Preparing for my first "real" garden...advice needed

Prosper, TX

I have always grown tomatoes in pots and beds and a couple onion plants from time to time but we recently moved and now i have room for a "real" garden.

the bed is approx 4' x 30' and had shrubs/flowers in it from the previous owner. i have cleaned it out and killed off all the grass that had invaded the bed now i am ready to prep.

i was planning on doing a 50/50 mix of compost and topsoil to get it ready and i want to have the following in my garden:

tomatoes, onions (scallions), jalapenos, yellow squash, okra, purple hulls and green beans. I would also love to have some strawberrys but that may be a seperate discussion. We are a small family of 4 so i dont need bushels of produce, just enough for our consumption.

sooooooooooo, the questions are:

1. what else should i add to the soil to prep the bed?
2. do i have enough room for all of the plants that i listed above and can they all work together in the same bed?
3. will i need to "rotate" the plants yearly?
4. what are some good fall crops to plant to get the garden kicked off?

i plan on being somewhat organic but using some chemicals does not bother me in the least. I have started a compost pile that i plan on using to "feed" the beds.

any and all suggestions are welcome.

p.s. yes, i plan on getting some books about gardening for my area (specifically neil sperry).

THANKS!

Dallas, TX

1. Mail your soil to your local county extension office for testing pH, mineral content, etc. Just do a google search for your county. For example in my county Texas A & M does the testing. I just mail them the soil sample with a SASE and a check. They'll mail back the results.

2. sure

3. yes, if you plant really close together. no, if you have rows spaced apart. just plant in-between rows next year for your rotation. plant white dutch clover in between the rows this year. In other words, plant veggies in rows but white dutch clover in the aisles. Next year, alternate with veggies planted in the aisles and clover in the rows.

4. white dutch clover

shameless plug: answer my post regarding...
Best Tomato (s) for North Texas

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

ah.. sorry but why white dutch clovers?? I'm also doing a new bed.. Just not as far along as Swing since we're in a new construction

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

White dutch clover between rows to act as soil stabilizer, living mulch, nitrogen fixer, and it'll take a fair amount of foot traffic.

Sojourner

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

I will move the bain of my DH's life from the front lawn to the veggie garden then.. Good to know. Thank you.

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

OMG! The bane of the lawn? No, those little clovers are not only feeding bees and fascinating children (even those of us on the far-wrong-side of 40), they're also feeding your lawn - for FREE!

I love having clover in my lawn.

Sojourner

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

Wow...ok, what's bain/bane and are you saying that regular old clover in the lawn is the same as white dutch clover?

Kristie

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Apparantly so. My husband hates those.. He actually tries to pull all of those out.. Got to see if I can find any in the lawn before he does..

BTW, are the pink clovers helpful too?

This message was edited Jul 19, 2007 8:46 PM

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

interesting....

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I would suggest putting a barrier along your garden's edge to prevent the roots of grasses and weeds from invading. These are tough, persistent invaders that will keep trying to move into your garden, especially as you develop the fertility of your soil.

You can buy a plastic lawn barrier of 4" at most garden centres. I installed a 2x4 rim on my garden and stapled vinyl stair-runner to it, sank it down to 18" and back filled it. It kept out the grass, but nearby tree roots (cedars, of course) still found their way in.

This may sound like way more work than you want, but it pays off in the long run if you're serious about keeping your garden weed-free. Seeds are another matter -- that's just regular weeding.

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Oh, I was going to raise mine.. There's good incline there.. So I was going to raise th bed in about 1.5 foot increments..

Dallas, TX

Yes, I agree with ZenSoujourner. Furthermore, White Dutch Clover attract ladybugs and bees. Ladybugs will eat aphids and other small pest insects. Bees will pollinate your crops so you get fruit. Any clover will do some good, but white dutch clover is the best because it makes lots of white flowers that produce the pollen that attracts the ladybugs and bees. Before the invention of cheap chemical fertilizers and insecticides for lawns, lawn grass seeds were mixed with white dutch clover seeds. The clover "fixes" nitrogen (makes the nitrogenous part of fertilizers) for free and attract ladybugs to maintain lawn health.

After WWII, this all changed as everybody bought cheap chemical fertilizers and insecticides to spray. "Chemlawn" replaced White Dutch Clover. Everybody forgot clover. Only old timers and really "green" people still know about the beneficial effects of clover used for crop rotation and lawn health maintenance.

This message was edited Jul 20, 2007 12:02 AM

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

interesting...I've read about green manures you plant after your garden is done like buckwheat and things...didn't know you could interplant clover. I've been pulling them out as weeds in the garden! *sigh

Kristie

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Does that mean the pink clovers also fix nitrogen? Cuz we have both around here..

C Springs, TN(Zone 6b)

It is interesting about the white clovers....I have been pulling the clovers off my garden too. About planting the clovers between the rows of vegetables....I'm wondering how do you make sure the clover stay between the rows of vegetables or you just let them go everywhere?

I have pink and white clovers in my yard too, I would like to know if the pink one also fix nitrogen.

Thanks!

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

All clovers fix nitrogen.

Sojourner

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Awesome.. Cuz I think the pink ones are prettier. Is the white one used cuz it's better at fixing nitrogen? Why not use the pretty pink ones if both works??

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

The white ones do fix more nitrogen, and in addition they are hardier - take more foot traffic, handle bad weather (dry, cold, whatever) better.

Sojourner

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Got cha. Will stick to the ugleir but better white clovers.. :)

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

are there clovers with yellow flowers? Small ones? I've noticed the clover in my yard seems to be getting little yellow flowers.....but I know I have the white clover too, so I'm not sure what's going on....Never paid attention to the clover before

Kristie

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Gee never seen yellow ones before..

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

lol...I haven't taken the time to really stop and inspect them(been too hot), so I could be wrong. I'll make a point to check and see next time I'm out.....

Kristie

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Maybe it's like an off white, eggshell color??

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

Ok, I've checked it out, and no, it is bright yellow and it is the clover. The flowers don't look like the regular clover flowers, but they look like little five or six petal simple flowers. Then, there were long seed pods that were maybe half an inch in length with red seeds inside(or they're little red bugs, but they didn't apprear to be moving and seemed to come from inside the seed pods). Oh, and the seed pods don't hang down, they stand straight up.....

Maybe they're not clover, but the leaves look exactly like clover...except instead of growing in clumps they kinda bush out a little......If that makes sense.....

Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

The clover-like stuff might be the invasive weed oxalis. Do the leaves have a reddist tint?

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

I don't think so...I'll have to check again. I will look up oxalis though and see if they resemble each other.....

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

By job, I think you're right....I think its Oxalis corniculata....good thing I didn't plant a lot of these things in my garden, huh?

Kristie

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I agree that it's probably an oxalis. I have it here in my gardens, but for me it's a weed and hard to eradicate because, like so many weeds, it grows fast, produces seed before you know it and suddenly hundreds of babies are sprouting...

Check out this entry in PlantFiles, which is what I have:
http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/38376/

Champaign, IL(Zone 5b)

Yes, that is definately it, you're right! So far I've justseen it growing in the grass...along with many other weeds.....

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

Hey I was just reading about the crimson clover the other day. Is that the same as the pinky-lavender colored one?? If not, how does it compare to the white clover??

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

Crimson clover is a commonly used forage grass. It has also been used for green cover crop. The flowers are quite large and distinctive, a deep, dark red - hence Crimson clover. This is a true clover (Trifolium) and is one of the few clovers that grows well in the south. It doesn't do well in lawns as it does not handle constant foot traffic well.

Crimson clover is distinct from red (or pink) clover, which is often found in lawns.

Thumbnail by ZenSojourner
Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

OK, I'm GOING to get this right! Sheesh!

White clover, also called Ladino or Dutch clover, is also a true clover. Dutch White Clover is a dwarf variety which stands up well to foot traffic and is commonly found in lawns. In fact, before the advent of lawn services, grass seed mix routinely included a significant percentage of Dutch white clover in order to feed the lawn from the nitrogen these plants pump out into the soil.

Note the pinkish tinge at the base of the flower - Dutch Clover does sometimes put out very pale pink flowers, which is often mistaken for true Red Clover (again, Red Clover is actually more pink and is different from the very distinctive tint of Crimson Clover).

Dutch clover is what you usually find in your lawn rather than the other type of white clover, Ladino Clover.

This message was edited Sep 3, 2007 9:35 AM

This message was edited Sep 3, 2007 10:29 AM

This message was edited Sep 3, 2007 10:30 AM

Thumbnail by ZenSojourner
Glen Ellyn, IL(Zone 5b)

Another weed with yellow flowers that's harder to distinguish from clover is black medic. It is a legume like clover, with a taproot from which the stems radiate out. Unlike the seed pod of oxalis, its seeds are black in a cluster at the end of the flower stem.

http://ipm.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/medlu.htm


Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

And finally, Red (or pink) Clover. Also a true clover, this is sometimes found in our lawns. It's not as hardy as Dutch (white) clover (you don't usually find the other type of white clover, Ladino, in the lawn), and from what I can remember (don't have my cover crop book handy, it is several states away in storage) doesn't fix as much nitrogen as either of the white clovers.

Yellow sweet clover is a legume, but is not a "true" clover. Both yellow and red clovers are considered to be somewhat invasive.

Thumbnail by ZenSojourner
Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

So I'm guessing that white dutch clover is the ones to leave in the lawns then. Cuz I'd like to have more grass and fewer other stuff like clovers.. Don't want the red (pink) clover to spread...

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

WHite dutch clover is the choice for lawns because of (1) it's nitrogen fixing (2) it'll take traffic (3) it won't take over your garden (4) it's a miniature, seldom getting over 6" even if you never mow - the others get 12" to 18" tall without mowing.

Sojourner

Pawling, NY(Zone 5b)

That's good to know.. I will take out all the pink and red ones in the yard then.. Keeping my fingers crosses that I don't see any yellows either..

Mid-Cape, MA(Zone 7a)

This is a great thread--so informative, thank you. My natural inclination was to leave the pretty white flowering plant in my lawn, which turns out to be White Dutch Clover--well, I am just too lazy to get rid of it. Now I feel justified--THANK you. I heard from a friend that you have to watch out for bees if you like to walk bare-foot in grass with clover (which to me is the whole IDEA of grass) but I've never found this to be a problem.

Fairborn, OH(Zone 8a)

Unfortunately, due to the bee die-off of unknown origins, it is unlikely that walking barefoot in the lawn is going to be a problem (due to potential bee sting) for some time.

I am extremely grateful that my landlord does not weed-n-feed this lawn because it's full of white Dutch clover. For the first time in 10 years, I regularly see bees - where regularly has come to mean several times a season rather than seeing a dozen or so bees every day. It wasn't always this way - I remember when leaving a can of pop out or lemonade or anything sweet would attract bees like crazy. Now all you see are wasps, which are, IMNSHO, much less desireable than honeybees.

I saw a bee land near my garden a few weeks ago (and come to think of it, that's the last honeybee I've seen for awhile). It landed on the sidewalk and proceeded to crawl around in circles, clearly in extreme distress. The only thing I could think to do was guide it into the grass as gently as possible. It was dead in 15 minutes, never ceasing that endless endless desperate circling until it just dropped dead from exhaustion.

Please, please, please, leave the white dutch clover in the lawn and feed the few bees we have left. Also, if you don't weed-n-feed, you will have more lightning bugs. I'm old enough to remember going out in the yard on a summer's night and the lightning bugs were just EVERYWHERE! The weed killer kills them too, and butterflies - both directly (by poisoning) and indirectly (by killing all the things their larvae need to eat). We are killing all the magical things just so we can have a "uniform" lawn that looks just like everybody else's.

It just breaks my heart to know that my son and his children will never know what it's like to see things like butterflies, bees, and lightening bugs in the kinds of numbers I remember.

When's the last time you saw a luna moth? As a child, I could go outside almost any summer night and spot at least one. It's been not just years, but DECADES now, since I've seen one.

Sojourner

panama, Panama

Hi everyone.....

I started a "container" vegie garden but need advise on:

Best "over all " fertilizer....and what is good for Tomatoes?---

Thank you...............................I am in Panama so I guess am Zone 10 with an average of 86 degrees all year long.

Gera

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