I just stated my first garden.

Kannapolis, NC

Hello gardeners,
I have watched my grandmother grow a garden when I was a small girl on the lake in VA and enjoyed picking blackberries on the lake in PA with my other grandparents. I have always spent time at farmers markets and love learning about new plant and I am a huge fan of veggies and fruits. This is my first year of gardening by myself (concord NC) I am currently growing 12 medium sizes tomato plants, 4 sweet pepper plants, one curry plant, 4 sweet basil plants, 6 cucumber plants, 2 black berry bushes, one rosemary plants, one mosquito plant, one lemon balm plant and one penny-royal plant. As well as one packet of tomato seeds, one packet of string bean seeds and one packet of carrot seeds. Attatched are a few photos one taken a week and a half ago and two taken today. I have used Kow pow soil, miricale grow and organic manure for my soil base. Costing me over 120.00 If you have any advice for this 22 year old who is trying her best please send me a reply :D

Thumbnail by jeshaz89 Thumbnail by jeshaz89 Thumbnail by jeshaz89 Thumbnail by jeshaz89
Tonto Basin, AZ

Congratulations, nice looking garden, looks like you're off to a great start. Warning - can be habit forming. LOL!!

IMHO, the cornerstone of good gardening is soil quality, Again IMHO, the best way to get and keep the quality is to annually turn in LOTS of fairly inert organic material. I do this in the fall after the harvest - over the years I've used leaves, pine straw, horse stall sweepings (which is mostly sawdust), rice hulls, spent brewery hops, cotton seed meal, well aged manure. You get the picture. Sometimes a light dose of nitrogen added with the organics speeds the decomposition process without taking all the nitrogen out.

In addition, I've at times added other things such as lime or gypsum, but only if a soil sample indicates it's needed. Added to a soil already high in them can make things worse.

Locally, you'll find other gardeners who can tell you what works in your area and your county extension agent is also a wealth of local knowledge. Several very knowledgeable NC folks frequent the site. They'll be along shortly I'm sure.

Enjoy your garden.

This message was edited Apr 14, 2012 9:39 PM

Pleasant Hill, CA(Zone 9b)

I started four years ago with 5 plants (couple of tomatoes, couple of squash... pretty basic). Last year I grew 74 different varieties, and produced almost 600 pounds of food!

It's addictive... there is NOTHING better than watching seedlings take off and create nourishment! SO FUN!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

The sunnier the spot is, the better.
it's good to have some easy and reliable crops to keep you happy if difficult crops don't thrive the first year.
The sooner you pull a weed, the shallower its roots will be and the fewer new weeds it will spawn.
If you have slugs, put out beer saucers and bait.
Removing diseased, bug-infested, yellowing or dead leaves not only keeps plants prettier, it keeps them healthier.

pH matters a lot. If you don't wnat too pay for a soil test, sprinkle a little lime in just PARTS of your yard and bed. If those parts grow greener and more vigorously, add lime elsewhere. If your lawn is big enough and you have a spreader, spread the word "LIME" in bold strokes and see if that word apears in darker green over the next few months. If your lawn soil is acid, your bed probably is also.

Neighbors probably have similar soil and pests to yours - what works for them may work for you. Of course, everyone has more opinions than they have ACCURATE opinions! But advice from neighbors will be a starting point for "things to try". Learning what does work for you (over time) is an ongoing pleasure (or challenge.)

I agree that adding lots of organic stuff to the soil helps lots. I like to compost it first, but tthat may be old-fashioned and uncessary. It will decompose and find its way into the soil if you just turn it under, or even just use it as mulch.

It is very good advice to add a little nitrogen fertilizer if you add lots of brown stuff (low in nitrogen, high in carbon). As the brown stuff is eaten buy soil olrganisms, those soil bugs suck up nitrogen becusse they need a balanced diet. that deprives plants unless yout soil had pelnty of nitrogen to start with.

As you keep adding organic stuff to the soil over the years (and occasionally a little bagged fertilizer), its fertility will increase until chemical fertilizers aren't even needed.

I'm obsessed by drainage! Your bed looks almost "below grade", or at least not raised above the surrounding soil. Where's your water table? *IF* it is near the surface, and your bed is not raised, *AND* your underlying soil is not permeable, and you're on level ground, not a slope, your roots may be meeting the water table and be unable to go deeper.

Come Fall, take a shovel or garden fork and see whether your roots go deep, or stay near the surface. I guess some crops usually have shallow roots, and I don't know which ones would make a good test.

Even now, maybe dig a 12-18" deep hole somewhere around your bed, o at a low spot in your yard, to be sure the soil that deep is draining well and doesn't remain soggy for long after a hard rain.

If the water can't perk downwards or run away downslope, the water displaces the air from the soil at some depth, and roots that deep drown. The ploants will try to re-grow them, then they die again after the next hard rain, and that makes the plants use up their energy underground instead of on leaves and fruits.

That's only likely to be a problem if you have a clay underlayer, or hardpan. I've always had clay everywhere lived, even if the garden was not mine. Now I do have my own garden, and nothing but heavy clay. Hence my preoccupation (obsession) with drainage.

*IF* you do need to improve your drainage there are two ways you can go: up or down.

Probably it's easier to build your raised bed higher (when there are no crops in he gorund to be buried). That gives next year's root zone ABOVE the water table more depth. Adding mulch and compost around existing crops starts adding to soil depth during the growing season.

In spring and fall, between harvest and first sowing, keep adding organics, pine bark mulch, grit, sand, crushed rock, peat, compost, manure, or even "store-bought" soil. If you have good deep soil anywhere on your property, wheelbarrow over several inches each fall or spring to build the bed higher.

Or relocate your bed to a high spot, if it's a sunny spot.

*IF* you need more drainage, *AND* the grade around your bed gives you any nearby spots LOWER than the deepest part of your bed, you can dig a trench from your bed to that low spot. The bottom of the trench needs to be lower than the deepest depth you want roots to be able to grow in your bed. Water in your bed will drain down to the level of the floor of the trench and be carried away. Air will enter the soil where the water left, and roots will be able to grow that deeply.

The trench doesn't need to be wide, just slope consistently deeper as it runs away from your bed. It doesn't need many inches of drop per 100 feet.

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