View Full Version : Garden Tips?

Jan. 11, 2009, 12:22 PM
I have decided that I am going to have a garden on the farm this year. :eek:

While I like veggies very much, I've actually never grown any. Mom was the green thumb in the family, and while she did garden extensively, it was all decades ago before I was born. She was more landscaping than gardening during my growing up years. She is in a nursing home and would be no help at all now, not even reliably for advice.

However, due to the rising cost of food, the rising crud in the food, and the fact that I really do like veggies and would like to eat more healthily not for weight loss reasons but just on general principles, I have concluded that I WILL have a garden this year.

Tips? Suggestions? Size? Gardening 101? When do you plant them? How long does it last in a fridge? In a freezer?

Special bonus points for tips on:

Bell peppers.
Cucumbers. (Yum!)
Carrots. (Note the horse-related aspect to this post)
Cantaloupe (slurp!)
Sweet potatoes.

Jan. 11, 2009, 12:30 PM
You need to start by making a plan - what will you eat and how much space do you need?

You need to prepare the bed - soil test, ammend, fence (deer!), etc

Plant lots and lots of carrots!!! They are an early-ish crop and you can plant them all around the tomatoes and peppers, and some vining plants, which are harvested later. And it's so much fun to pull carrots out of the garden and give them straight to the horses!

Once your early crops are in, I suggest laying thick layers of paper (like feed bags) all around the remaning plants to help with weed control. Just don't use plasticky paper, plain brown paper and news paper is good. Sprinkle a little mulch over it and you will have much much much less weeding to do throughout the summer.

Plant marigolds throughout the garden, they help with controlling some species of bugs, and they are really pretty.

Check out seedsavers.com (or seedsavers.org) for great heirloom seeds and plants.

Jan. 11, 2009, 12:37 PM
When I lived in PA, we had a massive garden. We grew corn, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, sweet potatoes, lettuce, eggplant, cucumbers, etc... Also on the back of our property we had raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. We also had a couple apple trees here and there. Home made jam, pies, and vegetable soup. Yums! ;)

Lasted quite a while in the freezer. Plant corn. You will thank me later. :D

Make sure your soil is well taken care of. That is the most important aspect of gardening. Like Flash said, planting a few marigolds here and there helps a bit with the bugs. Make sure you animal proof your garden. We had to put up deer fencing. If you are planning on having a lot of vegetables make sure there is enough room for everything to grow, and nothing is crowded together. I can't remember the size of our garden, just that is was monstrous. ;)

Jan. 11, 2009, 12:43 PM
get ye to the library!

best advise I can give you.

Cucumbers need ample water or they go bitter, as do cantelopes. Carrots need sandy soil not too rich.

FIRST thing to do is to build a compost heap, all organic matter goes here! most important part of the garden!!! :lol:

Jan. 11, 2009, 12:53 PM
I did my first garden last summer and it was a blast. There was nothing better than getting home from work and throwing the ball for the dog all while eating fresh peas picked off the vine.

At the suggestion of my MIL and SIL I used the book square foot gardening. It's like gardening for dummies. It has you build raised beds (2 X 6s screwed together and fill with good dirt.) I'll admit the start up costs are a little higher- but there is very little weeding. We also put an extra zone on the sprinkler system for it and I put in drip lines so I didn't even have to water it. The nice thing about the book is it talks you through how much you can plant in each square foot ( like divide it into 9 smaller squares and put 3 seeds in the middle of each sub square) and how much a person will eat. It's also nice as it has a guide to what should be planted weekly for ongoing harvest (like I was so excited when I started that I planted lots of lettuce the day after the first frost and we were soo sick of lettuce that quickly stopped planting it - then we had none...)

It worked really well for me once I started to pay attention to the advice :lol:

Peppers like to "hold hands" - They do better when planted close to each other. They also need lots of sun.

Good Luck!

Jan. 11, 2009, 01:32 PM
If you have a fence for your dog(s), find a place for the garden inside that fence (and fence it off from the dogs). I have had no problems with deer because they know the dog lives inside the fence.

Otherwise, there are LOTS of books and websites about how to get started gardening. I love my garden and am looking forward to spring. Winter is the perfect planning time! :)

Jan. 11, 2009, 01:43 PM
When thinking garden fence, chain link doesn't help with rabbits.:no:
They squeeze fine right thru the 2" squares.:p

If you are in rattlesnake country, be sure to try to snakeproof your fence with very small mesh wire on the bottom and high enough a snake won't get in there.

I had tremendous gardens until I got tired to have to run rattlers off the garden gate, waiting there for me, so they could go into the nice wet area there.
I was also finding the occassional one that did get in there and didn't like to be disturbed.:eek:

Now, I put a few tomato plants in old plastic manure buckets, where I can look all around well before stepping close or getting my hands in there and can move them over to mow there.
Sure miss everything else.:(

Jan. 11, 2009, 02:21 PM
We have a beautiful, bountiful vegetable garden and don't weed, because we follow Ruth Stout. Used copies of her books have gone sky high in price but I'd suggest getting one of her books from your library: No-Work Garden Book or How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back.

Another one I like for someone just starting out is The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. Everything you need to know is there, including crop rotation, staking, etc.

Good luck!

Jan. 11, 2009, 04:21 PM
How can you have a garden and not plant Silver Queen???? :winkgrin: Yum yum.

I grow almost all our food and preserve it as well. By the time I'm done I'm so sick of it I've lost my appetite. It's one heck of a diet plan.

Since you didn't plot out the garden and amend the soil in the fall, you'll need to do it in the spring. I don't know what zone you're in but generally you don't work the soil until it's ready or you'll ruin it. (rule of thumb is if you hold some and can't make a ball out of it it's too dry. If it forms a hard ball it is too wet. You want it moist and crumbly)

What you could do in a thaw is stake it out and remove the sod (keep the sod if you want as you can used it as mulch). Consider how you'll keep animals out.

Choose an area that receives full sun, drains well, and is protected from wind to the extent possible.

You can do your soil test now. Depending on the results. may have to amend the soil.

A must have for every gardener is the book "Carrots Love Tomatoes" It tells you what plants to plant next to each other, and what plants to avoid planting next to each other. Nice book.

Jan. 11, 2009, 05:26 PM
You'll want to put this gardening forum on your "favorites" list: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/ They have a forum for just about every kind of crop, and it's cross-referenced several ways so you can find just about ANYTHING.

Get yourself on some seed company catalog mailing lists. Even if you purchase your seeds elsewhere, you'll get lots of ideas as to what's available and some have growing tips as well.

My favorite so far is Jung's Seeds. Gurneys and Henry Fields are kinda OK (they have a $25 coupon on the front cover that you can use on a $50 order, which lets me try some stuff at half price and/or buy stuff that I'd ordinarily think too pricey; however, I've gotten at least two wrong products from them). There's several more that have more expensive seeds/plants. Just about all of them have websites also.

If you order plants (instead of seeds) you'll want to order from a nursery with about the same climate you have -- no ordering from Michigan if you are living in Georgia (or the other way around).

I do a hodge-podge mix of square-foot gardening, container gardening, and row planting. Every cracked water bucket/tub/trough gets filled with dirt and something planted in it.

You CAN make a big elaborate deal out of gardening, if you don't mind $5 tomatoes. But you don't HAVE to. I don't do a whole lot more than just stir up the dirt, throw the seeds/plants in the ground, water them once in a while, and either they grow or they don't. I try (sometimes with less than success) to keep ahead of the weeds. I don't measure my rows or go to a lot of effort to make them perfectly straight. Last year was a crappy year for just about everything, and I doubt if even being meticulous would have made a difference. The three years before, I was over-run with stuff. (We'll not be talking about how I came to put in 80 plants each of tomatoes, brussels sprouts, and broccoli...)

Sing Mia Song
Jan. 11, 2009, 05:42 PM
First thing--where are you located? That will tell you better what is feasible for your area.

We grow:

-tomatoes (easy, avoid the big beefsteaks--the romas, cherries and grapes are much easier to grow)

-cukes (they need space and something to climb, or they'll take over, Even so, you've got to guard their behavior, because they'll grab on to anything they can reach)

-green beans (see cukes, above)

-radishes (EASY, fast growing and very rewarding)

-carrots (as previously mentioned, they like sandy soil, and you should plan to plant several crops)

-broccoli (still perfecting this, as the Japanese beetles LOVE it)

-lettuce (see broccoli, above)

-bell peppers (get it in early, and if you like them red, be prepared to wait. They are the kind of crop that you wait and wait and wait and suddenly you're overrun. But IMHO, there's no such thing as too many bell peppers.

Raised beds are great--we have four 4 x 8 with chicken wire frames to keep the cats out.

We do not use horse manure in our garden, but we do use a compost pile and keep a compost bucket in the kitchen. Any veggie scraps, coffee grounds, filters, egg shells go in the bucket and I take it to the bin next to the barn when I walk out to feed.

Jan. 11, 2009, 07:07 PM
Gardening is great! But my best words of caution are: research, and start small. There is nothing worse than being overwhelmed with a garden and watching your hard early spring work go to waste because you have no plan for the 200 cucumbers you harvested! Preserving is not hard but it takes dedication and planning. Probably the best thing you can do as a beginner is to start small and plan to give away or freeze your extras (if you have freezer space).....tomatoes & peppers freeze well; cucumbers...not so much. (But pickles are very easy to make if you like them).

We had the best luck with lettuce in planters on our deck (but you have to be very careful to water daily or they will die). I, too, had trouble with rabbits and other critters in our ground garden - all lettuce and carrots were completely eaten, even though we had a fence.

Other things that do extremely well in pots - cherry tomatoes, small peppers (jalapenos and other hot peppers), and even cucumbers ("bush type" will grow up a trellis in a pot). So that's another way to save space. Put the big, sprawly stuff in the garden - tomatoes, cantalope, and the smaller stuff in pots.

Good luck!! It's a learning process so even with research you kind of have too see what works in your soil and your sun. PS great resources for seed catalogs....I'm ordering some!

Party Rose
Jan. 12, 2009, 12:24 AM
Definitely a thread that I'm going to come back to when I have some time.

I planted my first "real" garden this year.

Be sure to plant strawberries. Cool thing is they're not suppose to die in the winter cold and they send off a ton of trailers so you get more and more plants = more and more strawberries.

Hot peppers are REALLY easy.

There's a season to plant many species, so google a planting map for your area so you're ahead of the game and then you can plan accordingly.

Also be sure to plant the taller (corn, tomatoes, etc.) in the middle if you're going to do more than two rows. That way the middle is easier to get to.

Jan. 12, 2009, 12:34 AM
I garden pretty much by the seat of my pants (Martha Stewart I am not)
But I find tomatos are easy to grow, so is lettuce (the leafy kind) summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow), peas and cucumbers.
Don't forget to put in a herb garden too - basil grows like a weed, rosemary is hardy and parsley, thyme, oregano & sage are pretty foolproof.
I make pesto from the basil & sage then freeze it in tablespoon-sized portions.

I freeze most of my surplus - tomatos are made into sauce first or just cut in half for sauce later. I don't even bother to blanch things first, just wash and pack in freezer bags. You can make freezer jam and pickles and avoid the whole hot-water processing hassle.

I agree plant according to what you will use. One year I planted 15 zucchini plants - I thought they'd look pretty by the barn, didn't really care if they produced...so of course they did!
I gave away literally hundreds of pounds of squash as well as freezing/baking/pickling for myself.

For future you might want to plant a dwarf fruit tree - I had one here (a peach) when I moved in, so small I almost pulled it out as a weed.
Two years later it was loaded with fruit. They don't get much taller than 10' so it's easy to pick all of the fruit.
I have apple & pear trees that are much older and full-size and a lot of fruit gets wasted because I can't be bothered to go up on a ladder to pick it. Last year I found a family that came and picked my pear trees and gave me home-canned pears in return.

Now you have got me dreaming of Spring...gotta go look at my seed catalogs...:D

Jan. 12, 2009, 01:54 AM
Potatos plants (the green part) are extremely toxic to horses, so don't plant them anywhere the horses could accidently get to.

If you do over plant, consider giving your extra veggies to your local food closet, women's shelter, or homeless shelter.

Jan. 12, 2009, 07:05 AM
my advice:

Start small. You can always make it bigger next year, but if you plan properly, you can plant a lot in a small space. Nothing worse than being overwhelmed by a large garden. Makes it no fun.

Gardening CAN become all about managing the weeds, right in the middle of the heat of summer. So, plan accordingly. I use lots of landscape fabric in my garden. Just figure out what works for you.

I do plant beans, but have not yet figured out how to make them taste anything close to fresh when I store them.
I have canned them. Ick
I have frozen them. Just ok.
If anybody has any advice, let me know!

And my last piece of advice is to start NOW. I have already started my peppers indoors. They take forever to germinate. Depending on your climate, things can get ahead of you fast.
Plant what you will eat. But I like to try something new each year because I am a cook.


Jan. 12, 2009, 07:17 AM
We used to blanch the green beans.
We would, with a large needle and thread, run it thru one end and make long strings of beans, dip them for five minutes in a boiling pot and hang them to dry in the attick with the garlick braids, that we made by weaving the garlic stems into a braid, the hams and sausages.
When we needed some, just get a string, snip the ends and boil them for a few minutes and they were like freshly picked.

Don't know if that would work in all climates, but in ours, they did fine and never killed anyone eating them.

See if you can find anyone that has done it and it is a safe way to preserve green beans where you are, before you try it and someone may get sick.

Jan. 12, 2009, 08:00 AM
I do plant beans, but have not yet figured out how to make them taste anything close to fresh when I store them.
I have canned them. Ick
I have frozen them. Just ok.
If anybody has any advice, let me know!

And my last piece of advice is to start NOW. I have already started my peppers indoors. They take forever to germinate. Depending on your climate, things can get ahead of you fast.
Plant what you will eat. But I like to try something new each year because I am a cook.

Interesting about the beans; we have not grown them before but grew up eating frozen beans and they were great - I was going to put some in this year. I agree with Bluey that you need to blanch them, although her method of drying wouldn't work in NY. If I recall, my mom would blanch in boiling water, cool in ice water, and then freeze. Curious as to whether she allowed them to air dry before freezing so they weren't covered in ice crystals, which would definitely make them taste freezerburned. Hmmm.....going to do some research.

For a novice gardener, I would probably not advise starting seedlings indoors in January. Just because you could get ahead of yourself and have way too many or burn out on gardening before the plants hit the ground. I'd stick with those things you can sow directly (cucumbers, etc.) and try transplants for the first year so you get a little help. Especially tomatoes.

Jan. 12, 2009, 08:22 AM
We didn't have electricity and so no refrigerator or freezers.
Many years later, after I was gone, still no electricity, I heard they got a propane refrigerator.:cool:
That is why we had to handle food without that option.;)

Jan. 12, 2009, 09:07 AM
Definitely start small. Think of this year as your experimental year to see what works well for you and what doesn't. I wouldn't try to get too many different varieties fo things off the bat... that will just lead to confusion. Again, start small.

Compost is great. Keep in mind if you use horse manure that fresh will burn your plants (too much nitrogen I think). HOrse manure ideally has to sit 3 months or more to be really useful in a garden. If you have rabbit or chicken, I believe both of those can go straight to the garden.

You definitely need to find out what zone you're located in and when your frost dates are (starting and ending) as that information will let you know when you can start planting what types of plants. ie: I'm in zone 5 or 6 depending on what your source is, with a frost date of May 10th. However, peas here can go in as early as mid february (peas are smart) but tomatoes you don't want to plant til about May 15th or you REALLY risk losing them (or have a lot of work to do in order to save them from a late cold snap).

BTW, someone suggested planting corn. I don't. Corn is massively space intensive. If you want to, that's fine, but in starting out, I'd keep it small and easy -- tomatoes, carrots, peas, peppers, lettuce and spinach and maybe squash or melons... plus some herbs (we've used parsley, basil, oregano and tarragon right from the garden). Oh, nasturtiums are pretty little flowers that help with good insect attraction while repelling bad ones... AND you can eat them and their leaves!! (kind of a peppery taste).

Jan. 12, 2009, 09:10 AM
We didn't have electricity and so no refrigerator or freezers.
Many years later, after I was gone, still no electricity, I heard they got a propane refrigerator.:cool:
That is why we had to handle food without that option.;)

Oh I understand! I can air dry some things here but not until late fall or it is too humid. I've tried air drying basil in the summer and it just wilts and turns black. I've had good luck with drying hot peppers in the house, but again, not until fall. I think my farming grandparents had to rely on mostly canning and pickling, which is fine by me. I consider the "vinegar group" a major building block in the food pyramid.

Jan. 12, 2009, 09:11 AM
Yes, I blanch before I freeze. I just find them to be a bit rubbery. But MUCH better than canning!
As for the seeds in january. I LOVE to do lots of colored sweet peppers. To buy as plants, they are unaffordable. So, January it is, or they don't grow big enough before planting time.
Some of the things that I don't need much of, like hot peppers, or unique types of tomatoes, I just go ahead and buy the plants. One plant is usually about the same price as a packet of seeds!
Good luck with your garden. We LOVE fresh veggies in the summer.
And we get lots of visitors taking away food as well.
And yes, I have been known to hide a zucchini or two in friends cars!

Jan. 12, 2009, 09:13 AM
And yes, I have been known to hide a zucchini or two in friends cars!

August 8th is the official "Sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch Day"


Jan. 12, 2009, 09:17 AM
When going to the local post office for the mail, we never lock the vehicles, except in zuchini season.:lol:

Jan. 12, 2009, 10:45 AM
I had a large and varied garden at our previous farm. The new farm just got the garden plot put in this past fall, a large raised bed, so I have 5' of black topsoil (chortling in her joy) waiting for my spring plans. I've had good experiences using horse manure in the garden, we had sand paddocks and picked the high quality poop, no sawdust bedding, some sand stuck to horse buns, and piled this in the garden in the fallow areas in the fall. Let it sit over the winter to age. Then spread it, turn it, work it in the spring, and plant. Peas and potatoes are easy, and very rewarding. Plant frost tolerant stuff early. Spinach is good, and will reseed naturally, so you can kinda get a patch going annually if you let it go until it goes to seed. Broccoli is easy, and cold hardy. It will also reseed. Corn is great, it is a heavy feeder, needs lots of fertilizer or manure. Tomatoes are easy usually, but they will wilt with fungus if they get wet in the summer. Best to buy half a dozen already started plants. If you buy a packet of seeds, you will have to split the large number of plants with neighbours, you don't need that many. Squashes of all sorts are easy, and love horse manure. You can plant these right in an aged manure pile. Summer and winter varieties. Nothing much will snack on the plants themselves, the spines on the vines keep things away. Tomatoes and potatoes both have poisonous green growth, so they do not get eaten by most marauding invaders. Raspberries grow like weeds, they are hard to kill and take very little care. Just cut out last years canes, and tie up the new years' growth and trim the tops. Put manure on them in the fall. Asparagus is easy too, the beds are perminent, you can buy mature roots that will produce that year, and produce adequately the next year. Plant some asparagus seeds at the same time as you put the roots in, sometimes the roots they sell are all male plants, and they will die without replacing themselves if you don't have both sexes of plants. The female plants are a bit smaller, but just fine for home use. Cut spears until they are half an inch in diameter, then leave them alone to grow. Asparagus beds need to be covered with manure in the fall, after the plants have been allowed to mature, seed, and die down and you cut the old stalks away. Have fun, I do!! Production of "tonnage" is fun.

Jan. 12, 2009, 10:54 AM
Raspberries, pumpkins and tomatoes love horse manure. Also, planting marigolds around your veggies will help protect them from bugs.

Jan. 12, 2009, 11:06 AM
It's time for Trixie and I to obtain old straw bales and set about encouraging them to rot for our 2009 straw bale garden (http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/17571519). :)

A better use for composted horse poop I have yet to see!

Jan. 12, 2009, 11:29 AM
Rather than read everyone elses's great advice, I'll just cut straight to the chase (then go back and bask in gardening thoughts).

#1 grow what you like to eat
#2 start small and expand later
#3 plant your carrots beside your tomatoes. They love each other, and you can thin your carrots while you are weeding your tomatoes.
#4 Plant marigolds everywhere, and basil too. The flowers bring bees and repel bad bugs.
#5 trellis your cuccumbers
#6 give your peppers some filtered sunlight. In fact, plant them between your tomatoes.
#7 the sweetest sweet corn ever is "Gotta Have It" from Gurneys. It makes Silver Queen taste like sawdust.
#8 If you are going to garden anyway, plant heirloom non-copyrighted (http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/90/90-2/Jerri_Cook.html)varieties. Try Baker Creek Seeds (http://rareseeds.com/). Save The Planet and the Diversity of our Food Supply... political public service announcement over.

Jan. 12, 2009, 11:37 AM
I do plant beans, but have not yet figured out how to make them taste anything close to fresh when I store them.

Some of it has to do with the variety, and the maturity at time of picking. I have narrowed my favorite down to Blue Lake Bush, and Goldmine Bush (from Burpee). Pick them very young and tender. I leave them whole, and just snap off the stem end. Blanch for only 3 minutes, rinse immediately with cold water and freeze. When you cook them, get the water to a rolling boil, plop the whole frozen lump in and cover. Leave on Med heat until it just starts to simmer again, drain. You can then leave them steaming in the covered pot for 5-10 minutes while you are finishing up the rest of dinner. Key to it is not to overcook.

Jan. 12, 2009, 11:58 AM
August 8th is the official "Sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch Day"

My husband has learned my "No one leaves the driveway without a zucchini" rule. Not even the UPS driver, or the Jehovah's Witnesses. Last year I only planted one zucchini plant, so we didn't have a problem. But the Jehovah's Witnesses have not been back since.

Jan. 13, 2009, 07:10 AM
My husband has learned my "No one leaves the driveway without a zucchini" rule. Not even the UPS driver, or the Jehovah's Witnesses. Last year I only planted one zucchini plant, so we didn't have a problem. But the Jehovah's Witnesses have not been back since.

HAHAHAHAHA, I can just see them making a big detour around your house! :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol: