an hour or two every day in my backyard exercising my dogs, so I figure I can multi task and play fetch while I water and weed the garden.

I'm confused by the 3 year thing...I mean, why can't I harvest after 1 season with raised beds, good soil etc.?

Thanks again for the help! : ) Josh
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Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

oh yeah, an I WAY overseeded. I had up to 20 broccoli seedlings pop up in 1 little jiffy pod. I've been slowing thinning them out. rookie mistakes all over....

imafan26
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

You can harvest plants grown organically the first year, but if you are starting with bare soil, your soil web may or may not be fully developed depending on what was there before. It may be up to three years before you see bigger plants with better yields.

Six hours of full sun is good.

If you are planting in containers potting soil is fine. Most potting soil contains fertilizer and lime.

In the ground, you would usually add things like compost, and aged manure. If you ask for organic recommendations on a soil test, they will tell you how much manure, bone meal, greensand, etc. to add.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Great to hear! I was worried. did a casual sun/time study on Saturday and looks like 6 to maybe even 8 hours of direct morning sun. thanks for the tips on soil as well Imafan! got the raised beds built on Saturday, only to have it snow 4" haha.

I also got my 4' indoor light so hopefully my seedlings can get stronger, if not I can restart some of course

imafan26
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Containers need to have potting soil, not dirt, or garden soil. Be careful at the store, garden soil and potting soil bags look almost alike. Stay away from moisture control potting soil, unless you live in a desert where you supply all of the water, it only causes problems.

In the ground or in raised beds there are several mixes that people like. It depends on what your native soil is like and your climate. Most raised beds only have to be 6-8 inches tall. Taller beds need to have stronger sides to carry the weight of the wet soil.

Soil Mix 1
50% screened topsoil 50% high quality compost. Blended together to make homogeneous mix and never tilled again

Raised bed Mix 2 ( Mel's MIx)
1/3 coarse horticultural vermiculite
1/3 peat moss
1/3 blended compost (= 5 or more different sources of base material to for a variety of nutrients)

Raised Bed 3 Lasagna (sheet mulching)
Sheet mulching combines composting in the bed. It is best started in the fall, but if you layer your greens and browns on the bottom and add 4-6 inches of high quality soil mix on top it can be planted right away. It is a lot cheaper than filling beds with potting soil.
https://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/s ... osting.pdf
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

The three year thing applies only to the asparagus and it does not matter how good your soil is. The scales at the tip of the asparagus spear we eat, if not harvested and left to grow, open up to be the leaves of the plant, which is what feeds it. If you pick the spears, then you never let it grow leaves and ultimately the crowns and roots will just die. It has to get well established enough that it is making enough stems to have some to spare for you.

The asparagus spear scales open up into branches

Image
https://www.floridata.com/ref/A/images/aspa_of1.jpg

Which become fronds full of feathery leaves
Image
https://herselfshoustongarden.com/images ... s-fern.jpg
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Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

I gotcha Rainbow, thanks for the info on asparagus. I started some seeds, none of which have germinated at the 2 week mark, so not sure if they will. I saw crowns at home depot, but also read not to get plants from the big box stores, and instead look to nurseries. I definitely want to either get seedlings or crowns started this year though.

I've got lots of true leaves on my seedlings now and plant to do some transplanting this week. I've thinned out my little cells a lot as well. Hoping I can save some leggy plants, if not will star over now that I have a grow light :)

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

So ten days later, well into spring here. How's it going for you? Do you have stuff in the ground now?

Best Wishes!! :)
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Zone5Newbie
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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

Hi RainbowGardener! Thanks for thinking of me :) garden update:

of my 1st 50 starter cells:

4 of 5 Zucchini are thriving and upgraded to 4" pots
4 of 5 Pumpkins are doing well, upgraded to 4" pots, one is in a 6" pot
5 of 5 Spinach plants doing well, upgraded to 4" pots
5 of 5 Broccoli plants upgraded to 4" pots, 1 may not make it. these were leggy so buried a bit of stem to help them out
2 of 5 Lettuce plants doing good. lost some to dampening off? maybe, not entirely sure
5 asparagus cells have shown no life to date
5 carrot cells were thinned down, don't seem big enough to transplant. have since learned carrots usually are not started indoors. they are getting true leaves though...
1 of 5 Tomato plants are left. still in cell. I think I actually underwatered them.
1 of 5 Chive plants in original cell. seems to be making minimal progress
3 of 5 Jalapeno plants doing OK. still in cell, may transplant to 4" soon
My red potato (store bought) is HUGE...growing in a 5 lb Whey Protein tub haha. Started some seed potatoes in 5 gal. buckets too.

That 50 cell try was started in a window sill and had some cloudy days. I feel like they are probably a week behind were they could be, but now are under grow light and seem to be catching up and doing real well. My plan is to try an transplant the cold tolerant plants (spinach, lettuce, broccoli right?) outside weekend of 4/11. Chicago has still been pretty chilly and I haven't started hardening off yet...

I also started a 72 cell tray lol. this one is getting a proper start with the grow light AND heat pad. 2 things my other seedlings did not have the 1st 10 days or so. I plan to succession plant lots more spinach, broccoli and lettuce for a prolonged harvest hopefully will finish before it gets too hot for them. Plus, more tomato, chive and things that were not very successful 1st time around.

I planned on doing a early plant out (maybe weekend of 4/11) for some cold tolerant crops. then 3-4 weeks later, get some younger seedlings from 72 cell tray of cold tolerant out there too, along with all the hot season seedlings. sound like a decent plan? am I behind not having anything outside yet?

Thanks a LOT for the help :)

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Re: Sticky on the basics? total rookie :)

some pics to illustrate...

Potato in protein Jug and purple ish potato leaves. The you can see the Zucchini next to the red Tupperware, and one of the pumpkins compared to a plastic fork. I can get spinach, tomato, broccoli, jalapeno pics tonight.
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