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Light thread: anyone have advice for getting started in gardening?
October 4, 2009
10:44 pm
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onlyboringontheoutside
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I'd like to bolster my love of cooking by including produce from a garden I will (in theory!) tend myself. I would like to be outside more, and I think this would be a great way to get myself aired out a little more often.

I have serious doubts that I am capable, since I've always felt overwhelmed when faced with a yard. I feel like a klutz, and don't know the first thing about getting started. I desperately want to be capable!

Anyone here like to garden? If so, how did you get into it? Words of advice? Resources to recommend? Funny stories to share? Encouragement to offer? Please?

🙂

October 5, 2009
11:27 am
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risingfromtheashes
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you don't need to go whole hog.

if you are intimidated by the idea of tearing up sod, preparing the soil, planting, tending, weeding, etc....then do what I LOVE to do.

First - get buckets - can be as simple as CLEAN 5 gallon buckets, clay pots, plastic planters.

Size of the container will depend on what you want to grow.

you can grow tomato plants in those upside down containers - or just get a 5-gallon pail, plant it, then put a stake in it and tie up the plant as it grows.

You can use regular soil and add fertilizer, or if you have the budget, get regular potting mix, which has all the nutrients you need.

you won't be able to grow crops like corn this way, BUT, you can grow tomatoes, cukes (you can tie them up as they grow), green beans (get pole bean variety), strawberries, some citrus plants (depending on your zone).

Now - this year I had the most bountiful year - this is what we did.

I did raised bed gardening.

we used 2x6x8 studs to make the beds, wtih 4x4 corners - you could also fasten them with aluminum "L" brackets, but I priced them and they were costly for the amount we needed.

My beds are 4' wide and 8' long.

we put black plastic down first - then poked multiple holes for drainage - the plastic keeps the weeds out and helps warm the soil.

then we made the boxes and put them over the plastic - no "bottom" on the boxes, just four walls.

then we filled the boxes with AGE OLD horse manure - you can fill them with anything - if you have time, look up lasagna gardening (sounds fascinating and a great idea) - for us, we had 10 year old manure at our disposal....many farmers will give away manure for next to nothing if you pick it up.

then we just planted the seeds, and kept them well watered.

we didn't have too many weeds to content with because the manure didn't have much to begin with.

our plots did well.

here's what I learned this year - 1) I only need ONE spaghetti squast and ONE zucchini plant. 2) using old seeds means putting MORE in the soil cuz many may not come up (didn't have many cukes cuz of this). 3) I didn't need so many grape tomato plants as I couldn't keep up with eating them and they don't make good sauces and such. 4) had I planted earlier and covered with white or clear plastic, I would have had better crops of corn and such, as they take longer.

we also used old tires - we rinsed them out, put plastic under and around them and then filled them and planted them - these were great for watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and squashes....putting plastic around them kept the grass and weeds from growing and gave them "clean" places to run and grow.

another idea (if you can afford it) is buying bags of potting mix - laying them on the ground, cut off the top plastic layer and poke holes for drainage in the bottom - then put a few plants in there.....you can reuse them as long as you cover them up when done and refertilize next season.

you can even grow peas on the porch by planting them in a long box, and then giving them some netting to grow up - I saw agway stores have "kits" for this already made....simple to make yourself for cheaper tho.

start small - pick some items you will really enjoy - alot of people do tomatoes cuz they are pretty easy...but you can do herbs and lettuce indoors on your windowsill too.

hope this helps

October 5, 2009
12:22 pm
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oboto!

Firstly, that's a wholesome quest and one which you have every right to explore.

I know exactly what you mean, when you say you feel inept or out of your depth...I used to think I should leave it to the experts, when really there's no reason on earth to think that tending to plants, vegetables, herbs and flowers is for a select group only!

You have all the resources available to you...if you have a yard and live in a temperate zone where there's seasons, rain and sunshine. And the will to start!

I live with a guy who thinks he's good at everything, and he even 'took over' the garden we share....until I took the step of getting involved and not feeling inadequate.

I have a few ferns, flowers, some herbs, and this year I even grew some corn on the cob in pots. Getting my hands dirty, and just doing it, was the key to overcoming the feeling that only other people can garden. And it is rewarding, no doubt!

Good luck with your garden...

~charlie~ x

October 5, 2009
6:51 pm
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beginagain
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I'm from a farming background !! So start off simple and work your way up to more challenging growing. It's such a brilliant hobby in every way - take it easy at first and don't take everyone's advice - people always seem to know more!!! just start growing what you really like and learn about that as you go along - but most of all really really enjoy it.

October 5, 2009
8:51 pm
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It No Longer Matters
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It's some dirt, some fertilize, and water, and a plant and if you mess up who really knows? Ask the gardening supply store or check out some books at the library and most of all, plant what makes you happy and have fun.

Bitsy

October 5, 2009
10:01 pm
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onlyboringontheoutside
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You are all so fabulous, thank you for responding, Rising, Charlie and Begin! I think I will try out the potting with some herbs and see where it goes. I have seen rosemary and other herbs for sale at Home Depot, so I guess there's no harm in starting small and seeing what happens. I'll have to work my way up to tomatoes, cuz I love 'em and wouldn't want to do them wrong without a little practice on something else first!

Again, the help and hellos felt really good to my soul. I'm around people all the time, but sometimes, I still get lonely and just need a friendly greeting and a shared word something that doesn't involve my paycheck or my family. *hugs to all*

October 6, 2009
4:58 am
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At the risk of perceived pretension, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from some writing (I am a writer of contemporary fiction), that actually shows something of myself, this was catharsis for me.....

Seeds are merely husks, tiny, dry as tinder sticks, just bursting to grow. She sprinkles them, liberally at first as though they’re cracked peppercorns, then delicately, as precious spices, onto a bed of soil.

There’s a pause then, as the sky peers at them, braising them with sunlight. She fills a metal can with tap water. Droplets, in a high arc drench the beds, quenching the earth ~ the moisture cloaking the seeds with a treacle-dark broth of nutrients.

And still, for a while, nothing.

Kneeling as though in prayer, each day, tending to the earth, she waits with hopeful concentration, until the vibrancy emerges. Pearl-green shoots pierce the air, and life is drawn from the soil, like flames from bark and breath.

A life force rages, softly, behind the bins. A silent thrum. Plainsong.

Behind the old cafe, where the tarmac bubbles and blisters, is an oasis of frills and shoots and stalks. All of them green as a forest, green as the sea. Now the hollowed grey concrete breezeblocks and the old oil drums sing.

~charlie~ x

October 6, 2009
10:22 am
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onlyboringontheoutside
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That is beautiful prose, Charlie.

October 6, 2009
11:13 am
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It No Longer Matters
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Thanks Charlie.

Bitsy

October 6, 2009
3:11 pm
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chelonia mydas
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Oboto,

This is a great hobby. I love gardening. Do you have a local garden club or master gardener group? I was a member of the master gardeners when I lived in Texas. And its really not as intimidating as their name implies. Its actually a 40 hour class that you take to learn about gardening. Then you join the group of other folks that love gardening and you share plants, ideas and problem solving. There were many folks with loads of experience that I learned from. When white bugs covered my lantanas they knew to chop them down to the ground, that the chemicals the local garden shop was trying to sell me wouldn't work. They then continued to reassure me that it was OK to cut it to the ground that it really would grow back and they were right. They also sent out an e-mail when an area was going to be cleared for development so we could go in and take any plants we wanted to rescue for free. A lot of my butterfly garden and fruit trees at my house in TX are from freebees through the master gardener club.

Just google the name of your county or state with the term master gardener or garden club or native plant society/club to see what is in your area. It might be a great way to get advice on local gardening.

October 6, 2009
4:09 pm
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chelonia mydas
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Charlie,

What a beautiful passage. I think I would enjoy the rest of the book too. Thanks for sharing.

October 6, 2009
4:28 pm
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MsGuided
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Thanks Chelonia!

October 6, 2009
10:27 pm
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onlyboringontheoutside
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Bitsy, I think maybe I cross posted with you and missed your response. Or I just plain missed it! Thank you for the advice on having fun. 🙂 I forget about that. I've got this big ole quest for perfection that paralyzes me from even starting.

Chelonia, I will see what sorts of master groups are in my area, and heck, there have to be some sort of "Gardening 101" classes around here.

Thank you all for the positive encouragement and kind words. Means a lot.

October 7, 2009
11:47 am
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risingfromtheashes
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you really can't screw up tomatoes - just get a big pail - like I mentioned - doesn't have to be expensive - and a bag of potting soil or garden soil (potting soil has more water retention stuff in it) - with a nail (or drill) poke holes in bottom edge of pail - I do this on the sides so water can drain even better - you could put some rocks in bottom to keep all dirt from draining out, but not always necessary - fill pail with soil - dig hole in dirt (or leave room to add dirt later) - turn tomato plant over (upside down) holding hand over the area where soil meets stem - and tap the pot to get plant out (walmart has plants that are in cardboard like containers that can be planted as is - only removing label and maybe poking a hole or two - I use these and just rip bottom off, leaving sides to hold soil together.

you can plant up to 2/3 of the whole tomato plant under the soil - will help it grow stronger - add dirt to fill hole and water water water.

make sure you keep soil damp (not soaked) - checking daily as container gardens dry out easily....as it grows, find a sturdy stick or stake - and drive it into soil near stem - as tomato grows use twine (or pieces of cut up pantyhose) to support branches.

because you are using potting or garden soil, you don't need to worry about fertilizer.

remember - children are capable of growing things - the most basic premise is that you stick a seed into the ground and it grows - perhaps it may not - but sometimes it's trial and error.

you can drive yourself crazy trying to learn how to create and control the perfect growing conditions for each plant you want - there is tons of info everywhere....just remember, it's only as difficult as you make it.

October 9, 2009
1:32 am
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onlyboringontheoutside
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I think I'll take me a little trip to home depot this weekend and see what kind of containers and seeds and dirt I can find. You've all been so inspiring!

October 9, 2009
9:09 pm
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chelonia mydas
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If you live in a temperate climate in the Northern Hemisphere, you might still be able to put bulbs in the ground for spring. It you are too far North though, you might be past that window. But it is fun to see them pop up in the spring. Talk to the local garden shop or a great resource that I LOVE is Dave's Garden website at http://davesgarden.com/
There is different levels of membership and I've only done the free one. Even at the free level there is a ton of info and resources. I've had many successful plant trades, where I trade plants/seeds/cuttings of stuff I have extra for stuff that I want. All it costs is the shipping and its so much fun.

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