1st Veggie Garden (San Antonio) - Some Questions
This is my first post here, and before I start off with questions I just want to say how much I appreciate all of you for sharing your knowledge in these forums. Every web search I've done recently points me here eventually, so I figured I'd just sign up and start interacting more personally. So here I go!
Some basic background:
I live in Guadalupe County (just NE of San Antonio) and have finally decided to do a garden. I decided on a vegetable/fruit/herb mixed garden in my wide-open backyard (no trees). The whole thing gets full sun for all of about the last 2 hours of daylight, and it's just chock-full of some pretty hardy weeds. I tried digging into it to amend the soil, but seems my very bad back has second thoughts. So, I've gone with raised beds.
I've done one that is 10' x 10' x 8" with 3 rows inside (these have some compost and peat moss mixed in at the bottom, and then a bit more compost mixed in with miracle-gro garden soil (which was way more expensive than I thought it would be) and a very light layer of mulch dusted across the rows (not even a half-inch worth). I have also just setup another area of 4 boxes that are 16" x 16" x 12" but haven't filled them yet. The former was what I had cleared out when I thought I was going to dig...the boxes I just bought on-sale and thought I'd do a bit of experimenting with them.
Now my questions:
1) When I was digging in the 10'x10'x8" area I noticed I had a light spreading of earthworms about 2" below the surface. I had not expected those, so I'm hoping if I do lasagna-gardening around November that I can start some positive changes in my soil there. How many years of that method do you think it will take to make a decent impact in that section?
2) I also noticed a few white grub-like things in the soil, and I've never seen those before but from what I have read they don't seem to be beneficial despite being a sign of life in the soil. Are these a danger to my garden? If so, what's the best way to protect against them?
3) I am having some issues with seedlings I've planted about a week ago:
3a) 2 species of yellow squash - one species (roundish leaves) keeps getting paler and paler (started on the bottom but now all the leaves are doing it) so the leaves seem less green and more yellow now (and both seedlings of that species have flopped over since about 3 days ago, but the leaves are not wilted or anything). I'm hoping this is either a water issue or a result of the colder evenings we've had this last week, but I just wanted to check.
3b) In the other 2 seedlings of a different yellow squash species, (elongated leaves) there is not any yellowing, and they haven't flopped over, but one of the seedlings has had 2 of the bigger leaves toward the top suddenly turned very dry on part of the edges with a pale brownish look to those parts of the leaves. I've pinched those leaves off, but suspect whatever it is will soon show up in the other leaves if I don't fix it - any advice on how to fix this?
3c) 2 strawberry seedlings - on retrospect I shouldn't have gone with these 2 as they were looking under watered when I bought them but after transplanting they perked right up so I didn't think much of it...but a week later the leaves are folding up and they have a dark kind of moldy look. I'm guessing a fungus... I bought some neem oil, which may or may not help, so before I start spraying the garden I thought I'd ask if it is even possible to save these strawberries? Is Neem oil more/less effective than something else someone could recommend? I am hoping for both effective and organic, but I am not willing to sacrifice everything I've planted just to stay organic - if that makes sense. Any advice here will definitely be appreciated.
4) So far my tomato seedlings are doing nicely - no color weirdness or fungus evidence. I have purchased a rope-style trellis that I intend to hang - in order to help support them as they grow, but wanted to see if this was going to be more trouble than it is worth...I don't like the cages because I always freak out about putting my hand into dense vegetation (creepy crawly things are in those places!), but I can deal with it if the cages are a better choice. Do you think it's 6 of one half-dozen of the other or do you think one is going to be easier than the other?
5) For my new area with the boxes I'll be doing, I've purchased some pea gravel, coarse sand, and different types of compost-mixes (I have 3 different kinds) and I still have some peat moss and some mulch. I wanted to build these up with a better set of layers for better drainage and deeper soil structure. In total - how much of each of these types would you recommend? I was figuring on mixing the sand and gravel and laying 2" at the bottom of the boxes and then mixing the composts and peat moss together (in a 1 to 4 ratio) for another 1 inch layer and then filling the remaining 9 inches with garden soil. BUT, I can't decide if the peat moss is needed, nor if I should use more or less compost - or if I should be mixing part or all of the peat moss and compost with the garden soil... how do I fill these things appropriately for good drainage and optimal soil depth? These boxes are configurable (putting 2 of the 16" x 16" x 6" boxes on top of each other is how I'm getting the 12" depth) so I can always add more on top for deeper soil, that's not a problem. I just need to know what my ratio of fill components should be. I plan to grow various things in each box I put in - from shallow to medium root veggies. I don't think I'm going to attempt anything with a requirement for more than 18" depth. Please let me know your thoughts on the fill components and the ratio I should use.
6) Herbs - I have a few indoor pots of herbs I would love to transplant as I've been reading about companion planting, but I've never done that here in Texas and I am wondering if the summer heat would kill them off - especially as there is zero shade anywhere in the backyard. I have basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, mint, dill, and chamomile. Anyone had any luck keeping such herbs alive through summer?
Also, if any of you have any links for some good growing guides for this area that would be fantastic. I don't want to be stuck only growing things like okra and squash so websites or tips with how to grow a variety of others would be most appreciated!