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2010 Garden - who's gearing up for planting?
Old 03-10-2010, 11:52 AM   #1
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2010 Garden - who's gearing up for planting?

Last fall we made 5 5x10 raised beds - dirt & clippings in the boxes - it's almost spring and time to play! This will be my & DBF's first suburban/adult garden. We both grew up in gardening families, so it's not a completely foreign topic. (I have had numerous plants & potted patio gardens over the years though)

- SEEDS - Splurged on seeds-n-things from Burpee yesterday (the fun exotic stuff) - have a few more things needed to fill in the gaps (regular tomato plants, squashes, beans, radishes, onions, etc) Your best suggestions for seeds & plants? (Home Depot is much cheaper than garden stores here - but do you only get what you pay for?)

- MANURE - My parents put the "barn cleanings" on the garden space(lovingly shovelled by yours truly) in the fall. DBF's family put this stuff on in the spring. I am trying not to be overly catty about this, but I don't want to "burn" our plants. Experiences & opinions welcome.

- TIMING - Anyone else in the NE getting ready to start seedlings inside?

- PLAN - Has anyone used a software to plan out their gardens or just plain ol' graph paper? If yes to software, which do you recommend?

- COMPOST - Your composter of choice?

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Old 03-10-2010, 12:03 PM   #2
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Martha Stewart's seeds are the worst as I purchased them last year, and they produced weak, unattractive plants. Not worth the money. In fact, I did MUCH better with those cheap packs that Walgreens sells every year. Now that's pretty sad for Martha....but her seeds stink!

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Old 03-10-2010, 12:18 PM   #3
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Here in Philadelphia we've grown from seeds for 20 years or so. I'm far less on top of it than I used to be because too many other things take up my time. Soon I need to inventory my old seeds and order new ones. I'm a bit late starting and like to have most seeds, esp. for nightshades(tomatoes, peppers, eggplants), started by now. I use a small heating mat I ordered from Johnny's, and ancient fluorescent lights on a little cart I built to hold three levels of plants. As they grow it becomes a bit wild but with some plants, esp. tomatoes, getting leggy. But by the time they go in the ground they're happy and do just fine. Unfortunately I had to tear out 30-50 of my tomato plants due to late blight! There are always a few casualties but 90-95% of the seedlings go on to produce. Most of my seeds are from Seed Savers Exchange or Johnnys, though I also use Cooks Garden and Nichols and Pinetree at times. We grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, squash, beans(Forex from Johnnys is a great pole bean), cucumbers and some flowers. Boy you're giving me one more reason to hand in my retirement papers!
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Old 03-10-2010, 01:05 PM   #4
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I am!! I am!! (not that I'm excited or anything).

I started 32 tomato plants from seed last weekend. The first of them are just now germinating. I have those mini greenhouses that Lowe's sells, and they are sitting on a heat mat. I've found that the heat mat really speeds up the germination process. Once they've all popped out, I'll start round two, probably in a few days.

As for manure compost, it actually varies depending on what type of animal the manure comes from. Some people swear by chicken manure, but I've never tried it. I have a friend who raises sheep, and one year she gave me several large buckets of composted sheep manure. My garden did well with it. Normally when I go out to visit her in late spring I turn green with envy when I see her plants, though - they are always enormous and dense, much larger than mine (even though we often start with the same plants). She swears it is the sheep compost. However, last year some of her plants were burned, and she said her over-eager son just applied too much of the manure. I don't know how much is too much, but I think it would take an awful lot.

Every year I swear that this year I will start my own compost pile. I tried once unsuccessfully, but this year I will try again. I often buy bags of it in the spring. I have no good excuse for this. Either way, I think it helps the vegetable plants.
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Old 03-10-2010, 01:34 PM   #5
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I seeded some Mesclun in the cold frame 10 days ago and it broke ground last Friday! Woohoo! Spring is in the air! Well for us Southern folk at least...

As for starting seedlings indoors in the NE, check out this great inspiring blog:
Skippy's Vegetable Garden
She is in Massachusetts. She started her seedlings a while ago.

I usually plan my garden with a pen and paper. I try to keep a garden journal so that I can remember what works and what doesn't from one year to the next.

I buy most of my seeds and plants at Lowes. I have had good success with them.
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Old 03-10-2010, 01:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
I seeded some Mesclun in the cold frame 10 days ago and it broke ground last Friday! Woohoo! Spring is in the air! Well for us Southern folk at least...

As for starting seedlings indoors in the NE, check out this great inspiring blog:
Skippy's Vegetable Garden
She is in Massachusetts. She started her seedlings a while ago.

I usually plan my garden with a pen and paper. I try to keep a garden journal so that I can remember what works and what doesn't from one year to the next.

I buy most of my seeds and plants at Lowes. I have had good success with them.
Meanwhile here where we got over 4 feet of snow in the last month or so the glass fell out of my coldframe onto the overwintering plants from the fall and has smothered them. Maybe tomorrow I can get out and pick out the broken glass and see what has survived! There is something exciting about the first germinating seeds isn't there! Something that people who buy plants never experience.
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Old 03-10-2010, 05:00 PM   #7
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- SEEDS - I always buy at the local Agway. My growing season is so short I have to stick with early varieties. I do buy tomato seedlings at a local nursery.

- MANURE - I'm overdue to add some. I have access only to commercially processed composted manure and generally mix it in only where I am planting.

- TIMING - I'm going to use my 10 gal aquarium with the single grow light to do some tomato seedlings this year. I found a matching open screen lid at the local pet store and covered it with Saran wrap for humidity control.
My winter indoor lettuce growing experiments were sort of successful. Romaine did the best of all types.

- PLAN - I use a common spiral bound notebook.

- COMPOST - My composter is one of those heavy duty green tumblers, approx 3 feet wide and ball shaped. I haven't added fresh items to it all winter, so it should be ready to use in the garden this year. I also owned a smaller oblong (bullet shape) one, which was used right in the garden. The plastic sides, where the center of rotation mounts were located, broke last year after about 6 years of service. Go for the very heavy duty, thicker walled models.
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Old 03-10-2010, 06:44 PM   #8
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A "real" gardener might scoff at my "gardening", but I'm going to plant more vegetables in self-watering containers this year (homemade Earthbox-like things). I'll probably try to grow some tomatoes and peppers from seed in a week or so (start 'em inside), but won't be heartbroken if I have to buy little plants.
I grew peppers (4 plants) and tomatoes (2 plants) last year, this year I'll add some lettuce and some beans/peas. In addition to the containers, I've got a sandy spot that can host some carrots, and I'm going to find a place to plant some asparagus for future years.

Compost: We bought two of these last year, but it got cold before they could produce their first batches last year. DW collected tons of leaves in bags from the neighbors for use as our "brown" stuff, and grass clippings should keep us in "green." I don't need much compost for my veggies, but she grows lots of flowers in beds.
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They are a fairly modest size (7 cu ft = 52 gallons), but with two going we should be pumping out the good stuff on a regular schedule. I wish they were cheaper--I think they were $150 each. I made several home-brew composters, but DW's patience for continued research and experimentation "futzing around" was clearly exhausted, so these are now in our back yard.
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Old 03-10-2010, 07:32 PM   #9
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I didn't garden last year, but this year I made my three 4x8 raised beds taller and put mesh on the bottom to try and thwart the ground squirrels. I am building a forth to match and have invested in some half whiskey barrels to grow potatoes. I am reading up on canning, freezing and preserving and I am going to experiment with making my own salsa and bottling my own hot sauce along with some tomatoes for freezing and turning into spaghetti sauce later.

I am going to grow:
potatoes - so good fresh. I love em raw with a little salt.
tomatoes - for salsa, hot sauce, spaghetti sauce, salads and some cherries for snacking
cucumbers - for salads
lettuce - for salads
greens (kale, spinach, collards) - for side dishes and freezing
hot peppers - hot sauce and salsa
sweet peppers - salads and cooking/freezing
zucchini - zucchini bread!!
small herb garden - for cooking and freezing/drying

I will build a cold frame come April and start some of those in there. Others will be planted from seed directly (potato, zucchinis). I have always had fair luck but wasted so much at the end of the season because I wasn't prepared to preserve anything. I will also do some early and late planting of the lettuce and greens to prevent bolting and extend the season.

I am also building a compost bin (two actually) from old pallets that my wood pellets for my pellet stove came on. Good way to recycle those beyond braking them up and burning them when camping.

- SEEDS - Been saving pots for years to do the seed thang. Trying to go all seed, no buying plants

- MANURE - Using bagged mulch, garden mix from local compost company, and stealing a little soil from my property.

- TIMING - I am starting mine in a cheap home made cold frame in April. will bring inside if more than light frost. Can get those until June! Usually plant in garden in June.

- PLAN - Graph paper

- COMPOST - See above

I am really exciting this year because I SRE (semi-retire early) on July 4 and will have plenty of time to play in the garden and preserve what I grow.
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:43 PM   #10
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Last summer, when we put in a new driveway, we ripped out the hedge between our house and the neighbor's. So this year, we and they are going to have communal raised beds in the 17 foot strip between our driveways. We are having dinner together Saturday night to plan everything.

We have tried starting seed indoors with no luck in the past, so we'll skip that this year and just buy the seedlings early (we have had luck direct seeding green beans, but that's about it).

As far as compost -- I got a 10 foot by 3 foot length of hardware cloth and made a circle of approximately 3 ft diameter, which I then just set on the ground. I throw in kitchen and lawn waste and a few leaves and it works just fine. I occasionally aerate and /or turn with a pitchfork. It's way cheaper than the fancy plastic composters I see in the catalogs.
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Old 03-10-2010, 10:00 PM   #11
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Gardening? Did somebody say something about gardening? Haha!!! Gee, I'm thinking about it! I was out there today with the sunshining brightly and 64, cleaning a few of the many beds and gardens out.

I ordered 50 daylilies the other day, then I placed an order for 'watermelon radish' seeds from Burpee's. Went to the local farm store yesterday and bought a bunch of veggie, herb, and flower seeds.

I'll be building another new raised bed very shortly...this year it will be for tomatoes, onions, garlic, and beans of some type, then next year I'll rotate the crops. I used to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seeds, but the last few years I've switched to buying plants at a local mom & pop greenhouse...they always have great plants for cheap!!!

As for putting animal manure (barn cleanings) on your gardens, unless it has been composted, it's best to put it on in the Fall so it has time to compost and not burn your plants. If it has been composted, you can fork it into your soil before planting, and also occasionally use some for a side dressing around your plants through the growing season. Fresh manure will more than likely burn your plants, and do far more damage than good.

I started composting about 5 or 6 years ago. My first bin (which is still in use) is a 3' x 3' x 3' enclosure made from welded-wire fence with 1 1/2" x 4" openings. A couple of years after I made that one, I needed more room, so I built one that is 5'W x 10'L x 3'H....a big bin! Last year I cleaned out the original bin, and put all of the compost on the gardens, and started a fresh pile in that bin. I planted my zucchini plants in the big bin last year, and they THRIVED!!! I'm planning on doing the same again this Spring, and will plant some eggplants at the opposite end from the zucchini. Next year I'll empty the big bin, and start it over...and plant in the small bin.

Make sure before you plant your young plants out in the garden, that you check to see what the normal last frost date is for your area...or you might be very sad some morning when you walk out and find your plants got hit by a late frost and killed! The neighbor of a good friend of mine lost 50 tomato plants last year, because he planted just a few days before the normal last frost date. We got an unpredicted hard frost one night....and he had no tomato or pepper plants left...nada! For us here, that date is May 15th.....I'll wait 'til about the 18th or so before I plant out (same as last year).

As for planning....I used to use paper and a pencil to scribble it all out. Now I just picture in my mind what I want and where I want it...and then have at it!!! I bought a software program at a used book shop last year, but have yet to use it. It's "Topics Entertainment Instant Landscaping". One of these days I'll have to get it out and mess around with it.

I really feel like Spring has sprung too! The U of I Extension Service's gardening and hort telenet programs have started (went to my first one of the season yesterday), and Spring Gardening 2010 Seminar, put on by our county extension office and the local Master Gardeners, is this Saturday....a full day of garden topics, drawings for door prizes, vendors, and food!!! I'm ready to go!!!
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Old 03-11-2010, 03:59 AM   #12
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Last year I ripped out junipers on the slope down to the lake and assorted foundation plantings around my deck, and did some stone work. Then I tossed in 3 yews in the fall.
Now I'm ready for a massive planting program - several grasses, perennial geraniums, roses, black-eyed susans. Nothing to eat though - the deer would destroy anything edible.

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Old 03-11-2010, 07:08 AM   #13
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I'm sorry, Spring time means yard work for me. Not planting a bunch of seeds. Maybe this year I'll upgrade to a better mower.

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2010 garden
Old 03-11-2010, 07:08 AM   #14
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2010 garden

I am also using one of the Loews green houses for the first time this year. I use to start my plants in the basement with go lights. Next month the DW retires to join me in the garden full time. With the green house I have so much more room, I have started alot of the flowers for plantin also. Coleus, viola, marigolds among others. I have 6 varieties of tomatoes, 3 peppers, melon, cucumbers, leeks, ...

I would have to look at the list to remember all the stuff DW needs for the kitchen. I use a heater and water bath to speed the germination. I cannot plant outside to late May so I have to move to bigger pots in variuos windows. I like to have the tomatoes in June.
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Old 03-11-2010, 07:24 AM   #15
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I can't wait to plant stuff and watch it grow! I love seeing things grow! Last year was the first year for "real" gardening. I've always planted tomatoes but that was about it. Last year DH and DS made me two raised beds and they worked very well. Last year I started composting; can't wait to use that "black gold". This spring, we'll be digging up some flower beds and replacing them with vegetables; I still have plenty of flowers, though. This year I'm also planning a cutting garden. I've been pouring over seed catalogs since February, but I usually end up buying my seeds at a local store. Happy gardening everyone!
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Old 03-11-2010, 10:31 AM   #16
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Me too!!! Can't wait. This will be the first year for veggies at my house so I am definitely looking forward to it. Have to wait till May to plant outside though so I am trying not to start them too soon...

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