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  1. #1
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    Default Gardening Wisdom

    How many of you grow your own fruits and vegetables? What bits of insight, wisdom, and skill can you share?

    How did you get started?

    How do you prep the soil?

    What do you grow?

    Do you irrigate or water by hand?

    What have you learned the hard way?

    I'd love to have a garden and I'm trying to figure out where to start and what I might be getting myself into.

  2. #2
    Pareo cattus Natrushka's Avatar
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    I'd suggest starting off small if you're worried about taking on too much. Square foot gardening is a great way to get your feet wet.

    I just put in my first garden at our new home and before I did I spent a few weeks watching the yard, looking to see where the best, sunniest spot would be. Vegetables like a lot of sunlight. Something I learned years ago is be sure that whatever you plant, you put the rows in north /south and plant the taller vegetables at the back - both are so shade doesn't become a problem.

    I am growing plants that I know will do well in my soil; sandy loam. And of course ones that only need a certain amount of sunlight days, because I'm rather north. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, lettuce. You've probably got a good long growing season in Alabama.

    Keep in mind that you can get a lot of produce from one plant. A lot. Too much! So if you plant it be sure you like it; or you know someone who does.

    I water from a rain barrel; it's feasible because the garden is still small.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faith View Post
    How many of you grow your own fruits and vegetables? What bits of insight, wisdom, and skill can you share?

    How did you get started?

    How do you prep the soil?

    What do you grow?

    Do you irrigate or water by hand?

    What have you learned the hard way?

    I'd love to have a garden and I'm trying to figure out where to start and what I might be getting myself into.

    Rule #1: Don't have parents that have forced you to garden since you were a kid, for you will become the destroyer of plants... the name they whisper in as the sun sets and darkness falls across the land.

    Other than that, it all depends where you are and how much effort you are willing to put in. A small garden just for vegetables? Then that's pretty easy to do and maintain. Same with a spice garden. On the other hand, you can go all out. For example, my parents have banana and palm trees... and other exotic plants that make me feel like a velociraptor or three will jump out at me, woven into their roses and vegetables alike.

    The best way to start is to figure out what you want to grow, learn about those plants and figure out where to plant them/what to do to keep them alive.

    How to prepare soil depends on where you live; in general, you'll want to turn it if you can. If not, you'll need a raised bed or similar and bring soil/sand in, depending on the conditions.

    We grew everything. Literally. I don't think there is an edible plant that my family hasn't grown. I had kiwis next to my plum tree... I had (for a short time) leeches next to apple trees... I had a 40 foot long concord grape vine that got cut back for the rasberry trees. And of course, that's on top of all the vegetables and mutated half-trees that they tried, and some man eating rose vines with 3 inch claws... thorns... whatever.

    A combination of both. For the most part, we threaded soaker hoses through and watered early and late... but for some plants that needed more/less water, in a tough location, etc we did it by hand. Overhead watering is generally to be avoided, especially if you are in a hotter area.

    I learned that I hate plants.

    It all depends on scope. Far better to know what you want before you start... and this is coming from a P!

  4. #4
    Junior Member eleph ingratiate's Avatar
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    peeing is a resourceful way of watering them. tho id get a few dogs for the task myself.

  5. #5
    It's always something... PuddleRiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eleph ingratiate View Post
    peeing is a resourceful way of watering them. tho id get a few dogs for the task myself.
    Yeah, that'll work great if you're wanting to kill them, lol, though cat piss is even better for that. Cat piss kills everything.

    We garden using the raised bed method here. No plows or even tilling. (we dig ours up by hand, though a tiller would be faster and easier). Mulch with straw to keep moisture in and to help keep weeds down and just weed as you would a flower bed. I've never tried 'square foot' gardening so I don't know much about that. With raised beds you still put everything in rows pretty much, just closer so that you don't waste garden space. I don't grow everything that I'd like to but still get a good yield out of the space I have.

    Green beans, tomatoes (yum) squash, cukes, corn on the cob, peppers, lettuce and potatoes. We have a few fruit trees, blueberry bushes, wild blackberry vines coming on (now that I'm really excited about) mulberry trees, pawpaws, hickory and black walnut trees.

    Puttering around in the garden is one of my favorite pastimes. Especially after having a really bad day. It relaxes me completely. It's 'time out of mind' for me. I call it 'dirt therapy'.
    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay one invincible summer."
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    A Christian's life may be the only Bible some people ever read.
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    "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them" Maya Angelou.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member darlets's Avatar
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    Alas, no water for us, hence no garden.

    STAGE 4 WATER RESTRICTIONS FACT SHEET

    The following provides a summary of key Stage 4 water restrictions. Contact your local water business for further information on water restrictions that may be in place in your area.

    Residential and Commercial Gardens and Lawns
    All outside watering is BANNED. No watering at any time, by any means.

    Public Gardens and Lawns
    All outside watering is BANNED. No watering at any time, by any means.

    Sporting Grounds
    All outside watering is BANNED. No watering at any time, by any means.

    Paving, concrete and other hard surfaces
    Hosing banned except for construction purposes or in emergency; or for health or safety hazard.

    Vehicles
    A vehicle may only be washed for health and safety reasons, in which case the windows and lights must be washed and rinsed by means of a bucket, filled directly from the tap (not by hose). Commercial car washes which use water from a source other than your local water business reticulated water system can be used.

    Apparently stage 5 water restriction are your only allowed to sweat between 10 am and 3 pm and you can only shower ever other day.
    whinge whinge whinge.

    Hope your garden goes well.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllAboutSoul View Post
    We garden using the raised bed method here. No plows or even tilling. (we dig ours up by hand, though a tiller would be faster and easier). Mulch with straw to keep moisture in and to help keep weeds down and just weed as you would a flower bed. I've never tried 'square foot' gardening so I don't know much about that. With raised beds you still put everything in rows pretty much, just closer so that you don't waste garden space. I don't grow everything that I'd like to but still get a good yield out of the space I have.
    Don't raised beds dry out more easily and so need a little more water? Do you just use a garden hose every evening, or do you have some kind of drip irrigation system?

    I think raised beds might be the way for me to go right now. Around here there are two rocks for every one dirt, not to mention endless roots! (I live in the woods.) I don't have a tiller or anything, so turning this land by hand is pretty darn difficult. Also, I live alone so I don't need a huge garden.

    Do you (or anyone else) have definite opinions on fertilizer? My aunt has cows, so I could get a load of manure from her. She also has rabbits, and I've heard that pellet-poop is better for gardens. Do any of you compost?

    Maybe I should find a good beginner gardening site.

    Does anyone here practice companion planting?

    edit: Some counties around here have water restrictions, but I've got a good deep well.

  8. #8
    Pareo cattus Natrushka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faith View Post
    Does anyone here practice companion planting?
    Yes, definitely. Anything I can do to keep the nasties to a minimum naturally. I have basil and bee balm growing with tomatoes, peppers near the basil and parsley, and I have lemon balm growing around as well.

    We also use raised beds, and while they may dry out more, they also keep your plants from freezing later in the season - the soil stays warmer, longer. Plus you don't have to bend down so low!

    Your soil sounds like mine, we joke that it came with extra rocks.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faith View Post
    Don't raised beds dry out more easily and so need a little more water? Do you just use a garden hose every evening, or do you have some kind of drip irrigation system?
    This depends on the bed. If you are using a plastic container rather than a self built wood/stone one, it all depends on how absorbant the soil underneath is. This also assumes that you have a reasonable height for what you are growing. The main reason you'll hear that you need more water is because most people use raised beds for bedding plants, which requires water more often compared to mature plants.

    Having said that, you need the right amount of water for the volume of soil you have - raised beds should absorb it faster, drawing it away from plants with smaller roots... and you probably will have run off. So you may need more because of that - the soil we have here isn't compact like it is where you are.

    Do you (or anyone else) have definite opinions on fertilizer? My aunt has cows, so I could get a load of manure from her. She also has rabbits, and I've heard that pellet-poop is better for gardens. Do any of you compost?
    If you are growing vegetables in Alabama and are you using natural soil, you'll need to turn the land and mix in a lower ph fertilizer. For the most part, you'd be looking for a PH between 6.0 and 6.5, unless you plan on growing trees or flowers (in which case you'd want it to be 5.0 - 6.0). So if you stick to plants that fit your climate, pretty much any fertilizer will do. This is even truer for raised beds with imported/bedding soil.

    For starting, you don't need anything fancy. If you want to prepare your own soil, be very aware that you are in a hostile zone towards a lot of common plants and fertilizer may make your soil even worse.

    There is nothing better than compost, in terms of natural ways of keeping your garden going. It's like you are giving a meal to your garden rather than just vitamins. Having said that, the turnover rate of compost depends a lot on worms, humidity and bacteria - Alabama is probably less than ideal for a small scale composting plant unless you are planning for 3-5 years in the future. (I don't know this for sure.)

    Maybe I should find a good beginner gardening site.
    It'll be easier to just list what you want to grow an search for what that plant needs.

    You'd be shocked how many variations on a plant there are Tomatoes!. This way you can pick easier varieties (ie: romain lettuce over butter lettuce), including fruit plants (in your case, strawberries and rasberries are both PH tolerant, where blueberries are decidedly not) and other staples (potatoes require lower PHs as well, compared to cucumbers and corn).

    Does anyone here practice companion planting?
    Never needed to but it is useful. It should be secondary to a good foundation (soil, watering and sun conditions), especially in a smaller bed.

  10. #10
    It's always something... PuddleRiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faith View Post
    Don't raised beds dry out more easily and so need a little more water? Do you just use a garden hose every evening, or do you have some kind of drip irrigation system?

    I think raised beds might be the way for me to go right now. Around here there are two rocks for every one dirt, not to mention endless roots! (I live in the woods.) I don't have a tiller or anything, so turning this land by hand is pretty darn difficult. Also, I live alone so I don't need a huge garden.

    Do you (or anyone else) have definite opinions on fertilizer? My aunt has cows, so I could get a load of manure from her. She also has rabbits, and I've heard that pellet-poop is better for gardens. Do any of you compost?

    Maybe I should find a good beginner gardening site.

    Does anyone here practice companion planting?

    edit: Some counties around here have water restrictions, but I've got a good deep well.
    Faith, you have my sympathies about the rocks! If rocks were worth anything I'd be rich. We got into the raised beds by necessity. My brilliant hubby decided to do a little landscaping and obliterated about a third of my single row garden. Well, he was supposed to save the top 10 to 12 inches of the garden soil, make his parking pad and extend my garden on the back side depositing the saved soil on top. The next thing I knew I was noticing little tomato plants and cukes and corn etc. etc. growing in his new parking pad. He'd put the saved garden soil there instead of my extended garden patch! I had no top soil left so the only way to have a garden in the same place was to build beds on top of the ground.

    Definitely go with the cow manure. The more composted the better. (I don't know anything about rabbit pellets, though it sounds good) We made the beds about 12 ft x 4 ft to make it easier to reach from both sides to weed. About half the soil was composted saw dust and manure. The rest was a combo of Hyponex top soil ( everything else we tried was junk) peat and just a bit of sand. I'd definitely go with a book on this as far as trying to amend regular soil. We also added a little bit of clay to heavy it up to help with water retention and flavor. That sound weird, but regular top soil gives veggies, especially tomatoes, a much better flavor.

    We water, when we have to, by hand. We're also on a private well, so we catch rainwater in a 30ish gallon rubbermaid trashcan. We took down a downspout and it runs off into the 'barrel'. We try not to water with the hose unless absolutely necessary and the way this summer's going so far, it might be necessary.
    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay one invincible summer."
    ~~~~
    A Christian's life may be the only Bible some people ever read.
    ~~~~
    "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them" Maya Angelou.
    ~~~~
    I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ" Gandhi
    ~~~~

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