New here, 10 X 10 community garden potager ideas?

clubcrackerMarch 23, 2012

Hi all,

I am new here, just recently moved from MA where I grew tomatoes and greens in 8X4 raised beds to CT where I'll have a 10X10 tilled plot in a community garden at a local farm.

I would love suggestions on how to plan the space so that the plants have enough room and are placed in relation to one another in a way that most benefits them. I've always struggled with my tomato plants overgrowing their tall supports (not enough pruning?) and with my greens going to seed on the first or second hot day.

I'd love to grow enough to be a good supplement of foods for 2 adults and 1 child. We like beans, peas, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, and greens. There are lots of local farms where I'll be able to pick up freshly grown versions of whatever I can't grow myself.

Suggestions on planning, organization, upkeep, strategy most appreciated! Thanks so much - I've enjoyed checking out this forum and the gorgeous pics of your potagers!

Mary

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HerrGothic

What do you mean "tilled" plot. Does it get re-tilled every year?

If feeding your family is the most important aspect I would transform it into two 10' long raised beds with no more than about 18" of walking room apart. Double dig the beds and use lots of compost on the top to discourage weeds. Maximize your plant spacing by using triangular patterns to grow them equal distrance from each other will also discourage weeds and maximize your harvest. In the fall, be sure to grow a green manure or apply compost to over winter it. No more digging needed.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:23PM
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southshoregardener(z7 NY)

Hi Mary,
I too moved away from MA and am now on LI. I had a large garden there and downsized, so I understand your quandary. I have four 5x5 beds, so a bit more room than you. If I were you, I would plant the tomatoes on the east side so that they do not shade everything else. I find that bush beans do better for me. Peas are an early plant so if you don't plant them soon, it's too late. If you have pea trellises, you can use them for beans or cucs once the peas are done. I prefer using them for cukes. Greens...do you mean lettuce? I grow gobs of it until they bolt. I let them got to seed but in the mean time use the space for beets, radishes, swiss chard. I start these indoors and transplant. Once the lettuce bolts, there is plenty of space. We picked swiss chard from June until Oct last year. I don't plant carrots. They are in my category of not worth the time in a small space since they don't cost much. Eggplant and peppers-I have more luck in containers. I grow my herbs in my flower garden to save space in my potager. You can also check out the square foot gardening forum. I plant more intensively with good success.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:23PM
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oliveoyl3

ditto to the 2 raised beds, but not wider than 4'. The easiest beds to work for me by hand are 3'. It's handy to reach across & use fingers. Think about how you'll be balancing yourself to work the garden... Leaning over, standing up using a tool, on knees using hands?

Fill the path with mulch material. (can be whatever you gather up & something different on top for looks -- cardboard, burlap, are good top layers if that's all you have) When you fill the path up, so it's no longer a ditch -- you can plant more closely to the edges of your garden & the mulch materials holds moisture.

Plan how you'll water the plot before you plant. By hand with a bucket is manageable for your size plot, but plan on spending 1/2 hour doing it 2x a week or more depending on your summer climate/weather.

A great watering tip for larger plants is to drill 2-3 small holes in the bottom of 2 liter soda bottles & bury them leaving the neck exposed so you have room to mulch, too. Then when you water also fill the bottle to slowly drip more water in your absence. It barely shows up once you're done with planting around it and once the plants grow will nearly be invisible. Plan ahead how you'll reach it. I like them at least 12" away from the stem of cucumber, tomato or squash. The roots will get what they need that way & I won't be disturbing them with bumping the bottle.

Maybe even have that be your child's job to fill the jugs. My kids loved doing that when young.

Another idea is to divide up the duties between the adults & child in your family. If you select some plants or an area to be yours to tend it encourages more participation because they own the area. Worked rather well when my children were young. Now hubby is helping more in the garden and selects some things to be his to tend. Makes it more fun for me, too! Someone is always -- in charge-- of the garden, so dividing up ahead of time can avoid some disappointment and arguments about how to -- work it--.

Ask others at the community garden what they do -- should give you the local tips.

Follow square foot gardening spacing & it will be easier for all of you to plant the garden together. OR just make short rows across your divided plot.

Install the supports for your climbers (peas & beans) before you plant. Much easier that way. The simple supports work without breaking the bank. Scrap wood or tree prunings + brown twine can make beautiful supports once covered with beans no one will know you didn't buy the expensive obelisks. We don't bother to paint them because we don't want paint residues though our wood won't last as long.

Even a wooden ladder can be put to use as a support. I use them and always get comments from other gardeners. The non-gardeners don't really like my repurposed materials and think of the rows instead of how I garden, so if you go that route be prepared for some comments from the other community gardeners.

You don't list your zone. In my area we can grow a 2nd crop of cool season vegetables for fall - early spring harvesting. Very productive & less insect damage in the fall, plus the rain waters the garden for me.

I wish your family the best in the gardening adventure. Remember that you will try some things this year, but you have next year, too. It takes years to develop your style & figure it all out to grow a lot of food for your family. When my kids were young we learned together. Then became teens & the garden was no longer an interest. Now my married daughter is growing a good amount of vegetables and fruits for their family. I would not have guessed she'd return to gardening when a teen. We had a lot of fun together as a family or just the kids and I playing games while we worked out there. Be creative with your child and they will work hard with you. I miss my little helpers now.

Have fun together in the garden~
Corrine

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 9:44AM
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clubcracker

Thanks all for your help! I went today to get started, the plot was tilled last week. The adjacent plot was also available so I took it, and now I have 24 X 10 feet to work with - yay!

This morning I hoed out the little weeds that had already sprung and laid out my tomato plants - they are just set in shallow holes but not yet planted.

Seems like most folks use that black plastic weed barrier stuff on their rows. I'm not a fan of plastic, used to use marsh grasses in MA, maybe straw or hay would work here in farm country?

Corinne, great ideas and I'm definitely going to try burying bottles to slowly water the space!

We currently have sweet peas growing in our backyard bed on a homemade teepee that we put together with some nice downed branches and a flexible vine "tie" - I love it.

Southshore, I will try some chard - do you direct sow it? I've seen it in 6 packs but it does not seem very economical that way. Also considering some colder weather lettuce or spinach once my beloved mesclun and arugula bolt. :)

HerrGothic, it is tilled every year, and compost worked in from the farm of which the community garden is part. Fun stuff, I feel really lucky to have this space to work in!

Thanks again, and I'm off to look at more pictures of your gardens!

Mary

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 1:05PM
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oliveoyl3

Mary,
You're making progress each time you visit your garden plus it's exercise when you bend down, twist, and work with garden tools. There are no health club fees either!

Seeds are less expensive, but there is a lot in the packets so perhaps you can trade with nearby gardeners in the other plots. For most people 6 chard plants is plenty, so the transplants might be good enough for this year. Before you plant new vegetables you might want to try purchasing and eating 1st though a bit of experimenting can be fun. When our kids were young they picked out seeds according to the pictures on the seed packets at the store.

Our married daughter ate all colors of swiss chard prepared in various ways while she lived here, but didn't like it too much especially when I had planted way too many squares of the beauty. The plants overwinter well, so we eat them nearly year round planting them every mid-spring. One of her 1st garden plans last year when they bought a house was that she would NOT grow chard and was proud of it!

A trick I've learned is to plant transplants at the same time as seeds, then we have a 2nd crop as long as the transplants did okay and was a backup if our seeds didn't germinate. Our soils are too wet & cold until April to plant most things unless you have the beds covered with a cloche. We have brief breaks in our rainy weather, so the planting window is narrow. Using both transplants & seeds helps speed up the harvest. It was also motivating to have the growing plants to look at while we waited for seeds to grow. It's especially hard to be patient as a beginning gardener. Spreading out the planting is called succession planting and is key to eating fresh from your garden throughout the growing season. Otherwise your entire crop is ready and you can't eat it all up. Preserving is a great option, but time is short sometimes in midsummer, so you might want to freeze it for later processing in the fall when the rains return. Especially since you're not gardening at your home, you'll appreciate smaller more frequent harvests that can easily be cut & put in a cooler for taking back home.

I dislike weeding, so prefer mulch to keep my weeds under control. It takes much less time to mulch than to battle weeds. Spread after a rain when the soil is wet rather than when it's dry & dusty.

Try overlapping layers of newspaper as mulch & cover with your own dried grass clippings as long as no weed & feed products were used. A bale of straw goes a long way & can be set in the garden space then remove the string and take what you need after planting. The more it gets weathered the easier it will be keep the clumps together. I have used it dry, but much prefer to use it already wet.

You might want to visit the vegetable gardening or organic gardening forums for more ideas.

Corrine

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 6:50PM
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