New, from-scratch garden... oh, the glory!

gallaureMarch 1, 2011

Hi All!

After a few years of being consigned to growing in buckets stacked on wooden wine boxes in Southern California heat, I am back to living in Atlanta. I have rented a part of a duplex, and I just about danced a jig when my neighbor pointed out the area behind the dog fence - it is part of the property, and I can use it to garden! Hallelujah!

... ok, reality check.

I've never done a garden from scratch. I'll take photos and post of the area, but half the area is trees. It's on the top of a slope with completely unobstructed light from the southwest. The area is uneven, and my neighbor said that the landscape guys have spent years just blowing all the leaves over the fence and letting them stack up. Same for grass clippings.

Boy, she wasn't kidding. I went around the fence and sank in to almost my knees. Most of the area is covered by 8-10" of leaf litter. That is, what doesn't have pretty wild snapdragons and violets growing over it. Those areas have 10" of growth, and all the leaf litter under that. O_O

Then, I found out about the kudzu. I could Tarzan around like a crazy lady on all these vines. Thank goodness the neighbor slashed a bunch of it last year! But the cleanup needed is heavy, and the trash folks still haven't picked up the construction trash off the curb that was here before I moved in... in November. I can't say that they'll bother to pick up landscape trash, and I'm not sure what to do with all the vines. There will be a LOT of them. I have encountered quite a few snaking under all that leaf litter.

There's a bunch of trash in and amongst all of this (including a full and unopened can of schlitz malt liquor). If anyone needs any faux-stone house covering, I found a stack of it... in the dirt. I managed to clear a 3X3 area of leaf litter down to the dirt, and for my pains, I have a 3-foot-high stack of litter and weeds, a pile of kudzu vines, and a few hundred faux stones in a big stack. I also have the knowledge that I don't know how big this sheet of rusted tin is that I uncovered a corner of. And I'm staring down the barrel of that pile of broken concrete in the southwest corner.

The great news: FANTASTIC soil. It's gorgeous and loamy and earthwormy and black! Not like the usual red clay in these parts. Must be why the kudzu likes it.

I'm thinking I have about a 20'X40' usable vegetable garden area, with some of it needing to be raised bed. The SW corner looks to have been built up with old concrete blocks to level the lot - everyone else's yards are much lower. I'm thinking that the rocks/blocks might be a problem, so I'm considering phloxing the incline to death for looks and leaving it be.

Under the trees, I might have some play with flowers or shade lovers. I'm definitely putting a table out there! It's pretty and quiet with a nice skyline view. It would be a perfect place for a pond or waterfall, but I'm not putting that much into a rental. Maybe a koi barrel, but that's way down the line. Vegetable growing is my priority.

So, does anyone have any thoughts about the best non-machine, hand-tools methods for clearing this area? Any suggestions on dumping landscape debris? Any thing a first-timer should look out for? Any warnings about placing beds? Kudzu-annihilating techniques (I stay organic, and am not afraid of hard labor)?

One thing I know for sure: looks like I need a wheelbarrow and BIG compost piles...

Thanks y'all!

I'll get some photos and maybe a planogram posted soon.

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You might try the Georgia Gardener forum in Garden web for more local response. It sounds like you have your beginning plan started.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 7:13PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You're having fun - and many of your issues are global enough that people here can help. The stone, try craigslist to get rid of it, if your local one is active, others to try are freecycle but I don't know much about it.

Before planting veggies, you might think about soil safety? Industrial dumping areas, you never know.

Kudzu, I've never met, but search this forum and the whole GW site for the word, and no doubt strategies will be revealed.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:00PM
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Kudzu was brought over here & planted in the South where it is very difficult to control. That big sheet of metal may have a hole under it so be very careful, small LED flashlight in your pocket would be a very wise move. About $5 at most places,Harbor Freight has them & I think almost any other store. I carry 1 in my purse in case I'm inside a mall & quake hits. They last on 3 AAA batteries a long time. I use them in house to locate dropped pins, needles, buttons, beads etc since I craft a lot. You need to flash the light because there are also a lot of snakes & you don't want to stick your hand into a nest that has been there undisturbed for 20 yrs along with old mines or wells. You also need to get a sign & post it on a tree on your side that says no dumping or blowing debris over fence.I would start out a little small unless you have a lot of people to give produce to. I actually got sick of peas, I love to eat them fresh out of the pod, never thought I could get too many, Last year I did. Some peppers, tomatoes, squash,onions & strawberries etc should be a good start.See if your city has a pickup day once a year for garden trash/vines. Sometimes stuff sits because nobody called to have it removed. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Karinl - thanks for the thought about dumping. It seems that the trash is mostly on the edges, near the retaining wall, and the interior seems pretty clean. I'll be gardening in raised beds, with brought-in compost, so hopefully, the chemicals wan't affect me as such.

SunnyCA - Yeah, I've dealt with kudzu my whole life, except when I lived in CA for 5 years.

I'm not one to go sticking my hand in strange holes! ;) But if this tin roofing is covering a hole, it's not doing a good job - old and holey won't do much to cover a hole.

The neighbor says she's been fighting with the landscape guys for 6 years to not blow stuff over the fence - the landlord does nothing about it, either. :/

I'm worried that I won't get enough shell beans, so I might go overboard on things that can be dried and stored. I should have been a little clearer - I've gardened for years, but this is the first time I've gone from scratch. With all the constant gardening failure I had in SoCal, I forgot how to garden here. ;) I have a huge family, so I'll have tons of takers for tomatoes, and none of my friends have gardens.

Good thought about an annual pickup day! I'll check into that...

Thanks to you all!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 10:32AM
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Welcome to Georgia. I'm up in the NW corner of Gwinnett County.'

I would think you have your compost already on site and shouldn't need to buy it.

Each town/county has different trash pickup protocols. Hope you find yours is good, maybe just requiring a call or two.

Kudzu control is something either the GA Gardener forum or one of the others can give you guidance on. Trust anyone who says IT MUST BE REMOVED. Dreadful horrid plant that will take the place if not controlled.

HTH a bit,
Rosie, in Sugar Hill

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 6:48PM
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