rosiegirl
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starting my first garden!

hi all!

i've just moved out of new york city and I'm getting ready to start my first garden. i obviously have a ton of questions but i'll start with the basic ones.

1. i need to find a spot in my backyard. we're going to rip up grass and start the garden there. any idea how big of a space i need? we're planning on planting tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and maybe one or two more vegetables (my kids are helping to pick them!). we also want to do a small herb garden (basil, etc) but i don't know if that has to be there or if i can/should do that in a container.

2. I'm going to send the soil out to be tested because i know there tends to be some heavy metals in the soil so close to the city. anything else i need to do to prepare the area of the lawn? rip up grass, put down more soil?

3. we're trying to pick a good area of the lawn...we've been watching the sun and it seems like there's a good area of sun from about 9am to 3pm in one area. is that good or should there be more sun? or sun in later hours (until 4 or 5?)

4. the kids really want blueberries so i though we might get a couple of blueberry bushes. i know they take a few years to grow fruit? is this just a bad idea?


I'm sure i'll have more questions soon! i did a search and i'll go check out some books that were recommended.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: starting my first garden!

rosiegirl wrote:hi all!

i've just moved out of new york city and I'm getting ready to start my first garden. i obviously have a ton of questions but i'll start with the basic ones.

1. i need to find a spot in my backyard. we're going to rip up grass and start the garden there. any idea how big of a space i need? we're planning on planting tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and maybe one or two more vegetables (my kids are helping to pick them!). we also want to do a small herb garden (basil, etc) but i don't know if that has to be there or if i can/should do that in a container.

Think about doing wide raised rows with paths between them. Make your paths at least two feet wide and the rows 4' wide. Dig out all the sod and some dirt from the path and flip it over onto the row, grass side down. Wet the raised row down, put a layer of cardboard down on top of that , wet the cardboard down, then add some topsoil, composted manure, compost, or whatever other organic materials you have available, on top of the cardboard and moisten again. Presto, your raised row is ready to plant in.

If you make the raised rows 10' long, one of them could be about 6 tomato plants, which should be plenty. Another would be carrots, succession planted. Plant one 10' row of carrots, 2 wks later another, 2 wks later another. That should keep you in carrots through a pretty long season.


Half of the next one could be two cucumber plants -- if they do well, that will be plenty-- leaving the other half for whatever else you decide on. Green peppers are another fun, easy choice -- buy some well started pepper plants. The basil should be fine in a good sized container.

2. I'm going to send the soil out to be tested because i know there tends to be some heavy metals in the soil so close to the city. anything else i need to do to prepare the area of the lawn? rip up grass, put down more soil?

See above. If you do that, you shouldn't need to do anything else.

3. we're trying to pick a good area of the lawn...we've been watching the sun and it seems like there's a good area of sun from about 9am to 3pm in one area. is that good or should there be more sun? or sun in later hours (until 4 or 5?)

6 hrs a day of sun is about the minimum for a lot veggies to thrive. If you have a place with more/ later hours, that would be good, especially for you in a shorter season growing area with not fierce hot summers. But if the 6 hrs is what you have, it will work, maybe just cut your yields a bit.

4. the kids really want blueberries so i though we might get a couple of blueberry bushes. i know they take a few years to grow fruit? is this just a bad idea?

Look for some dwarf blueberry bushes (TopHat is one popular variety). They do well in large containers and should give you some blueberries the second year.

I'm sure i'll have more questions soon! i did a search and i'll go check out some books that were recommended.


Glad to see you excited about doing a garden and getting kids involved! Best gift you could give your kids! RBG
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

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Welcome Rosiegirl, I hope you get as much joy from your garden as I have gotten from working in mine.

Here's couple of tips on choosing a good plot site.
1. sunlight, you want to pick a spot that gets as much sunlight as possible. morning sunshine is probably more preferrable. But more light is always better than less.

2. Wind, people often overlook this, but strong wind can damage and stunt your plants. you want to pick a spot that's relatively well sheltered from strong winds(but still get some wind, or you might have fungus problem).

3. Soil test is a good bet, but any spot where grass thrives, chances are your plants will also thrives. I would recommand spreading some mushroom composts. you also want to pick a spot with relatively good drainage, you don't want to put you garden on that soggy spot of your lawn.

4. as for size, I would recommend start small. Don't be overly ambitious. you can always expand next year, when you get more experienced.

5. wild lifes, deers and rabbits specifically, if your garden is near some woods, chances are, you will get a garden destroying visit from the deers and rabbits, so you might want to consider some kind of netting or fence.

herbs usually does well in containers, but some of them can be pretty good at repelling garden pests, so you might want to plant some of them on the borders of your plot. Think of blueberry bush as kind of investment or improvement to your property. hope it was helpful.

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Gary350
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Till the grass every day for no less than a week maybe 2 weeks until it all dies. My garden is 24 x 50 ft I have 15 rows 3 ft apart 20 ft long each. I plant my rows North South for maximum sun exposure. I never plant cucumbers the take up an extremely large amount of space my garden is just to small for that so I buy cucumbers at the farmers market or store. My #1 crop is tomatoes. We love tomatoes grocery store tomatoes have about as much flavor as cardboard. I croud my plant a lot more than I should to get as must per square foot as I can. My rows are 3 ft apart and my tomato plants are avout 2 ft apart. I put a tomato cage on each tomato plant. Tomato plants have the ability to sprout roots any place the soil touches the plant. I dig holes about 6" deep, throw in a hand full of 15/15/15 fertilizer, small hand full of lime, then fill the hole with water. When the water goes down I strip 1/2 the leafs off the bottom part of the plant and I plant the tomato plant deep so only the top sticks out of the soil. The stem will sprout 1000s of roots and it will grow faster than you would ever dream. The 3 ft row spacing is important so I get weed the garden with the tiller. Just drive the tiller up and down each row once a week 10 minute job. When the plant get larger I have to hoe by hand about twice a week early in the morning 10 minute job each time. I July and August when the temperature is 100+ degrees and no rain for weeks at a time I have to water the garden every evening 1 hour before sun down. Early or late sun is probably OK in your area since it probably does not get extremely hot in NY. It is 100+ degrees here July and Aug late afternoon the sun cooks the plants so I planted my garden so there are trees on the west side and the garden gets shade after 3 pm. I croud my tomato plants a lot closer than they should be so they will shade them self other wise the tomatoes get sun burned. I plant beans, corn and squash too. I planted blue berries once it takes 2 years to get berries. The plants like acid soil so put down pine needles or sulfur. Blueberry plants get very large 7 ft tall after several years and 4 ft across so plant them at least 6 ft apart. Get a loud barking dog to keep away deer and other animals if your in the country. Put up lots of bird houses so you don't have to spray for bugs. You might want to get into CANNING your vegatables, I can about 100 quarts of tomatoes, 65 pints of beans every summer. Tomatoes are great for lots of things, chili, soups, mexican, italian, juice, and more.

I would love to have a Guernsey cow for milk and chickens for eggs but I live in town.

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Kids had the smartest idea yet; blueberries are a complete food (you can actually live on JUST blueberries), native, so easy to grow, no tilling and messing about, an easy as pie (just keep the birds off). Now THAT'S some smart gardening... I planted at the drip edge of a pine (they like acidic soils) but started a three gallon two foot plant and got pretty good fruit the first year, better the second and last year DW just went out every morning and put blueberries from that one bush on her cereal for most of the summer (the other ones were smaller and still catching up).

g350, with all that tilling, haven't you powdered your soil? You can't put that stuff back together once you break it apart; you need worms and biology to do that and the tilling messes them all up. I cut the turf out, till once the first time I make the bed, and never again. Build your soil, don't beat it...

I am making a no-till bed this year; I will try to post pics as I go...

HG
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Sage Hermit
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Same here on the no till beds and posting pics as I go. I put the cardboard and hay on but they blew away in the wind so I need to steak down twine just loose enough to keep from blowing away heheh or water this time

[img]https://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa267/adaba/aba060.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa267/adaba/aba062.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa267/adaba/aba061.jpg[/img]

Its really windy so I had to put some sticks over it to keep the straw down.
Last edited by Sage Hermit on Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

comfylawn
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I agree with keeping the tilling to a minimum. Just starting a garden and you want to incorporate compost deep into the soil is fine. More than that then your damaging soil structure and our friends the earthworms. My dad tills the heck out of his garden every spring and it drives me nuts. I've learned to stay away that day :wink: :lol:

DoubleDogFarm
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Just a comment on tilling.

Most people that till, repeat the same depth year after year. The shape of the blades actually can cause a barrier at that depth. Worse in some soil then others. Ever few years it's a good idea to break it up with a chisel plow. Hard to do on small plots. Tractor would cause compaction.

Decado
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Rosie, is that 6 hours of sunlight a day how it is right now or in the summer? If that's how it is now chances are you'll have more time come summer.

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farmerlon
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Re: starting my first garden!

rosiegirl wrote:
4. the kids really want blueberries so i though we might get a couple of blueberry bushes. i know they take a few years to grow fruit? is this just a bad idea?
Blueberries are a great idea, just be aware that they require a much more Acid soil (approx 4.5 pH) than the rest of your garden area.
So, treat your Blueberry "bed" with special consideration.

When you test the soil for that area, tell the County Extension that you want to grow Blueberries there... so they can give you the correct suggestions for that. You will likelly need to add Sulfur to the Blueberry bed.

Blueberries like a "light" (loam) soil that drains well. Avoid planting in an area that stays water-logged.
Add lots of organic matter to the soil; especially if the soil is heavy (clay).
Also, Blueberries have light/shallow roots that will benefit greatly from a thick mulch to control weeds and help retain soil moisture near the surface.
It seems like a contradiction that Blueberries require ample moisture during the growing season; but, they will not tolerate "wet feet".
So, water well during dry spells; but prepare a Blueberry bed that has good drainage.

Northern Highbush blueberry plants will likely be the most available type in your area. To set the best fruit crop, get at least 2 types for cross-pollination. Some common Northern Highbush types are: Bluecrop, Herbert, Jersey, Atlantic, Chandler, Patriot, and Elliott {and there are many more}.

When you harvest your own organic Blueberries straight from the bush, you'll be "blown away" at how great they taste!

DoubleDogFarm
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farmerlon,
Also, Blueberries have light/shallow roots that will benefit greatly from a thick mulch to control weeds and help retain soil moisture near the surface

That's good to hear. I cleaned out my duck house the other day and laid the beding around my blueberries.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Greenhouse%20Photos/DSC02032.jpg[/img]

The path is wet, but I think the raised beds will be alright.

What do think :?:
Last edited by DoubleDogFarm on Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I see blueberries in swampy soil all the time; have picked and eaten them from my kayak before. A little damp won't hurt them...

Poultry manure might be a little bacterial for them; the acid thing is a fungal reaction (my blueberries are under the edge of a pine and love it). The commercial growers around here all use sawdust and trail chip (high carbon so fungal) and I think that's about right...

HG
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farmerlon
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DoubleDogFarm wrote:farmerlon,

The path is wet, but I think the raised be will be alright.

What do think?
Yes, the raised bed should definitely help the Blueberries to thrive.

Sonia Schloemann, from the University of Massachusetts, speaks to the soil moisture factor better than I can ... "Blueberries have a reputation for growing well in wet soils. While somewhat true, this can be misleading. It’s not true that blueberries like wet soils. However, because they have very shallow root systems, they can tolerate sites with a high water table better than many other plants. They will, however, suffer and perform badly in sites where they are forced to have ‘wet feet’. Sites where there is standing water for any length of time during the year, can lead to suffocated roots and infection by root rot pathogens such as Phytophthora and Pythium. Also a general failure to thrive in such sites will likely lead to a host of other problems, too. If a site tends to be wet but is the only site you have available, try to improve the drainage by tiling and drawing water away from your planting and also raise up the rows where the bushes will be planted to get as much of the root system out of the saturated profile of the soil." {thanks Sonia :) }

As long as that whole area does not stay "boggy", you should be in good shape.
I like the way that your Blueberries are enclosed in netting; great idea! Birds can dessimate a Blueberry crop that is not protected.

DoubleDogFarm
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Thank you for the information. It's basically a rebar hoophouse. It's not quit finished, there is a door to be built. Robins are our berry birds.

rosiegirl
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sorry it took so long to get back in here...my kids and i have been suffering from end-of-winter colds for weeks!

RBG...thanks for all the info! my kids (4 year olds) are so excited to start our garden. I'm not sure we have quite that much space but i wish we did! the area that we can dedicate in our (small) backyard is about 10'x3'. thought about a couple of tomato plants, a couple of cucumber plants and a couple of squash (or something else) plants. maybe we'll hold off on the carrots for now. starting small!

blueberry bushes in containers is a great idea for us since I'm not sure if we have garden space for them, yet. do they stay outside all winter?

gardenjester...thanks! we found an area that seems to get sun from about 9am to 4pm (in april, will probably be even better in the summer). we'll probably end up with a garden that is about 10'x3'. thinking maybe a couple of tomato plants, a couple of cucumber, a couple of squash. no woods nearby but we do get rabbits.

what kind of herbs would be good for the garden?

farmerlon...thanks for all the blueberry info! we have a very small area for our garden right now (about 10'x3') but we do have some space that might work for blueberry plants. we have a small row of leyland cypresses with a few hydrangeas under them. the soil there is covered in woodchips and drains well (it's a bit uphill) so i thought it might not be bad for blueberry plants. only gets about 5 hours of sun, though because of the cypresses. would that work?

thanks everyone!

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farmerlon
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rosiegirl wrote:farmerlon...thanks for all the blueberry info! we have a very small area for our garden right now (about 10'x3') but we do have some space that might work for blueberry plants. we have a small row of leyland cypresses with a few hydrangeas under them. the soil there is covered in woodchips and drains well (it's a bit uphill) so i thought it might not be bad for blueberry plants. only gets about 5 hours of sun, though because of the cypresses. would that work?
probably ... With anything that bears fruit (Blueberries, Blackberries, Apples, etc...), usually, the more sun they get, the better they will produce. 5 hours a day may not be ideal, but it might work.

Blueberries usually stay outside. But, the further North you get, the more risk of the plants suffering from Winter cold injury.
If you decide to try them in containers, you might want to look for SEMI-DWARF Highbush Blueberry varieties (sometimes called "Half High"). Those are typically 2 to 3 feet tall when mature.
Here are some names of Semi-Dwarf varieties that I have seen: North Blue, North Country, Northland, North Sky, Chippewa, Friendship, Ornablue, Polaris, and St Cloud.

Good luck!

Susan W
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RG, think about putting a few herbs in pots. Easy, fun and pretty to boot!
Have fun!
Susan

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rainbowgardener
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Always do! I like to grow red or purple basil and green basil together in a big pot. Very pretty.
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My rosemary stays in a container to come in and out with the seasons...

HG
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Good luck with your garden! Me and the wife are doing the same thing this week.

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