Just Started A Garden

TheExcitedGrowerJanuary 28, 2013

Hello! I'm 16 years old and I just started a garden. I really need alot of help and information and I was hoping if I joined this forum you guys could help me along the way.

I started off by digging a patch ( i'm not sure the length ) probably around 7-10 feet by 4 feet.(this measurement is completlely wrong and I will be posting a picture tomorrow). The patch is about 2 inches deep of fresh bought soil. Now before I did this I plowed abunch of the soil from the natural Earth ( with a tool I dont know the name of ) and removed alot of the roots. Keep in mind I have no knowledge of gardening and I was very excited.. Anywho the soil seemed nice and smooth. So I evened it out. Then I layed the bought soil over the ground soil. There was abunch of clumps, so me and my brother went in and squished all the clumps, so that the soil was smooth. Then I leveled it all out.

Now this is why I came here becuase I was scared, that this might ruin the whole thing. The whole patch is BELOW ground level. The flat ground/grass around it it like about a inch or 2 above the patch. Now i'm pretty sure that's not good due to the fact I read alot about '' Raised Beds". We didn't buy enough soil. I'm a very impatient guy ( ironic becuase gardening takes alot of patience) I went in and planted everything.

I divided the garden. We bought one plant of jalapenos. 8 cucumber plants. 8 cantaloupes seeds which sprouted in a pot a week before and now have leaves. And one spearment plant. I gave the cantaloupes and spearment alot of room becuase i'm pretty sure there going to need it and the cucumbers and jalapenos I put to the side. Again i'll post a picture tomorrow. I watered them decently before it got dark, again I think this was a mistake but I was impatient. I'm going to check on everything tommorow. Oh yeah I plan on buying some terraces to put on the cantaoupes and cumcumbers and jalapenos. I also plan to divide the spearment very harshley becuase I know they spread and take over. I've been growing spearmint for 4 years. I use it for tea.

I hope this wasn't to much to absorb. I plan on being more clear in future posts but i'm terribly tired and wanted to get some insite on this " lowered garden ". Hopefully it could have a positive effect? :D I apoligze for the horrible grammer and spelling.

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squirrellypete(z7b AL)

Well, congratulations on starting your new garden! I got the gardening bug around your age too. In my opinion the three primary reasons I think people use raised beds are 1. Because the height is easier on the back (less bending over), 2. to improve drainage in the bed if their natural soil drains poorly (like mine does), and 3. To avoid the labor of tilling or double digging the existing ground.

As to your sunken garden, whether it's a bad thing really depends on the kind of rainfall you get. If your area is usually dry-ish it could be a blessing to help collect the rain during storms when they come....if you get decent frequent soakers it could be a curse. You will have to monitor it and judge for yourself if improvement is needed. You're in Florida though so assuming you have somewhat sandy soil I would guess it may not be as much of a concern as it would for people with more compact soils....maybe some Floridians can chime in here on that. I am often envious of your sandy soils and add sand as well as compost to my heavy clay soil to improve drainage in my daylily field.

This year will be very much an experimental year for you (as will probably every year that follows if you're anything like me lol). Your plants were just planted so you could probably still pop them back out and add more dirt to raise the soil level if you are able to get more quickly. Otherwise, you can just roll with what you have this year but before you prepare to plant your next crop (be it fall or next Spring) raise your soil level up above ground level before doing so. Also, I think it's probably adviseable next time to till or mix that purchased soil into the existing soil base that you plowed up underneath instead of laying it on top. If the new stuff is richer in nutrients and easier for roots to grow through then those roots may just decide to hang out in the top layer and not go as deeply as they should. Deeper roots promote sturdier plants in general (obviously unless you're growing a plant that is naturally shallow rooted).

You will probably also find that you will quickly run out of space if the plot is only 40 or so square feet and you've planted 8 cucumbers and 8 cantaloupes plus other stuff. Growing them vertically on whatever you plan to buy for them will definitely help but that still sounds overly crowded to me....my cuke plants can easily sprawl 12 or more feet long, depending on the variety.

If you have the room on your property and you find you enjoy the challenge and benefits of gardening you can always expand your planting area(s) each year.

Good luck with your growing and have fun!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 12:58AM
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Thank's for the response Danielle. There's a picture of the patch. I'm quite embarrassed. I came back today and i'm really afraid! There are tiny ant piles forming! Oh no! I quickly and desperately shoved my fingers in them and tried to obliterate them. This was in the Mint section, hopefully not to bad. I pray they wont come back.

Anywho, what I did was I dug out about a shovel length of dirt to create the square. Then I plowed the white sand to take out the tiny roots. Then I laid the bought soil over it. The soils are pretty much the same density the sand being thinner. So I don't think the roots will have a problem going down. Although they might stay for the nutrients in the better soil. At the time I wasn't sure I should have mixed them... now I know i should have. I got home late so it's to late to do it today. Maybe I could do it tomorrow? What do you think. Should I remove them to do this and maybe add some more dirt?

I have a question, my cucumber plants are drooping down like there to big.. I pushed them down deeper into the soil and pushed dirt on the sides to try to support it but I don't think that's a good idea... And isn't it to early for a terrace?

I do realize after more research that these plants will get very big. So expanding this garden is going to be a must in my mind. I'm not the person for messy thing. I have a 5 acre backyard just empty open field. I also have OCD. :)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:18PM
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It's not too late to gently mix the soils together with a hand spade. Just start a couple inches out from the edges of the roots. That bed doesn't look too far below the grade unless you get flooding rains. You should get your trellis for the cucumbers in ASAP so you don't disturb things too much and they can start growing up. Check out the Vertical Gardening Forum for ideas. I'm glad to see a new gardener your age. My parents had over an acre of garden and we used to joke that they had 3 kids just to take care of it all... All of us have gardens as adults and love it.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 7:36PM
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I like the excitement. That's how I felt last year when I started my first garden. Im not 16 but im fairly young as well.

Here's what input I can offer hope it helps.

My thinking was I will eventually want to make It bigger, so why not go big from the start. My yard isn't to big but I used up as much space as I could.

In your situation you have a big yard. Use it. Find the spots that sun has the most time on and build some low raised beds.

Don't try and absorb everything so fastly it'll all come together with time.

Get some good soil.

Research research and more research. the internet is your friend.

Here's a link to how I built mine. Goodluck. Hope this little info helps with your garden .


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Ok I don't feel confortable mixing the dirt while the plants are still in there. Is it ok to remove them? Like take a good portion around the plant so I dont ruin anything. I'm also thinking of removing the cantaloupe and just putting them in a pot. To give more room for everything.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:02PM
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Also, after I remove the Canatloupe, which is in the middle, i'm going to have alot of room. I was wondering should I leave the Cucumbers spaced out like I have them or move them closer together. I want to be able to control the whole thing once it gets big.

Another question. Are there any consequences, if I remove the plants with the roots. I mean what harm can be down? cirulation of water will cut off? I know this is alot.. haha sorry.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:47PM
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I like your enthusiasm too. You should have researched first though right?

First time I've seen anyone do a "dug in" bed. Consider it an experiment. Do a raised bed next to it and compare results..

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 12:04AM
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Lmao I'm so embarrassed... Melikeeatplants

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 6:59AM
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Gardening is lots of trial and error.
Your young enough to do much learning.
I'm of the opinion (plants shouldn't be moved)
Their stressed even when transplanting.
Since you have a small area, grow them up, a roll of wire, make rolls out of it,let them climb. it will do well for your plants.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:23AM
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That grass is going to be invading your garden area unless you put some kind of barrier in place - below the ground line, which is how grass spreads. The sooner you do this, the less you disturb the roots of your new plants.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:13PM
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After years of gardening in central florida, my first advice is do not raise any soil. Do not make hills or raised beds. You would only do that if you were in a poorly drained or saturated soil, which certainly exist in fla, but from your photo I can see that is not the case.

It is very common for florida gardeners to make deep contained beds which they fill with bought materials, this is because they are worried about the predatory nematodes. However there are much better ways to control nematodes, namely adding well-decompased organic matter and rotating plenty of legumes through the growing area. Using contained boxes and other containers sacrifices a lot of growth capacity as compared to simply growing in the ground. I have lima beans eight feet tall in my fla garden that grew on their own with no irrigation or weeding - in a raised bed they'd have died young unless someone watered them every other day.

regarding the grass on your little new garden, just get a flat shovel and sharpen it with a file, and every week or so go around the edge and chop down six or eight inches to cut off the grass roots and rhizomes. later when you crops are large they will shade out the grass. Stay up on the weeds, and you should mulch with something now to slow down moisture loss.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:46PM
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After reading up on the posts, I came home early today. I took all the plants out. I mixed the bought soil with the ground soil which I didn't do before but someone told me too. Then while I was doing this a firendly nieghbor saw me and told me he had extra soil with some mulch and cow/horse manure. I went over and grabbed that. Layed it over my bed and mixed it all together.

The bed is still not raised there wasn't enough but, after reading PNBROWN's post that shouldn't be a problem. Then I went in and planted everything again without the canataloupe. I put those in a pot. I want alot of Jalapenos so I gave alot of room for that. Judging on how big the plant gets i'll buy more plants or some how harvest from that one if I can? I'm not sure.

Take a look at the pic.

This post was edited by TheExcitedGrower on Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 18:39

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 6:34PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

You should try a Hugel. My friend did one and it was unreal how great the plant did. She barely watered it. She did it all organically. So awesome! We are trying a hugel this year and then several more soon.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 6:37PM
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I would recommend that if you are using the existing soil before you amend it. Have a soil test done. Your local county extension service which usually connected with a local agricultural college have them. Penn State is in my state an sell the kits for $9. The $9 includes testing for PH, Nitrogen, Potassium, Magnesium, This soil test is very important. I will tell you what to use to amend the soil based on what you want to grow. If your soil is sandy you will need to add peat moss to retain moisture. Sandy soil usually drains quickly. Also start a compost pile on those five acres. The more the better. If you can get your hands on age manure at least aged one year. Use that an mix it with your existing soil. This is where I begin most of my gardens and I have been gardening for fifty years. Good Luck and enjoy your first garden.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 3:51PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

The internet's a wonderful place, but as a new gardener I found it very difficult getting info that didn't just say "build raised beds, ra ra ra".
As far as I'm concerned, that is generally bad advice for a sandy environment, and my gardens are at, or below ground-level (search 'sunken gardens)
I recommend adding as much organic matter as you can on top of the garden, watering the heck out of it and covering the entire thing with about 5 inches of mulch.
For me, that's usually weeds, grass clippings, twigs and so on.
I really push mulching: it reduces weeding to pretty much zero, creates a healthy ground-level environment and hugely reduces evaporation.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 6:09AM
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Your correct in what you write.
I believe gardeners are so happy and enthused about their raised beds (I'm one of them) we (I) fail to realize not every situation can accommodate a raised bed.
However, in your case , is it not possible for you to elevate your garden adding proper soil and amendments.
I gardened for many years prior to constructing raised beds,
adding walking stones so as not to step in areas and compacting the soil.
I'm sure if I started with raised beds, my entire yard would now be raised beds, no grass at all, then I would probably need to look for a new wife as she loves her grass.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:07AM
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Stellabee(7, Atlanta)

Your garden's level can be good or bad depending on rainfall. Be sure to lay some kind of border near the grass (oak wood chips or some other chipped wood) to keep the grass from invading your nice veggie area.

Then choose varieties of veggies and fruits that do best in your area of Florida. On that note, it's great that you're doing cucumbers, but seeds are so cheap and they are recommended. Cucumbers, squash, zucchini, pumpkin, and melons are all cousins that hate transplanting. I used to live in Florida and Georgia-only buy cheap, heirloom seed packets for those plants. You'll be very happy with how much spent vs. how much you grow(food)!!

Also, if you want to cut the expense of buying soil and, most importantly, always get a lot of food, you must always compost for at least a month at the end of the gardening season. This act is for next Season's crop. Compost about 80 % dead brown leaves, dead straw, and wood chips into the soil (till it in). The other 20% should be compost made up of egg shells (calcium-you will not get any food without keeping calcium levels up in your garden) and green, fresh matter from the kitchen like broccoli stems, lettuce and celery ends, asparagus ends, banana-carrot-potato peels, coffee grinds and the like. Till a whole bunch of this brown and green matter into your soil and let sit till next season. It will break down creating a nutrient emulsion in your garden. Next season, if you pick the right varieties, you'll have so much food you'll be able to feed the neighbors too. And you don't need to buy soil-just till and crush up the way you guys described with your native soil.


Hope this helps and congrats on being such a proactive kid-wish I was that way back then:-)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 11:15AM
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I would recommend going to the florida forum. Please realize that the combination of climate and soil in most of florida is so different from the rest of the continent that people who have not gardened there cannot give you much useful advice.

I second the idea to make a lot of compost since you have a large amount of space. However, grasp something quite important: florida sand is enormously old and weathered compared to soils farther north, and consequently severely de-mineralized. So the growth that you make compost from has the same lacks as your garden soil. It is highly advisable to get a spreader and immediately spread minerals on the pasture, starting with dolomitic lime which is available most anyplace. After that the best thing to spread would be azomite (although quite expensive, the best mineral amendment available) and humate, both of which you can order online, or azomite mixed with bagged compost, or if no other option, a little citrus fertilizer mixed into bagged compost. Even a few bags will make a large difference in the quality of the compost fodder. Next, the very best way to make good compost is to stop cutting the area with a rotary mower on a frequent basis. Let it grow to a foot or so and cut with a scythe or sickle. This will be during the hot wet weather when stuff grows fast and things are damp enough to successfully make compost. In the winter it is very difficult to keep a small pile from drying out and becoming hay. However, long dry grass is useful to cover bare ground and keep it from drying so quickly. After direct-seeding and weltering in, cover the row with a thin player of dry grass until the plants come up.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 1:07PM
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I love your enthusiasm! Great job getting some good soil. I just have a few suggestions.

Cantaloupes are a vining plant so I would plant them individually in holes spaced at least a foot apart. Dig out a hole about the size of a mixing bowl, fill with super good soil, then put the seedlings in and mulch. Look for a good sunny spot in your yard. You could even put them in a line according to your OCD tendencies :)

Also, I would think about how big the cucumber plants will grow as they are typically a vine as well.

Hope you have a great season!Learn and experiment and document your garden in a journal; it's good to refer to for next year!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:57PM
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Great stuff and don't worry about making mistakes - just enjoy the process. The one thing I would add is dig up that mint plant and keep it in a pot. Mint will take over your garden and you'll never get rid of it. It'll grow great in a pot and free up some space.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 11:20PM
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Start a compost - vegetable and fruit scraps kept in some sort of vesicle to let rot - add leaves, grass (untreated grass), newspaper, etc. THE best thing you can do for your soil.

Below is the GardenWeb link for this subject.
Have fun and don't get discouraged - lots to learn through trial and error. You can do it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil, Compost and Mulch

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 12:50PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

I love this post! I started my first vege bed when I was 14 .. had no idea what I was doing and no internet in those days. Dug sod, dragged in yucky dirt, threw in some seeds and waited. My garden that first year produced radishes and not much else edible. But I learned a lot and have been learning ever since.

(BTW, sent some "brag" plump radishes to my brother in Germany ... the shriveled things arrived at his Army base weeks later and he had no idea what in the world they were!)

Excited Grower, just stay excited about growing stuff. Don't worry if everything doesn't work out just right this year. Some plants croak, some invade your garden, some years there's too much rain and other years there is drought. But it's a load of fun and if you keep reading, experimenting and trying new ideas and approaches to gardening, you'll be successful! Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:32AM
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