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the idiot's guide to vegetable gardening


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#1 mongo_jones

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:29 PM

the idiot in this case being me.

okay, i'm going to need virtual help with setting out my kitchen garden. i don't know if the soil is clayey or what its ph balance is. nor do i know how to find out. i do know that i have a raised strip at my disposal at the end of the yard that is about 8 feet by 100 feet in size. south facing, bright sunshine all day and a fence on one side to provide cover.

what are the steps? please begin with equipment to purchase. keep it cheap and simple. and make it quick: my tomato and pepper plants don't seem to be enjoying life in their pots.

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#2 GG Mora

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:42 AM

1) Don't expect total success and satisfaction your first time out. My first attempts were laughable. If I had pictures, I'd post them so you could laugh.

2) Books can be a big help (but don't get caught up in the nutritional soil amendments recommended for individual vegetable types – 15 years out, you might be about ready to go that far). A very good starter book is “The Garden Primer” by Barbara Damrosch. It has chapters on necessary tools, preparing the beds, basic soil amendment, blah blah blah, and then individual sections on all the major (and some minor) vegetables – when to start them, how far apart to space them, when to harvest, so on so forth. Buy this book.

3) Unless you know your soil to be perfectly balanced, packed with nutrients, rock and stone free, and of unimpeachable tilth...start with raised beds. Have built for you (because I know you're not handy that way) several wooden frames (maybe 3 or 4 to start?). A useful frame would be made from 2" x 10" lumber (cypress or cedar would be awesome and long lasting, but crappy spruce is probably most affordable) and measure 4' x 8'. The frames can be laid directly on top of the ground – grass or sand or clay beneath be damned – and filled with soil and other stuff for organic earthy soily goodness. Leave about 2.5' between the beds, regardless of how you place them. Then mulch heavily around them.

You can argue with me that you want your garden directly in the ground...in which case you'll need to buy a rototiller (most likely; you can have one of your hippie friends come and till the plot for you) and then fight with removing clumps of vegetation and the roots that come with. And even so you'll be plagued by the grass and weeds that insist on encroaching from all sides.

So: built frames on the ground, fill them with a mix of 2/3 sifted topsoil (unless you don't mind rocks, stones, sticks and twigs) and 1/3 well composted manure (horse, sheep, cow). Add to this sprinklings of dried blood, bone meal, greensand and alfalfa meal. See “manufacturer's” recommendations for quantities.

4) Good tools to have for hand gardening: a digging fork (NOT a pitchfork), a shovel, an iron rake, a good-sized wheelbarrow and maybe a trowel.

This is all off the top of my head after a few glasses of wine; I have other things I need to do, so ask questions, and I'll think on it some more. And maybe someone who knows more about it than I will chime in (RG??).

Edit: It would be helpful if you could post some pictures of the space you intend to cultivate. Also, I didn't mention the potential Garden Raiders – deer, woodchucks, rabbits, etc – that will destroy all you hard work in a heartbeat.

#3 mongo_jones

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 02:03 AM

of unimpeachable tilth...


excuse me? are you suggesting my tilth is impeachable? fuck you! i mean, what the hell is tilth?

Have built for you (because I know you're not handy that way) several wooden frames (maybe 3 or 4 to start?). A useful frame would be made from 2" x 10" lumber (cypress or cedar would be awesome and long lasting, but crappy spruce is probably most affordable) and measure 4' x 8'. The frames can be laid directly on top of the ground – grass or sand or clay beneath be damned – and filled with soil and other stuff for organic earthy soily goodness. Leave about 2.5' between the beds, regardless of how you place them.


how high/tall? and is home depot the kind of place where one could have something like this built for one?

Then mulch heavily around them.


that sounds rude. i assume "mulching" is some sort of deviant act engaged in by the gardening community. send a manual (illustrated). do i get to wear overalls with nothing underneath while i do it?

You can argue with me that you want your garden directly in the ground...in which case you'll need to buy a rototiller


yes, i was just about to argue with you about this. but my religion prohibits rototillers.

1/3 well composted manure (horse, sheep, cow).


now i have to dig a well? there are horses and cows a-plenty on nearby farms, but where do i find sheep? is human manure not acceptable?

Add to this sprinklings of dried blood, bone meal, greensand and alfalfa meal. See “manufacturer's” recommendations for quantities.


dried blood--check
bone meal--check
greensand and alfalfa meal--que?

It would be helpful if you could post some pictures of the space you intend to cultivate. Also, I didn't mention the potential Garden Raiders – deer, woodchucks, rabbits, etc – that will destroy all you hard work in a heartbeat.


will do on next visit to house. did see one very cute white-tailed rabbit this afternoon, so send recipes as well. does impaling one on a rod help deter the others?

my annoying opinions: whisky, food and occasional cultural commentary (current review: the hmongtown marketplace food court, st. paul)

 

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#4 memesuze

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 02:48 AM

2x10 means a plank of wood 2" [actually 1.75"] thick and 10" wide laid on its side for a 4'run and an 8' run joined in an L-shape, which is then joined to another 4x8' L-shape to make a box. Therefore, the box will be ten inches high....all you really need is to nail them all together in a box and lay it on the ground - Home Depot would laugh themselves silly if you asked them for a contractor to do it - check with your neighbors or ask one of your students to give you a hand

I concur re: Barbara Damrosch's book and will send you my copy as a loaner for a year or so, since I won't be needing it for at least that long - send me your address via PM and it'll go out in the mail posthaste

and I concur re: the raised beds versus digging up the soil, and disturbing all those weed seeds just waiting their chance to take over....

another hint is, start small, until you get your gardening legs under you, do a few tomato plants, an eggplant, a couple of peppers, maybe a vine or two of green beans, and then several different herbs. Until you learn how much or what kind of work/attention your garden will take, it's best to keep it small.

Greensand adds mineral content to the soil mix, and alfalfa meal is a traditional component of home-made compost - it's a rich nitrogen source. When the circus comes to town, you can even pick up elephant manure, if you're so inclined.

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#5 mongo_jones

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:05 AM

2x10 means a plank of wood 2" [actually 1.75"] thick and 10" wide laid on its side for a 4'run and an 8' run joined in an L-shape, which is then joined to another 4x8' L-shape to make a box. Therefore, the box will be ten inches high....all you really need is to nail them all together in a box and lay it on the ground - Home Depot would laugh themselves silly if you asked them for a contractor to do it - check with your neighbors or ask one of your students to give you a hand


i wasn't thinking contractor as much as hoping home depot. has a dept. where feebs like myself can buy wood and have it sawed, nailed together etc.. my students are dispersed for the summer. so i will get a tetanus booster and give it a go. tonight i will ponder the mathematics of making a 4'x8'x10" box out of 2"x10" planks.

I concur re: Barbara Damrosch's book and will send you my copy as a loaner for a year or so, since I won't be needing it for at least that long - send me your address via PM and it'll go out in the mail posthaste


excellent. pm forthcoming shortly. does no one have a spare wheelbarrow and trowel they could mail me?

Greensand adds mineral content to the soil mix, and alfalfa meal is a traditional component of home-made compost - it's a rich nitrogen source. When the circus comes to town, you can even pick up elephant manure, if you're so inclined.


i was being facetious--but let me stop and ask if all these nutritional components can be purchased pre-mixed together. and this is boulder--the circus is always in town. unfortunately, i don't think hippie-poop is very protein-rich.

my annoying opinions: whisky, food and occasional cultural commentary (current review: the hmongtown marketplace food court, st. paul)

 

facts are meaningless. you could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
~homer simpson


 


#6 porkwah

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:36 PM

i was being facetious--but let me stop and ask if all these nutritional components can be purchased pre-mixed together. and this is boulder--the circus is always in town. unfortunately, i don't think hippie-poop is very protein-rich.



i think it's actually nitrogen, not protein, that you want to dope the soil with; is that not so?

man, i need a headache


#7 GG Mora

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:37 PM

I'm sitting here listening to a discussion on gardening, broadcast on New Hampshire public radio. Although the focus of the show is gardening in an extremely wet season, there's some good general information for beginners. It'll be rebroadcast this evening at 8 PM. Streaming is available. http://www.nhpr.org/node/11018 After today, you can link back to an audio stream for the show only.

Warning: the interviewer is a fatuous, annoying dork, but she gets good info out of her interviewees.

#8 Behemoth

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:51 PM

My mom went to this half-hour thing run by UC Greens in west philly, and she got a very nice free composting bin for her troubles. Maybe your local Greens do something similar?

Anyway, she swears by the stuff, and her vegetables are always beautiful so I'm willing to take her word for it. Especially considering they all somehow manage to emerge from her scruffy little postage stamp-size backyard of a west philly row-home. Now that I think about it, maybe she's buying stuff at the farmer's market and passing it off as her own. :(
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#9 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:56 PM

My mom went to this half-hour thing run by UC Greens in west philly, and she got a very nice free composting bin for her troubles. Maybe your local Greens do something similar?

Anyway, she swears by the stuff, and her vegetables are always beautiful so I'm willing to take her word for it. Especially considering they all somehow manage to emerge from her scruffy little postage stamp-size backyard of a west philly row-home. Now that I think about it, maybe she's buying stuff at the farmer's market and passing it off as her own. :(


Definitely raised beds, full sun, compost.

Get a copy of "Square Foot Gardening". The Victory Garden guy is also good for beginners.
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#10 fml

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 02:19 PM

does no one have a spare wheelbarrow and trowel they could mail me?

You're welcome to stop by and borrow mine.

#11 Jaymes

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:09 PM

There actually is a Gardening for Dummies book, which I have, and which I use as a fairly constant reference. But my hands-down favorite is Sunset's Western Gardening Book, a comprehensive resource without which I haven't been for some twenty years. I have gifted it on many occasions and all of the recipients seem to find it as useful as I. I, frankly, wouldn't garden without it. As I recall, there is a fairly extensive section on building an above-ground garden plot complete with advice as to how to include automatic watering systems.

Regarding building your above-ground garden, call around and see if anyone will deliver some railroad ties. They're much easier to work with, I think. No nailing involved and it's easy to expand or reduce the size of your garden as needed. Although I admit it's been some years since I did that, and they may have gotten either harder to find, or more expensive. Also, one place I lived, I used cut up telephone poles. Can't remember where I got them, though, so that may not be of much help.

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#12 Behemoth

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:20 PM

Jaymes, there was some issue a while back with the wood on those being treated with cyanide, that could potentially leach into the soil. I think it was just with older stuff, as cyanide is no longer used in pressure treated wood these days, AFAIK. Worth keeping in mind the age of what you are looking at when looking around though.
Summarizing, then, we assume that relational information is not subject to a corpus of utterance tokens upon which conformity has been defined by the paired utterance test.
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#13 rancho_gordo

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:25 PM

I hate to jump in here, but how many plants do you have? Building raised beds to see if you like gardening seems extreme. If you have one or two or six tomato plants, I'd just plant them, maybe use some red plastic for mulch (I think you said these were tomatoes, right?), use a generic vegetable fertilizer and then water as needed, barely once they bear fruit. If you haven't been gardening it's likely the soil is fine and doesn't need a lot of amendments.

It just strikes me as late in the season and you you may end up not even enjoying the task. If it's a hoot, then build the frames and spend the winter drooling over catalogues. I turned my laundry room into a "dance studio" with mirrors and balance bar and I have 7 tutus and and it turns out I don't enjoy dancing. I do like the mean old French lady who beats we with a stick when I fail at my pirouettes, but that's a different tale.

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#14 Jaymes

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:40 PM

Jaymes, there was some issue a while back with the wood on those being treated with cyanide, that could potentially leach into the soil. I think it was just with older stuff, as cyanide is no longer used in pressure treated wood these days, AFAIK. Worth keeping in mind the age of what you are looking at when looking around though.


Eeeeww... But I do think the ones sold in the nurseries today must not have that since many of them are sold for creating raised beds.

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#15 Jaymes

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:44 PM

I hate to jump in here, but how many plants do you have? Building raised beds to see if you like gardening seems extreme. If you have one or two or six tomato plants, I'd just plant them, maybe use some red plastic for mulch (I think you said these were tomatoes, right?), use a generic vegetable fertilizer and then water as needed, barely once they bear fruit. If you haven't been gardening it's likely the soil is fine and doesn't need a lot of amendments.

It just strikes me as late in the season and you you may end up not even enjoying the task. If it's a hoot, then build the frames and spend the winter drooling over catalogues. I turned my laundry room into a "dance studio" with mirrors and balance bar and I have 7 tutus and and it turns out I don't enjoy dancing. I do like the mean old French lady who beats we with a stick when I fail at my pirouettes, but that's a different tale.


He could start with just a small raised bed, though... Something like 3' by 6' or so.

And, pray tell, what are you now doing in your laundry room with the mirrored walls? Mean old French ladies exclusively? Or could I give it go when next I am out there?

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