This is my second year gardening. Last year I did container gardening with miracle grow...it was a decent start, but this year I'm doing quite a bit more. I have done a lot of research and did not want to bother people with my problems, but I am a bit overwhelmed at this point.
I've built two raised beds for my elderly parents. I want them to have a nice garden, but I need some insight on a few things. I live in the Southern California mountains at 5,500 elevation. The native soil I am working with is not rocky, it is partially brown clay and simple dirt. Half of my plants are starting from seed, approx 5 weeks ago. Most of them are doing well, but I am having trouble hardening them off.
First: I could not find a definite answer on my garden bed construction. Regarding sealing the bottom with chicken wire to prevent gopher invasion... I used two layers of galvanized chicken wire, sealed tightly and properly. I'm sure this will break down over a few years with constant soil/water contact. Is there a plant-safe coating spray I can use on the wire to prevent rust? Will the galvanized chicken wire even keep gophers out or will they eat through it? Stupid question I know!
Second: Building my soil. I've done a lot of research and some purchasing of materials to mix with our stubborn California clay soil. I am running out of steam though, as I have a very bad back. This limits a lot, including my patience...
-----So far I have purchased the following to amend/build up my native soil:
3 large bags of fully composted chicken manure.
2 bags of Kellogs Amend
1 large bag of worm casings
2 Bags of Miracle Grow Peat Moss (I plan to return, I've read it makes soil soggy.)
1 Bag of Vermiculite and 1 bag Jobes Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.
1 Bag of seed-starting mix (for direct-sowing seeds in the raised beds?)
1 Bag of Bonemeal (for blossom end rot, yes? last year I had quite a bit of blossom end rot on my Early Girl tomatoes. Very disappointing. Is this a good solution to preventing rot? I've read that a scoop per transplant in the intended hole works.)
I plan to grow Tomatoes such as: Early Girls, Brandywine, Roma and Fourth of July Hybrids. Eggplant, Zucchini and various edible lettuces. What quick release fertilizers do you recommend? I've heard fish is good, as a steady not-so-strong fertilizer you can apply each watering.
-----I do not need perfection here, but just estimations. I am trying to figure out a good mixing ratio of the products I have purchased. That is, if these are even the proper materials for my garden bed. Should I add more organic material like composted leaves from LeafGro? More or less composted manure? More Kellogs Amend? Just need some basic answers here on a mixing ratio and I would be oh-so-appreciative!
Lastly: Starting from seed. Any recommendations here? When I transplant, should I do follow certain steps to ensure my transplants get a strong start?
I will check back on this tomorrow after therapy and do everything I can to clear up any confusion. Thank you very much!