greenorchid27
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New to gardening, need help in starting.

Hi everybody so I am new to this forum and to gardening as well. I decided to start a vegetable and fruit garden since I will pretty soon be a mommy and would LOVE to be able to feed my baby home made purees from our home garden. :) The problem is I do not know where to start. I have planted veggies before but I always end-up with a lot of foliage and no fruit, or very poor looking fruit and veggies. A friend told me my soil may need fertilizing since it might be low on nutrients since most of the flowers that we have look "weak" and bare few flowers. I would love to have some advice from some of you. Just some background info I live in Los Angeles, Ca. I hear that regions have a lot to do with what plants can and cannot grow well in the area. I would greatly appreciate it if anybody can provide any advise as to how I can prepare my soil before planting seeds, and what vegetable or fruit seeds I can start with right now so that I can do my trial run of my kitchen garden.

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jal_ut
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

Hello and welcome to the forum.

I garden in an entirely different atmosphere. Where you may be able to grow through winter, no hope here.

You must remember that we don't have as much sun now as we will in April and likely the things that will do best are cool weather crops like onions, radishes, turnips, lettuce, peas and spinach, to name some.

I don't know what type soil you have. May I assume that you are going to garden in the ground and not raised beds? If that is the case, you need to till up a spot, remove whatever is growing there and get a nice seed bed prepared. I would get some garden fertilizer in a bag with all three of the most needed nutrients in it, NPK. Put it on at the rate specified on the package.

Whether you will need any other amendments depends on what your soil is like. Sometimes heavy soils benefit from the addition of sand and peat. Some organic matter like leaves and grass clippings are good for a compost heap , which compost can later be used on the soil.

Think about where the sun is and select for a sunny location.

Can you give us any more details on the type of soil and where your garden will be? Hopefully someone in your area will chime in here and give you some good specifics on when to plant things there.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

greenorchid27
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

Thanks for your reply! and wow I can see why you may not be able to plant some stuff during the winter. Here in Los Angeles it certainly does not get that cold. Today our temp was in the low 80's. The lowest it has ever gotten is maybe 46F at night. But okay so I guess I would have to start by buying some fertilizer with Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Any recommendations?? And yes I will be planting on the ground, the soil in my backyard is fairly thin if I may say. It's not "heavy", maybe I can take some pictures tomorrow and post them. But I will definitely go see if I can find any good fertilizer tomorrow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

Slow down and do a little more thinking and research first. Since you live in a year round gardening climate (lucky you! :) ) you have plenty of time.

James, as you may see from the picture of his fields (even though they are under snow), is a farmer, so his take on things may be a little different. One thing you need to start thinking about (even though it may change over time as you get more knowledgeable about all this stuff) is what kind of gardener you aspire to be: chemical /synthetic, reliant on a lot of chemicals, poisons, etc vs organic/ natural. You can see my biases, and certainly if I wanted to grow for a baby, I would not want to be going the chemical route.

So absolutely, yes, it sounds like you must build up, enrich, your soil. The foundation of your garden is your soil and you can't have a good garden without good soil. The question is are you going to do that by buying a bag of chemical salts which will poison the bacterial and fungal life of your soil or are you going to do it in some organic way, which supports the life of your soil? In the book club section, there is a discussion of a book we read together awhile back Teaming with Microbes, which has tons of info about the life of the soil. When I talk about bacteria and fungi, that may sound scary because we have negative stereotypes of them, but these are good guys and absolutely necessary for healthy, living soil.

So if what you want is to create rich organic living soil, which will support the life of your plants, think about biology, not chemistry. Think about adding lots of organic matter to your soil. That could be compost. Browse in our compost forum and start a compost pile. That won't help you now, because it takes months to create your own compost, but you can start now to prepare for your future gardens. Homemade compost is the best thing you can add to your garden. In the meantime, you can buy compost in bags too (although being bagged up and stored, a lot of the life has probably gone out of it). You can also buy mushroom compost, aged composted manure, and organic fertilizers with natural ingredients and beneficial microbes and mycrorrhizae (e.g. https://www.vine.com/p/dr-earth-organic- ... agpspn=pla)

You can also add whatever organic stuff you have around. I guess you don't have much in the way of fall leaves in LA. I am busy collecting fall leaves for my garden and compost pile. But whatever might be around, grass clippings, pulled weeds, used coffee grounds, even shredded paper.

Building rich soil like this is a process, it doesn't happen over night, but you can certainly make a difference now.


As far as what you can be planting now, you are in cold hardiness zone 10. This just says that you have very warm winters. In zone 10, you can be planting all the cool weather stuff now. That includes broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, spinach. Here's a planting guide that will give you a place to start:

https://www.thevegetablegarden.info/reso ... g-schedule


Congratulations on the new baby coming and the wonderful journey you are starting on! I admire your decision to work to have fresh homegrown veggies for your baby. Of course, baby won't be ready for those for at least six months after he/she appears in the world. But that means you have time to get a garden going! Have fun.
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imafan26
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

I agree with Rainbow. To find out what you need to add for fertilizer, get a soil test and if you want to be organic ask for organic recommendations. Instead of trying to plant now, I would just work on building the soil. You can till up the soil but if that is a lot of work, consider lasagna gardening and the no till methods.
If you do a biointensive or no till gardening you would have to do some double digging, but I would get some help with that. You only have to do it once.
https://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/s ... osting.pdf
https://www.greenschool.org/community/gr ... gardening/

P.S. The biointensive method is meant to be self sustaining, but if you can't get the calorie and carbon plants worked in to your garden, you can still import what you need by adding grass clippings, leaves and twigs, bark chips (get them from your neighbors and landscapers in the area are usually more than happy to drop off chips), kitchen vegetable scraps, newspapers into your compost pile and by cover cropping.

Since you are having a baby, you want to make sure the garden is the size you can handle.

Select a site in full sun that gets at least 6 hours of daylight. People are always tempted to make the bed up against a wall, but it is better to have a pathway 2-3 ft wide between the wall and the bed. Make the bed itself no more than 4 ft wide so you can reach across and work the bed without stepping in it. Another reason to have a path along the wall. Many plants do not like to be up against a solid wall. The wall will heat up and only a few plants appreciate that in summer and it will cast shade on the plants for part of the day. A solid wall prevents air circulation which can lead to more disease problems.

Put the trellis on the north side so it will not shade other plants. It is best to have the trellis in before you plant tomatoes, cucumbers, beans or peas.

Adding pvc hoops on the garden that can be taken off is good if you need to use a protective cover for your plants.

Choose your plants so that they are things that you like, are relatively expensive to buy, taste better fresh and are easy to grow. Herbs are a good place to start. They can be kept in containers saving garden space, they are relatively expensive to buy and definitely taste better fresh. Some of them are perennial so with care they will last a very long time. And most of the herbs are not real fussy.

Lettuce is a 40 day crop as well as some of the Asian greens (40-50 days) and they are good crops for the cooler months.

Carrots, onions, potatoes are relatively cheap to buy and I can't grow enough to meet all my needs and they take a lot of time and space to mature so I only grow them when I have the time and space and want a challenge, I don't always get great results with carrots. Green onions and chives are good though since a small pot can last a couple of years.

Cut and come again plants are good choices as well as plants that produce over a long season. Kale, zucchini (summer), tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, eggplant, will give you repeat harvests. It is good to plant a fruit tree or two if you have the space somewhere.

Start small, and do not get overly ambitious. Gardens take a lot of time and need regular tending and so do babies. The demands of the baby will come first so you need to make sure you have time left for the garden.

It will help if you automate the watering of the garden. When you establish the garden bed, put in a watering system, either a drip system or a sprinkler. (Drip is better, it wastes less water and you won't wet the leaves.) Attach the system to a timer on the faucet so the garden is watered automatically. You should still go out everyday, you may have to make adjustments to the systems or hand water some pots unless you use emitters. Once a month you should run the system in manual mode to make sure everything is working. Inspect the plants for pest problems and take care of it before they become major problems and do some harvesting and weeding.

Add compost to the garden every year and mulch. The garden will not lose water as quickly and you can water less frequently. You can start your own compost pile.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

So, greenorchid, did you get some garden planted?
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jal_ut
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

One thing you need to start thinking about (even though it may change over time as you get more knowledgeable about all this stuff) is what kind of gardener you aspire to be: chemical /synthetic, reliant on a lot of chemicals, poisons, etc vs organic/ natural. You can see my biases, and certainly if I wanted to grow for a baby, I would not want to be going the chemical route.
Ummmm....... slow down a minute Rainbow, take a deep breath and consider this: All plants contain chemicals. They are made up of the very elements you so blatantly labeled "poisons" . In fact it is for these very elements that we like to include plants in our diets. No NPK on your garden won't poison you nor your plants, but it will certainly make them grow better.

OK, do as you will, but please refrain from these scare tactics. Sheesh!
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

No scare tactics! I specifically said the chemical salt in NPK fertilizer "will poison the bacterial and fungal life of your soil" which is precisely true. That does not mean it is poisonous to plants or to humans. Obviously most of the produce in the grocery store is grown with these kinds of fertilizers. It does not poison us. It does poison soil microbes, which means that the plants are totally dependent on the chemical fertilizers for nutrients and do not get all of the trace nutrients that healthy soil and soil biota would provide. So there is less nutritional value in the crops. The soil is also becoming more depleted through this process, so that the tilth breaks down, it does not hold moisture as well. The plants are not as healthy and vigorous and therefore they are more susceptible to pests and diseases, and therefore more likely to have herbicides and pesticides used on them, which are poisonous to us and the environment.

There is good evidence, which I am not going to go look up right now to cite, that as our use of synthetic fertilizers increases, our use of herbicides and pesticides increases right in tandem and all of that has been going up and up in industrial farming.


See also my post here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 21#p317921

citing lots of evidence about the declining nutritional value of our crops due to soil depletion. The depleted soils they are talking about are ones that have had NPK poured on them. They are very "fertile" in the sense of lots of NPK and very depleted in every other sense, barren and dead.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

You've been reading this stuff for a long time now James. :) You have plenty of land and probably a bit of time on your hands, since children are grown, etc. I really encourage you to test it out for yourself. Keep on doing what you do with your fields, but set yourself aside one little plot somewhere, 10 x 10 would be plenty or a couple 4 x 10's with paths in between. Quit tilling this little bit of ground, quit putting any synthetics on it, and just work on building up the soil activity as much as you can with mulch, compost, well composted manures, aerated compost tea, organic fertilizer with beneficial microbes and microrrhizae, etc. Use cover crops, keep it well mulched, never let your soil be bare. Plant it diversely and see what happens.

It will take a little time and patience, the transition from chemical to organic no-till can be a little rocky. But you are a beekeeper, so I take it you are already not using insecticides and herbicides, which is a big plus.

My money says you might not be impressed the first year, but by year two or three, if you keep working on building healthy soil biota and planting to attract beneficial insects, you will be pretty amazed what your one little organic plot can do.

C'mon, what have you got to lose, by trying it yourself? At worst you can come back and tell me, see, I told you so, doesn't do as good as my NPK / urea fertilized fields. :) And taking pictures and documenting what happens will be a fun project. In year three, you can send a sample of your organic corn (or whatever) and your chemically grown corn to be analyzed, for nutrient content.
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Aida
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

Since you are excpecting a little miracle, I encourage you to try looking into raised beds. I found that making a raised bed this year was MUCH easier to control, care for, and prepare than my in-ground garden last year. Also, if your soil is on the lesser side, you can just fill it with manure and compost from the store, or supplement with fertilizer if you want.

littlelizzy123
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

My soil in CO is pretty bad, so I use raised beds, and I find it SO much easier to deal with. I can control what goes in, it is easier on my back and pocket book, I don't have to fight against the soil I was dealt with. That being said, here are my recommendations to get started.

1. Get a soil test if you are going to garden in the ground. If you are going to use raised beds (which are easy as a few 2x10s in a square shape, filled with good soil) a soil test isn't all that important, but it is good to know where you are starting at for the rest of your yard. I would also recommend getting a soil test for your new raised beds as well. If you don't have a lot of room, or are not in a permanent place, think about container gardening. Peppers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, and zucchini do really well in large pots.

2. START SMALL! I know it is super tempting to go all out and plant everything every where in 15 beds, but it will bog you down, and you'll start to get frustrated. Grow a few things first. Maybe some bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. THEN STOP! This will give you the time to really put quality time with your plants and learn about them, how they grow, and what they like and dislike. You won't be spread too thin and can really appreciate what you've got going on now. Add a few more plants as you go.

3. I grew up on a farm, and I myself am not afraid to use small amounts of fertilizers (NPK). They are elements. Nothing more, nothing less. In conjunction with good soil practices and introducing lots of organic material, they can be very helpful. Rainbow does have a point that when you rely solely on fertilizers and not building the soil, it's not a good thing. I have seen that in the large commercial farms; their soil is breaking down. There has recently been a big push for soil conservation, but it's like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. But I do feel that when used minimally and responsibly, they can be useful. What I don't like to use is pesticides and herbicides. I myself don't think they have a place in food gardens. There are plenty of non-cancer causing alternatives.

4. Get a few gardening books that are specific to your area and get to reading! That's the best part! Take it slow and don't get intimidated and remember that gardening is a journey, not a destination!

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jal_ut
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

rainbowgardener:
James, as you may see from the picture of his fields (even though they are under snow), is a farmer, so his take on things may be a little different.
Almost like you are putting me down with that comment? I have been writing on this board for quite a while I guess, but let me introduce myself!

My first garden was in 1948. It was a glower garden.
My mother loved her flower gardens and helped me plan and set up my own flower garden.
My Father was a farmer, we lived on a farm. We had dairy cows and horses and sheep and pigs and chickens. Father always had a veggie garden too. His main crops were corn, beans, squash and potatoes. These are what I came to call the big 4 for garden produce. The farm was 150 acres. Yes, I had early training on how to grow crops and veggies.

I had a large family. 13 children. Yes it took a lot of food to feed them. Much of it came from the gardens that we had over the years. I kept a milk cow for years and also chickens most of the time. Gardening seems to rub off, all of my children now have a veggie garden.

Today I am retired and live with my wife. We don't need the food we did in the past, but my veggie garden is larger than ever. I grow for the local farmers market and produce many truckloads of fresh veggies.

Farmer? I guess you can say that. What do farmers do? Grow crops. Food for both animals and people.
Farmer indeed and happy for it.

What do gardeners do? Same thing. Gardener = Farmer.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

No put down intended. Just trying to indicate that we may be coming from different perspectives.

Farmers and gardeners both may grow food, though that seems pretty definitional for farmers, but some gardeners never grow anything edible. To me the difference is scale. Farming is a vocation, gardening is a hobby. To make it your vocation and your livelihood, you pretty much have to have some acreage.

The world relies on farmers and I completely admire them. I have said other places that I could never be a farmer, even though I love being outdoors and growing things. It would make me too insecure, to have my livelihood depend on whether enough rain came at the right time and no freezes came at the wrong time and so on.

But when you are tending acres with a tractor, there are some things that would be just too labor intensive to do on that scale, that I can do in tending my 200 sq feet of veggie gardens. I don't think that makes me better, it is just a statement of fact. No put down intended. I have said more than once in other threads, that I am sure you have seen, that I respect what you do, and see how successful you are at producing tons of beautiful food in your short growing season. I have learned from you over the years (you've been writing here a month longer than I have :) ).
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applestar
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

I wonder if greenorchid27 -- the OP of this thread -- got around to starting a garden?
I hope the baby's birth went well and the family are doing well.... I imagine this is around when lack of sleep is starting to set in though, so a new hobby like gardening may seem too much to tackle.

But I suppose this would be a good time to be growing peas in an LA garden, and sowing carrot seeds in the well-loosened ground, raised bed, or a half barrel mini garden. I would have to start my cauliflower and broccoli inside since it's currently 15°F outside here, but she could probably sow them outside -- is it too late in LA for those? Perhaps she should choose "summer" type broccoli or repeating floret type like "de Cicco". It's probably the right time now or soon to plant seed potatoes, though some recommend staying away from solanacea for babies at first.

What else would be typical first foods for a baby? I started with peas for my babies, I remember. then some carrots. And I grew sweet potatoes during their first summer... And of course green beans and edamame.

I think Bountiful Gardens and Kitazawa Seeds -- both seed sources in California -- would be a couple of good places to look for seeds.
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jal_ut
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

If this were the "Organic Gardening Forum" I would expect some upheaval from the mention of NPK,
however, since it is not I am a bit surprised from your reaction.

Gardener, farmer, rancher, or hobbyist, the fact remains: The principles of soil and plant nutrition remain the same at all levels. Yes, compost and mulch are a good thing in your garden. Please go re-read my first comments on this thread and note that I said:
Whether you will need any other amendments depends on what your soil is like. Sometimes heavy soils benefit from the addition of sand and peat. Some organic matter like leaves and grass clippings are good for a compost heap , which compost can later be used on the soil.
Mulch is a good thing to hold moisture, however you must be aware that fresh organic matter does require nitrogen in the decomposition process. It really adds nothing that the plants can use until it is decomposed. Yes, it will help hold the water in the soil as it protects the soil from the drying effects of the wind. If you have finished compost, it can go to work right now to feed your plants and enrich the soil and the nitrogen in it will be available right now.

One thing more to consider, If you make a compost heap and the refuse sits there a month or more decomposing, you have to keep it wet to work. Will any excess water move some of the nutrients down into the soil under the heap. I am going to say yes, so you lose some nutrients. (Move it over and plant a cucumber where it was.)

So, is it best to have a compost heap and use finished compost on the garden, or put all your fresh organic material directly on the garden and let it decompose there in spite of the fact it locks up some nitrogen in the process? I don't have a good answer for that one. (Perhaps there are those who have made the experiment?)

Bottom line is: Organic matter is good, if not necessary,
for the soil. Pile it on.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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jal_ut
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

I really encourage you to test it out for yourself. Keep on doing what you do with your fields, but set yourself aside one little plot somewhere, 10 x 10 would be plenty or a couple 4 x 10's with paths in between. Quit tilling this little bit of ground, quit putting any synthetics on it, and just work on building up the soil activity as much as you can with mulch, compost, well composted manures, aerated compost tea, organic fertilizer with beneficial microbes and microrrhizae, etc. Use cover crops, keep it well mulched, never let your soil be bare. Plant it diversely and see what happens.
Rainbow, most of what you mention here I do on my fields. I do till. I cannot come up with enough organic matter to mulch it all. I do not make compost tea. I do put some NPK on it. On these points you got me.

Not likely to change either. Too much area for such a comprehensive program.

I do leave all the plant residue on the plot. I do use cover crops. I do add leaves, manure, and grass clippings to the plot. Probably in more weight than the produce I take off. Any organic waste matter generated in the kitchen goes on the plot. Be advised that microbes and microrrhizae are definitely in abundance in my soil.

So you give me a challenge? OK, I will try a 10x10. I will return the favor. Add a little NPK to one of your plots and see what happens. ;)
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

DoubleDogFarm
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

So you give me a challenge? OK, I will try a 10x10. I will return the favor. Add a little NPK to one of your plots and see what happens. ;)
Touche!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to gardening, need help in starting.

Indeed! :) I'm not ignoring you, I'm thinking about it and whether I could make it work in a meaningful way.

You have plenty of room to spare. If I were to take up the challenge, I would really want to have a control group, even a tiny one, like two tomato plants my way and two with NPK. But my 200 sq ft makes even that difficult. But that's not a no, that is I'm trying to figure out how/where I could do it.

If you are willing to try, I feel like I should be too! :)
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