Full Member
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Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:26 am
Location: OH

Preparing a newly acquired garden

Hello All,

A close friend of mine just purchased a new 3 acre home out in the country and it came with an existing 50'x50' garden that seems to have been producing quite well. Since my friend hasn't ever had a garden before, but would like to keep it going he has put me in charge of it. :) To be honest, I find this a little daunting because other than a few tomato, green bean, and pepper plants, I haven't done to much gardening. -helpsos-

What I am hoping to be able to do is use the garden space to create a sort of community garden that myself and a few of my friends and their families could use to either supplement or provide a portion of veggies to each year. I figure that this will help me with the needed labor of not only planting and harvesting the crops, but also help with weed control a few times during the summer. I have discussed it with a few of my friends and they are open to canning what we can't eat during the harvest portion of each plants cycle so we will have the benefit of using the rewards from the garden throughout the year, or at least part of it.

I am currently trying to come up with a nice layout for the garden that will not only make it easy to maintain by using rows, but also give us the most bang for the buck by utilizing the ground the most efficiently. Eventually I would like to raise the beds so that I will have more control over the garden, but right now that isn't really an option due to costs and the overall size of the garden. (That is a lot of 6x2's or bricks.) I thought with time, I could use the area that I would use for paths as a source for some of the dirt that I would pile up for the raised beds and fill in the paths with wood chips since we have a wood chipper at our disposal. I am also working on coming up with some trellises so that the beans, cucumbers, and melons have a place to grow without taking over the garden.

I have told my friend to start putting his grass clippings and leaves over the garden to decompose throughout the winter and I was going to try and get some horse manure as well. I figure once spring arrives I will be able to till it all under and the garden should be ready for planting!

I know that a compost pile would be nice, but my friend is single and lives alone and I doubt that he will be able to supply a 50'x50' garden with enough composting resources. That is why I was thinking grass and leaves with the horse manure since all three should be easily attainable. I have so many questions and I earnestly wish to have a productive and enjoyable garden for myself and my friends. While I know I could list a 100 questions on here, I thought it might be helpful if I could just get some suggestions right now from all of you. What would you do if you were presented with my situation? How would you start and what are things that you would need to consider before planting begins this spring?

Speed... :)

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3065
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:01 am
Location: New Orleans

A 50x50 is a nice size garden and it is a good thing to share the workload and bounty with friends and family.

You can do some canning and some freezing to stretch the produce well past its time in the garden. I freeze things like green beans, okra and soybeans used for edamame. You can pickle cucumbers, okra, green beans, hot and wax peppers from you summer garden.

To cut down on weeding, many of us place cardboard or newspaper between the rows and cover that with leaves and other organic material to help hold it down and get it to break down over time. This also helps control weeds and helps retain moisture so you won't need to water as much. Mulch around your plants to do the same once they are established.

You mentioned raised beds. Those are great but don't make them wider than 4 ft. to make it easier to work in. The idea of a raised bed is to not walk on your soil. Also, 2x6 wood is really not high enough unless the soil is pretty loose for a few inches below the wood. My raised bed is made from 2x12's and is filled almost to the top with good topsoil.

Another good idea is to build trellises for things like cucumbers, pole beans, sugar snaps, ------any vining type plant, since it makes it easier to harvest and keeps the crop off the ground.

You are right on with the compost pile. Check out the Compost section of the forum for some great tips and info. I generally use horse stall material of hay, shavings and manure, leaves, grass clippings and organic kitchen waste for my basic recipe and add garden waste as it accumulates.

I do keep 2 piles. One that is new and the other that is just about ready to use when needed. With 3 acres, it shouldn't be hard to find a spot to make a compost pile or construct a wooden bin using old pallets-----they are usually free for the asking at places like lumber yards, big box stores, etc.

Know that things like tomato plants need staking or some type support. Many use concrete reinforcing wire for our cages. It is heavy duty, has large enough holes for easy access to the plants and is tall enough to support the plant as it grows. I've also found that some peppers and eggplants benefit from staking with heavy wooden stakes about 5-6 ft. long and at least 1 1/2 " square.

Before planting this spring, I'd make a layout, decide what is going where. You don't want to put tall plants like okra or trellises where it will shade the area next to it for much of the day unless you plan on putting in some less heat tolerant plants that will benefit from the shade in the summer.

Remember spacing. Lots of plants get pretty large, like squash, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes----these need a fair amount of room to grow and help keep plant diseases down----especially with tomatoes. Don't make your rows too close---leave between 2 1/2 to 3 ft. between rows so you can get down the row to work the garden and tend to the plants.

I've given you a little food for thought. I'm sure others will come along to offer more advice. Good luck with your planning and I hope others will jump in to help and not just enjoy the fruits of the labor of a few.

Full Member
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:26 am
Location: OH


That is exactly what I was looking for. :-() I have thought that I might be able to use the trellises as shade for some of the plants, but I don't know exactly what yet. I know that Lettuce isn't a fan of the heat and thought I might be able to extend its overall growing cycle.

2x6's would probably work since I would just be placing them on the existing garden sight, but I like the 2x12 idea even better. I get the Wall Street Journal so newspaper shouldn't be a problem coming up with even with the size of the garden. I will start saving them now for the spring.

Thanks for all your info. Rest assured I will probably have all kinds of questions by this time next year asked and probably answered from great forum subscribers like yourself.
Thanks again,

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Senior Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:52 am
Location: Barrie, Ontario,Canada

The cardboard idea works great, also called "lasagna" gardening because of the layers. The cardboad keeps the weeds from growng and helps everything "stew" underneath. I pile all kinds of organic layers on the cardboard. Fall leaves from the curbside are great. Old manure can usually be had for free. Old hay/straw is good, as is shredded computer paper, also roadside free.

Just use lots of manure, as cardboard and leaves use up the nitrogen in the soil when they decompose.

One person can put out quite a lot of kitchen compost over a year's time. It's worth doing.

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