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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been telling my wife for the past several years we need to start gardening.To save money on the grocery bill and to eat heathier.I've never gardened before.My parents did some when I was growing up.And I would help some but never really learned that much about it.I live on 3 acres in the country.My house,shop and yard take up about 1 acre.The other 2 acres are wooded.I don't want to dive in head first and spend a bunch of money(which i don't have).I figure starting out with something smaller like a 20x40 or 30x60.The problem is not knowing exactly how big I need.I have a family of 4.But I would also like to be able to can/jar for the winter months.I have a storm shelter that is under ground and stays cool and dry year round that would be a good storage area.So here comes the questions from the green horn.How big of a garden do you think I need?Can someone explain raised beds to me?Does anyone have info or links on how to build raised beds?Are there any good books or websites that you would recommend for a newbie?And last but not least,where do you buy your seed?Sorry for all the questions but I want and need to learn alot.Thanks Tradrick
 

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Hi, and welcome.

So many people here are great gardeners - a quick search of the archives will be really informative for you.

I have a couple of questions for you...

What's the soil like in your proposed garden spot?
What USDA zone are you?
How much sun does it get?
Do you have a friend who has a horse stable/ landscaping company/ arborist company/ vineyard/ lumberyard/ etc etc...they are great sources of free soil amendments.

Now is a good time to start layering on the amendments and let winter do the breakdown for you.

HTH I will be back with more 'wisdom' after this message from our sponsors hehe.

:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the quick reply Jasmine.The soil were the garden will be is probably not to mineral rich.This was just nothing but woods when I bought the land.We built a house on it and have been here for 3 years now.What USDA zone are you?Sorry not sure what you mean.Please explain.The back yard area were the garden will be pretty much gets all day sun light.Its pretty open back there.I have neighbors that are all farmers.They have hundreds of acres all around me.I have about 6 chicken houses about a 1/2 mile from me in one direction.And 4 more about 6 miles in the other direction.Both farmers also have a large number of beef cows.Now is a good time to start layering the amendments.Do you mean with manure and mulch and such to add nutriants back to the soil.Thanks Tradrick
 

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Thanks for the quick reply Jasmine.


The soil were the garden will be is probably not to mineral rich.This was just nothing but woods when I bought the land.We built a house on it and have been here for 3 years now. Well, woods is good maybe. Did years of acorns and leaves fall on the soil? Or pine needles maybe? Is the soil that was dug out for your foundation get put on the garden area? That could be subsoil and would not be good for plants. Nature layers the soil so the stuff underneath is lower fertility than the top soil.



What USDA zone are you?Sorry not sure what you mean.Please explain. Go here and look up your plant hardiness zone. My house is in 9A and my farm is in 8A.


The back yard area were the garden will be pretty much gets all day sun light.Its pretty open back there. This is good but can be hard on greens, peppers (afternoon sun is bad for them). Herbs love full sun. As do most garden vegetable plants....but do try to plant your peppers where the sun is slightly filtered in the afternoon if you want to prevent scald on your mature peppers.


I have neighbors that are all farmers.They have hundreds of acres all around me.I have about 6 chicken houses about a 1/2 mile from me in one direction.And 4 more about 6 miles in the other direction.Both farmers also have a large number of beef cows.Now is a good time to start layering the amendments.Do you mean with manure and mulch and such to add nutriants back to the soil.Thanks Tradrick Yes, go call up all those neighbors and see what you can get now. Put every drop of coffee grounds, potato peels, etc etc on the soil. And read my thread on how to garden....HERE.
I hope this helps. I am always glad to help people start gardens...it's such a healthy hobby :) hehe
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks again Jasnmine your a big help.The woods was a little of both hardwoods and pines.But most of the pines were towards the front of the property were the house is built.Actually were the garden is going to be was a fire pit were the contractor burned scrap building materials.And the USDA zone I am in is 7a.I'm in NE Alabama.Having another smaller bed for greens and peppers should'nt be a problem.I can talk to the neighbors about purchasing some chicken litter.Should I break the ground up first or just spread it over the area.This area has never been gardened.The only other two recommendations I would like is.How big of a garden should I try to grow?And,were does everyone buy their seed?Is there some suppliers I should stay away from?Thanks Tradrick
 

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Thanks again Jasnmine your a big help.The woods was a little of both hardwoods and pines.But most of the pines were towards the front of the property were the house is built.Actually were the garden is going to be was a fire pit were the contractor burned scrap building materials.And the USDA zone I am in is 7a.I'm in NE Alabama.Having another smaller bed for greens and peppers should'nt be a problem.I can talk to the neighbors about purchasing some chicken litter.Should I break the ground up first or just spread it over the area.This area has never been gardened.The only other two recommendations I would like is.How big of a garden should I try to grow?And,were does everyone buy their seed?Is there some suppliers I should stay away from?Thanks Tradrick
Pine needles are very acidic so be careful of the soil where they were (azaleas, rhodies, fir, pine, hydrangeas all love acid soil).

The fire pit may be good, but if he burned toxic things that could be a problem. That area will be highly akaline for awhile, which could be ideal if you have acid soil from the pines because it could neutralize it. I have never tested my soil, but you might want to just to be safe since it was a fire pit. Your local extension cooperative can help you with this or you can purchase one from a retailer online.

As for seed suppliers, try Burpees, Ed Hume, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seeds, Park Seed, Johnny's Seeds, RH Shumway Seeds, Harris Seeds...

Either I or my family has done business with all of these suppliers and have been more than satisfied.

As for chicken manure, just lay it all over really thick. If you are lucky, in the spring you can just plant in it w/o tilling. I'm all about the no dig, do weed method.

As for size, you need to figure out how much time you have to devote to watering, care and harvest. If you mulch after you plant you will water less which saves time, money, and water.

50 x 60 is as much as I could handle when I was a stay at home mom...it was about 5 hours a day or so in the busy times and a lot less other times.

Remember when tomatoes start to ripen, they start to RIPEN!! And Zuchinni takes no prisoners and gets very offended if you do not harvest it daily once it gets going...so...yeah...I would suggest starting small - but that's just me being cautious since I am giving you advice hehe. I did not start small, it's not my style :D:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the great advice Jasmine.It should get me started in the right direction at least.I'm sure I will have many more questions once I get started.Until then thanks Tradrick
 

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Chicken Manure is "hot" and will need some time to break down. So do this ASAP. The sooner the better. This way it will have hopefully broken down enough not to "burn" your seedlings. Im in Zone 8A and I normally try to add chicken manure around November so the garden is ready for seedlings in March. Cow manure and Horse Manure isnt nearly so "hot" and can be added now and benefit your garden considerably. I have a number of rabbits and add thier droppings on the garden all year long.

I would suggest starting out with a smaller garden. You can enlarge it and expand it as you go over the next year or two. You would be amazed at just how much produce you can get out of a garden. I started with a "Victory Type" garden that wasnt much larger than a parking space for a vehicle. I tried to concentrate on the more expensive to buy produce such as Tomatos, Bell Peppers and such. Going this route will allow you to get in the game without much time or resources and take a right nice chunk out of your grocery bill. In the early couple of months I grew a lot of spinach and again as it started to get cooler I did another round of spinach and Broccoli. This allowed me to make the most of the growing season with the garden spending little time idle. You should consider doing this too. Of course after playing around with this little project for two years my garden is going to be considerably larger this coming season.

The winter time is a good time to toss those racked up leaves and such into your garden. This will improve the soil the more you do this. It will also help it retian water and cut down on your labor. Mulching will also help too and in addition cut down on weeds.

When purchasing seeds or plants make sure they are of the varieties that are suitable for your 7A zone. This might require checking with the supplier to make sure that you have appropriate types for your area.
 

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A raised bed is a growing bed enclosed by wood, cement, stone or other sort of boundary or a mounded, raised area for growing. A lot of folks find themselves using raised beds because their soil is poor, or because it reduces the distance to the ground a bit [you get to that 'certain age' and these things become more important : ) ].

The advantage of a raised bed in my case, for example, is the original soil here is very poor; it perks too well, and we have mostly clayey sand with a lot of rocks. Having the soil in a raised bed means that you chose what you are growing in and don't compact it by walking on it as well.

Here's Ohio State University Extension's fact sheet on raised beds: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1641.html.
 

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IMHO there are only 4 (maybe 5) things you need for a good garden Tradick.

1. a GOOD rototiller
2. a good rake
3. determination
4. seeds
5. mulch

Okay, as for size for a family of 4... if you have the room PLANT! Seriously the rototiller will take a lot of the work out of gardening. You should be able to do a 20'X100' plot very easily. (couple of hours) Once you've tilled use your rake to make rows. Get your seeds and plant according to the directions. Then MULCH! I use a ton of straw for mulch, it keeps your plants warm on any cold nights and it breaks down to be tilled into the soil in the fall. Your first year you "probably" wont need any amendments, in the fall till in your straw and any compost (kitchen scraps?) from the year and ask your neighbors if they mind you getting a truck load of manure from their fields. I till a couple of times through the winter to make sure everything dissolves by spring.

Raised beds by the house are great for herbs IMHO, easy access and all.

Hope that helps, I know it was kind of long winded.... Check out my thread on "suburban gardening" it has some more info (page 2 or 3). BTW, start with 1 plot this year, see what works, then expand if you want next year!
 
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