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Just joined this morning and thought I'd introduce myself. 7 weeks ago I removed the sod from my front yard and am in the process of making a small kitchen garden. I've only dabbled a bit in vegetable gardening in previous years - so this is a big step up for me. I live in the western suburbs of Minneapolis on a 1/2 acre of dense woods (oaks, maples, ash, juniper) with a south facing front yard that is mostly sunny. My latest concern is whether or not to take down the 35 foot spruce that shades, and sends out roots to, the garden. It's in perfect shape and provides a bit of privacy and adds to the very wooded nature of the neighborhood. But I know the veggies would be better off it were gone. I've already trimmed up the branches as far as I can reach.
Here's a list of what's growing (all from seed except as noted): kohlrabi, kale, chard, radishes, turnips, beets, eggplant (transplant), broccoli (transplant), sunflowers, miniature corn, squash 'Sunshine', zucchini, cucumber, pole beans, dwarf French beans, cherry tomatoes (transplant), lima beans, tomato 'Amish Paste' (transplant.)
The photos are from a couple of weeks ago but show a bit of the process I went through to make the beds and mounds.
The spruce is just south of the middle of the garden. You can see it on the right in the first photo and in the upper left in the second. It's about 10 feet from the middle bed.
Since these photos were taken, I've removed more of the lower branches because I kept running into them.
The garden seems to be getting a lot of sun as the spruce is very tall and rather narrow. It's the roots that have me wondering more than anything - although more sun is almost always better for vegetables?
Hi MaNewer, are you sure you are new to gardening.? I think you are doing very well , what a nice design of the beds . It looks as though they are getting sun and should do well because some vegetables be well in area that get morning sun . For your tree I think it will keep the house cool on hot days so I will not cut it down , and if you make raised beds your garden will do well, I do not have a tree in my yard but my neighbor s do and I come across lots of roots in my garden . I have 8 garden beds both flowers and veggies.
I've always liked digging and messing around with landscaping, seeds and plants - but this is the first year I've made an earnest attempt at vegetable gardening. In the past few years I've learned a lot about eating for nutrient density. As a result, I'd really like to grow more of my own veggies and make them as nutritious as possible.
I like your idea of raising the beds to avoid tree roots. There's better than average drainage here so I thought lower beds might do best. But I wasn't considering the roots.
Hi NaNewer do some research on raised beds and you will get some ideas on how deep to make them because after adding compost and other components it will retain its moisture and the roots of your plants will be good and strong
If the tree is south of the garden, it shouldn't shade the beds much. Do the branches hang over the garden a lot? Are there actual patches of shade during spring, summer or fall?
In a few years, you may decide that you like your garden better than the privacy, and hire someone to cut a few of the branches causing the most shade.
I agree that tree roots will be wicked competition for vegetables. Some kinds of tree roots will turn upwards as if seeking the water and fertilizer, and fill the bed with tree roots. I don't know if spruce is one of those trees. A pine tree took over my compost heap as if it smelled candy, and GRABBED that compost heap with thousands of fine roots burrowoing up from below.
Never put a garden, or a compost heap, too near a pine tree.
If you're willing to risk losing the tree, cut the deepest trench you can between the tree and the beds. You might need a mattock or an axe to cut all the surface tree roots that run into the bed.
Then leave something behind in the trench, like concrete paving stones stood upright and/or a VERY heavy plastic barrier to discourage future tree root incursions.
If losing 1/3 of its roots kills the tree, that decision will be made for you.
If you wait a few years and get really fond of your garden, cutting that tree down may become a very easy decision!
Hi and welcome to DG. Since you are starting a garden where there use to be grass be extra watchful for cutworms and grubs. They are common is grass but grubs will hurt other plant roots and cutworms will take out baby plants right at the soil line.
Below is a recent photo of the garden at noon which shows how much the garden is being shaded by the tree. At this point, I'm probably leaning towards cutting it down. There are hundreds of trees on my half acre here and I really can afford to lose one now and then. I'll post again if/when I get the nerve to 'pull the trigger.'
Lisa, your advice about cutworms and grubs is timely. When I dug up the sod I encountered a few and dealt with them at the time. I'll keep my eyes open now for more. Right now we've got hundreds of tiny (quarter inch) grass hoppers jumping all around. The only nibbling I can see so far is on the Mammoth sunflowers - and that was only on one of them. I hope they don't become a bigger problem. Another issue I may face soon (this evening maybe) is hail. I'll have to do a search here to see what you all do about that threat.
I bet that a plant in a pot on the sidewalk, in full sun, would out-perform a plant in the shaded bed, despite root cramping.
It might be cheaper to get someone to cut off half the limbs, than fell the whole tree.
P.S. If you discuss estimates with anyone, be sure to ask for wood chips or "offer" to let him dump a truckload in your yard. They make great mulch and walkways. Composted for a few years, you can even use small composted wood chips to add organic matter to heavy clay soil.
Rick, I'm afraid you're right about a plant in a pot on the sidewalk in full sun compared to my veggies. Tomorrow I'll make the call.
I have a tree guy I really like so I'll go with him. He understands this property and will cut the logs into carrying-sized pieces so I can use them on my northern steep slope as erosion barriers. He may even place some of them for me - we'll see.
I ordered my seed garlic for the fall today. Put my order through to Jung Seeds in Wisconsin for German Porcelain, Vietnamese Red, Northern White, Spanish Roja and Musik. I've grown garlic before and love it for taste, nutrition, ease of growing and deer resistance.
I looked again for the tiny grasshoppers and found fewer later in the day. I also noticed quite a few toads around - they may be feasting on the hoppers - I hope!
Thanks, Rick. I'm going to take your word for it on the ease of growing vegetables! It's actually been fine so far but I'm realizing how much there is to learn. The trick is to take it slow and enjoy the ride. It helps to write down daily what's working well and what I need to improve upon. One day at a time - hopefully for a long, long time.
My screen name isn't original - it's from a Seinfeld episode with Marisa Tomei and George Constanza:
GEORGE: …So, anyway, if you think about it, manure is not really that bad a word. I mean, it’s ‘newer’, which is good, and a ‘ma’ in front of it, which is also good. Ma-newer, right?
MARISA: (laughing) You’re so right. I never thought of it like that. Manure. ‘Ma’ and the ‘newer’.
MARISA: Did you just make that up?
GEORGE: What, you think I’m doing material here?
MARISA: (laughs) No, no. It’s hard to believe anyone could be so spontaneously funny.
GEORGE: (modest) And I’m a little tired.
Marisa laughs again, then speaks, still smiling, but more seriously.
MARISA: So, tell me, how is it that a man like you, so bald, and so quirky and funny, how is it you’re not taken?
GEORGE: Well, Marisa. See, the thing is… I’m sort of engaged.
Marisa’s face falls in disappointment.
GEORGE: I’m, you know, engaged.
Marisa’s expression turns to anger. She swings a fist and punches George in the
face, then grabs her bag and storms away. George feels the painful spot where he
received the blow.
BTW - your avatar is adorable. Tonight I put up three toad abodes (clay flower pots with the bottoms removed and buried on their sides) around the garden and sunk two clay pot saucers - then filled them with water. I'm hoping to attract toads who may help keep the grass hoppers at bay. Do you have a water source that attracts your frogs? Obviously, they like your flowers :)
>> The trick is to take it slow and enjoy the ride. It helps to write down daily what's working well and what I need to improve upon.
Both of those are really smart, but I haven't mastered either one. I either procrastinate or throw myself into a frenzy of work (but I do enjoy that). And I tell myself dozens of time every year "I should be writing this down in some organized manner!"
But saying ain't doing.
"You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind."
Those little guys showed up in the flowertops after a rain during a dry spell. Most of the rainfall had dried up, but those Zinnia blooms were holding water longer than most.
What is strange is that I only hear a very few tree frogs - ever.
And those were the first that I had ever seen in my yard.
And I've only seen two more in the years since.
But there they all were, like peas in a pod or sardines in a can, sunning themselves and showing off for the camera.
Hi Your garden looks great, and I think it goes well with the house, the beds fit right in. In the list of what you are growing, you listed kohlrabi. I just picked one today, it was bigger than a softball. This is the first year I tried to grow kohlrabi, can you tell me what or how to get it ready to cook? Cut the ends and top off? slice it in half, cut 1/2 inch slices to cook? One person said fry it in butter, or bake it in the oven? How do you fix it? I got the purple one and it looks so pretty I didn't want to pull it out of the ground, but we have more rain on the way and I didn't know if they split like tomatoes and watermelon if you get to much rain. well I want to do something with it, but don't know what yet. Anyway getting back to your garden, It looks like you know what you are doing, because it looks great. Phil
You caught me - I've never actually tried Kohlrabi! The reason I decided to grow it is that I remember my grandfather raving about his Kohlrabi in his veggie garden. Also, it's a crucifer and as such offers a lot of health benefits. I love all of the other crucifers so am confident this one will appeal to me too. Here's a link from the Huffington Post with a lot of tempting Kohlrabi recipes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/15/kohlrabi-recipes_n_1597114.html I've bookmarked it for when mine are ready to harvest. Right now the plants are barely visible as I've had a late start with all of this. But they're supposed to be a plant you grow over the season in successive sowings so I think I'm ok. And from what I've read, the smaller ones are less bitter so I think you picked yours at the right time.
Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by!
Kohlrabi; the best way to eat it is raw. Cut the bottom off, it will be hard there. Peel it & slice into
french fry style strips. Use it with carrots, radishes & other things on a veggie tray. Or just sit back & enjoy the kohlrabi.
Thanks My Kohlrabi is big so I will try some raw, grill some in butter, and roasted in olive oil in the oven. I have about 5 or 6 left in the garden.
Thanks Country Gardens. I work at Wal$Mart at night and I am going on 70 1/2 and I always wanted to do what you are doing. Selling at the Farmers Market. WE have a little market on Tuesday from 4 to 5:30. That how small it is, every one sells out by 5:30. I hope to retire in Oct or Sept. May be I can get a little extra money to spend on the kids and Grandkids. So every time I see that you reply on Dave's Garden I have to read it and dream that maybe it was me doing all that growing and selling. Thanks again for being my Hero.
I have lots of help. 2 sort of full ime girls. Ones on her 3rd year, the other 2nd year.
I have a guy that only picks green beans. He's been here since the 70's.
Then I hire 4 people to pick pickles. Everybody helps with weeding when they have time. I hire some people just to do weeding.
Some days last summer there were 8 people working daily.