centralpabiofuel
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Need advice on first garden

Hi all, this is my first post and I'd like to thank the owner of the forum for providing this site for us!

Anyway, I want to have a garden next year. I've never gardened before but think I'll be pretty good at it as I've done landscaping for years. I'll also have the help of my mom who has a real green thumb.

I'm in South East Pennsylvania. I want to know if there is anything I should do now to get ready for spring. Should I till the garden, as it is now grass that has been mowed for 15+ years.

I want to grow:

Tomatos
Peppers
egg plant
green peas
chilis
Onions
Cucumbers
garlic
potatos
sugar beets
sweet corn
pumpkins
squash
grapes (I'd like to start a small vinyard, we have 6+ acres perfect for it.)

I'm open to other ideas as well. What would you grow?

Gary B
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Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:19 am
Location: Pretoria, South Africa

personally I am a HUGE fan of growing spinach, very simple and big bang for buck.

I like your list, I'd love to have that much space. Unfortunatly being on the other side of the globe, my advice about the weather may be a little backwards. :lol:

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

centralpabiofuel,

Hello and welcome to the site. That is a fairly ambitious list for a first garden, perhaps you might consider paring it down a bit for the first year or two until you get some experience. Also you wont have to work as much ground all at once.

I have never been a fan of growing corn on a small scale. It seems to me that you do not get a whole lot of return for your efforts and in the summer every roadside fruit/vegetable stand has it for sale anyway. Potatoes are so inexpensive that I don't bother much with those either, although if you want an unusual variety that is a different story. Others may have different opinions and I'm not saying to never grow them just maybe slow down a little.

As I'm sure you know grapes require a trellis of some sort and there is more than one configuration. It sounds like you will have your hands full with other projects so unless you already have the posts in place you can probably get away with just planting the vines and staking them for the first year. This way you can set posts next summer after the main garden is established.

One thing you have not mentioned is Asparagus, If you like it an Asparagus bed is a good investment in both time and money as it will continue to produce for decades. Another thing that gets a good bang for the buck is green beans we enjoy them greatly and they freeze well.

It is too late for Garlic unless you have it on hand and can get it in right now. Garlic is generally planted in the fall of the previous year, so following this schedule the soonest you will have any is 2009. It can be planted early in the spring but will not perform nearly as well. I responded with detailed growing instructions to another thread [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6465]here.[/url]

You may be able to get a cover crop in if you act quickly, This is something I am not familiar with so I can't say much. You could till it now and cover with mulch or just wait until spring. Sorry I have not been much help in this area.

One more thing, order seed catalogs now, or start searching the web, and you will have plenty of time to consider your options over the winter.

Norm

Newt
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Location: Maryland zone 7

Hi Centralpabiofuel,

Some great advice already. I do agree with Norm that starting a new veggie garden and starting grapes all at one time can be overwhelming so you might want to reconsider doing both this year. You certainly can prep the soil now for spring planting and it will help to put your soil in better condition for next year.

You can read up on cover crops here. If you do this about 4 weeks before a hard freeze, you should be ok. I would suggest winter rye this late in the season.

Most of SE Pennsylvania is hardiness zone 6, with a small area that is zone 7. Here's a planting guide for Missouri. You can use the dates that overlap for the south and central parts of the state as a guide. There's also some [url=https://extension.missouri.edu/explorepdf/agguides/hort/g06201.pdf]other helpful info[/url] as well.


If you don't know your hardiness zone you can look at this map or use the zip code zone finder.

[img]https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/cropmap/pennsylvania/maps/PAhardy.jpg[/img]


Newt

centralpabiofuel
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Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 3:56 am

Thanks for the advice Norm! (do you use Linux OS, I ask because of the
username Gnome)! Anyway I think I was a little overly ambitions as well.
II did not mean that I was going to plant the 6 acres of grapes. I'm
planning on a 40' by 20' garden at this point. Maybe more, maybe less.
I'm going to buy some seed packs and map out a grid of how things \
should be planted.

I see you are in Western PA. I'm in Lancaster and there are vegie stands
every mile or so and we have the best sweet corn in the world (I think).
I want to try corn just for the fun of it..

I'd like to make preserves of fruits and vegies like tomato's. I'll freeze
whatever I can't can. I think Asparagus is a good idea. I don't eat it but
my family will.

I think I'll try the garlic in my mom's herb garden. Should do well there.

Can tomatoes be planted from seed? I just salvaged 300+ seeds from 2
beefsteak (strange name huh..) tomatoes. I was thinking of trying to
spout them. Any suggestions anyone?
Gnome wrote:centralpabiofuel,

Hello and welcome to the site. That is a fairly ambitious list for a first garden, perhaps you might consider paring it down a bit for the first year or two until you get some experience. Also you wont have to work as much ground all at once.

Norm

opabinia51
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Location: Victoria, BC

With grapes, you are going to want to build a trellis of some sort, each year prune them down to the third bud. It will probably take about 3 years until you get a good crop.

I wouldn't think that your list of veggies is to ambitious. You just need a space that is big enough. Use companion planting as a technique and give Gaia's Garden a read by Toby Hemenway.

For now, choose the space that you want to garden in and turn the soil over (any grass or other unwanted plants). Just turn them over and break the sod up a bit. Lay a layer of leaves (preferably mulched (use lawnmower) but, for the first layer it doesn't really matter). Then place a layer of some sort of green (coffee grounds, manure, grass clippings, vegetable wastes, blood meal and so on.)

Next cover this with a layer of mulched leaves (apple and maple have the highest concentration of nutrients, Oak are good if you want to repel grass but, don't use them if you want to grow corn.)

Now cover this layer with yet another layer of greens (try to vary your greens) and top this off with more mulched leaves. Do as many layers as you want and finish off with a layer of manure.

In the spring you will have lovely soil for your plants to grow in.

Instead of using rows for your seeds, try using a keyhole design with several different companion plants in each keyhole.

opabinia51
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Location: Victoria, BC

Oh, and yes tomatoes can be planted from seed. If you have any spent tomatoes, just throw them into the garden and in the spring; you will have several "freebees" come up. You'll have to thin them out a bit.

You can also buy tomatoe seeds from local nursaries and online.

To save your own just cut your tomatoe in half and squeeze the jelly withe seeds in it onto a plate. Cover with a little bit of plastic wrap and let sit on the counter until a bit of mold starts to develop, this will actually secrete toxins that will protect the seeds.

Next, rinse the seeds in warm water and place on paper towel and pat dry. Allow to dry completely an place in a labled ziplock bag to plant in little pots indoors next March.

Once you have little seedling pop up allow them to grow until they have filled the little pots with their roots and then pot the seedlings up to a larger pot.

Plant your tomatoes after the last frost.


(If you buy a tomatoe from the supermarket, unless it is an heirloom the seeds have about a 75% chance of producing a plant that resembles the plant that spawned your initial tomatoe however, there is a 25% chance that you will spawn a recessive phenotype that will be different from the original tomatoe plant. Most people just say that the tomatoe plant won't be "true", in actuality it has a 75% chance of coming "true".)

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

centralpabiofuel,
Thanks for the advice Norm! (do you use Linux OS, I ask because of the username Gnome)!
You're welcome. No I'm running XP. I chose that user name because when I used to frequent a local tavern the bartender had a speech impediment and that was how he pronounced my first name. Since I'm over 6'2" the name kind of stuck, kind of like calling a stout man tiny.

And yes they all knew my name. Even stranger still, I met a woman there whose name was Vera.

Norm

opabinia51
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One more tip:

Your Squash, peas and corn can be grown together by creating rows that are a sort of swale where you plant the corn on the top of the crest of the swales and wait until the seedlings rise then plant a pea on either side of the corn and wait until the seedings are up then in the trough of the swales plant your squash and pumpkins (which are squash).

The peas will grow up the corn stalk and feed the corn with Nitrogen that Nitrogen fixing bacteria fix inside nodules of the peas roots. The Squash will shade the soil and help to prevent weeds from growing.

First Nations in Central and South America have been doing this for thousands of years and it works really well.

centralpabiofuel
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Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 3:56 am

opabinia51 wrote:One more tip:

The peas will grow up the corn stalk and feed the corn with Nitrogen that
Nitrogen fixing bacteria fix inside nodules of the peas roots. The Squash will
shade the soil and help to prevent weeds from growing.

First Nations in Central and South America have been doing this for
thousands of years and it works really well.
Thank you for that tip! That is a great idea! I love those types of thoughtful
ideas that make use of what is there!

opabinia51
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Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Have fun with your garden, it's pretty neat to watch this "3 sister guild" grow. The squash will grow up the corn as well.

And the peas (and beans if you want to grow them) will feed the soil as well.

I think I already put this in here but read Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, it's great book with a lot of ideas on ways to garden using nature as a companion rathr that an adversary.

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