Starting a vegetable garden

haliwa01(7 (Garner/Clayton NC))March 19, 2009

Good afternoon,

I am in zone 7 and I am starting a vegetable garden this year for me and my wife (2 months married) and I need some advice.

I am going to be doing a raised bed and I need to know what to put in the raised bed. Hopefully I am going to be able to get some free composted horse manure this weekend and I was wondering do I just need to fill up my beds with that or do I need to add some other stuff like topsoil, peat moss or something else so I can have good rich dirt for my vegetables to grow?

Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

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It kinda depends on what you want to grow. Summer time stuff like tomatoes and peppers would love the rich soil but could burn if the manure isn't well composted. And soil too rich can cause a lot of growth but few fruits so don't think that things have to be really really rich.

If you want to jump on the early spring crops like peas, spinach, radishes and lettuce they all like very rich soil and can handle things a bit richer than the summer crops but still, fresh manure can burn plants. If the horse manure has been sitting out in the weather all winter it should be fine to sprinkle. You don't have to work it too far down for the leaf crops (they have shorter roots) and the summer crops only need it dug down about a foot.

In my yard, lettuce really seems to like being fed. But you wouldn't want to be splashing horse poop onto the leaves every time you water - so I bury stuff and try to keep the top layer sandy or covered with plastic.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 4:36PM
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tamelask(z8a NC)

The stuff he's going to get is very well composted, John. I've used it on my veggies plenty of times with no sign of burning. That said- if it smells fresh let it mellow! When it's ready there won't be much odor at all- and i've never had fresh stuff from her. Of course, we're only talking a 1/2 - 1" layer. You do want to use topsoil, or leaf compost or something else to fill up your beds- the horse manure is an extra, fertilizer- not the main component. A wonderful book on making raised beds with layers is lasagna gardening and will get you off to a good start, haliwa. You can always mulch over the horsey layer to minimize splashing (which is what TJ does, but with plastic rather than mulch mulch.) If you are building your beds now, and get it in there it can mellow further before you plant summer crops. It's not very straw filled- and her soil must be sandy because it's a fairly sandy texture. They turn the enormous pile with the help of her neighbor's loader, so i imagine soil gets mixed in. It lightens up clay a bit and works into the soil well. The worms love it, too!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 7:04PM
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haliwa01(7 (Garner/Clayton NC))

Would a 50/50 ratio of topsoil/compost be good a good mix for the garden?

Also, the compost looked like some of it was well composted and some of it still had as my wife says "pasture apples".

What I am looking to plant for my vegetable garden are:
Butter Beans
Zuchini (spelling)
possibly tomatoes if the wife wants them

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 8:41AM
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tamelask(z8a NC)

Sounds like about what it normally looks like- some of the apples take years to break down for me- but once they've aged for a few mos i don't think you have to worry about them burning your plants. I think some of them just hold together better for whatever reason. You may have also gotten part of your load from a corner that wasn't as old- she collects from the one giveaway to the next 6 mos later, so of course there are differing ages, though it is mixed from time to time.

i think 50/50 topsoil/leafy compost is fine, so long as it isn't the horse manure. I'd still only add a bit of it- it's more of a way to organically feed than build the soil. You can get a pickup truck load of woody/leafy compost from any number of area places- there's one down on 42 close to old stage that a load is about $27. I'd mix your topsoil with that- no danger of burning- and topdress or mix in a bit of your manure. Of course the older the manure is, the more you can mix in. 1 load for me is enough to feed most all of my beds up front with a thin 1" layer. If you can't use that much now, let it sit and age and next fall you can safely work twice as much in. You can also use some of it to activate and hurry up your regular compost pile if you keep one.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 11:40AM
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haliwa01(7 (Garner/Clayton NC))


Do you know the name and number of the place on 42 down by old stage road that I can get a pickup truck load of woody/leafy compost for about $27.00? Do you also know if they deliver as I took my dad's pickup back to him this weekend.

Thank you for all your help.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 12:56PM
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computergardener(z7 NC)

Congrats on starting a garden it will be a blast. I second the person who suggested lasagna gardening. I have raised beds and 5 years ago I built them up and now I have wonderful soil. Three further suggestions. 1) Start a compost pile as soon as possible, your compost can age on its own. Then 2-3 times a year you can add 2-3" of compost to keep building up the soil in your bed. 2) I can't tell from your post but if this is your 1st/2nd garden can I suggest only growing 3-4 crops this year and seeing how they do and how you do. I know you want to jump in full force but just a suggestion. 3) Grow some herbs; oregano, basil, rosemary, chives... Etc... Many herbs are perennials and require very little effort. Once you get them started you will never have to pay $3. for 1/4 cup of fresh herbs at the store.

Good Luck...

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 3:37PM
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tamelask(z8a NC)

Ogburn landscape supplies. 557-7620. m-f 7:30-5, sat 7:30-4. I don't know if they have contractors they recommend or not. You could rent one of those trucks from lowe's/hd i always see in the parking lots for $20/an hour. Best of luck!

Oh- if you do decide to do herbs- don't use the manure- herbs like lean soil, well drained, almost dry. The opposite of what most veggies want. A few do like what you give veggies and make good companions- parsley, chives, cilantro. The others will want a drier, drained bed in as much sun as you can manage. Herbs are great to have on hand to use fresh whenever you get inspired!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 4:42PM
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haliwa01(7 (Garner/Clayton NC))

Good afternoon,

I got my garden built and I got all the seeds planted. I planted some sunflowers(short, medium and tall), zuchini squash, yellow squash, sweet corn and cucumbers. I read about companion planting and planted some marigolds in between the rows of each of these.

The plants were doing quite beautifully and my wife and I enjoyed doing bucket patrol (filing up buckets with water from the rain barrels and using to water the plants).

Now comes the problem, it seems like my cucumbers has started to wither up and die. At first it was just the cucumbers and not it seems like the yellow squash and the zuchini squash are doing the same thing. It is making my wife sad as she was looking forward to having a nice garden with fresh vegetables this year. I don't know what to do, I wonder if I may have used too much composted horse manure when building the garden and the nitrogen may be too rich for the cucumbers and squashes. The sweet corn is doing very well. If it is too much nitrogen how can I rectify this situation and save my vegetables?????

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Don't dispair! You have plenty of time to replant both cukes and squash. As for what is/has killed them, that is hard to tell. It could be related to the compost, it could be stray Round-Up spray, it could be disease, overwatering, etc. You could contact your local Extension Agent and have them take a look if you want. Also, check with some neighbors that garden for an opinion. If it turns out they were done in by compose burn, you can till that area more to increase the soil to compost ratio and aerate it. You can add a little lime, but don't go overboard. You can replant the cukes and squash probably up to the first of July. I'd plant some now in a different location.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 11:47AM
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I'm sure that the local experts will be along soon, but considering how frustrating this must be, I (who have only been around for 3 growing seasons) wanted to suggest a possibility that this is an attack of a moth that buries into the stem near the root and shortly kills the squash plant. It happens in what at least appears to be a couple of days. They didn't bother my cucs but I guess they could. I have heard that replanting should work since the moths are not supposed to stay around long. The other method is to use Seven spray for awhile to kill the moths before they attack.
However, it seems to me that it is a few weeks early for the moths because my damage was done to plants that had already set fruit. Anyway, this is a common problem here for you to look forward to sometime (if it was something else this time).

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 1:38PM
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What Chas is refering to is the Squash vine borer, the moth lays eggs at the base of Squash and the caterpilars bore into the vine. If you are zone 7 North Carolina it is really too early to see these and it would not affect 100% of your plants. I sugget you get advice from some locals or post some pictures.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 5:48PM
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mike_marietta_sc_z8a(z8a upstate SC)

If might be cucumber beetle damage. This time of year these beetles will congregate around cuke/squash seedlings, chew on their seed leaves, and crawl down to their roots to lay eggs. These are small yellow and black beetles that will scurry up out of the soil around the base of the seedlings when you disturb the seedlings.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 8:00AM
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