newbie w/lots of questions

srg215(6b nj)March 17, 2012

hi. this is my first time making a veggie garden. my husband is building it for me and we're lining the bottom w/wire mesh & landscape fabric to keep animals from burrowing in from underneath and we're doing chicken wire around the perimeter & a lid of chicken wire over the top to keep the deer out. it'll be 4ft x 8 ft. does this sound ok?

what kind of soil do i need? i will transplanting seedlings for cauliflower, eggplant, tomatoes & peppers and will direct sow broccoli, spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots & cukes

what needs to be "hardened" before transplanting? what does "thinning them out" mean & how is it done? if i plant 5 broccoli seeds, will i just get a one time crop of 5 heads? that's a lot of valuable space to give up for just 5 heads, right? same for spinach? cauliflower? eggplant? etc.

can the seedlings stay in those little Burpee seed starter container cells until transplanting into the ground in 6 weeks?

any advice at all is welcome. thanks!

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Thinning means, pull out the plants that are too close.
Broccoli grows side shoots when the main one is cut, so you get multiple harvests from each plant.
Spinach you grow and cut multiple times.
Cauliflower one time harvest.
Eggplant grows multiple per plant.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:06AM
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The cauliflower and broccoli take up alot of space. Figure 2-3 sq. ft. per plant. You 4 x 8 will quickly be depleted.

Peas need to be started now if in zone 5-8.

Cukes keep on producing; but their vines spread rapidly. Consider a trellis for vertical growing. Then you can plant all around it.

After harvesting the broccoli head, the ones that grow next are more like florets, than heads.

Seriously, consider vertical gardening. There is a forum here.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 11:18AM
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The measurements of 4x8, are the length and width of your garden? If that is the case, know that some of those plants get very large. Eggplant, tomato and peppers grow fairly large and can easily consume all of your space. You will want to choose compact varieties or do some selective pruning to keep them contained. Keep them staked or caged to contain their encroachment on your other plants.

Carrots and spinach require little space to grow well as long as you harvest regularly.

Grow your peas and cukes upright on a trellis or use your chicken wire as a trellis and allow/train these plants to grow upright. You can use stretch tie or twine to aid in training them upward. Plant your tomatoes and peppers where there is abundant (minimum 6 hot hours) of sun.

Thinning is the removal of the weaker seedlings that have germinated too close together. Choose the stronger seedling to remain behind. If they all appear equal in growth just gently remove all but one as per the spacing required for the chosen plant.

Hardening off means slowly exposing them to fluctuating temperature and wind after being protected and controlled indoors. IOW you gradually expose them to outside conditions when the weather is favorable.

Personally, I would not use peat cells for seed starting. If you already have, once the seedlings emerge and begin to set leaves, there will be little to no nutrients for your plants. I would, at that point, transplant them into a seed soil mix in a small plastic pot.

Watch your space and don't over plant. Stressed plants are more likely to be killed by disease.

The soil in your garden should be a mix of topsoil and compost ( I also mix in a bit of "crappy native soil" because it contains vital nutrients and minerals). Plant in the topsoil and "mulch" with aged compost. Be sure there is adequate drainage with your weed fabric underneath. Many landscape fabrics do not allow sufficient drainage (even though it says so on the package). You don't want to turn your garden into a pond.

Search around the web for some small veggie garden tip sites. Your space is your largest concern for the amount of plants you are placing in your garden. Specifically, watch your tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Don't be frustrated, you will learn more from your mistakes than your success. Gardening is fun and productive if you are patient and understand why things failed or succeeded. You will learn more and more as you continue.

Good luck!! :)


    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 11:30AM
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I agree with the above suggestions, but would caution you about adding landscape fabric under the bed. The wire will be enough top prevent mammal incursions, but you don't want to limit root growth into the deeper soil, or worm migration into the new garden soil. You might be better served by using a few layers of newspaper instead, which will allow roots to grow through and won't be a barrier to beneficial worms.

You should consider growing your tomatoes and peppers and eggplants in large containers instead of the raised bed. This will give you more room for faster growing, smaller footprint crops.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:08PM
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gardenman101(Z6 Spingfield, Ma)

I second Bil lme suggestion, if you can spare a few dollars for some 13gal totes or even a few 5gal pianters buckets with holes drilled into the bottom (availible at hardware stores for usually $5) plant your tomatos, eggplants and peppers in them. I had great success with growing peppers and cucumbers in the containers, thus leaving more space in the garden bed for all the other stuff. Plus you can move the contianers around (with a littlte help) I also grew okra in the containers and they did so well i couldnt keep up with the harvesting (this year will be better). This being your first year dont get dicouraged if some things dont go as well as you planned. It is a learning experience. you will find that you enjoy it and maybe uipgrade to another raised bed or containers next year. KEEP us posted as to your progress, we are here to help.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:26PM
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very good advice above. You should consider it. When I container gardened, I visited my local garden center and asked them for the LARGE nursery pots that housed trees. Many times they have them lying in a pile somewhere, especially if it is a nursery that does landscape installation. You can find as large as 20gal pots there. They may charge a few dollars or you may get lucky and help them to recycle. Be sure to clean them well and do not block the drainage holes.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 3:54PM
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How much space do you have? (Six by eight would be a better minimum for less stress for you and the plants)

What kind of an area are you in?

What kind of soil is natural there?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:14AM
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jayco(5b NY)

How high up do you intend to make the fence go? You can certainly put a lid over it to prevent deer from eating, but a lot of the plants you're growing will get tall. Deer in my area will eat whatever is sticking out from the chicken wire, so it has to be pretty well covered.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:28PM
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