Hello Folks – I am setting aside some time this weekend to build my first garden. We have our location picked out – reserved a 10’ X 10’ spot with the ability to add a second 10’ X 10’ spot later.
This is our first garden – can anyone point me to a solid resource that isn’t overwhelming with info for a starter garden?
We are in Texas so thinking Corn, Tomatoes, Carrots, Berries, Etc…
Thanks in advance.
Starting gardens in Texas on March 2, eh? Up here in N. Wisconsin, it’s still two feet of snow on the ground, three feet of frost in the ground and two feet of ice on the lake. No gardening for us ’til late May. Plenty of ice fishing, though.
My thoughts on starting a garden for the first time – go easy. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. To find the most productive plants (cultivar selection) for your area, refer to one of the many useful University Extension websites (I use University of Minnesota). Or, learn from an experienced gardener. Don’t necessarily believe what the seed catalogs claim.
The Square Foot Gardening thread…which is what my gardens are based on…
And yes, go easy, figure out what works, what doesn’t. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself the 1st year. Do that the 2nd year.
I am in the Dallas area myself. I have attempted square foot gardening three years in a row. I have had very little success. I’ve tried:
and probably a few others too.
I still haven’t quite figured out what all I’ve done wrong but I’ve had problems with:
too much heat
too much cold
too much water
not enough water
and birds, to name a few.
I don’t blame the square foot gardening method. I believe it has got to be the best way to grow smaller gardens and I would definitely recommend getting and reading the book if you’re serious about starting your own vegetable garden.
But I’m surprised at how difficult growing a vegetable garden has actually been. It has been hard for me to figure out and to find help. I’ve really been hoping something would “click” and I could start doing it right. It has been my goal ever since I started three years ago to share my successes with neighbors first but then to branch out across the city and then who knows. It is my firm belief that EVERYONE should be growing some sort of food in their own residence. Even someone living in an apartment with a small balcony should be able to grow a surprising amount of food. But how can I get other people doing it if I can’t do it myself?
Yeah, the learning curve is insane at first. People who buy that “emergency seed bank” and think all they have to do is shove some seeds in the ground and they are good to go will be in for a rude shock unless they get some practical experience.
I started by trying to raise what the local farm stands were sellling. My thought was that it would be the easiest to grow in my area (central SC) and I was right. Then I bought a little bit of everything else and experimented. For the most part we are Square Foot Gardeners.
Sucesses? Lettuces–especially oak leaf and Jeocho cos–figs and peaches (added fireplace ash. sprayed peaches w/BT, and watered and trippled yields), peanuts, okra, Kentucky wonder pole beans, peas, basil, garlic, jalapenos, green peppers, lima beans, carrots and what few potatoes we planted.
Failures? Beets, turnips, spinach, tomatoes, peppermint, pumpkin & zucchini (squash bugs), melons (hubby ran over ’em with the lawnmower) eggplant. Dill grew too well and took over a garden box – very invasive.
Mixed results? The cabbages, radishes, cukes and cauliflower were edible but tiny. And the blueberries, after an innapropriate dose of the same fireplace ash…well they did not, at least, die. Yams were bigger than last year. We planted the wrong kind of sunflowers, and harvested them too late, but got some sseds.
Each year we get more yeilds and more variety. It’s a process of experimentation.
FriscoMike, there are great things to be said for ‘drought-resistant’ varieties of, well, everything if you live in the Sunbelt. And during the hottest part of the summer I write most of my garden off for about a month, except for the okra and jalapenos – they think 100 F temps are just dandy. So do the green beans and limas, as long as I water them.
Frisco, keelba –
If there is a local Farmer’s Market and/or CSA nearby you can try there. You will likely find someone local who is willing to share tips on how to, what to, how not to and what not to grow in your area.
these folk can help gardeners esp. in the south. http://thebayougardener.com/smf/
Frisco Mike and Keelba
I solved this problem by marrying someone with a green thumb and listening to what she tells me to do.:-)
But first off, I would make sure you have the best soil possible. Our soil here is sandy and poor so I gathered the best topsoil I could find from other sites, bought organic topsoil, gathered and bought manure, made compost, added soil amendments, etc. to build up the soil in raised beds. Without good soil, everything else is for naught.
Read online, check with your agricultural extension service, check with local gardening organizations, or check with folks who seem to have large and successful local gardens to find out what’s best to grow in your area. Look for things that are relatively easy to grow, that most folks in your area have success with, that give you the most bang for your buck, and that provide nutritional diversity.
For each crop you plant, follow the seed packet instructions closely or study it online to understand its needs such as when to plant it (since too early or too late might mean it’s too cool and/or wet or too hot and/or dry for that crop to grow and thrive), how to plant it (rows, mounds, etc.), how deep to plant it, how far apart to plant it, what grows well next to what, etc. Make sure you have the right type of soil and that the soil is prepared properly for planting and know the crop’s temperature, moisture, light, and nutrient requirements.
If you time things right but it’s too cold anyway, cover it. If it’s too hot, you could shade it and definitely make sure it gets enough water. Learn when to water and how much to water. Overwatering is a common mistake.
Watch it closely to see what predator problems may emerge and nip them in the bud. For example, we use toilet paper rolls saved during the year around stems to prevent cutworm. We also use rabbit fencing and an automated deer chaser (plus a canine deer chaser). You can cover crops with netting as well to keep deer or birds out. If you have a ground hog that climbs over fencing and chews through netting, take care of him with high velocity lead poisoning. If you have an insect, slug, or other small pest problem arising, take appropriate (organic measures), Simple, safe things such as diatomaceous earth take care of a lot of pests. Picking them off by hand works too. I’ve waged war against everything from Japanese beetles to Colorado potato beetles in this fashion. Squishing the bejeemers out of the little buggers can be amazingly therapeutic after a stressful day. I often imagine them being little Ben Bernankes or tiny Timmy Geithners and sleep like a baby afterwards knowing I’ve done my part to help humanity.
Learn about mulching, composting, compost teas, and soil amendments from things as simple as wood ash to more exotic things like sea minerals and mycorrhizal mixes.
All the above information can be found online.
But rich, healthy soil is fundamentally important since, among other things, it even confers an “immune system benefit” of sorts to decrease plant diseases and insect predation.
Good luck and have fun! Personally, my favorite part of gardening, other than partaking of the produce, is patting the behind of the bent over female gardner who I commonly see tending our patch … but YMMV.
P.S. As a disclaimer, I take no responsibility for what may befall you if you partake of the latter activity. Probably depends on what kind of day the possessor of the posterior had.
I’m a Texas Master Gardener so I will add my comments here. The advice offered so far in this thread is generally sound. Vegetable gardening in Texas is challenging, no doubt about it. But it definitely can be learned and with a bit of effort and a few initial failures, you will start getting it right if you persevere.
The Square Foot garden method works pretty well. In my own garden I have both in-ground rows and raised garden beds. Both work for me. But for someone just starting out, the Square Foot method may well be your best bet because it definitely does work if you follow the system. It’s not perfect, but neither is any other growing method. I would purchase Mel Bartholemew’s book, Square Foot Gardening or the All New Square Foot Gardening, and read it a couple of times before you get started. If you follow the system carefully, your chances of success are pretty good.
Getting the soil right is the key to success, and that’s why the novice gardener may find it easier to begin with the Square Foot system. This is because you don’t have to worry about your existing soil. Instead you create your own by mixing equal parts of coarse vermiculite, peat moss and good finished compost and placing that in your raised garden frame. The soil mix is permanent, but each time you harvest a square you add some compost before you plant something else in that square. Keep a little record book and vary what you plant in each square.
Gardening advice is generally available free for the asking. Check with your local County Extension Agent to see if there is a Master Gardener program in your county. Master Gardeners are volunteers who go through horticultural training and then volunteer their time helping people in their communities with gardening questions.
Lately I have become fascinated by keyhole gardens, which seem to be especially suited to our tough Texas climate. Keyhole gardens originated in Africa, where growing conditions are somewhat similar to what we face here. These are starting to catch on here in Central Texas, where I live.
Don’t give up! Keep trying and when you fail, learn something and resolve not to make that mistake again. You’ll get it right at some point. Lots of people seem to feel that if economic conditions become bad enough, they will simply raise a garden and solve their food problem. Sorry, no. The truth is that it takes a few years to gain reasonable proficiency in gardening skills. The sooner you begin this effort, the sooner you will gain confidence that you know what you are doing. Keep on trying until you succeed.
(added fireplace ash……………..
and soil amendments from things as simple as wood ash to more exotic things
I’ve noted several times through the years here that some folks use fireplace ash as a soil amendment but never understood why. What’s up with that?