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Backyard Garden Tips?


Northern Wish
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I'm taking my first plunge into backyard gardening this year (well my first that I can show my parents or the neighbors).

The plot is about 20 x 10, nearly full sun from 11ish til about 7 or 8 for most of the summer, and the soil drains well. It was used a few years ago and left to get weedy (regular garden weeds- see the first part of my post).

There is lots of info out there, but I really appreciate this boards ability to be concise and share local knowledge.

I guess I'd be starting with the usual suspects: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans etc.

Whats next?

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I'm in a similar boat NW. This past month has seen me obsessing over this years garden.

Googling words like vertical, living walls, raised beds and companion planting. There isn't realy much solid science behind companion planting so it's good to keep in mind that lots of what you read is probably part myth-part science combo and what the actual ratio is isn't realy known. Still though I like the idea and I like the idea of planting various veggies together with herbs and flowers. Interplanting compatable crops saves space too.

I reeealy dig all the info out there on vertical gardening. You can grow miniature pumpkins, butternut & acorn squash, peas & cucumbers, beans, gords & melons, tomatoes and more.

Situate trellises along north side of your garden to avoid shading other plants. Anchor trellises to protect from wind and handle weight..24 inches deep should do it.

Building up soil seems to be big but fully raised beds aint happening here this year. We will raise them.

Where we live we are definately putting a fence around our garden space or it'll just get ravaged..we are expecting this to be labour intensive and a pain in the back but worth it definately.

Staggar plants by planting in triangles.

Succession planting allows you to grow more than one crop in a given space over the course of a growing season.

Oh..check out the govs site on growing veggies in Ontario. Once you figure out your zone on the map provided you can see a list of dates for planting.

I'm finding using google images very helpfull in deciding how to set up our garden.

So to give you an idea, in one triangle tressle we are thinking to plant pole beans, zuchinni,summer squash with nasturtium(edible) flowers around the bottom then surrounding this on the ground in the raised triangle space around the trellis..spinich followed by radishes bordered by pot marigolds.

Another plan is peas & tomatos on a tressle sitting in a raised triangle bed. In the bed basil & asparagus & onions bordered by pot marigolds.

Sunflowers keep popping up as great for your garden plus they are just so fucking cute. In.

Gees..I think have about 15 various scetched out gardens plans laying at my feet right now with just as many pages of notes, tips et gleened from various sites...it was a bit overwhelming at first but worth it. Everything seems to be coming together. Again I for one reeealy found google imagine using key words like; organic, vertical, companion et to be super helpfull so far. The visual helped planning big time.

Too, I scetched out the space and first put down where I wanted the compost and sitting area..then just started going from there..revise, revise, revise...still revising!

Should be loads of fun and save loads of cash! Win-win!

I hope some of this is helpfull. Next world to be overwhelmed by here is heirloom seeds and DIY greenhouses....

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Companion planting is a little misleading. It should really be called intercropping, of which there has been a reasonable amount of science-based research done. Check out some of the work out of the Rodale institute in Pennsylvania. Lots of stuff on pest-control and green manures (cover crops).

Also, if you're planning to garden the same space in future years, I'd recommend building permanent raised beds. It saves you time in the spring and removes the need for tilling and therefore reduces damage to the soil structure.

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Thanks for the lead with Rodale.

Fully raised, permanant beds look like the best idea but I guess we should have began planning earlier. I'm hoping for now shin to knee level will be okay. That said I'm still looking into cost effective ways to do better. Maybe begin with two and plan to be able to go further next year.

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Build yourself a compost pile. There's a way to properly layer, I just throw it all in a pile and stir it up with a pitchfork occasionally. A good tip I just read about is to drive a perforated pvc pipe into the ground and build the compost pile around it. This will get air to the centre of the pile. The tumbler's would work pretty well too but I think they're a bit small to compost everything you can throw into your compost. A little bit of uncomposted, compost able material in your garden is fine too. As it is "rotting" there is activity going on in the soil and plants love this.

Save all your coffee grounds and tea bag and egg shells. Get them right in there. Some manure in the soil is awesome too and some peat moss. You want to have your soil as loose as possible for as deep as you can make it loose. Rent a rototiller for the day. Manually may be a lot of labour if it hasn't been done in a while.

Your beans will need something to grow up, like a trellis.

Tomatoes need lots of support and they should be pruned to grow up like a pole rather than a bush.

Summer Squash (zucchini) do awesome here. Excellent producer and so good fresh. They just kept coming and coming all season.

I got all my seeds from here this year. http://www.veseys.com/ They have great seeds and a relly great organic selection which like anything "organic" cost a bit more but saves you a ton on paying grocery store prices.

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we have gardens every year. tomatoes, onions, carrots, beets, peppers in the one plot and squash and zuchinni in another. also have a big crop of strawberries that line a fence, a giant rhubarb patch, and a few pots of herbs.

advice: 1) whatever amount you think you can plant, don't. plant half of it. sure you can grow whatever you want, but harvesting it will become completely overwhelming and everything will explode in size making it hard to move around them.

just having 10 tomato plants of various varieties will commit you to 30 minutes or more every night in the late summer. moreover, if your spring planting goals exceed your harvest abilities and you plant too close, you will have a hard time getting in between the plants to get at the tomatoes. ALWAYS follow the notes on the seed pack and never plant closer than recommended, even though they will look barren and sad when you plant initially.

also, lay down stepping stones.

2) prune and thin hard. dont be afraid to cut off small budding veggies either. if they are in your way as they are growing, they will most certainly be much more in your way when you need to harvest them. use cages and foamed-wire to support plants as they grow. tomato and pepper plants especially will tip over entirely if not supported well. buy and use those 8' tall bamboo stakes too.

3) have a hose nearby. do not think you will enjoy unspooling the hose EVERY NIGHT when you NEED to water things. or, if possible, place rain barrels near the garden or better ... the garden near the rain barrels. the convenience of accessing your water supply cannot be overestimated.

4) do not plan to go away at all in late august or early september. a plot of 10x20 will be a full time commitment when it comes to harveting. leaving things either unwatered or unharvested for even one day will be a huge mistake.

and 5) lettuce is a waste of time, water and space. buy it, dont grow it.

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extra advice:

sun: plant according to height to maximize amount of sun. consult the seed packs or google it to see how high they will become. many cherry or plum tomatoes can easily grow to 7'. other bigger tomatoes easily 5'. but do not allow them to grow that tall unless you structurally support the weight using tall stakes, velcro strips, foam wire, etc.

the tomatoes regardless of variety will likely be the tallest plants you will have so plant them on the north side of your plot. planting them anywhere else will shade all of the other plants in the garden an can easily stunt pepper plants that crave full sun.

identify the east and south sides and plant shorter things there. and plant taller things along the north side. short plants are carrots, lettuce (but dont waste your time), beets, and onions. medium plants are peppers, brussel sprouts. this will maximize the amount of sun each plant gets.

space: plant accordind to how big the plant will eventually become. squash, zuchini, pumpkins all spread out and creep towards the south. they eventually take over a huge space. so dont try to plant them near other plants. a nightmare would be squash on the north side of a plot, with carrots and onions just to the south of them. the squash will overgrow and shade out the onions. they would also make it painful to have to reach in between their spiky leaves to check in on the onions when you need to thin them out. plant squash etc at the south end of a plot, and maybe off on its own somewhere.

rhubarb should never be planted with other plants in a garden. think of it as a shrub instead and allow it to have a big open space on its own. deadhead any and all flowers (they look like brains) to keep the plant sweeter. rhubarb if tended properly can provide well into august, its not just an early summer plant.

access: plants things you need to harvest regularly near the edges of the plot. to keep gardening enjoyable, plan to minimize the amount of work you need to do. tomatoes will require nightly trips in august and sept, so dont put them in the middle of the garden. put them where you can most easily got to them while carrying a big collection bowl. one cherry tomato plant can easily give you one to three pints EACH night at maximum production. ten plants? that's a lot of work. also, when planting tomatoes, stagger them a bit, don't plant in a grid. grids create tight cramped areas and make it difficult to reach in to harvest.

don't do this:

x___x___x___x___x

x___x___x___x___x

do this:

._x___x___x___x___x

x___x___x___x___x

it will be easier to reach in between to harvest both rows.

so, pay attention to the physical layout of the plants and take their size and height into account when placing. you will be tempted to make it all ok pretty in the beginning by planting way too many things everywhere. dont. have patience and your plants will grow and fill the whole space.

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On a related note:

Do you guys have a very good website rec for identifying trees, shrubs etc.? There are a few here I don't know what to do with (one appears to be two different types of tree fused: a lower hardy thin branched mess and above it is sprouting what we used to call pussy willows).....I haven't been able to find a site that seems easy to identify if you dont know specifics.

Thanks again.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Awesome N.W. Yeah..haven't planted a thing here yet which apparrently isn't so bad. We need to get the tiller fixed...Friendly is pretty big and he managed to break the weld on the handle..it was a pretty impressive sight to behold untill it broke.

A girl we know told us this..."THe highschool in Meaford is having a plant sale May 18, May 25th ..by donation. All organic veggies, herbs flowers ... proceeds go to the community garden /food bank/fARmers market"

The folks we bought our house from said their son is involved in something similar at the Flesherton highschool but I haven't looked into it yet.

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