Brand New Gardener - Questions

HillaryMontana(5A - 5B)March 28, 2014

Hi there,

I hope to start an organic vegetable garden in my backyard in Halton Hills, Ontario. I have grown a few plants in pots before but other than that, I am very new to gardening.

I'm looking for some recommendations for books to get me started. I have a copy of 'Country Wisdom & Know How', which has a fairly large gardening section, but it has many articles from different authors', sometimes with conflicting info. Also, it isn't a beginners guide, so its a little overwhelming. So far I've read that the 'Reader's Digest Guide to Green Gardening' and 'Gardening for Geeks' are both good books, but not sure if they're for beginners. Any recommendations?

Since its almost April, is it too late for me to start my garden this summer? I am starting from scratch - both in terms of my space - a grassy backyard, and my experience level - slim-to-none. I have read lots about pH and acidity and how necessary determining the type of soil I will be growing in is, so I'm wondering if I will have time, after checking and regulating the soil (if need be), to start the garden this year? I am thinking it might be best to do lots of research this summer, get seeds and equipment, and start next summer.

Feel free to correct me - I am super new! Any info and advice is welcome.

Thank you in advance

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You are not late at all.

I have not read any book but there are many ideas available online.

My experience, but others can disagree, 1/3 Buy compost from the recycle center, 1/3 peatmoss, 1/3 black garden soil. That works best for me, I have even tried buying best quality triple mix from nursery center but it was okey and was not weed free. You can aslo buy soil in bulk for many providers.

I guess you are aware about perrenial and Annual plants, Plan some space for perrenials, for shade area parrenial, Hosta (Bueatiful Foilage) last summer long, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart, Hydrengea are good.
For full sun spot plant Dhalia (You need to remove tuber in fall), Peony (lasts 100 years)
Annuals: From Spring to mid summer: Pansies and lupines

Petunea (Very good for Hanging basket),
Coleus (Just good looking foilage but attractive)

There are tons of verieties.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:53PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Don't over think it. Till the area, plant your seeds and see what happens. More than likely it will be better than you expected. Remember you don't need good soil to grow stuff. Many of us use methods like hydroponics or container gardens that are soil-less methods to grow with success. We just have to add what the plants are needing.

Plant and you will be happy!!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:06PM
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HillaryMontana(5A - 5B)

Thank you for the advice. I posted on another forum and the advice was similar - just to get started and see what happens.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:35AM
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dont overthink it. I agree. Improve on your space. Start with improving the soil first and triple mix is a great choice. Top up your lawn and spread some grass seeds.

Then start thinking of where you'd like your garden beds. Once that has been determined, think if you prefer a permanent kind of yard or something that changes year to year. If more permanent, then choose a perennial type garden where plants come up year after year - no need to replant but will need some pruning and fertilizing. Or if constantly changing, choose annuals - and you can change the look of it year to year. It will need more watering, more care as annuals are generally shallow rooted and dry our more easily.

I would recommend since you are starting out - do to a mix of both perennials and annuals with the greater percentage to be annuals.

then you can begin choosing colours and and then choose plants. It will be exciting. it will be experimentations and it would be fun.

Ask your friends for seeds, cuttings and divisions - this way you can save money. I made many of my plants from cuttings. Even boxwood can be grown from cuttings.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 5:10PM
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A few things to consider...

Compost from a recycling center contains herbicide and pesticide residues from the lawn clippings etc that went into it.

The cheapest way to establish a garden is to contact some farms in your area. At this time of year they are mucking out the barns which means that there is a plentiful supply of straw / hay mixed with manure.

Go and get as much of that as you care to transport, spread it out over the area you want to establish as a garden - right on top of the ground / grass / whatever.

Cover that with a good thick layer of cardboard or newspaper (avoiding glossy paper), watering as you go, and then cover all that with old spoiled hay from the farm you got the manure from.

Cut holes through the newspaper and plant the seedlings in there with a bit of compost.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sheet Mulch Garden

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 1:36PM
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what Farsided has described is a form of lasagna gardening. Composting if you will on the site you wish to use as a garden bed. I do agree that in some cases herbicides can be persistent however in my experience I haven't encountered any such issues. I have used bagged compost for many years now. I prefer very aged compost to ensure there are no weed seeds that would grow. I do recall horror stories of people spreading fresh manure/hay mixes in their yards to find that they;d be dealing with lots and lots of weeds. You see, whatever seeds the animal digests and passes thru its guts, will come out and still be viable. Composting kills off those germinating seeds.

When using hay/manure from barns etc.. you need to set those aside to a pile to compost further. Usually it takes a full year to be absolutely certain these are safe.

(it may be of interest to know that even herbicides and pesticides have been known to pass thru the guts of the animal and still affect the plants that will receive this manure. )

If you do use barn manure/hay mix directly on garden beds beware that that fresh manure can burn plants. It is particularly useful when you wish to establish brand new beds and want to kill off existing grass. Plus,topping with cardboards could suppress any new weeds growing from beneath(including those weed seeds), but putting manure/hay mix, on top the cardboard will not stop the weeds from growing. The new weeds may not be able to penetrate the cardboard to reach the soil beneath but it will still look unsightly. I have already seen someone do this and eventually those weeds did take over because by the time these died out, they've already spread more seeds.

So lots of ways to go about it. Just some caution on using barn manure/hay mixes. I'm not against it, but just to let you know that it does need to be composted further.

However, it's is a great idea to use the carboard method to create new garden beds. Less digging, and carboards eventually break down and add to the soil.

This is why for established garden beds you should only use well composted manure which has broken down perhaps the good of a full year. Otherwise you'd be dealing with weed seeds and hay seeds spread out all over your yard.

By covering up the manure with a thick layer of carboard, you would have suppressed any of these potential weed seedlings. But I would disagree with topping off the cardboard with old spoiled hay and manure -- unless you know that mixture has become well composted. If you choose this method, top it instead with aged wood mulch because fresh wood mulch would rob the soil of nitrogen

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 4:56PM
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Hillary , its lovely up there. First question would be what do you want to grow? Veggies, then I would try something in the line of square foot gardening. Fruit, look more at edible landscaping, and flowers, ... sorry not my area of expertise.

I made gardens, by laying down cardboard and then putting mushroom compost, manure or triplemix on top of that to make sure its well covered. 2-4 inches at least. In a few weeks you plant right in it.

I found a number of British TV series very helpful for vegetable gardening. Fork to fork etc. they on youtube with a little searching.

Its addictive, its healthy and its oh so green and good for the garden and really growing heirlooms tastes and is so much healthier than "organic" store bought. Reach out if you have questions.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 9:11AM
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Can't help with book suggestions as I've hardly read a gardening book since the advent of the internet - there is so much info easily available online.

You might check out the "FAQ page" of the "Soil, Compost and Mulch forum" here on Gardenweb for info on improving your soil. Not everyone on the Soil forum gardens organically but many do. I rarely recommend buying soil as it's seldom necessary so a waste of money. I do often recommend the use of homemade compost and alfalfa pellets to enrich the soil.

I agree with the previous posters who said to not over-think this. Jump right in and get some plants growing. Search the web for easy plants for beginners to grow as well as your favs that are recommended for your climate.

"I am thinking it might be best to do lots of research this summer, get seeds and equipment, and start next summer."

Do not buy seeds too far ahead of planting as they have a shelf life and may become less viable over time.

Are you planning to grow vegetables, perennials, or annuals? Or some of each? When I started seriously gardening 43 years ago I didn't know the difference between a perennial and an annual so don't be afraid to ask specific questions.

Recently on another forum here another new gardener asked for info so you might read the answers to her questions here.

Have fun with gardening and don't be afraid to make mistakes. We all make them.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 5:01PM
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I know it's confusing to get so many different opinions so I'll try to make it simple. Find a place that get's at least 6 hours sun a day. Spread lots of layers of newspapers, water to avoid them being blown away, shovel on a thick (6-8")layer of compost or triple mix soil(not manure unless it's very old). Buy small veg. & herb plants, seeds of radish and peas. Don't plant mint, it'll take over. Make hole size of pot. Remove plant from pot & stick it in the hole, pat earth around the base of the plant and water it. Only water it again when the earth feels dry. that's it, enjoy!
When you realize how easy it is you'll probably want to plant flowers too..then you'll be hooked!! :>)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:41AM
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In other words, gardening is easy. Just jump in.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:26PM
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