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New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

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New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  scmelik on 1/16/2011, 9:06 am

*I will preface this post with the fact that I have NOT read Mel's book yet but it is on the list for the future, as soon as I get back home next month.*

I have been thinking about doing this for the past few years, and now that I own my house this year I am going to make it happen. The only problem is that I have never grown a garden before and I am not really sure where to start. I am hoping that all of your experienced gardeners can help me in my planning and the needs of the different plants and which varieties that are good to use.

My goals for this right now are to have fresh vegetables during the summer and then have some to store, can, freeze or what have you. I love salsa and use it quite a bit not only for eating but for cooking so I want to put up a dozen or so jars of salsa if I can, if I don't have the room I will just do what I can do.

Right now here is what I am planning on planting.

Tomatoes
Onions (red, yellow, shallots)
Green Beans
jalapenos (obviously haha)
Cyannes
Poblanos
Bell Peppers
Basil
Thyme
Oregano
Rosemary
Garlic

I know that the peppers can handle full sunlight so I think I know what I am going to put them, as far as the rest goes I have no clue. I don't want to get in to deep on this and find out that I don't have a green thumb at all, or end up with 40 bushels of everything and have to spend days upon days canning everything (gonna have to learn how to can too). I am not trying to feed a family with all of this, just me.

This maybe in the book but since I haven't read it I am going to ask.

In a 4'x4' planter how many plants can you plant per square? I want to make sure that I utilize my space efficiently but I don't want to crowd the plants. I am planning on doing a 4'x4' for the vegetables and maybe a 2'x2' for the herbs.

I will be going back to South Dakota next month and trying to start on this crazy endeavor, getting the boxes ready to go, ordering the seeds, but I am not sure when to start planting the seeds to get them started so I can transplant them in the spring.

When it comes to Mel's Mix, I have a ton of questions, like how, where, what. I am pretty confused when it comes to that. I do not currently compost so I don't have any compost available, and I would not know where to even start finding the materials that he says to use.

I know this is a ton of questions and I could probably search and answer every question that I have but I have been getting so overwhelmed when I do that, that i figured it was easier to try and ask them all at once. What advice, tips, suggestions can ya'll give me?

scmelik

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  CarolynPhillips on 1/16/2011, 10:03 am

Welcome to SFG.
You will also need to learn companion planting. Some plants hate other plants and do much better when planted near their best friend=-==so to speak.
Such as= I recently learned that Basil will kill your Rosemary so plant them far apart.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants

Mels book is pretty thick and I am sure you will have to read it several times.
You really need that book ASAP if you plan to grow this Spring. You needed it yesterday.

As for plant spacing= ONe pepper plant per square foot. One tomato Vine per square foot. Onions and Garlic are 16 per square foot. Most herbs are one per square foot.

YOu can find commercially bagged compost at building supply stores and feed and seed stores. Maybe there is a sfgardener in your area that can help you with locations.

Good Luck

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  camprn on 1/16/2011, 10:12 am

glad you\'re here to the forum. I can soooo well understand your excitement and questions and impatience. Smile But really, all the answers to your questions are in the book, All New Square Foot Gardening. Smile

The instructions for making Mel's Mix are simple and easy to understand. Spacing requirements depend upon what plant you are growing. Some may be planted 16 per square, others require 2 Sq. ft. This is also information you can find in the book.
The subject of compost baffles many folks and there are numerous threads here on the forum with lots of useful information about composting. You can find these threads using the search feature, pr scrolling back through old threads.

My opinion of SFG is that it is an ideal way to go if you have never had any gardening experience. Baby steps are good and you may keep your garden small (4x4) or add as many boxes as you desire. How exciting! You are going to be a Gardener!Smile
If you cannot find a copy of the book in your bookstore, your local library may have a copy to lend.

Again, Welcome to the forum!


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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  scmelik on 1/16/2011, 10:39 am

@CarolynPhillips wrote:Welcome to SFG.
You will also need to learn companion planting. Some plants hate other plants and do much better when planted near their best friend=-==so to speak.
Such as= I recently learned that Basil will kill your Rosemary so plant them far apart.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants

Mels book is pretty thick and I am sure you will have to read it several times.
You really need that book ASAP if you plan to grow this Spring. You needed it yesterday.

As for plant spacing= ONe pepper plant per square foot. One tomato Vine per square foot. Onions and Garlic are 16 per square foot. Most herbs are one per square foot.

YOu can find commercially bagged compost at building supply stores and feed and seed stores. Maybe there is a sfgardener in your area that can help you with locations.

Good Luck

Thanks for the warm welcome, I would love to start reading the book right now but unfortunately my class that I am currently in takes up most if not all my free reading time right now. Thankfully I only have about three weeks left and then I will be able to get back to free reading soon and this is the top book on my list of many haha, until then I am relying on different information I can find here and other places online.

Fortunately I am a very patient person and while I am excited I would rather take things slow and learn the correct way and get it done properly rather than make a big blind leap and screw it up and waste a LOT of money. I look forward to learning as much as I can and hopefully producing some good food.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  quiltbea on 1/16/2011, 2:18 pm

scmelik......You'll find the answers in the book. Don't stress until you read it. It has charts and info per crop and watering and composting all there at your fingertips.

As for a 2'x2' plot, I'd say DON'T. The small ones require too much watering and can't stretch their roots so you're better off to go with a 4' x 4' to begin with and put your herbs there as well as your fruiting crops, like peppers, lettuces, spinach, etc. Some folks like the 2'x 4' ones for vining crops but I wouldn't go smaller than that.

Also, never make your bed wider than 4' or you'll find you just can't reach those crops in the middle without stepping in your bed, which is a definite no-no. You can go longer like 4' x 6' or 4' x 8', but not wider, ever.

I was new to veggie gardening in 2009 so bought my seedlings and compost from places like Lowe's and Home Depot and even Walmart so you can buy your compost if you can't make it. It's reasonably priced. I believe Mel's Mix was sold at Home Dept last year but I missed it.

Good luck and enjoy your trip into gardening.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  quiltbea on 1/16/2011, 2:20 pm

As for learning to can....these days most folks like to freeze their veggies. Its a lot easier and safer than canning and most crops can handle freezing very well.
If you have a bounty of crops, try freezing.

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Rofl

Post  CindiLou on 1/16/2011, 2:47 pm

Welcome to the forum.

I will give you the same advice I give my kids when they say they don't have time to read. Your reading online right now when you could pick up a book.


I am just teasing you. You learn so much by reading the threads here. You should be able to at least get an idea of the basics.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  kimbertangleknot on 1/16/2011, 3:27 pm

Welcome Welcome Welcome!

4x4 Planter = 16 square to plant in. Each square is roughly 12"x12"

Tomatoes - 1 per square.
Pay attenten to Inter and Deter varieties
Inter = Vining, will continue to grow and put fruit
Deter = Bush, there are "container" varieties that are smaller, but they are usually very busy and big and put out most of their crop at once. No continuous harvest.

Onions (red, yellow, shallots) - 16 per square.
Usually planted in the fall or spring because of the time it takes to grow and they do better in cooler weather. Most places can keep them in their box over the winter with heavy mulch and pull when needed.
Green Beans - Pole or Bush?
Poles you can get away with more in a square because they grow up (I can get at least 4-8 depending on the variety).
Bush I can only get about 2-4 per square because they grow out not up.
I had success with both. My bush string beans produced mostly at once, but I was able to get a smaller crop later. The poles were a late season bean, and they too pretty much came all at once. Be prepared for freezing or canning that it will be all at once.

Jalapenos (obviously haha) - 1 per square.
It's said that if you plant it with tomatoes, that sometimes the tomatoes can get a pleasant spice to them.
Cyannes - 1 per square.
Poblanos - 1 per square.
Bell Peppers - 1 per square.
Basil - 1 per square.

Basil can get quite bushy and huge so regular trimming is required. Also, when it starts to bolt (seed) the plant changes in taste and usually isn't palatable anymore.
Thyme - ?
More of a ground cover herb, I'm not sure of this one myself, I will be growing this myself this year.
Oregano - 1 per square.
Certain types can spread like crazy (like mint). I'd maybe invest in a pot to keep it in. Same as basil, once it bolts the flavor changes and is pretty much done producing.
Rosemary - 1 per square.
This is an excellent deer deterant. Most deer (not all) don't like it and won't pass through it, eat it, or anything. Can get quite busy if not kept trim, and I would presonally put this in it's own container or plant in the ground. It's very pretty.
Garlic - 8-16 per square.
I've been reading up on this all winter and it really depends on varieties and trial and error it seems. Like onions it's a long grower and there are two versions: soft neck and hard neck. Hard neck is what you can buy in the grocery store, soft neck you see the braiding. If your interested more in it, I recommend doing some research on it before planting it, because it can be finicky, and the growing season is like onions.

To keep herbs lasting longer, be prepared to trim them down. Once they bolt, they are pretty much done.

Tomatoes are great, and learn how to prune them to keep them healthy and putting on new fruit. This article and video of what to look for helped me out TREMENDOUSLY. Once I read/watched this my whole tomato world got even better than it was.

Also, what a lot of people don't take into consideration is pollinating. There are different ways to pollinate tomatoes and peppers. Let nature take it's course by letting the bees and good bugs take care of it, or, if you're like me. Do it yourself. All I do is take my hand and softly rub the buds. Kinda like your petting them, or, if the plant is sturdy I do more of a shake. There are other ways to do it, but this is the way I learned and it works for me.

If you drink coffee, coffee grounds and any unused liquid is great to perk up plants that seem a little down. There is a high concentration of nitrogen that most plants love. It worked wonders on my maters, beans, and peppers (which is what I mainly grow).

At moment that's all the stuff I can think of. Just remember to have fun with it and expect it to be a learning experience. Expect disappointment and excitement at the same time. Enjoy!!

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  miinva on 1/16/2011, 3:33 pm

We started SFG two years ago. My husband grew up with a huge garden and his mom canned everything, although they did traditional row gardening. I grew up in a subdivision where gardening was rare and my family never did it to my knowledge, so it took my husband years to talk me into trying it. When I found the SFG book I was so excited because SFG gardening seemed much more low-maintenance. We started out with a couple of 4x4 boxes and now we have 5 4x4's, 2 2x8's (one double depth for root crops), 1 2x2 for carrots that's quadruple depth, and a bed beside the house that's about 2.5x6, I think. We're planning to double our square feet this year, although only a couple of them will be 4x4. I'm not very tall so I find 4x4's difficult to harvest from. We're going to build a 2x16 bed dedicated to tomatoes because after experimenting with tomatoes in a 4x4 and a 2x8, I think a double depth 2x16 is going to be perfect. We're also going to build a couple of little narrow beds with an arch between them for beans to climb because I saw a picture of someone from this forum trying that and thought it was a great idea.

All of that to say that someone who was intimidated by gardening is an avid gardener now, and there wasn't anything hard about it. I prefer to garden organically so the hardest part for me was getting used to all of the insects, both beneficial and destructive, but I've learned so much about the symbiotic relationship of food to soil and insects. It's pretty fascinating Smile

I also learned to can last fall because I really like the flavor of things like canned tomato sauce and I have to say that cracking open a jar of homemade applesauce that I made from three varieties of local apples is like opening summer and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Store-bought applesauce tastes so flat to me now. I also canned pasta sauce, salsa, pickled banana peppers, and ketchup, the last of which was a wonderful surprise because it's so savory that I have no desire to eat 'normal' ketchup ever again! A couple of weeks ago we harvested carrots that I hadn't gotten up before they froze in and I canned them as dilly carrots, as well as steaming some of the carrots too. I love canning! I only have a hot water bath canner, which is a bit limiting because only acidic foods can be canned the way, other foods require pressure canning. The plan is to get a pressure canner this year and I'm so excited. I'm lucky to have a mother in my son's Cub Scout den who cans and she was generous enough to invite me over to both hot water bath and pressure can last fall. It was so much fun!

Sorry for writing you a novel Embarassed I just wanted to offer encouragement and let you know that it's worth the effort.

A blog post about our carrot harvest, including pictures of the steamed and canned carrots.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  miinva on 1/16/2011, 3:40 pm

On the topic of beans, bush beans are considered more determinate, although you can sometimes get a second, smaller harvest from them, while pole beans are considered indeterminate, which means that they'll produce all year, although if you let one of the pods fully develop the plant will usually stop producing new pods, so you want to be sure to keep them well-picked.

I had great success with cowpeas in my SFG, my favorite being calico crowder because they're just so beautiful Very Happy The first year I planted them I planted as if they were peas, meaning I treated them like a cool-weather crop, not realizing that they have the growing habit of beans, which are warm-weather crops. Live and learn Smile Be prepared to make some mistakes and have a crop failure or two. The first one really disappointed me, but after that I realized that everything I grow is a reward so a failure here and there isn't a big deal.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  miinva on 1/16/2011, 3:48 pm

I found the picture of the bean arch that inspired me! It was posted by chocolatepop

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  scmelik on 1/16/2011, 9:17 pm

all I can say is wow, thank you all. Quilt, Cindi, Kimber, Mi thank you all for you very informative replies. I have not had a chance to sit down and digest them all yet but hopefully will in the morning. I can already see this getting out of control and being bigger than I initially planned, as do most things that I do, but I think it will be fun and challenging and well I am just no dang good at backing down from a challenge Laughing Laughing

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Welcome

Post  ander217 on 1/16/2011, 10:01 pm

Welcome, Scmelik. glad you\'re here

I know it all seems overwhelming now, but don't stress over it. It will all make sense when you get started.

Regarding onions - plant 16 to a square, assuming you intend to pull half of them to eat for green onions, leaving the remainder to grow into large cooking onions. Otherwise only plant around 9 to a square. Since you live in the north you will do fine planting onions in the spring, but get them out very early. You can plant onion seeds, sets, or transplants. I prefer buying sets which I tuck in here and there or plant in their own square. They are like miniature dried onions. Transplants are my second choice - those are small onion plants with roots and leaves. You can buy both at local stores.

Getting your Mel's Mix right is one of the biggies. My biggest mistake was in not realizing that 3.9 cu. ft of peat moss decompresses to 8 cu. ft. when opened. Make sure you have five different types of compost - not just five different brands. For example, you might use cow manure, chicken manure, mushroom compost, free compost from your city, and cotton compost (sift any stems and bolls from it first.)

Separate your veggies into cool weather crops, such as onions and garlic, from warm weather crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and beans because you plant them at different times. Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes so plant them near each other. Place your trellis crops on the north side of the box if possible so they don't shade the others. Since you can't plant some things until the weather warms, you might try planting some squares of cool weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes when you plant onions. You can have a few weeks of fresh salads, and when the weather warms and the plants are finished for the season, pull them out, add a trowelful of compost, and plant your warm season crops. After you pull your onions in mid-summer you can add more compost and prepare to plant those squares with a fall crop such as turnips, greens, cabbage, or more salad crops.

You can also have a box for strawberries if you want to grow some fruit. Don't forget to plant a square or two of flowers if you like. They can help attract pollinating insects. Some flowers such as pansies or nasturtiums are edible, too.

I hope you do well in your class, and read the book as soon as you can.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  jkahn2eb on 1/24/2011, 10:34 am

The SFG book is a faster read than one of the early Harry Potter books. You'll be thru it before you blink.

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Re: New Gardener-Lots and Lots and Lots of Questions!!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/24/2011, 10:57 am

@jkahn2eb wrote:The SFG book is a faster read than one of the early Harry Potter books. You'll be thru it before you blink.

Exactly what I was going to add. I popped mine in about three days time. You can pick up the basics on your first read-through and go back and hit the areas you will be focusing on like.....Mel's mix and crops/square.

You should have more time than you think. If you go to victoryseeds.com, you will find the hardiness zone map of which Mel speaks. It's on the left margin down a little ways and is a link called "find frost dates" or something very close. If you poke around there, you will find that SD runs in the 4a and 4b zones mostly. Looking at your cities in SD, you have a last frost running anywhere between mid-May and early June. If you get back up there in February, you still have tons of time to read the book, find materials, build and fill boxes, and plant seeds.

I would encourage you, since you are north, to thouroughly read the sections on hoop houses, row covers, and soil warming. Extending your season would be a nice advantage to have knowledge over imo.

The others have said a lot of great things here. The only other thing I will add is on the box size you build. If you are building out in the open, 4 foot is as wide as you ever want to be. However, if you are building up against a wall of your house, 2 feet is the widest because you can't get back behind it. With a 4 foot box, you need to be able to work from two sides. You can only reach in about 2 feet without falling into the soil...unless you're a giant.

Have fun and share pictures....welcome.

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