runktrun(z7a MA)May 9, 2010

A month ago I jumped in with both feet and signed up with my community garden not for one plot but for two. After all too many long days filled with weeding, bed prep, and mulching walking paths, I am now faced with the inevitable question of what to plant where. This is the fun part for most gardeners many of whom fall asleep under a thick pile of seed catalogs all winter long, but for a veggie newbie such as myself this is where the dream begins to fade. Frankly I am in way over my head, other than a couple of herbs here and a few tomato plants there I have never seriously grown vegetables

I would greatly appreciate any veggie gardening tip you might have to offer, believe me no tip would be too novice. For example I do know that many veggie gardeners plant marigolds near some veggies but I donÂt know which veggies or why. Other than that I donÂt know what I donÂt know.

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Really not much different than planting any other annuals. Just be aware of there proper solar exposure, soil preference, and spacing.

More access for tending is needed for veggies than ornamentals.

Probably the most important is proper watering. If the veggies get too dry, like cucumbers, then the taste can tend to be bitter.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 8:08PM
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ontheteam(5a-6 (S.Eastern, MA))

If I had to give ONE basic advice.... Make it FUN... if 2 plots of veggies is to mind blowing do some flowers for cutting that make you happy.

If its not pleasant I won;t do it KWIM? I do not like weeding and watering but I sure look forward to fresh and cheap mesculn mix, garden ripe toms, and still cool peas from the garden... so I do the weeding and watering.

There are very few mistakes in a garden that can not be fixed with time. Relax,learn and enjoy! You are not afraid to ASK questions and that is 90% of the fight! Good luck

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 8:36PM
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NHBabs z4b-5a NH

Relax . . . veggy gardening is far more learn as you go than ornamentals, to my mind.

Plant veggies you like to eat. I think most folks would laugh at my veggy garden since I'm married to a picky eater when it comes to which vegetables he'll eat so we have a lot of each of a few kinds of veggies. Think about herbs as well as veggies - for instance we love basil, and I plant a dozen or so plants every year. Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog has great advice on when, how deep, etc to plant seeds. If you can find an old copy of Jim Crockett's Victory Garden, it gives what to do each month, which is helpful, but ignore his advice on pesticides since as I recall he was very much not organic. Your local library may have some good vegetable garden books to look at to help you find one you like enough to buy (since you can't successfully use a library book in the garden . . . )

As far as layout . . . Be sure you give plants enough room - especially things like pumpkins and squash take up quite a bit of room. Don't plant really tall things like pole beans where they will shade veggies that need lots of heat and sun. Give yourself room to work and don't make beds too wide to comfortably reach the middle from the sides.

As OTT said, enjoy the process. One of the nice things about veggy gardens is that they are almost all annual plants, so if things don't work out, you go to the farmers' market and try again next year. You don't have to get it right in the same way that you sort of do for big woody things like trees. Often your fellow gardeners will be of great help. See who is planting what & where, and ask questions. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask here. . . though I have no memory about what veggie to plant the marigolds near, just that the few years I did it, many years ago, it didn't do what it was supposed to.

Expect to do some weeding. Many veggies need more regular water to produce well than you'd need for perennials and shrubs. Check regularly for bugs and have a lidded can & some dish soap so you can fill the can with soapy water to knock problem bugs into. (and empty it out when the bugs are drowned since otherwise it's stinky.) I often watch a bug for a while to see what it does so I can decide if it's a bad bug or a predator on bad bugs or something else.

Happy eating!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 9:48PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

One possibility to make this less intimidating is to grow just a couple of types of vegetables but several varieties of each vegetable. That way, you only have to know the cultural requirements of just a couple of vegetables which will make planting a lot easier. By planting several varieties of a vegetable, you can evaluate the taste and success (yield, disease, etc.) of each variety which will make choosing a variety in the future a lot easier.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 10:08PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Just curious, what is the size of one plot? In my 4x4 mini greenhouse, I plant 16 sq.ft. Whether you plant in rows, squares, triangles (yes, that's possible)knowing how much room each mature plant requires helped me to determine which veggies and how many plants I could accommodate that would actually be consumed or frozen when harvested. In other words, not harvesting too much of one thing at a time, e.g., zucchini at the end of August.

The link below is from Iowa State and I think it may help you. I'm a visual type, and being able to see ahead of time how much space my plantings will take, helped me decide how much to plant. Also, growing things that Whole Foods charges a fortune for was appealing to me - like golden beets. You can get 12 golden beet plants into one sq.foot. And, you can have bush beans instead of pole so no other plant will be shaded - and, you can plant radishes that mature in 22 days around pepper plants and others that take 2 months to mature. Okay, I've now gone on too long - love doing this. Just picked my first spinach and mesclun, so please excuse my abundant enthusiasm. Check the guide below, scroll down, chart at the page bottom.


Here is a link that might be useful: Iowa State Extension Planting Guide .pdf

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 8:47AM
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TWO plots rather than one ??!!! Ah, the unbridled optimism of the obsessed
gardener. . .been there, done that ! :-)

A couple of quick tips:

- Use copious amounts of straw mulch (see: "The Ruth Stout No Work Gardening Book" - check the library, out-of-print)....straw has fewer inherent weed seeds than hay, but hay can suffice in a pinch. Using this method, I NEVER have to weed my veggie patch and rarely water it.....and don't hesitate
to mulch right over those pathways - weeds WILL grow there as well.

-Try Swiss chard 'Bright Lights'. . .extremely easy, remarkably beautiful and
delicious, and keeps producing all summer !

-If you have access to these plots during fall winter, plant a late season of carrots and HEAVILY mulch with straw. . .nothing quite like pulling extra
sweet, fresh carrots in December and January !

-Pole beans (on the NORTH side of your plot are much more productive in
small spaces than bush beans.....I use simple 3 or 4 pole tee-pees (6 or 7 feet tall) and plant successive clusters of seeds around each pole, in turn, about 2 weeks apart. You get months of beans this way (if you're feeding one or two
people) instead of being overwhelmed for a couple of weeks. But, then, beans can be blanched and frozen very easily.....just finished my last season's
frozen stock a week ago !

-Again, in these small spaces, consider growing cucumbers UP, using the
aforementioned tee-pees and some wide-mesh trellis netting (or, just stout
twine laced back and forth) This method is particularly good with the thin-
skinned Mediterranean cukes (no peeling!). . .

-Add just one climbing annual (morning glory, cardinal vine, etc.) to each of
your tee-pees.....might as well have some extra beauty while you're at it!

-Unless clearly marked "determinate", EVERY tomato will get bigger than you
ever expected ! Skip those wimpy smaller tomato cages, get the biggest
ones available and support each one with a least one 4' piece of rebar (best
on north side of cage). . .cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to add
supports NOW, as trying to add them later is next to impossible without doing
significant damage. And this applies to ALL tomatoes, even those "tiny" grape and cherry tomatoes - the fruit may be small, but some of my cherry
vines get 5'-6' tall and s-p-r-a-w-l. . .

-And as everyone else has said: HAVE FUN! Tuck flowers everywhere - who
says a veggie patch has to be dull ?



    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 10:57AM
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On planning: Typically I haven't, but in the last couple years, I bide my winter by playing with spreadsheets. I LOVE spreadsheets. And coloring.
I found the perfect thing in my excel spreadsheets: CLIP ART! Coupled this with following someone else's format here at GW. Here's my current layout of my ~20 x 48' plot:

It never occurred to me that I don't HAVE to plant in traditional boring rows until last year. So I make blocks.

I only pick out the things that I like to eat, and only do 'different' things after a little research (like how difficult is it, or is it a regional thing that takes more time to grow than I have up here in the north).

Minimal homework (and often NO homework) is required to make a veggie patch. Most questions are quick & easy, and you can do it "easy" or "complex." Both ways work.

Choose the things you like to eat, then ask as many questions as you need to.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 2:34PM
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marie_of_roumania(z6 MA)

i second carl18 on the straw-mulch thing. weeding is for people with waaay too much time on their hands. fling the stuff with abandon.

seed some lettuce or arugula now for instant gratification.

since you have the luxury of two plots, pick a section for herbs ... tarragon, sage, lemon verbena, parsley, thai basil ... yummy.

leeks are just plain gorgeous.

when you've eaten through a section of something, plant bush beans in that space mid-summer. late-season crops are very satisfying.

if you don't feel like figuring out two whole plots right away, throw a few squash seeds in the ground and stand back. they will take up lots of room.

and i think it's a law that every veggie garden needs to have a clump of egyptian walking onions in one corner.

and kale. i'm pretty sure all gardens are supposed to include kale.

the best thing about a community garden is learning from the other gardeners. each one will have strongly-held opinions about what a proper vegetable garden should be. and they're all right!


    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 7:45PM
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cloud_9(z5 CT)

Just for the pure fun of it - plant a luffa and/or a bird house gourd - on strong teepees, because they are both vines and get big. They will be your favorite thing and ZERO calories!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 10:44PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Thank You...Thank You...Thank You...

Your tips and tid bits have not only been informative but with your humor and support you all managed to jolt me out of a state of indecision.

So now I have bought seeds, plants, and most importantly Mainely Mulch (an expensive weed free substitute for straw, as according to my only source for straw there is a shortage this year). This afternoon I started planting and I found that the same bad habits I have in my landscape gardens I have carried over to this veggie garden ie the seed packet suggests planting 12" apart and my alter ego kicks in and forces my hand to plant them 6" apart becauseÂ.deep inside I know it all. This community garden experience is something I would highly recommend every gardener try at least once. Some things that I love are trying out all of the different tools, watching how other gardeners use tools, being in a garden with other people is new to me as well, the social etiquette of gardening with others is definitely interesting.

This particular community garden is at a Far*m Institute which is dedicated to educating the youth about farming but also has a Community Garden, (small Veggie CSA), and a meat CSA. This past winter I signed up and paid for my yearly share of meat, and frankly didnÂt give it a second thought until now as I walk past all these critters offering them a top o the morning salutation that I seem to even gush at the pigs.

Well I certainly would appreciate continued tips and support and tomorrow I will post some photoÂs so you have a better idea of plot size ect.
Thanks Again, Katy

Here is a link that might be useful: Mainely Mulch

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 6:09PM
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marie_of_roumania(z6 MA)

it's ok if you plant things closer than the packet says. that's the main thing i gleaned from reading about square foot gardening -- plant stuff closer than the packet says. and attemp verticality with viney things to save space.

first year i had a community garden i crammed 20 tomato plants in a tight space. the plot was one giant tangle of tomato-y goodness. it was so wrong but so fun.

you will be good at this. just you wait and see.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 8:44PM
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I second the suggestion to find a copy of The Victory Garden. I like the way it is organized by month of things to plant, transplant, etc and other garden chores. I think a common mistake is planting an entire packet. I think it was Crockett that said a 4' row of lettuce is plenty. Try to do succession planting so everything doesn't come in all at once. This is esp smart with beans. The book on Square Foot Gardening gives good info on close planting. I don't like to waste space with wide rows. I always plant too many tomatoes but last year the season was so bad I didn't have any to give away. But, in good years, extras are easy to give away.
Keep your zucchini picked while it's small. This will actually be impossible because zucchini can hide in the grass until one day you trip over a giant green bat. I have a huge file of zucchini recipes including some great ones for shredded big guys (great chocolate chip cookie recipe). Picking on a weekly basis is not often enough.
I plant Confection winter squash from Johnny's. It takes up a lot of room but the squash keeps so well that we still have squash in March and April stored in a cool cellar or garage. I think of it as a great investment in winter meals.
Best wishes for your veggie garden.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 1:22PM
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NHBabs z4b-5a NH

OOOH - Defrost - will you share the zuke chocolate chip cookie recipe? sounds great!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 9:56PM
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I had one plot last year, first time. This year I have two. This year I am trying to do some crop rotation and find that because I mixed all my veggies up in the beds last year, like my ornamentals back at the house, crop rotation is a challenge. I had tomatoes in just about every bed! So, where do I put the 'maters this year? (Good thing I have a new plot, huh?!) So my advice is to try to keep things in their place -- don't spread them all around like I did.

My go-to book so far is The Vegetable Gardeners Bible by Ed Smith.

Don't add up how much you spend on seeds, mulch, supplies, compost, etc. It is depressing. Sometimes I think I should just stick to the Farmer's Market...then I spend a blissful evening with DH, listening to the birds, watching the sun go down over our little farm, and it is all worth it!

There is nothing like running down to the garden on my bike, coming home with a load of veggies in my basket and having them for supper. Or wandering down in December to dig spinach and leeks out of the snow. Oh, I could go on and on...

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Here you go nhbabs, I found this on
It has become our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I use the semi-sweet chips. You can't tell that there is zucchini in them. I have a file folder full of zucchini recipes.


3/4 c. shortening (creamed)
2 eggs
2 c. sugar

3 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 bag chocolate chips
2 c. grated zucchini

Mix well and drop by spoonful on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 6:59AM
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NHBabs z4b-5a NH

Thanks, Defrost! DH won't eat squash knowingly, but I've found that if I grate it and put it in things, he will. So it goes into baked goods and stews and I just don't list ingredients for him since he doesn't notice it in this form. ;>)

I actually don't plant squash most years but there are always folks giving it away. It's one of the veggies that isn't worth planting just for me, though I do plant broccoli for me (& most years for the woodchucks, unfortunately.)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 9:36AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Well thanks to some good advice from this thread I have made it this far without throwing my hands up and running off to the farm stand. What I am finding now is the weeding is a much bigger issue than it is in my landscape, but I am trying to keep on top of it.
I have also learned that I probably would have been better off planting my potatoes later to avoid the heaviest of the potato beetle onslaught. I have my potatoes covered in tulle that does a good job keeping potato beetles out but there were plenty of larvae in the soil from last year so I am still spending a ridiculous amount of time removing beetle and larvae.
I planted four different varieties of carrots and have had a poor showing from all four. This has been the case for other community gardeners with the exception of one person who seeded her carrots very early.
My plot is very windy and coldÂso my basil is not happy and my tomatoes are standing still. I did follow your advice and used rebar to support my heavy gauge tomato cagesÂnow if they would just start growing.
Fennel, cabbage, onions,lettus, and cilantro are all doing pretty well.
So what is happening in your veggie garden?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 7:14PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Without a tradional 'plot' garden,and starting everything from seed April 1st (fool thing be damned), I have a blossom on my lemon cucumbers, the KY Wonder beans have climbed several feet, and 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes are getting thicker stems because I planted them up to their first leaves. Herbs, lettuce, radishes, green onions are in the greenhouse. Strawberries in jar and pot - been picking for several weeks.

Your plot prep info set me off on the Mainely Mulch pathway, but at the farm store, I opted for Simply Straw from Derby, CT (and 1/2 the price). So, thanks, KT, for the straw idea. Everything in raised beds, pots, and a garden pathway have used up my 2 bales. Some pics of my "spot plot" gardens. The elevated and protected way I grow veggies keeps the critters at bay. I've been sitting on the deck at 2p.m. and had deer walk 50' away and give a gentle nod. They walk right next to the deck at dawn, but when they ring the bell, I've got trouble!

Hope you take more pictures in a month or so and post them. Garden looks good - and the tulle idea is great. Best of luck, KT.


Spot Plots

Lemon Cukes

Guggenheim Reject

Lettuce keeps on Giving

Earth boxes work

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 11:45AM
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