New house with NO gardens - reasonable goals for this year?

rebecca_aJune 11, 2007

We are purchasing a house in Baltimore county that has NO gardens (an absence which I will remedy). I cannot start gardening until late July. What are reasonable goals to set for this year? If I set up some raised beds (turning over the grass, adding manure and topsoil, and then covering with mulch), should I plant in them this year or save them until next spring? What are good things for the region to still plant this year? Thanks!

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I think you should dedicate the remainder of the year to observing and preparing the beds. Your success with plants will depend on what kind of sun/shade conditions you have, so keep an eye on what area will get how much sunlight throughout the year, and plan accordingly. Absolutely work on getting the most perfect soil you can; the planting itself will be relatively easy then.

Fall is a good time to plant shrubs and trees. I would hold off on planting perennials until next Spring (at least in part because you can get a bunch of FREE stuff at the MAG Spring swap).

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 11:01PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I agree with suja. I'm in Carroll County, used to live in Baltimore County. If you want some extra plants, I can probably give you some right now that haven't found homes yet (potted perennials), a few left over from the swap, I seem to be running out of space, time and energy.

Email me if you want details. Email directly since GardenWeb's email isn't always reliable.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 11:47PM
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Agree, focus on soil building, and watch the patterns of sun and shade and wind and water at your new house. How are you travelling around and through your yard, are the paths, etc. working for you. How will you and your family use your yard.
I made the mistake of starting by loading my car with annuals years ago, and now I wish I'd spent more time observing, and then working from hardscape, to shrubs, to perennials and finally the annuals.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 7:46AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I agree, too, but would like to add that you're beating yourself to death of you bother "turning over the soil." Particularly if you're making raised beds.

Go to the Organic Gardening forum and do a search on lasagna gardening. I've created 5 raised beds with this method, and this year created 2 large, island beds with this method, too. Plus, it's fun.

Also, if you do choose to plant something? It's not the biggest issue in the world. Buy what you want. Coleus (annual) for instant color through to frost. Hosta (perennial) if you've got shade, and so on. Frankly, there are tons of things.

However, if you're preparing beds, which again you should consider focusing on, bury the pots in the layers. So check the roots in the pots. Make certain they're not root bound. Repot if you need to, then plant them in the gardens in the pots. I do this all the time and think I'm going to continue. It foils the voles and moles, and I can move them around as many times as I need to to find the optimal place for them. Just as sandra_christie described.

Welcome to the area. And don't buy a lot until you go to the fall swap. Check out the Exchange page for the spring swap's list of offerings and trades. You'll become overwhelmed.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 9:36AM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

I agree about the lasagna beds. Turning rock hard MD clay is a waste of time and energy. Get the lasagna beds going in July, then plant a winter cover crop in Late August. Note that you do not need to add topsoil - the worms and bacteria make the topsoil for you.

One food crop you could do this year is potatoes planted in the lasagna beds.

And if you do want to prepare some garden areas this year, you can plant radishes, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, in late summer.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:44AM
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gemini_jim(7 MD)

Lasagna gardens can be tricky if you are short on both compost and cash like me! And I'm not crazy about using lots of peat, for environmental reasons. Having a horse stable around the corner has helped.

I'm in N Anne Arundel County and I know about hard clay! Double-digging can really benefit the beds and drainage in general. I know it has reduced the water in my basement after storms. It is hard work, but only needs to be done every 5 years or so.

Last year I did a section of lasagna beds, then this spring double dug it. It was so much easier with the turf out of the way! And the sunflowers I direct-seeded end of April are now nearly 5' tall.

I put in a new lasagna bed for cucumbers and I'll double dig it in the fall.

This spring I also single dug some new veggie beds from lawn and piled the sod in an area where I want to start a new bed this fall. I covered the sod pile with manure and seeded buckwheat on it. Not real pretty, but better than a naked pile of sod! When I want to work that area I'll shift the sod to another spot, cover with more manure, and plant a fall cover crop. And the area that was under the sod should be turf-free and ready for double-digging.

Since the big back-breakers are cutting the turf and breaking up the subsoil, I'm hoping to eliminate the first one so I have more energy for the second.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 2:35PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

What does "double dig" mean?

And if breaking up the sub soil is hard, why don't you trade plants with LynneinMD for her tiller? She's very good at that little stinker.

But how does one double dig?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:51PM
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gemini_jim(7 MD)

In a nutshell, double digging involves digging all the topsoil out of a section and setting it aside, then sticking your fork as far as it will go into the hard clay and wiggle it around to break it up. Around here it's very obvious where the topsoil ends and the subsoil begins. About 8-12" down, the dark gray-brown topsoil gives way to bright red clay, often with a white chalky crust on top. Anyway, after breaking the subsoil you fill it back in with topsoil from the next section, adding manure, compost, and/or other amendments as you fill, then breaking up the next section of subsoil, filling from the next, and so on. When you get to the last section you fill it with the topsoil from the first section.

By the time you're done you've raised the level a good 2-3" not counting amendments. The topsoil trickles down into the spaces in the broken subsoil, and roots can penetrate much deeper to get water and minerals. I suspect our clay, being river deposits, is quite rich in plant nutrients, and double digging helps make them more accessible.

It must be done when the soil is moist but not soggy, or you'll do more harm than good.

I don't imagine a tiller would be much help except to break up the turf on top. And I'm trying to avoid noisy power tools in the garden. I've even started using a push mower, which BTW does a very nice job if I haven't let the grass grow too high. Of course the more gardens I build the less grass I'll have to mow...

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 1:07AM
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What is the MAG spring swap and where is it?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 1:52PM
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The MAG (Mid Atlantic Gardening) Spring Swap was held about a month ago, in Burtonsville, MD. Basically, the idea is for a bunch of us gardeners in this area to get together, exchange plants, eat and just have a good time. There is usually a Fall swap also, but the turn out is normally smaller, and the date/venue is yet to be determined.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 2:38PM
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