how would you start a brand new garden

zippity1February 7, 2013

dh and i are signing papers on a piece of land tomorrow, about 4 acres -we're going to build a retirement home, shop and of course my garden
i've never started on a brand new garden before and i'm not sure what i want to do or what to do first
we're going to be 20 miles from the gulf-about 50 miles west of galveston
over a hundred years ago the area was a sugar cane plantation, then a cattle ranch, then a rice farm in some areas lots of big trees, lots of huge prairie,
our land has 44 live oak trees about 40 to 45 ft apart- about
25 ft tall- we have a market for many of the trees
anyway the third lot is the one where the garden will be
absolutely flat, no vegetation except some grass haven't checked but it's likely gumbo soil
how would you start? i'm thinking of only "cultivating" the
back yard area to start with (and a bit around the foundation)
what would you like to do first or what did you do that you wish you hadn't- when you started your garden

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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Congrats on your new land. What I wouldn't give for a few acres of "tabula rasa" to build my dreamscape from scratch!

Don't know if you mean vegetable garden or perennial beds/ gardens ... but what I would do personally is spend the first year planning. Try to get a real feel for how the sun hits your property, how rain drains when it pours (and it will in that area), how you plan to live in your space (outdoor living areas, patios/decks, grandkid play areas, etc.), and install your hardscape (paths, bed borders, pergolas, garden shed, etc.) You can also improve your bed or vege garden plots during this year - amending soil, adding organic matter, building raised beds if you like those.

If all you're wanting to do is get a vege plot going before the house is built, you need to get in there now and amend the soil on some space. It'll be too late to plant spring veges pretty soon in Zone 9 - so I'd be getting going pronto!

Good luck

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 11:14PM
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Robyn is giving great advice. I would need to plant something, somewhere to see how things grow and because I was never strong on patience or planning.

But, a wise retiree gave me these words after spending a year to plan his new home:
"When you can have it just the way you like it, it takes time figure out just what that is."

Cheering you on!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:13AM
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Lynn Marie

When I read the title of your post I said, "I can answer that! I just started a new garden!" But then when I read your post I thought my experience with my new 8'X8' backyard garden can't compare to what you want/can do! We'd all like to see pictures of your land and your garden as you go along though.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:30AM
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Bryan Scott

Yes, some before and after pics sometimes scratches the itch....or sometimes makes it worse :o)

I'll add to the already excellent posts above. First I have a couple questions that I feel are really important, then some that are not so much. All have to do with planning.

-Are you doing flower or vegetable garden?
-Are you doing raised beds or plant into the existing soil?
If existing soil, I would recommend starting with a good soil test. The best that I have heard of around GW forums is from Logan Labs in Ohio. But you can also send some samples to Texas A&M. Once you get soil results, it will tell you what you are lacking in your soil. Now proceed to next question with regards to what you amend your soil with.
-Are you doing organic or non-organic.
-How are you getting water to your garden?
-Is there room (and money) for a rain cistern of some kind to supplement watering needs during our Texas heat?
-Is there adequate direct sun (minimum 6+ hours) for what you want to plant? If trees are shading out the area, you will not have much luck with growing things.

Ok, now for some of the not-so-important-but-still-important.

-Are you familiar with this area or are you moving from somewhere else. Reason- check average rainfall for area, first and last frost dates, ect.
-What kind of wildlife, if any, will you be dealing with? Will they require putting up something to keep them out?
-Do you already own any kind of large garden tools, like a tiller?

These are just some things off the top of my head to think about. The most important thing to start with in my opinion, is if you are doing raised beds or will plant into existing soil. If existing soil, then get a soil test, and spend the first growing season prepping your soil. If you have to add anything to the soil, it will require tilling it in. The second most important thing to me is to answer how you will get water to your garden. Will you need to run an irrigation line to your garden? Does this require a permit of some sort to do so? What about a rain catching cistern? Not only do you have to think about how to get water to your garden, you have to think about how you will distribute it throughout your garden. PVC drip irrigation grid is about as easy as it can get other than a series of soaker hoses.

Anyways, I know that's a lot of info to think about, but if you plan right in the first place, you will enjoy your garden on into the future and will actually have to work less.

Hope this helps in some way,

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:34AM
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thank you all sooo much
here's more information i will not be planting this year
but will be planting next year so i have time for planning and working on the beds
i'm planning for some veggies okra tomatoes lettuce squash and cukes maybe a couple of melons peppers no peas, corn, or large crops
i'd like several citrus (i have 3 now in enormous pots) -
gave away over 5 dozen meyer lemons during the holidays-plus all i had space for in the freezer

id like some herbs roses and just other interesting plants
including pride of barbados, rangoon creeper, salvias,
so it's easier to say what i would not plant than what i would plant
the area i want to work with will face south no trees to the south for about 1/2 mile some trees to the east but not
for maybe 100 feet or so
we will have a well and i'd love a cistern or water conservation of some kind but that may be out of the question for a while and i will be doing drip irrigation
i do want to do raised beds (for drainage and gumbo soil
and my creaky old bones)
i'd like to not have grass in the area at all just beds
and walks etc don't know if that's going to be a popular
idea with dh his brain is so full of "other stuff" right
now i hate to approach him with garden ideas/questions

my biggest problem may be wildlife there are deer everywhere millions of them i'll have to go for a lot
of things deer don't care much for (rosemary grows extremely well here don't know about there) it'll be a while before i get my "electric fence"
i look at bossjim1's pics and drool if i live to along with many others here on gw
i'll get a soil test within the next month as a start
i'm familiar with the area-very long growning season, but it's really hot and humid, but sometimes suffers from drought (like last year) lots of skeeters yuck
i've lived in the area before sometimes there are no days below freezing and i've actually been there (1983) when it stayed between 10 and 25 degrees for a week)
i am so excited.......

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:12PM
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Okokok- There's some really excellent suggestions that have been posted above- checking the soil, thinking about water sources, drainage, etc that I totally agree with. Our house is only on 2 acres and sometimes it's a little overwhelming to try to get an overall vision of what you want to try to do with so much space.

I might add a couple of things. One thing about deer is that their feeding patterns are somewhat predictable. In other words if they find a food source they keep coming back because they know they're likely to find it again. One article I read said that if you anticipate deer to be an issue in your garden it's a good idea to set up whatever barriers you plan on using BEFORE they get used to coming to that area for their "salad bar". They'll be more determined if you try to set it up afterwards because they know what's behind the barriers.

Another idea I like is planning a garden in phases. A friend worked with a landscape designer and came up with an overall plan. Then he broke it down into manageable phases. What was really neat was that he put the phases onto papers that layered on top of each other so she could see how everything would evolve over time. As she started working on her yard if she had a different idea she just redrew the paper to see how it would fit with everything else. So it was a pretty flexible plan.

Good luck with your new property. Lisa

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 10:23PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Wow -- some great tips from wisdom gained of experience has been put to words by all the above posters. I'm impressed.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:43AM
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Bryan Scott

One more thing- a graph paper pad from your local office supply store can help out a lot with planning. Draw to your heart's content! A "to scale" layout of different garden designs is an excellent way to start. Same for a watering layout and plant placement

With the raised beds and your "creaky old bones" .... :o) the beds do not necessarily have to be on the ground. You can "table top" them, which is basically putting the beds on legs of some sort (wood, stone, cinderblocks....). I have a surgically repaired back and cannot do as much bending over as I would like to, so this year I will be trying out different styles of raised beds with regards to drainage, planting depth, ect. I'll be looking at traditional wooded beds, table top, as well as cinderblocks. Not to mention the art of vertical gardening (trellises, ect).

Anyways, again, pictures pictures pictures!!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Hilary McDaniel

We recently retired and decided to start new "keyhole" gardens. 2 of them will feed a family of 4 year round. Go a google on them. We got tired of 18" raised beds. Our backs said to try something else. These beds are 3' high, 6' diameter. Made of landscape bricks. In the center a wire mesh tube to put your waste for making compost. Really cool. Several Master Gardener friends here and Austin have been doing this and works great. Saves the back, water effientcy, fun and cosmetically pretty. Keeps out all sorts of critters.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:36PM
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WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a(7b8a)

I visited a home garden and thought the owner had a good idea for temporary walkways until solid ones could be put in. She removed all grass from the "walkways" and covered them with shredded paper and watered them. Surprisingly, the paper stayed put.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:33PM
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If there are still rice farms in the area you can have rice hulls trucked in for reasonable cost as part of your organic amendments. If all you have is clay gumbo, you've got to start with your soil and improve it.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 8:50AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

What I did to build a brand new garden at the new house...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:01AM
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Lin barkingdogwoods

There was a good article on keyhole gardening in an issue of Texas Co-Op Power magazine last year - I included a link to it here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Keyhole Gardening

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:29AM
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Lin, I've never heard of keyhole gardening, but would love to have a couple. Thanks for posting article.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:35PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

My heavens Lou! I hope you didn't have to dig those rocks out of that hole. Whatever, it looks exciting. I can't wait to see and hear more about what you are doing to build a new garden.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:22PM
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