New garden site, wanting your thoughts

jessjamesonFebruary 13, 2014

I am facing ESE while taking this picture. I am renting a sod cutter to remove the grass and putting down cardboard for additional weed coverage, there is a tree stump from an old apple tree, the space is about 24' x 40' I am wanting to utilize the fence for vertical growing of cucumbers, and possibly zucc and squash (although i don't know of anyone that has done this). The other side of the fence has about 18" of growing space that i can use, do I want to plant something tall like sunflowers there later in the season for shade, or a climber like nasturtiums? I have had a serious aphid problem in the past so I am torn about Nasturtiums. I am getting my soil tested this week. I have a greenhouse so the sky is the limit, and that is what I am aiming for, haha. Any suggestions on planting order or other tips?

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


When it comes to gardening, it all starts with the soil. In order to get good results with whatever you plants, your soil needs to supply good nutrition and it needs to have good, loose tilth so that the plant roots can grow. So, after you cut out the sod and lift it, check the soil you have remaining and determine if it is primarily clay, sand, silt or (hopefully) sandy loam. I'm going to link a Fine Gardening magazine article that shows a very simple method to use a jar of soil and water to determine what your soil is composed of. Then, depending on what you find improve the soil accordingly. I have very red, very clayey soil for the most part, and it is very high in nutrients. Its tilth is poor, though, so I have to add organic matter every year to keep the soil loose and fluffy. Remember that the plant roots do not, technically, grow in the soil itself. They actually grow in the air pores between soil particles, so you need loose soil so the roots can grow easily. Your soil test, obviously, will tell you if you need to make any adjustments to correct any nutritional issues.

If the tree stump is pretty old and is rotting on its own, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem although you may not be able to get anything to grow too close to the stump if the tree was cut only recently and there still are a lot of small and large roots in the area near the trunk. If the trunk is so large underground that it poses a significant problem, you can pay someone from a tree company or landscaping company to come with a stump grinder and grind out the stump.

You can grow whatever you want on a fence. They make great trellises. At various points, my garden fences have served as trellises for cucumbers, vining types of squashes (not so much for the bush varieties although they will lean against a fence and sort of look like they are climbing), pumpkins, gourds, pole beans, half-runner beans, sugar snap peas, mini refrigerator-sized watermelons, both muskmelons and true cantaloupes, and oodles of flowering ornamentals like morning glories, moonflower vines, cardinal climber, cypress vine, firecracker vine, black-eyed susan vine, etc. If you plant blackberries within a couple of feet of a fence they won't exactly climb it, but they will lean against it. With some veggies, you may have to gently weave the first stem through the fence once the plant is tall enough/long enough to reach the fence, but most veggies climb the fence on their own just fine after that. With some of the larger melons, winter squash and pumpkins, you may need to make a sling out of cheesecloth, burlap, nylon stockings, etc. to help support them once the weight gets pretty heavy.

With muskmelons climbing a fence that will slip off the vine on their own when they are ripe, there is a possibility they will crack and split when they fall to the ground. You can work around that to a large extent, and there are several ways to do so. FIrst, just put 4-6" of mulch on the ground beneath the fence (on both sides of the fence) to cushion the melons and break their fall. That alone will prevent most of the potential cracking and splitting. Or, you could use knee-high stockings on the melons as a sort of sling. Just gently slip the stocking over the melon and tie it to the fence. The stocking will 'catch' the melons when it slips off the vine and that will prevent cracking from occurring when it falls to the ground.

I grow nasturtiums as companion plants in my garden every year and they do not have any more of a pest problem than any other plant that I grow. Usually, if you have persistent aphid issues, there is something out of whack in your soil or in your garden fertilizing practices. Be sure you aren't adding excessive nitrogen to your garden, either via amending the soil with nitrogen-rich amendments or via the use of a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen---or using one that is lower in nitrogen too often. It is not at all unusual to have aphids pop up in the spring time. They're everywhere. However, if their population skyrockets and gets out of control, a gardener should try to figure out why---and often it is excess nitrogen. Some of the folks I know who have had a problem with a huge population of aphids have brought it upon themselves, to some degree, by using a broad-spectrum pesticide that has wiped out the population of beneficial insects that eat aphids. Be sure you aren't engaging in any practices that harms your beneficial insects because they will do a lot of pest control for you. If you do not believe you have any beneficial insects in your garden, you have a couple of ways to bring them back to your garden. First, you can buy and release beneficial insects from either a nursery or online from an insectary. Secondly, you can buy insect-attracting seed mixes that will draw beneficial insects to your garden.

Sunflowers sometimes can have a alleopathic effect on some desirable veggies, flowers and herbs so be careful about planting them too close to other plants. I usually put mine in their own area away from almost everything else. I like planting sunflowers for shade, but I live out in the country where every pest alive devours their foliage and, if allowed, their flower heads, including deer who will strip the stem of a sunflower plant naked in a heartbeat, including eating both blooming flowers and dried seedheads, so for me they are an "inside the fence" plant only. Since you live in town, the deer may not be an issue for you. However, stink bugs, among other pests, love, love, love sunflowers and will be attracted to them so be careful about putting sunflowers close to any of the veggie and ornamental plants they like or you may find you are attracting stink bugs to your garden merely by planting the sunflowers. One good way to use sunflowers is to plant them away from the garden in order to draw the stink bugs away from your garden plants. When you use a plant like this, it is known as a trap plant. In my garden, some years the marigolds are trap plants for spider mites. Once the mites are all over the marigold plants, I pull up the plants and either burn them or seal them up in a black garbage bag and throw them out with the trash. Other years, the spider mites ignore the marigolds and in those years I get to enjoy the marigolds all summer long.

When it comes to planting outside a fence that has a sidewalk, roadway or other public space on the outside of the fence, it is important to remember you shouldn't plant anything that blocks the sidewalk. Also, if you plant anything too pretty or desirable, it may disappear. In areas that are more public, I usually plant tough plants that can handle a lot of abuse, often zinnias or tall verbena (verbena bonariensis) along fencelines, or easy climbers like black-eyed susan vines, morning glories or moonvines. All of those vining plants tend to reseed vigorously and can become invasive. I just consider the volunteer seedings I pull up by the hundreds every year to be the price I pay for growing pretty vines on the fence.

It is hard to make too many specific suggestions without knowing your level of gardening experience, but you have a very nice-sized plot and could grow a lot in it.

I use some of my fences for succession planting. For example, I might plant sugar snap peas, which usually finish up in my area in late May or in early to mid-June in a year with a cool spring, first. After they are done and I've yanked out the spent plants and put them on the compost pile, I might plant a flowering vine that will be in bloom by mid-summer, or a flowering veggie like pole beans for a fall harvest. (Our typical summer heat normally will prevent you from getting much of a yield in summer from beans planted in May or June, but they will grow and will look nice if kept watered, and will bloom and give you beans in the fall.) You can plant cucumbers that late and still get a good harvest, as long as you keep them well-watered so they won't develop an unpleasant bitter flavor. You also could follow a vining cool season crop like sugar snap peas with a vining type of southern pea (cowpeas, black-eyed peas, purplehull pinkeye peas, zipper peas, lady peas or cream peas). My favorite fence-climbing southern pea is known either as Red Ripper or Mandy and it will grow as high as your fence goes and then will cascade back down. In fact, if you plant if by a tree, it will climb 10-20' up into the tree. You could plant a less common vining crop on your fence, like decorative autumn gourds (I like to grow birdhouse gourds on the fence around my corn-growing area), mini pumpkins or luffa gourds. There's just a million options, so have fun with it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Jar Test for Texture

This post was edited by okiedawn on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 16:15

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 4:12PM
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