Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 12:16 am

Starting new garden, need help

I told my wife that I would help her make a new garden. I have to be honest and say that I know next to nothing about gardening and am just starting my research now. But I would like to get this up and going as soon as possible. I live in Nova Scotia and plan to plant near a salt water lake (if that matters). The things we would like to grow are vegetables and fruits that we commonly eat. Things like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes (sweet or white), or anything else that would be good to plant, this is not an exhaustive list, just examples. I know that we won't be able to plant it all, but I'm looking for advice on things we should start out with. I don't know what kind of soil to use, or fertilizer. We planned on having a couple of raised beds in the back yard. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, how much would it cost to start up a garden? And how long would it take before we could harvest anything?

Posts: 13634
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:32 am
Location: Hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Starting a garden does have costs but there are ways to get things done with less.

raised beds are usually made out of rot resistant wood if you want it to last awhile, but they can also be made from hay bales, hollow tiles or just mounded up without any border at all.

Make sure you site the bed where it will get at least 6 hours of sun.

The typical bed would be 8-10 ft long (length of a 2x6) and no more than 4 ft wide if you want to avoid stepping in it.

You can get a soil test to see where your starting point is.

You can amend your existing soil if it is decent or fill the raised beds with a soil less mix, or you can build a lasagna bed.

To amend or build a lasagna bed you will need to get some compost, and well rotted manures. Compost can be had reasonably if you have a truck and a green waste facility nearby. Buying by the truckload is way cheaper than buying by the bag. Manures can be had for free from stables and relatively cheap manure from farms. These manures will need to be hot composted or left to stand at least 120 days before harvest. Starting a compost pile is a good place to start.

If you want to lasagna garden, you need to get some cardboard or newspaper to put on the bottom to block weeds and collect greens (kitchen waste, no meats) and browns dried leaves, hay or straw, some soil and compost. ... osting.pdf

While you are building your bed consider installing an irrigation system it will make life much easier. It can be as simple as a soaker hose and a faucet timer or drip irrigation which is easy to install and add on to as long as you use a compatible product.

Start with one bed, add on as you need it.

Cost depends on the materials you use. Some things you can get for free or inexpensively. Pallets make good garden borders, you can usually get them for free, but you will need to cut them down and rework them. Some lumber materials can be had if you know carpenters or construction workers, they can get scraps that would otherwise be tossed out. Concrete tiles are easy to dry set and considering how fast it goes together and how long they last, they are very inexpensive.

if you go border less there is no cost for the borders.

Most of the cost will be for the irrigation timer and supplies which is cheapest if you get it from an irrigation dealer. They will also help you select the parts you need to make it work.

Until you get your own compost pile started you may have to buy that at the start, again it is cheaper by the truck load than by the bag. My local composting facility also sells a planting mix also by the truckload that is ready to load into the bed, and ready to plant.

The soil test is cheapest from the university. I pay about $12 for a nutrient and pH analysis with recommendations.

If you can collect enough dried leaves and newspapers from the neighbors, you won't need to pay much for browns

Greens can be collected from vegetable trimmings and some stores and restaurants might be willing to let you have their scraps for free.

User avatar
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Good advice from imafan. Definitely start your own compost pile. That won't help you right now, but by fall you will have some of your own homemade compost (for free!), that is the best thing you can add to your garden. Browse in our Composting Forum, if you aren't familiar with it.

Starting a garden doesn't have to cost tons, but there is a bit of initial start up cost. If you are going to box in your raised beds, it will probably cost you something in materials. As imafan said you don't have to, but if you are buying or making your own soil, the box contains it, so it doesn't wash away. If it is on top of native soil, it only needs to be about 8 - 12" high. My raised beds are built of pine fence posts (4"x4") which are cheap. Other start up costs will be a bit of tools, if you don't have them already. Essentials are trowel, shovel, hoe. Others can be added as you need them.

What to put in it: start with good quality topsoil (NOT fill dirt) and mix in some combination of compost, mushroom compost, well aged composted manure, peat moss, leaf mould (broken down fall leaves), maybe a bit of perlite or vermiculite to keep it loosened up and draining, other organic materials as they are available to you.

re: Things like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes (sweet or white). You need to study up how things grow. You have a somewhat short growing season and it looks like not lots of hours of sunshine. Put your beds in the sunniest spots you have. Blueberries grow in bushes and they need acidic soil (where that soil test comes in). The bush once you plant it will stay there, so you don't want it mixed in with your annual vegetables, that will get dug and replanted every year. I have raspberries which I am in the process of (painfully) ripping out (they have stickers). The birds get the berries and they spread very fast from the roots and from seeds the birds drop. They are taking over my yard. Strawberries would be good. They also are permanent and need their own bed/space. You won't harvest any this year, but you should next year.

For me it would be too late to plant spinach and lettuce - once it gets hot they bolt and go to seed. But it looks like your climate doesn't warm up very fast or get very hot, so maybe, if you get your beds together quickly. They are usually grown from seed planted directly in the ground and they are quick. You can be eating baby spinach/lettuce in about 8 weeks. For greens, kale and swiss chard are easy to grow and last longer in the garden.

For getting started without much experience, the easiest thing would be to go to a good local nursery and buy a few well started plants, probably tomatoes and peppers. One 8x4 bed is about room for 3 tomato plants and 3 - 4 pepper plants and that will be all you need. It is too early for you to plant them now, but by the time you get everything together, it will probably be time. Tuck some basil plants around the edges. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are trickier and need special conditions. Get started with other things first. It is too late to grow broccoli from seed, but if you find some well started plants, you can put some of those in also. Look for onion sets (which are baby onion plants). They don't take up much room, you can put them around the edges of everything else, and they are good companion planting to help keep bugs away from your veggies.

Everyone and every situation is different. But personally for a couple raised beds, I would never bother with an irrigation system. Looks like you get plenty of rain, so you won't even be watering that often. It isn't hard to water that little bit of garden with a hose or even carrying water in a watering can.

Here's a vegetable planting guide for Novia Scotia: ... %20web.pdf

Come back and ask questions as you go along. Good luck with it, you are starting a great new hobby!

User avatar
Senior Member
Posts: 151
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:03 pm
Location: Memphis, TN (Zone 7)

I would say to be smart about what size garden you have. I have been too ambitious with mine and am starting to realize I have to big of plans lol.

User avatar
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7447
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Topsoil: That miraculous thin covering of the earth in which plants grow. It consists mainly of clay, silt, sand, with a bit of water, air, and other chemicals. Most areas have some topsoil of some sort. What is it like there? Many of our natural soils are very good for growing plants. No need to buy, and or haul in, a bunch of stuff to grow a garden if your lot has some soil on it. In these parts a garden is simply a chunk of the field out back of the house where veggies are grown. The plants are grown in the natural covering of the Earth (soil). No borders, and very few amendments. Perhaps some manure in the fall to be tilled in before snow fall.

What I am trying to say is: Don't make it complicated. If you have some soil, you may need a diggin fork and a rake and hoe for tools.

Whatever you decide, Have Fun!

Return to “Vegetable Gardening Forum”