Help push me in a direction

oldfishinglureFebruary 9, 2013

We live in southern ok near Ardmore. Having built a house last summer I wanted to do some things so that the kids and myself could have fun plating and eating our spoils. So many questions I end up not doing anything. Our yard slopes and I have a bit of hippy in me since i grew up in upstate ny so I'm steering towards a raised beds. I have an are cleared at the bottom of the back yard that I am aiming for I will add pictures once I figure that part out. I grew up with my great grandparents living in the downstairs of our home and my great grandad was a super gardener. I have so many memories of helping him. From planting to eating to dusting to trying to dig for night crawlers in his compost pile of 50 years.

Now what to do. My boys one night and one day respond diff to food. One age 9 would eat pizza 3 times a day seven days a week the other age 6 Would eat carrots apples peas broccoli oranges banana potatoes celery and raw veggies instead of even looking at a candy bar. He would eat catalope for every meal. I know great problem to have.

I want the boys to have a good memory or two or maybe I'm trying to go back in my own head. Or maybe I'm just ADD and need another hobby to dive in head first and watch my wife shake her head at me.

I want to do something to get going or I will do nothing but read catalogs from burpee or books on heirloom seeds and read about to great big eveil monsoto and fast food nations and surf till I'm blue.

I want to go build a raised bed. What size. Do I do multiple 4x8 to I do 4x16 I just need to start. I can tear down later and rebuild if necc.

What to plant and when and how to make the bed or beds to accommodate.
Here's what we like

Peppers bell orange sweet and some jalape�os for poppers. I'm a big griller you can see my blog at.
Corn I have spied and area I'm just gonna till up and try over behind neighbors house in between cedar trees and hope he will want my corn their too. Lol
Cantaloupe watermelon
Berries but that's a diff topic.

I want to get off my but and build a bed but I want to follow through and not get in over my head

Help push me into the next area of adult ADD and help me create a new OCD.


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joellenh(6b Jenks)

Matt, hi! I couldn't read your post and not respond.

I have raised beds in the Tulsa area, and they have not done very well for me. I think that for them to work, they have to be one or more of the following: deep, irrigated, or make sure the soil below is tilled as well. I made the mistake of following the advice in the SFG book, and 6" just isn't deep enough to hold any kind of moisture in our hot, dry summers. I built a large garden, and really it is way too much for me to keep up with, so now I want to downsize, re-arrange, and add pvc irrigation. A daunting task, and one I keep putting off (and likely will continue to delay for another year or so.

I am sure you will get tons and tons of expert advice here. The main reason I responded to your post is that we have a lot of similarities. I, too, grew up in upstate NY. (near Binghampton, where you from)? I have two kids, and one is a six year old boy. AND I also just finished building a new house last summer. Pretty cool, no?

I will say that gardening has made my kids a slightly bigger fan of veggies. They both love to help me water and weed, and my four year old daughter loves picking and eating raw peas and tiny tomatoes.

Do give berries a shot. My strawberries have done well for me, and the kids cannot get enough of them! Blackberries are also easy and prolific.

Looking forward to seeing you around,


    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:40AM
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Hi Jo that's too funny it is a small world. I'm from Norwich just a quick drive up route 12 about 40 mins north of the big city. We used to go there to go to the mall after of course a trip to dicks sporting goods to look at fishing and hunting or eureka camping store. This was in the late 70s early 80s. I can't remember the name of it. It was a big deal to get to go to the book store and arcade and of course who could forget service merchandise. Simpler times and fond memories I left upstate ny in 1990 to go into the mulitary and thus began my journey called life but still have a lot of family up there. I don't get to go back as much as I would like but that helps keep the memories fond and nice and remember when the small town I grew up in flourished with life and people jobs and families who took pride in their gardens and homes and now have been replaced by Walmart 5 grocery stores and pharmacies and unemployment and high taxes.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:54AM
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hi I am new too and learned several things, the hard way. Start small and build up every year as you go.
year 1 huge lost it all to hot wind/inexperience
year 2 huge much better but still overwhelming.
Now year 3 downsizing.
You definately came to the right place.There are alot of very knowledgeable AND experienced people here that love to share. I read at least 20 min every day to get a fix and then work at least 30 min on my garden. somedays I have to force myself but once I get out there I usually go till dark.
I am well um obsessed with reading and studying about gardening and seeds. There are so many options and varieties to try.
Have fun

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Matt, welcome. You will find a few things different in this part of country. First, in the middle of summer it is more like Hell than upstate NY. Second it is very hard to get pizza, hamburger, and macaroni to sprout here. I would grow it for the grand kids if I could. The summer heat will be a problem for you and your garden, your best friends will will be soil amendments, mulch, and some kind of drip irrigation system.

You can build wonderful memories with a few boards and a pack of seeds. One of the best things you have going for you is this wonderful forum, they have helped me a lot.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:01AM
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Hopefully this might help in some advise. Also not sure if pics will work. But this is where I want to plant, I had a guy scrape down to the left of house yard faces NW and this will give you an idea of slope the farther down the more level it gets.

Test Yard Center Love My Rock

Yard Right

Yard Center

Yard Left

New Garden Area

New Garden Area 2

Spot to hide the corn clearing between cedar trees

SLope to House

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:55AM
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This is what it looked like before I spent a few weeks with a chainsaw :^)

My yard only goes to the rock and the rest is public city owned land but no one will ever be able to build due to a ponds to the east and west and a creek running down the middle of it creating a flood plain or what we like to call a little boy heaven. There are houses 800 yards behind us but you cant tell.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Matt, you have a very beautiful home.

Do you have much wildlife in your area? Critters just love gardens. I expect you will want to run some kind of water supply down to the garden area. With that kind of slope it would drain very well when unhooked in the winter, so it would not need to be buried very deep.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:17PM
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Come by Kingston Greenhouse in Kingston some time. We are growing all types of veggies, berries, etc in containers and raised beds with several different set-ups for watering. You can see what has and hasn�t worked for us.
Pic is raised bed tomatoes on Dec 4th of this past year.
Also, you might visit the Nobel Foundation site on line
or in person just east of Ardmore

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:24PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Matt, Is the soil sandy? If it is, be very careful with raised beds because raised beds of very sandy soil/sandy loam in our climate can dry out very quickly.

I am south of you between Marietta and Thackerville but have mostly dense red clay, so we have built raised beds that sit between 4 and 8" above grade in our main garden. Even those will dry out faster than I like in summer, but we have to have them raised somewhat in order to have good enough drainage when we have the occasional flooding rainfall. At the end of the garden where we have a band of sandy soil on the west end, the beds aren't really raised above grade level. It is just that the slope of the land drops so quickly that they look raised.

This year we are adding another growing plot in a different location from our big garden. It has very sandy soil in much of it and just one area with dense clay. When I improve the sandy soil, I will add clay soil to it (dug from other places on our rural property) in order to help it hold water. Otherwise, I think my sandy area will drain too quickly in summer, even with organic matter added to it.

You have to consider the slope of your land and the way water drains from the land when you put in your garden. You want for your raised beds to run crosswise--across the slope, not with the slope. If you make the beds run across the slope, each raised bed with catch and hold rainfall and generally will keep most of the soil in the raised bed. If you run you beds up and down with the slope, soil will run downhill with the rain and you'll have constant erosion issues.

If your soil is very sandy, you'll need to enrich it with organic matter that will help it hold moisture and that also will improve its fertility. If you have dense clay, amending it with organic matter is just as important.

An irrigation system, whether you use some form of drip irrigation like T-tape or whether you use soaker hoses will help keep the garden well-watered and moist. Mulching helps conserve moisture and keeps the soil cool as well. Avoid overhead watering because moisture on the plant foliage can contribute to all sorts of diseases.

There are lots of ways to garden with children and make it fun. Planting a pizza garden is a popular activity and if you Google, you'll likely find all kinds of plans for pizza gardens. Many school gardens plant a pizza garden to help get first-time gardeners interested in the process.

Giving each child their own small raised bed and letting them plant it and tend it can turn kids into little gardeners. When our son and nieces and nephews were young I loved planting a superized bean teepee not just with beans but also with mini pumpkins, small decorative gourds, cucumbers and/or sugar snap peas in spring or pole type southern peas in the summer. I made the TP big enough that 2 or 3 kids or a kid and a dog could sit inside the TP and play. I just left one pole out of the teepee in order to have a 'doorway'. I also made sunflower houses for the girls or sunflower forts for the boys by planting the sunflowers in a cube shape to form 4 walls. Then, once the sunflowers were a couple of feet tall, I sowed morning glory or other vining plant seeds at the base of each sunflower. The vines climbed the sunflowers to fill in the walls. For a 'roof' I ran garden twine back and forth between the sun flower walls about 6' above the ground and the morning glories grew across the twine and made a roof. You also could use some sort of edible crop instead of morning glories if you want. Be sure to leave an open space for the doorway. You also can create a bean or cherry tomato arch or tunnel where the kids can play beneath the arch or tunnel once it is shady while harvesting tomatoes or beans from it.

Different kids get interested in different things. DH's best friend's grandson wasn't that crazy about the garden except for the watermelons. We grew mini refrigerator melons and he loved to search through the vines to find a melon or two to take home and eat. He also liked the cantaloupes, cherry tomatoes and eggs gathered fresh from our chicken coop. Because we had a lily pond in the backyard, we always had frogs, toads and turtles and he enjoyed the water garden as much as the vegetable, herb, flower and fruit garden. Another young child who often visited our garden really just wanted to play in the dirt, though she did like picking and eating fresh strawberries too. She was pretty young so was more interested in the flowers than in the edible crops the first year.

Even kids who don't like veggies in general often will develop a taste for their own veggies as grown in their own gardens.

If your pizza-eating son doesn't develop a fondness for veggies, you still could encourage him to grow things that are a "zoo garden" full of plants named after animals, or a decorative garden full of gourds, pumpkins and red stalker corn for fall decorations, or an herb garden from which y'all could harvest Italian herbs to flavor home-made pizzas. Sometimes kids who don't get all excited about veggies will get real excited about homegrown peaches, plums strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, etc. However, fruit plants are more of a long-term thing that may not return much of a harvest for the first couple of years. (It is a great way to teach kids to work towards a long-term goal though.)

I'm going to link a great book that is very helpful for beginning gardeners. It has actual layouts of beds, including showing you how you can plant them not only the first year, but in subsequent seasons and years.

Then, Google and find the books about gardening with kids by Sharon Lovejoy, like 'Sunflower Houses', 'Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots' and the later one that has something about Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars in the title.

It is always better to start smaller the first year and add to the garden each year so that you are not biting off more than you can chew that first year. Enact weed control measures very early and keep after the weeds and grass religiously because once you get way behind on the weeds, it is easy to get discouraged and just walk away from it all. Pulling weeds isn't a fun chore for anyone and can really discourage young gardeners from enjoying gardening if they have to spend all the free time pulling weeds. It is better to mulch well early in the season and keep the weeds from establishing in the first place.

You success or lack of success hinges on the soil more than anything else, so improve it first. Even when we built raised beds above the grade, we still improved the soil as deeply as we would beneath the raised bed areas before we built them. At first, because we had dense clay, we could only dig or rototill to a depth of 6 to 8" because the ground was so compacted. We enriched that soil and built raised beds above it, and now we can dig down a couple of feet after 14 years of gardening in those beds. Every year the soil gets better and better, but in order for that to happen you have to keep adding organic matter to feed the soil as it breaks down. In our climate, heat eats compost, and eats it up quickly, so amending the soil is a constant job, not a one-time thing.

Good luck and keep us posted on how it is going.


Here is a link that might be useful: Starter Vegetable Gardens

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:48PM
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Welcome to the forum Matt! I can second (or third) what the others have already told you. Just want to re-emphasize the point about starting small. If you can do a really good job on a small garden, to start with, everyone in the family will likely say, "Hey! Let's enlarge!" But if you get way overextended, they may be left with a bad taste in their mouths.

If your land is as sandy as it seems to me, in the photos, then I'd suggest you really hit it with gathering organic materials. Apply them intensively to a small area and plan to water, as if the Apocalypse was right around the corner. Being a transplanted easterner myself (originally from NJ), I cannot strongly enough emphasize just how radically this climate differs from the Northeast.

Another reason to start small, is that your time is short, before you should start planting. So you have much preparation to do.

If you want to just get something in, as a "place holder," for some part of your garden, then I'd recommend cowpeas.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:15AM
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Great advice.
We are putting in concrete block raised beds two block high making it roughly 12" and filling them with purchased garden soil/ compost mix.
Our ground is dense hard ( like a rock) clay in a bermuda pasture and we have a serious gopher problem of which we have tried just about everything to get rid of them.
We removed ( best we could )the bermuda( Evil stuff in a garden area) by digging down last fall and now plan to put down hardware cloth,newspapers, and cardboard then the dirt. At this time there is no bermuda showing but it is justing waiting to sneak back up.... Do you reccommend that we till the ground in the bed area as it is back to hardpan before we build the beds?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:00AM
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Wow Great Advice, Lots to think about!

Yes there are some critters. Ive seen Turkey, Owls, Hawks, Armadillos, Coyotes, Ive seen deer tracks but not up close to the hose, neighbor set out a 55 gallon time release 5 feed to see if we could see any and only tracks about 800 yards down towards the 100 acrea ( I know they are out there, Ive foiund the beds hiking.

Dawn, Super, I bought the book and skimmed through it so far.

So seeing what you see would you guys go for 1 large 12x12 raised double dug or say 2 4 x 10s.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:16PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

If you haven't already started your compost pile, I would start that immediately. A friend of mine's boy was my best compost buddy. He got his family to save all their food scraps for me. He would bring home his banana peels from school so he could put it in the compost bucket! I think he was fascinated by the fact that garbage would turn to dirt.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:17PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Matt, Glad you got the book and hope it is helpful. It is a wonderful book, written by an author with a huge amount of experience in both gardening and writing.

You won't have to watch the wildlife...they'll be watching you and sneaking around your house when they think you are gone. We have come home sometimes (or gone outside in the morning) and found deer hoof prints in the soil outside the breakfast room window, as if they came to the house and were looking inside. We've also had raccoons get up on the porch and knock at the windows, hoping we'll feed them (I guess).

We have a sort of resident herd of deer on and around our land that were here when we moved here. They got pretty used to me and would bring their fawns to the garden to show them off when they were very small. I fed them in the winter and if I was late to put out the feed, they'd stand on the edge of the woods and scream. It was pretty amusing. Of course, we've been here 14 years now and some of the deer we knew so well and loved are gone now, but their descendants live on.

Sometimes it amazes me how many animal tracks I see in snow or in mud after a heavy rainfall.

I'd do the two 4' x 10' beds because you'll find them so much easier to maintain and you'll be able to reach into them to pull weeds or harvest without stepping on the soil and compacting it. With a 12' x 12' you'd have to walk into it and that will compact the soil, which you should avoid. There's no point in working so hard to prepare soil and make it light and fluffy if you're going to walk on it and compact it. However, if you are attached to the idea of the 12' x 12' you could do it, but I'd still divide it into two 12'x 6' beds with a central pathway between the two. You'd probably have to step into a bed 6' wide to reach plants or weeds in the middle, unless you're fairly tall and have long arms. That wouldn't be the worst thing on earth, but you could put a plank or stepping stones in each 12' x 6' bed, or in the overall 12' x 12' bed to help distribute your weight so you didn't compact all the soil so much. To me, it is just easier to make more narrow beds. Sometimes I make them 4' wide and sometimes I make them 5' wide.

I like Lisa's advice about the compost pile. I use a cold compost pile and never turn it because we are very close to the Red River and have venomous snakes. After finding venomous snakes a few times, I decided I'd just pile stuff onto the pile all throughout the growing season and not turn it or take anything out of it until winter when the snakes are not out and about. I'd rather wait longer for compost than have regular snake encounters.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:36PM
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Thanks Dawn,

I had my mom up from Dallas today to see the boys and we were walking around the backyard I was giving her my vision. As I said we lived above my grandparents when I was a kid in upstate NY.
In conversation she asked why I wanted to do it and told her of remembering all the fun times picking and planning and I told her I thought I might give canning a whirl in a year or so. To make pickles for the boys who are pickle nuts.
She shared with me some of the time she remembered up on the hill when she was a kid and spoke of learning to can by pouring parafin on the jelly and how they used to dip the turnips in wax after they were cleaned to keep. How methodical my great grandad was with his organizing of the cellars and of the canned goods and his garden. We chuckle about his compost pile and how it probably still is the most fertile area of dirt in half the town.
Simpler times..


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You're welcome, Matt.

I'm glad you had such pretty weather today here in southern OK for your Mom's visit. I just love how y'all were sharing memories, even as you are working on making new memories with your children.

Like you, I grew up in a gardening family, and we were surrounded by gardening neighbors in our little suburban neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s, and the memories I have of working in the gardens, helping neighbors and relatives with big yard or garden or canning projects, etc. are so important to me now that those relatives who shared gardening with me are mostly all gone now. I still think of my grandmother when I see a Granny Smith Apple tree and think of my dad when I am doing anything with tomatoes---eating them, growing them, canning them, etc. I cannot make and can salsa or plum jelly without thinking about doing those things with my mom and dad when I was a kid. So many of my favorite memories are of those simpler times, when we only had 3 channels on the TV, and parents routinely sent the children outside to play. We had no video games, of course, or computers or cell phones. To me, working in the yard and garden was just as much fun as playing.

Life is not as simple now, and neither is gardening. It used to be simple to choose your tomato transplants from the dozen or two dozen varieties at the local nursery---now a person has to choose from thousands of varieties. When you chose potatoes to plant, your big choice was russet, white or red-skinned. Now you can grow all sorts of sizes, shapes and colors. What hasn't changed though, for me, is that gardening is fun, it is endlessly fascinating, it gets me outside in the sunshine (and sometimes the rain), and we still bring yummy food to the house from the garden.

I'm looking forward to hearing all about your family's gardening adventures this year. Gardening is many things, but never ever dull and uninteresting!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:34PM
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Jelly making is a little easier and safer these days and I am glad. I find it much easy to put it in the jar, put on the lid and boil it the required time to make sure it seals, than messing with parafin. I think if it got a little mold people just peeled off the wax seal and ate it anyway. No one told us there would be mold strings down in the jelly. I sometimes wonder how we survived. LOL

I made more jelly in 2012 than I probably have made during all the rest of my life. I have peppers to make more this week. I love, love, love, Habanero Gold. Dawn, that's all your fault and now I have to make twice as much because Al is hooked too.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:16AM
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Welcome to the Oklahoma gardening adventure!

I engaged both of my daughters when they were little by planting's like buried treasure in the Spring!

Another thing that's fun is planting peanuts. At the time I just got a handful of peanuts from the feed and seed (raw, mind you; not roasted, LOL!) and planted the individual seeds in a little section of my garden. If you're not familiar with how they grow, the plants grow, flower, and are fertilized, forming little "pegs" that fall down to the ground so the nuts can form under the earth. Each flower lasts only a day, and this process will be continual for a few months. It's a great hot-weather crop, too. More buried treasure!


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 6:20PM
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