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Apr 8, 2013 03:44 AM

What are some tips you would give someone who is just about to grow their first garden?

So im tired of produce going bad on me, especially on my college budget, so I decided im going to grow a garden. If it helps, i live in nyc. Im already looking at composted poultry manure. I would have sent a soil sample for analysis but im afraid of delaying my garden any longer as I would have to wait 6 weeks and I rather use the $75 to do this for something else. Is there anything I should make sure to do? What shouldn't I do? What doesn't grow well next to each other? If it helps, I want to plant herbs, including chervil which is impossible to find at the grocery store, as well as Nantes carrots, Bibb lettuce, Fennel, Leeks, Celery, haricot verts, and peas. Im hoping to grow savoy cabbage, kale, and spinach but im not sure if its too late for them at this time. Perhaps a shade cloth would help should it gets too warm. My plants will be sharing an area with my parents' onions, tomatoes, eggplants, chiles, and squash.

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  1. I don't have any experience with celery but I'm trying cutting celery from seed this year.
    Get your peas in ASAP. They don't like hot weather. You should be able to follow them with a crop of lettuce. I used to plant carrots next to my peas so the quick growing peas would mark the carrot row. Carrots like moisture so I wouldn't forget to water them but they really do better in their own row. Here in NH we let a row of carrots planted late over-winter under straw (bale of straw was $8 at farm and feed store). We just dug them last week. They were planted where garlic had been grown since it is harvested in late July/early August.
    Sorry, no experience growing fennel and I haven't done well with leeks which are on my list this year to do a better job at growing.
    Chervil is an annual. I don't like to plant annuals and perennial herbs together although I will plant some hot peppers in my herb bed. Know the difference between a hardy perennial (i.e. sage and thymes) and a tender perennial (lemon verbena, rosemary).
    See if you can pickup some garden fabric called Remay or Agribon (Johnny's Selected Seeds). Sometimes in stores as a garden blanket. If I can protect a row during an early mid-sept frost, it will go another couple of weeks. This is how I get a late planting of haricot verts.
    Dill has self-seeded in my garden. If you can get your spinach in the ground now, try it. Otherwise, wait until the planting date for a fall crop in your area. Kale and spinach can take quite a bit of frost. In fact, I just uncovered a row of spinach (the other half of that bale of straw) that I planted maybe last August. I'm pretty sure I picked into Oct and Nov. This is the second winter that spinach has come thru the winter for me. No sign of the kale but it did fine until we got some real low temperatures.
    Get a good hand weeding tool (cobra head).
    Use fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizer (liquids) whenever you transplant and until plant is established.
    Check lettuce varieties. You might do better with one variety in summer and a different in the cooler months.
    Don't pick beans when the leaves are wet - you can spread disease (rust?). Keep beans picked. If a plant isn't kept picked, it figures its job is done and peters out.
    Get a used copy of Square Foot Gardening and follow spacing guides. Put wet newspaper down on the paths and cover with grass clippings to keep down weeds. Pull weeds before they get big.
    THIN the carrots to proper spacing!

    I think you can assume you probably have average soil, a bit on the acid side. The only vegetable I have found that seems to prefer a higher ph is beets so I always add lime to that bed.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      Wow. Im wondering if I should tip you for your answer lol. I found a pdf of the Square Foot Gardening online and it seems reasonable. I plan to employ his methods as well as in-ground gardening as he recommends his method mostly because of the time it takes to bring soil to maximum fertility. Might as well start now.

      In the meantime I already have a soil sample ready to goa and i'll have the square foot garden ready this weekend. Found out the University of Massachusetts will do a test much cheaper (only$10) than my state's Extension Office and relatively quickly.

      1. re: iamreptar

        I love SFG and think the majority of home gardeners could benefit from his techniques. Most of us grow TOO MUCH.

        1. re: c oliver

          I've ended up combining ideas with Lasagna gardening - a no till method. And now I'm trying some soil amendments like granite meal and alfafa meal. Have my fingers crossed that our usual source of well composted horse manure is still available. I can get free steer manure but it hasn't been composted and I don't like the way it cakes up. We finally moved the compost bins to a better location so I should start mixing the steer manure with kitchen scraps and leaves.

          Years ago I didn't pay attention to soil fertility and surely I could skip one year of composed manure. So one year I planted spinach early (it has to go in the ground as soon as possible in spring) before the manure came. Then I planted a second bed after adding the manure. Wow, what a difference in the size of the plants. Good looking plants vs incredible looking. So don't stop working on your soil.

          Also way back I had limited space. One available patch was only 3x3 but in went some bush bean seeds. That little patch provided several meals.

          When we moved here I built 2 lasagna beds. We have plenty of space but very thick sod. It was easier to use the lasagna method and not buy a tiller. I had plenty of time so the beds were at least 24" taller than the surrounding ground but it didn't take more than 2 years for them to deflate. All those leaves etc broke down and there's lots of worms.

          I agree that there's a tendency to plant a whole packet of seeds or plant an entire row when maybe 3' of space is all you need for something (turnip is not popular at my house). I try to time things so I don't have too many bush beans since I don't want to can/freeze them, just eat fresh. I also work with short rows (only 2 of us) maybe 10-12' long.

          Best wishes!

    2. You might want to do some container gardening, which gives you the option to move your plants around as you get a feel for the soil, sun exposure, etc. I like this method for herbs in particular. Oh, and don't plant mint with *anything* else in a will take over.

      1 Reply
      1. re: susan1353

        Even mint in a container will escape - this is the voice of experience! I saw a clever idea years ago. They used a wheelbarrow for planting lettuces that could be moved to and from the sun.

      2. Buy a chest freezer and learn how to can, pickle, and freeze your produce. Or use your parent's. Veggies and herbs tastes so much better in the winter when you know it is yours.

        1. Acquire a pair of kneeling pads!

          Did you try a state agricultural agent for a soil test?

          The first year, try the easy ones from seed, buy plants that are harder to raise from seed from the nursery. (From your list, I would guess lettuce, carrots, peas, kale, spinach are fairly easy.)

          Make sure poultry manure is well-composted.

          3 Replies
          1. re: DonShirer

            My state's extension office is pretty expensive and there is a 6 week wait. Its $75 for a basic test so im sending my soil to UMass and they're going to test it for only $10. :)

            1. re: DonShirer

              The ones you mention, definitely from seed. But for things like tomatoes and squash (which OP might not do since her parents do) I buy the plants. There are just two of us so a couple of each is plenty.

            2. Find out about local Master Gardener programs, the volunteers can be very helpful to beginners.