help to start a garden

natalija_gardenerMay 18, 2009

I want to start a vegetable garden. We have a backyard. I want to rotatilling some of it. But I can not do it myself. Can anybody please recommend a good person or company who can do it (not too expensive)and who has his own equipment? We have a loan type backyard. But there is a part of it which used to be garden(before we moved in 3 years ago) and now it completely grown with weeds.

I would really appreciate any advise or reccomendation.

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Sorry forgot to mention I live in Western WA, Federal way and Tacoma area

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 12:32AM
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George Three LLC

lets take a trip to cheap town:

if you want to grow some veggies, and now is the right time to start planting most traditional veggies, here is a cheap method. very ugly though. cheap doesn't come with pretty.

1. hack weeds to ground. unless you are facing something really mean, steps 2-3 will kill them. cover in lots of free weeklies. about 2 free weekly sheets deep.

2. soil mix. hound craigslist and try to find some cheap stuff delivered. or find a buddy with a pickup truck that needs to be dirtier. make big piles of soil mix in rows 24 inches deep at least.

3. arborist chips. call up local arborists and see if they will send you free chips. these will surround your beds. get a huge pile. be prepared to move lots of chips. make paths at least 6"-12" deep. put the chips on the sides of your beds.

plant away! cheaply!

there you go! ready to plant stuff. sort of. not ideal, but you avoid a lot of labor.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 1:50AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

If you have several months to prepare the ground, you could blanket the whole area in newspaper, cardboard, or black plastic to kill all the weeds, then you could have bare ground to plant. Or check out lasagna gardening, it covers the ground with added organic material and you would just have to clear the actual planting area for each plant.

I use a mattock on areas I need to plant immediately, it can be hard on your back but I look at it as a workout, similar to going to a gym and spending lots of money to lift weights or exercise, except I get to do it in the fresh air and ambience of my garden.;-)

I don't live in your area so can't recommend any gardening services. Now is a good time to plant beans, tomatoes, and soon squash and cucumbers. Kale and collards can be planted up to July 15 to get big enough to live through the winter.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 5:34PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Get somebody who knows how to build some frames out of treated wood*, rocks or anything that will contain soil adequately.

Buy a load of suitable soil mix and fill your new raised beds with that.

Level and plant.

*Maybe coated with appropriate type of oil after installation to form a barrier between you and the wood preservative

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 11:03AM
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Thank you very much for your input. It was helpful.
I found somebody for rotatilling. In fact he is working right now:-))

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 5:48PM
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Bumping topic as it's that time of year... Sharing what we've learned in order to help others... Your experience will be different because your site & habits are different.

Vegetables & small fruits grow either in the ground gardens or in raised boxes as long as you provide them with good drainage, nutrients, sun & water. To be able to harvest you'll also need to bait for slugs and go on slug hunts after dark or rain. Also, be attentive to garden daily during growing season to be on alert for changing conditions. You can't plant it & forget it or you won't get a good harvest.

Our sunny location is along the driveway next to the forest, so we're also on a slight slope. We held back the soil with rocks initially as dug from dirt, but now have concrete blocks. We layered compostable materials right on top of the pit run/native soil and used mulch to control weeds & hold moisture. Permanent plantings are fruit trees, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, and perennial herbs & flowers. Annual vegetables are rotated in 3 main areas as well as 3 raised wooden boxes built from untreated 2x6 scrap lumber. We also tried straw bale gardening for tomatoes in a previously ungardened spot that prepped it nicely for planting now 2 years later.

intermix of zucchini on left fruit trees on right with boxes in background to the right
edged with concrete blocks filled w/ herbs, seating area also to right along with some herbs in pots
From 2010 flower garden

Due to the slope and our previously planted perennial fruits not all this area is suitable for garden boxes, so we just converted the one flatter part of it for 3 raised boxes amending soil one box at a time mostly followed the square foot gardening recommendations:
1 part garden soil
1 part vermiculite
1 part compost (mix of purchased + homemade manures, etc.)
+ lime
+ complete organic fertilizer in the top 6" of soil

We achieved a loose mix, but lost some of the stability of the soil to hold large plants upright. Tilting of tomato, cabbage, & even bush beans is a bit annoying even with staking (cages, stakes, bamboo poles, twiggy branches, etc.) The soil is just too light there. The fertilizer was a new thing for us & we had 4'+ purple cabbage plants with huge heads leaning at 45 degree angles.

Bonus the soil warms earlier, but it also drains quickly needing more watering July until fall rains. Yes, I use mulch & lots of it as well to maintain moisture. Even though we heaped it high the compost decomposes quite a bit & we must add more after each harvest to maintain the soil in the boxes. Harvest has been good in intensively planted boxes as long as I watered at least every other day in dry summer weather.

It's fairly easy to mix up the plantings according to the square foot gardening recommendations and I'm finding I prefer a bit less densely planted in order to water, mulch, and harvest easier. I like the potager look with edgings of chives, parsley, thyme, oregano, and annual flowers in my boxes and the concrete block holes. I also find I prefer to concentrate my crops for ease of watering, fertilizing & staking especially for the nightshades & squashes, so prefer the open garden areas for rotations of staked vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, beans), mulched potatoes, and bush zucchini along with annual flowers.

If I were starting over & had a choice of whether boxes or open ground I think I would go with 4 boxes & do a simple rotation through the various families for vegetables and keep the perennial fruits and trees separate with lots of mulch. The mix up I have now is lovely, but does take some TLC to keep it that way as the plants tend to spread especially raspberries & strawberries.

We also would lay down wire at the bottom of the boxes as the moles found us after switching to SFG there. Ugh!

SFG raised bed mid summer with background view of composter and currently unused 5 gal self watering planters for tomatoes. Not exactly neat & tidy, but productive gardening in action. Burlap bags are laid on paths & edge of slope for weed control.
From 2010 flower garden

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 1:26PM
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Thanks for bumping this and for all the tips and pictures! :) I'm getting pretty excited about the new gardening season. My garden was a total flop last year. I'm hoping to learn from my mistakes and got at it again this year. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 5:48PM
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