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  1. #1
    Senior Member senza tema's Avatar
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    Default Gardening for Dummies

    My apartment of complex has small plots of land for residents to grow stuff and I decided to get one. I have never really gardened before other than growing herbs in pots so I don't really know what I'm doing but it sounds like fun so why not?

    I'm planning to grow tomatoes (because store bought tomatoes taste gross), basil, strawberries, and marigolds. How do I accomplish this? Halp.
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    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    I'm going to assume you want to plant the marigolds to deter pests (great idea) and there are many more companion gardening pairs you can look into. But for community gardening, just start with the basics. I don't know where you are exactly but there are so many resources online for specific areas. Most community gardens have do's and don't's so you want to start there. Here's info on companion planting, I like oregano as an all around pesticide.

    Companion Planting Guide - Growing Tips Article at Burpee.com
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member senza tema's Avatar
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    I'm in NJ and it is called the garden state after all so I'm thinking stuff should grow? I started my tomatoes and bell peppers indoors today. I'll transplant them once I'm done with exams in six weeks ... assuming I even get seedlings, haha.

  4. #4
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Nice that they have some land you can garden! There are so many different approaches you could take.

    With the seedlings, unless you have a window which faces mostly south, they won't get enough light to be healthy. In that case, it would be best to get a grow light and timer set for 16 hours of light per day once they sprout. Or, skip that and just buy the plants.

    20 questions, the condensed version...

    How big will your garden be?

    Has it been tilled up and gardened before?

    Will someone be tilling or preparing the soil for you?

    What does it look like now, grass, bunch of weeds in loose dirt, or bare dirt?

    How much time and effort do you plan to spend on it?
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  5. #5
    Senior Member senza tema's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    Nice that they have some land you can garden! There are so many different approaches you could take.

    With the seedlings, unless you have a window which faces mostly south, they won't get enough light to be healthy. In that case, it would be best to get a grow light and timer set for 16 hours of light per day once they sprout. Or, skip that and just buy the plants.

    20 questions, the condensed version...

    How big will your garden be?

    Has it been tilled up and gardened before?

    Will someone be tilling or preparing the soil for you?

    What does it look like now, grass, bunch of weeds in loose dirt, or bare dirt?

    How much time and effort do you plan to spend on it?
    1. My living room window is big and faces full south so that will hopefully be okay.
    2. My plot will be ~200 square feet.
    3. It's been tilled and gardened before, yes. I don't know who did it or what they grew though.
    4. We cleared a lot of weeds today so right now it's bare with some random clumps of mint. Someone is gonna come by in a couple weeks and till it and prepare it for us at which point we can plant.
    5. I will have plenty of time mid-May onward to spend on it.

  6. #6
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza tema View Post
    1. My living room window is big and faces full south so that will hopefully be okay.
    2. My plot will be ~200 square feet.
    3. It's been tilled and gardened before, yes. I don't know who did it or what they grew though.
    4. We cleared a lot of weeds today so right now it's bare with some random clumps of mint. Someone is gonna come by in a couple weeks and till it and prepare it for us at which point we can plant.
    5. I will have plenty of time mid-May onward to spend on it.
    Nice space! I haven't had a garden that big since I was a kid! Basil and marigolds are great companion plants for both tomatoes and strawberries. Lupine is a great companion flower for strawberries, and you can grow shade-tolerant veggies like lettuce and onion around the tomatoes and peppers.

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to start my tomatoes and peppers.

    I like doing a bed approach where everything is grown as close together as possible with no room for walking between the rows of plants. The bed is 3-5 feet wide and as long as you want. The plants are accessed from each side of the bed, and the bed is never walked on to avoid compacting the soil. You could use 2x6 or wider lumber to mark and raise the bed, but just mounding it up some or some other way to mark it like twine is fine.

    Will they be adding compost or fertilizer? If not, get some organic fertilizer for tomatoes, which will be good for any fruiting plant. Mix that and as much compost as you can into the top 3 inches of soil, or deeper if you don't mind more work. The top 3 inches can be done with a garden rake, and deeper is probably best done with a spading fork. For compost, try to get a mixture. My best source is a local mulch chain which has garden compost (mostly composted vegetables from grocery store waste), leaf mulch (great stuff!), and mushroom compost. They also have "com til" from community recycling, but I don't trust that or the cow manure because I also grow root vegetables in the soil.

    Are your tomatoes determinate or inderterminate varieties? For indeterminates, plant 2 ft apart stake them with a 6 ft stake, pinch off suckers. For determinates, plant 2-3 ft apart and cage with a heavy duty cage which is well-secured in the ground. I plant only indeterminates, and I interplant lettuce, spinach, onion, basil, and nasturtiums around them. Peppers might also need some staking. It's best to stake any plant when it's first transplanted so that a stake doesn't take out the main root system. Tomatoes are different from most plants in that they grow roots from the stem, so plant them down to about the first set of leaves for a strong root system.

    General gardening info on burpee.com is a good source. For the more general approach and theory stuff, I like the biointensive approach:

    http://www.growbiointensive.org/PDF/FarmersHandbook.pdf

    videos: Ecology Action: Self Teaching Course

    Much of it isn't usable because it focuses on small-scale sustainable farming rather than just a small plot garden, but I think it's still valuable information. For example, you obviously won't have to do any double digging, probably no place for composting, and seed saving often isn't practical unless it's a small farm and plants growing nearby can be controlled.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member senza tema's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    Nice space! I haven't had a garden that big since I was a kid! Basil and marigolds are great companion plants for both tomatoes and strawberries. Lupine is a great companion flower for strawberries, and you can grow shade-tolerant veggies like lettuce and onion around the tomatoes and peppers.

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to start my tomatoes and peppers.

    I like doing a bed approach where everything is grown as close together as possible with no room for walking between the rows of plants. The bed is 3-5 feet wide and as long as you want. The plants are accessed from each side of the bed, and the bed is never walked on to avoid compacting the soil. You could use 2x6 or wider lumber to mark and raise the bed, but just mounding it up some or some other way to mark it like twine is fine.

    Will they be adding compost or fertilizer? If not, get some organic fertilizer for tomatoes, which will be good for any fruiting plant. Mix that and as much compost as you can into the top 3 inches of soil, or deeper if you don't mind more work. The top 3 inches can be done with a garden rake, and deeper is probably best done with a spading fork. For compost, try to get a mixture. My best source is a local mulch chain which has garden compost (mostly composted vegetables from grocery store waste), leaf mulch (great stuff!), and mushroom compost. They also have "com til" from community recycling, but I don't trust that or the cow manure because I also grow root vegetables in the soil.

    Are your tomatoes determinate or inderterminate varieties? For indeterminates, plant 2 ft apart stake them with a 6 ft stake, pinch off suckers. For determinates, plant 2-3 ft apart and cage with a heavy duty cage which is well-secured in the ground. I plant only indeterminates, and I interplant lettuce, spinach, onion, basil, and nasturtiums around them. Peppers might also need some staking. It's best to stake any plant when it's first transplanted so that a stake doesn't take out the main root system. Tomatoes are different from most plants in that they grow roots from the stem, so plant them down to about the first set of leaves for a strong root system.

    General gardening info on burpee.com is a good source. For the more general approach and theory stuff, I like the biointensive approach:

    http://www.growbiointensive.org/PDF/FarmersHandbook.pdf

    videos: Ecology Action: Self Teaching Course

    Much of it isn't usable because it focuses on small-scale sustainable farming rather than just a small plot garden, but I think it's still valuable information. For example, you obviously won't have to do any double digging, probably no place for composting, and seed saving often isn't practical unless it's a small farm and plants growing nearby can be controlled.
    Lupines are pretty! I will grow those if they help the strawberries.

    We do have place for composting, actually. The garden as a whole is divided into subplots but we all compost together and I said I'd help out with that specifically.

    Thanks, JAVO!
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  8. #8
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza tema View Post
    Lupines are pretty! I will grow those if they help the strawberries.

    We do have place for composting, actually. The garden as a whole is divided into subplots but we all compost together and I said I'd help out with that specifically.

    Thanks, JAVO!
    You're welcome! Nice that they planned for composting! I haven't done that myself yet. I'm still relying on the bagged stuff.

  9. #9
    Senior Member senza tema's Avatar
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    Well, my nasturtium seedlings died a very sad death and my bell peppers haven't even germinated (and I doubt they ever will) but at least the tomato plants are doing great!
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  10. #10
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza tema View Post
    Well, my nasturtium seedlings died a very sad death and my bell peppers haven't even germinated (and I doubt they ever will) but at least the tomato plants are doing great!
    Awesome, the tomatoes are the important ones. Peppers need even warmer conditions to germinate quickly. They'll sprout eventually. Just don't kill them like you did the nasti-hurt-ums.

    You could replant those, or just seed them outside after the last frost date. (That always cracks me up. I picture Jack Frost checking a calendar and going, "Damn. Too late to wreack anymore havoc.")

    I still haven't started any seedlings yet with a last frost date of May 20th, but the cooler weather stuff is sprouted outside.
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