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What Am I Doing Wrong in my Vegetable Garden?

I'm fairly new to gardening, we kind of had a garden the past three years. First year we kind of tried at it at first then kind of gave up as time went on, last year was a down year where we only grew a few tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. This year we planted late but actually rented a rototiller and worked some land approximately 35" X 10', we added soil and manure that we bought at home depot and worked that in to the land.

We then planted the following plants we bought from home depot: regular red and cherry tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries(plus some plants came back from last year about 15 plants in all so far) & zucchini. Later we planted string beans, squash, green peppers and spinich we also bought at home depot. At the time we originally planted we also started a bunch of seeds in one of those black trays with the clear plastic cover. Most of them didn't take but we did get one carrot(we think), some corn and watermelon and a couple of mystery plants, the seedlings are all still very small but stil alive in the ground.

We have two gardens the main garden where the tomatoes, broccoli, squash, zucchini, strawberries, eggplant, cucumbers, some string beans, some corn, carrots, lettuce(we think) and the mystery plants are. In the back garden we have the potatoes (15 stalks so far), some string beans, watermelon, some corn and raspberries.

I was watering every day for a little while at first then the rains came and I've barely watered had to water in weeks. I had some problem bugs but we bought some bug stray for roses and vegetables and that seemed to work pretty well. We still have a bunch of ants that just won't die, I've tried the ortho rose and vegetable bug spray and that worked well on all the bugs buit the ants. I've also put down a bunch of the Sevin white power dust all around my property because we had a trillion different ants. The sevin worked for the most part but we still have a lot of ants in certain parts of the land.

I fed them all about 1 month ago with the basic miracle grow blue stuff in the skinny white plastic bags for veggies and flowers and just fed them again today. I feed them the normal way then take the dipenser off and crack the seal and walk around and dribble some of the blueish water and maybe a crystal or three on the base of the plants where the mulch is. After I do this to everything I then put a small adjustable nozzl;e on my garden hose and water all the blue stuff into the ground. As long as I water the blue stuff in I don't have any problems with the leaves or stalks getting burned.

Along with the veggies we have about 35 petunia plants, 25 snap dragons and a bunch of others that I cannot remember the name of right now (brain freeze). We have a rock wall about 4 feet high that run around the entire outside of the upper deck of our property and it has a space about 10 inches wide that runs around the entire base of the wall. We plant all the flowers in that space alternating flowers & colors. It looks great!

Everything is growing, so far we have seen nothing but some strawberries. There are some tomoatoes but they are still green, the broccoli is going good but the corn is small (10 inches) and so are the cucumber plants.

We really like gardening and we're thinking of expanding and making a bigger garden where the main garden is (maybe 55' x 10') and we could expand the back garden to something like 100' x 50', but a lot of both gardens would only have sun part of the day. I'd like to tear up the grass in the back/side and I could start another garden there 150' x 75' or more.

We like to stick to but maybe not plant all of the following veggies and fruits: tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, cucumber, string bean, carrots, sweet corn, peas, eggplant, lettuce, spinich, garlic, sweet basil + blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe , watermelon & pumkins.

I live in the northeast if that makes any difference?

That being said I have the following questions: what am I doing wrong? Should I be using more or different types of fertilizer? What bug spray should I use for the bugs? I just started composting by making a composter out of one of my garbage cans. Should work prety good according to the instrustions I got off the internet.

Which vegetables should be planted with which ones? Do I have to rotate crops if I start each year by rototilling and adding fresh bought top or potting soil, manure and fertilizer? What fertilizer should I use and with which vegetables, fruits etc? What books are good for beginning and more advanced gardeners like myself?

I know I've asked a lot. If someone could take the time and answer my questions I'm sure I and a lot of other people will get a lot of use out of this thread. Thank You in advance for the help.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: TN/GA 7b

veggie growing questions

that is a lot of questions. You will probably get more answers if you break them out separately. But I will make a stab at a few. Yes, you still need to rotate crops, that's about pest and disease control, not soil fertility. After you grow tomatoes in one spot the pests that like tomatoes will find them and start to accumulate there. You avoid some of that by putting them in a different spot next time.

Sounds like you planted everything at once, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes. For next time, the broccoli and spinach are cool weather crops that aren't going to do too much for you now (depending on your location--planet earth isn't too helpful, that's where most of us on this forum are :) ) The spinach I just plant seeds directly in the ground "as soon as the ground can be worked" which in my Ohio location is sometime in March. The broccoli I start from seed indoors under lights and plant out while there is still possibility of frost, it can survive light frosts and grows best in cool weather.

Re the seed starting. People usually don't bother starting corn and watermelon in pots, they are so fast sprouting and fast growing, they do great just planted in the ground. And carrots being root crops, really don't like to be transplanted, messes with the root you want. Just plant them in the ground too. I start a lot of things indoors. I don't use the plastic cover. The main problem that kills indoor seedlings is being too wet, they don't need all that extra moisture. Beyond that you just need to be sure they have plenty of light. Window sill doesn't really get it. I grow mine with shop lights just a few inches above the plants, on 16 hrs a day.

Otherwise, sounds like you are doing GREAT!! Welcome to the wonderful world of gardening!

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

When to plant.

Climates and soils vary imensely across our great country. You would get better advice for your area if you gave us a better idea of where you garden.

Aside from that, just a few notes that should be good for most anywhere.

The only crops I start indoors are tomatoes and peppers. Everything else grows fine planted in the ground where it will grow. Seed is lots cheaper than plants.

Early crops should be planted as early as you can work the ground without making it cloddy. (working ground when it is too wet makes it cloddy.) Early crops include: onions, carrots, peas, radish, beets, arugula, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, turnip, and kohlrabi to name some. Here, early planting time is early April. This may vary depending on where you live.

Find out when your average last frost date is. You can start planting early crops six weeks to a month before that, as the early crops have some frost resistance. Corn squash and beans can be planted 2 weeks before that date. Melons and cukes are best planted about on the last av. frost date or even two weeks later. Bear in mind that one never knows when that last frost will be, and occasionally your crops may get some frost damage, but it is worth getting started on this time table because most years everything does fine. It is not a big deal if you end up replanting your beans again once in 5 years. All farming is a risk. You have to be willing to take the risks or find a new hobby.

Tomatoes and peppers can be set in the garden after all danger of frost is past, or earlier if you provide some protection when frost is eminent.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Soil Preparation

The soils that we are blessed to have covering the earth vary considerably fron place to place. They consist of mostly mineral things such as clay, sand, silt, and gravel. Good soil also contains humus, organic matter, chemicals, water, air, and a host of small living organisms. Most soils (perhaps all) will benefit from the addition of organic matter.

I find that my soil does better if I add the organic matter (leaves/manure/garden plant residue) in the fall, and till it in, then in the spring the plot is ready for planting with only a very shallow cultivation. A shallow (1 inch) cultivation or tilling preserves the soil moisture, and removes any small weeds that have germinated, and makes a seed bed.

Organic matter can also be added as mulch or compost during the growing season.

About using bagged fertilizers: It is best to use something like 16-8-8 early in the spring on the whole plot. This may be adequate for the whole season. You can also side dress with the same feriilizer or a 32-0-0 mix a month to six weeks later. (This is especially good for corn.) Be careful, too much may kill your plants with kindness. Read the package for application rates. In this area the soil mostly needs nitrogen so a 32-0-0 fertilizer works well, or even urea at 42-0-0.

I know we will have some on this forum that would not use bagged fertilizers nor the Blue stuff, but the decision is yours. Decide what works for you. The plants don't care where the nitrogen comes from, but they do notice the lack of it.

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Location: East Providence RI

Thanks for the answers and:

We did plant a lot of what we have at the same time. Right now our Broccoli(5 plants) are doing great, they all have a button the size of a golf ball and they are getting bigger every day. The spinich is doing good but we don't know when it's ready for harvesting? It's got a lot of stalks and leaves on it and it keeps getting bigger and taller, but? What does a full grown spinich plant look like :).

I live in Rhode Island so not sure what that means when it comes to gardening? I'm hoping next year I'll have a bunch of good compost ready for the garden? I just started making it this week and hope to have 3 or more batches done by winter time? I made my composter out of a big plastic garbage can and it's holding most of the grass, weeds and trimmings we have so far this year.

At the end of the growing season I was planning on rototilling the main garden again and the back garden for the first time. At that time I plan on working in some manure and some of the compost and leaving it until spring. Next February I guess I will start the seeds inside and take it from there. Between now and then I'll probably have a ton of other questions.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

Too many ?'s but.... One thing I will say is if you got the white bags at Home Depot of "Top Soil" I would stay away from that. That stuffs get hard like a brick by itself. So get some top soil from a nursery or just some straight up compost. I just moved to a new house the soil here sucks the high hard one (50% clay - 50% rock). I amended the soil heavy the first year and have been since (another year). I always mulch with grass from my yard during non-weed times. Than till all that in every year along with any non diseased plants. Just keep doing that along with adding other fertilizers like blood meal, bone meal, etc. every year and you will eventually have a great garden. This method worked great at my last house I almost didn't want to leave for that reason, Oh well the new owners have one hell of a garden it was actually going pretty damn good when we moved.

Hope this helps Dono

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Greener Thumb
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Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

my only suggestion at the moment is not to assume that all bugs need to be gotten rid of. many are beneficial, and on top of that, continued use of insecticides in food-production areas is...not necessarily a good idea.

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Re: What Am I Doing Wrong in my Vegetable Garden?

shazbham wrote:Should I be using more or different types of fertilizer?
I till in 6-24-24 fertilizer where I am planting vegetables that don't need much nitrogen. On the areas where I am going to plant corn or other plants that need lots of nitrogen I make a 50/50 mix of 46-0-0 urea and 6-24-24 to make 26-12-12 and till it in. I sidedress later with a 2/3-1/3 mix that makes 30-8-8. Most people use straight N. I give it a little shot of P & K, but it needs the N.
shazbham wrote:What bug spray should I use for the bugs?
I don't have too much trouble with bugs, but I use Sevin and the Ortho spray you mentioned when needed.
shazbham wrote:I just started composting by making a composter out of one of my garbage cans. Should work pretty good according to the instructions I got off the internet.
That should work. Here is an extreme soil renovation plan that worked for me.

I had a 30'x30' area that was covered with basement clay subsoil (next of kin to concrete ) from when we built our house. It was a pretty barren spot because even weeds had a hard time gowing there. I got a dump truck load of sawdust from my local sawmill and covered the entire area 8"-10" deep. I scattered 100 pounds of urea fertilizer granuals (46-0-0) over it also to help speed the decomposition process. I then made several passes with my Troybilt tiller to mix it with the subsoil. During that summer, I turned the soil with my tiller every 2 or 3 weeks. It took 2 years for it to completely decompose. It has been many years since I improved that little spot and it is still the best soil I have with the least amount of surface and in depth compaction on my property.
shazbham wrote:Which vegetables should be planted with which ones?
Check this site out.
shazbham wrote:Do I have to rotate crops if I start each year by rototilling and adding fresh bought top or potting soil, manure and fertilizer?
Rotating helps confuse the bugs. :lol:
Actually, not rotating makes it easy for them to find the veggies they like.
shazbham wrote:What fertilizer should I use and with which vegetables, fruits etc? What books are good for beginning and more advanced gardeners like myself?
This book was first printed over 20 years ago, but it has a lot of good advice. It gives fertilizer requirements for lots of vegetables.

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