boodrow
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New gardener needs advice! Please!!

Hello. I just moved into a house that has an established fruit/vegetable garden behind the garage. It is 18" x 32" in size. The garden is currently empty but for a few weeds and about 12 raspberry plants. What should I do to prepare for fall & winter? And what do you suggest I do in the spring?

I've never really gardened before so any and all advice would help greatly.

gumbo2176
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I'm in the deep south so the only advice I can offer is to google to see what growing zone you're in and go by that. If all else fails, go to a local nursery and see what advice they can offer. To my knowledge, Michigan gets pretty darn cold in the winter so I don't know what will grow in your conditions.

Good luck with this and keep us up with any progress you make.

treehopper
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Keep the weeds in check, and it's not too late to start composting...
I started a compost pile, because I gardened. Now I find myself gardening, so I have someplace for my compost!!

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applestar
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You did mean 18 ft by 32 ft right? Start thinking about what you will want to grow in spring and how you will plant in the area.

Not knowing the condition of the soil, I also think it might be best to wait until spring to really start gardening, but I would decide on one area to plant a garlic bed. Prep the area and plant garlic this fall. You plant individual cloves around the same time as you would plant tulip bulbs. The garlic will be harvested next summer so this part of the garden will be tied up until then.

For other parts of the garden, dig and see how deep the soil goes. Is it easy to push a garden fork in? Is it clay or rocky underneath? Depending on what you find, you'll want to add different things this fall so that everything will be ready in spring. I always add home made compost and fall leaves, straw and hay, etc.

If the garden is essentially empty, you could start sheet composting.
Also, is the garden fenced? Keep your eyes open for potential animal troublemakers.

You could start planting very early next spring -- a month or more before last frost (peas, spinach, onions, etc.). But you need to have a planting plan in mind.

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rainbowgardener
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I looked it up for you, Garden City is in cold hardiness zone 5B. That just tells you how cold it gets in the winter and is mainly helpful to know what trees, shrubs, and perennials will survive winter in your neighborhood. For vegetable gardening (which is the section you put your question in), it is more important to know your frost free dates.

https://www.naturalgardening.com/shop/frostdatesa-n.php3

I agree with applestar mainly that the best thing you can be doing right now is getting your soil ready and planning for spring. The key to a good garden is good soil. So things to be doing:

1) start a compost pile. Best thing you can do for your garden! If you aren't familiar with composting, browse around in our compost forum. If you start now, you will have some of your own homemade compost for spring.

2) send a sample of your garden soil to your local country extension office to be tested. That will tell you how acid your soil is (most vegetables like soil that is just slightly acid) and if it has any nutrient deficiencies etc. This will help you know what you might need to add.

3) Start adding organic matter to you garden soil. That's the sheet composting apple mentioned. When the leaves start coming down in the fall, collect lots of them. You will want to save some bags of leaves to be added gradually to your compost pile, as browns to mix with greens. But you can pile a few inches of them on top of your garden patch.

4) If you really want to be growing something soon, along with the garlic, you can make a little patch and in Sept plant some spinach and lettuce seeds, for a fall crop.

In the winter you will be figuring out what you want to grow, what things get planted when and what things grow well together and making a garden plan. In the spring, rent a tiller and till all the organic stuff under and start planting:

https://www.thevegetablegarden.info/resources/planting-schedules/zones-5-6-planting-schedule

Keep reading here and coming back to ask questions. There's a lot to learn in the beginning and sometimes we can save people making bad mistakes if they ask first...
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boodrow
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Ooops.. Yes i meant 18' x 32'. Thanks for all of your help so far.
I hope to plant veggies. Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions...maybe some garlic & a few herbs.

Any suggestions on a tiller?

gumbo2176
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boodrow wrote:Ooops.. Yes i meant 18' x 32'. Thanks for all of your help so far.
I hope to plant veggies. Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions...maybe some garlic & a few herbs.

Any suggestions on a tiller?
I picked one up through my local paper used for $150 if I remember right about 5 years ago and it is still going strong. The only work needing done to it is an oil change every year and a new drive belt. You can also check Craig's list for your area since e-bay ads usually stipulate the seller won't ship since they are pretty big tools.

A lot depends on personal preference in tillers-----front tine vs. rear tine---counter rotating tines vs. clockwise rotating tines. From experience I find the rear tine, counter rotating tiller is the best since they have wheels that drive them forward as the tines tear into the ground, but they are more expensive than the front tine, clockwise rotating tillers. Also front tine tillers tend to work the user a good bit more until the soil is well broken up.

Then there are those that don't ever use a tiller on their soil and prefer to dig by hand with a broad fork. I think a lot of that depends on the physical condition of the person needing to do the digging and the condition of the soil. My area before making a garden was nothing but heavy clay and it was a real chore with the tiller to get it broken up after many days of use and organic matter added.

Another option is to rent a tiller for a day or two to get the ground turned over then stay on top of it by hand. I'll not always break out my tiller to make a single row when removing old plants to replace with new. I generally only hit my garden twice a year with mine, once in the late fall and again in the late summer just before planting all my fall plants and seeds.

cynthia_h
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gumbo2176 wrote:
Then there are those that don't ever use a tiller on their soil and prefer to dig by hand with a broad fork. I think a lot of that depends on the physical condition of the person needing to do the digging and the condition of the soil. My area before making a garden was nothing but heavy clay and it was a real chore with the tiller to get it broken up after many days of use and organic matter added.
I have a number of physical...challenges (won't go into them right now, but believe me, they cramp my style Big Time). I cannot turn the ground with a D-shaped shovel or a square shovel. It's all I can do to turn my BioStack compost with a square shovel, and the compost "pile" is 3'x3'x3' max; usually a little smaller.

But I can break up the earth very well with a broadfork or even a pitchfork. Put the tines into the earth maybe an inch or two, put my foot onto the back of the tines, lean with my body weight until the tines are well into the earth, and wiggle the fork back and forth to create channels for water and nutrients to penetrate the soil. Done! :D In patches of tight California adobe clay, stand on the fork and let my body weight carry it into the ground as far as it will go. :twisted:

That, I can do and have done in our admittedly small patch of ground. I did it the first two years we lived in this house, before I ever thought of raised beds. I worked our "largest" patch, approx. 8' x 12', in just an hour and a half. DH and I had spread our compost over the soil, and then I "forked" it in. We watered, then waited a day or so before planting.

Just a regular ol' pitchfork. :)

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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rainbowgardener
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I'm not a big believer in tillers. Tilling is very destructive to the soil and soil community of life. I am old school enough that I would probably till once or twice to get a garden bed started that I had never gardened. (Twice is that you till, wait 2-3 weeks for all the weed seeds you turned up to sprout and then till again; really cuts down on the weeds.) But then I would never till again. That's why I suggested renting. Nice rototillers are readily available for rent for reasonable price. You can EASILY do your plot in a day, maybe only half day and they usually rent tillers for half a day.

After you have opened up your ground and added a bunch of organics and have been planting and mulching it, you never need to till again. So no point in owning that tiller.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Sun Aug 19, 2012 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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tomc
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If your handy at small engine repair, by all means get a rear-tine tiller.

But for your smallish garden a potato fork will do just fine.

If I was buying a small engine tool for a suburban home, I'd be lookning for lawn mower with a bag for clippings. Those clippings will be the back-bone for mulch or your new compost bin.
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klevelyn
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Great advice. Thanks for the links rainbowgardener.

I agree you should go for a no till garden. Prepare it in the fall. Get all the weeds out and layer compost on top and then layer some mulch on top of that. During the winter it will begin to break down and be ready to plant in the spring. In the spring you just pull back the mulch and plant.

There is a lot of great information about no till gardening out there on the web. I have 2700 sq ft of garden and I mulched it this spring. It as been a great success. I have been able to enjoy the garden without all the hard work.


Here is a pic of the garden as I lay down a layer of chipped wood on top of the compost. I was really happy with the way my garden turned out doing it this way.

[img]https://www.everyday-vegetable-garden.com/images/no-till-garden.jpg[/img]

Here's a pic of my summer squash growing in the spot. It is producing well and I have not fertilized. I think as the water percolates thorough the mulch it delivers a compost tea.

Image
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jal_ut
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What fun. I think you can get by just fine without a tiller on a bed that size. A potato digging fork will turn will turn up what is needed.

There are two important dates to gardeners. The last frost date in the spring and the first frost date in the fall. See if you can learn these dates for your area. You will need to know these dates to tell when it is safe to plant, and also to know what varieties you may be able to plant and get mature in your growing season.

Check with your extension service and see if they have info that will help you with local information.

Do you have a local garden center that you could ask for tips? Good luck.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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