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Tips for first year-successful garden beds? What are your plans?

 
pollinator
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For obvious reasons, we want to ramp up production at my mom's house this year considerably. Last year it provided about half as much produce as 2 people could eat, plus extras to some neighbours and family when the production was high. Pickings were lean during the spring.  

This year, we want to grow enough to feed me + my mom + grandma, and have storage crops. When grandma is around, Mom and I probably double the number of vegetables we eat :)  Mom's started my saved seeds indoors, and I've ordered a bunch of seeds to be delivered (hopefully) to her house in the coming days.

Last years gardens were all first year gardens or older gardens in sad shape that were mulched twice with cedar wood chips, which have decomposed enough on the bottom to start to provide better soil texture and more nutrients. They should start to produce well this year.

Mom and grandma are both very experienced traditional gardeners, but both have historically made and maintained garden beds with a rototiller or a tractor - neither of which we have. I'm a double dig in the spring, then "throw on the mulch, I hate weeding" kind of gardener.

My plan right now is to kill grass in a large sunny area with multiple layers of  large pieces of wet cardboard, and poke holes for seedlings, and throw on whatever organic matter we can scrounge in lasagna layers. I plant to dig, turn, and rake out weeds/grass to start a bed for onions, carrots, and other fine-seed plants. Mom still has snow, and I am self isolating for a few more days before I head home, so it's not going to be dug for a week or two yet!

How do you start new gardens? What are your plans for new gardens this year?
 
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Lol, my place has an area that floods every ten years or so and thinking about how the farmers on the river Nile depended on the yearly floods to fertilize their fields I figured it would make a great garden but to my surprise it didn't. So I found where the county tips it's rich soil that is scraped from the side of the highways (yeah, lucky me, it's on my property) and I'm gradually making raised beds to hopefully improve the crop but it's a lot of work along with constructing a dyke to keep back the expected flood.
 
Catie George
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I gardened in a flood plain one year, with the same logic. I found the soil too silty and too wet to grow a good garden. I think it also needs to be said that the Nile (prior to being dammed) was very muddy water (probably clay rich) while the small river I gardened next to was fast flowing and very clear.
 
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Catie George wrote:
My plan right now is to kill grass in a large sunny area with multiple layers of  large pieces of wet cardboard, and poke holes for seedlings, and throw on whatever organic matter we can scrounge in lasagna layers. I plant to dig, turn, and rake out weeds/grass to start a bed for onions, carrots, and other fine-seed plants. Mom still has snow, and I am self isolating for a few more days before I head home, so it's not going to be dug for a week or two yet!

How do you start new gardens? What are your plans for new gardens this year?



If you're not in London, chickens are the answer to starting new gardens.  I've penned hens into temp runs where I wanted gardens and they kill the grass and weeds, dig up all the grubs, and fertilise too.  I found that hens could prep about a square foot a day.  Best and easiest garden prep ever.  Once the garden's established, I let them in for the last hour or so before sunset and they'd eat the bugs for me too.

I lived in KW for years and spent the rest of my time around London.  Where abouts are you?  Don't worry if you don't want to say.  I moved to Murray Corner NB last year.  Love it here though the 'yotes come right up to my door.
 
Catie George
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Timothy Markus wrote:

If you're not in London, chickens are the answer to starting new gardens.  I've penned hens into temp runs where I wanted gardens and they kill the grass and weeds, dig up all the grubs, and fertilise too.  I found that hens could prep about a square foot a day.  Best and easiest garden prep ever.  Once the garden's established, I let them in for the last hour or so before sunset and they'd eat the bugs for me too.

I lived in KW for years and spent the rest of my time around London.  Where abouts are you?  Don't worry if you don't want to say.  I moved to Murray Corner NB last year.  Love it here though the 'yotes come right up to my door.



I'm in Niagara, but will be gardening again in Eastern Ontario. I'm immunocompromised, so have to give up house hunting for the time being. I can work from home, so given the choice between a few months of isolation in my apartment in "the bad part of town", or a few months of isolation at my mom's house, with a garden? Yeah. Easy choice.

I'd love chickens, they are like the permaculture "rototiller and garbage disposal all in one". I have been half trying to convince either of my parents to get some this year, with no success. I usually travel to much to have them even though my city would allow them.

 
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I've been asking myself how I'd suggest people start a garden from grass.  I think I'd suggest they lay down a layer or two of brown cardboard (minus the tape, labels and staples) and get it wet.  Then get wood chips to make paths and get soil to make beds.  Pile them on a couple inches deep.  Beds 2.5-3' wide, paths 18" wide.  Do this part as soon as the snow melts.  Then mulch the soil with grass clippings throughout the summer.  Not thickly, probably just 1/2 to 1 inch.  

Then when transplanting things like tomatoes, dig apart the soil, poke through the cardboard and dig up the underlying soil enough to plant.  When starting seeds, just plant them into the soil and when their roots get to the wet cardboard, hopefully they'll be able to wiggle right through it.  Root crops like carrots may or may not work, I'd be very curious to see.  

If the ground is compacted it might be beneficial to stab it with a pitch fork or broad fork to loosen it up (not turn it over).

This above is just a theory but I'm thinking it should work.

To make a field in a pasture, I laid down cardboard, covered it with an inch of sandy crappy soil and then planted sunflower seeds in it.  I stabbed through the cardboard with a steak knife at each place where I put a sunflower seed and 80% of them grew to full size.  No mulch and no care so that's why I'm thinking the proposal above could work nicely.  And should be nearly weed free for the first year.
 
Catie George
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My adventures in making a large (hopefully) first year successful garden bed began today.

Today I covered an approximately 25 x 15 ft area in a single layer of cardboard, weighed down by rocks/stones/boards/bricks. It's due to rain for 48 hrs or so, and the idea is to try to keep it wet for a month or two until planting time, to rot the grass below.

My mom and I (mostly my 60+ year old mom, who always makes me feel like a slow, lazy "lunchbucket layabout" in comparison when we work together) also raked up all the leaves in the yard and on last years gardens.  The leaves will be piled on top of the cardboard once it's saturated enough to hold itself down and I can take off the rocks/boards/bricks. My mother has also volunteered my services for raking up and wheelbarrowing away the leaves in the back corner of a neighbours' yard. Yay, i think?

We may have another load of wood chip mulch delivered, as well.  I think the apocalypse must truly be here - I was stating a 15x 15 foot bed, and my mother kept egging me to make it as big as possible (and providing more cardboard). She maintained a 60x 40' bed for a few years, and always swore she never wanted to do it again, and is usually after me not to make too large of a garden! I think watching how my mulched beds last year performed has changed her mind. We'd both rather spend a few days putting down mulch in the spring then hours weeding in the height of the summer.

I don't want to buy topsoil/soil, so for fine seeds (carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc), I started cutting sod with an edger, spearing it into the wheel barrow with a digging fork, and wheelbarrowing it away to compost and kill the grass/weeds before returning it to the garden. The goal is a 5 x 15' garden with fine, weed free soil to start carrots, parsnips, and turnips in the coming weeks. I've so far done about 5 x 3'. I shook what soil I could back into the bed with the fork. By cutting the sod off, then letting the soil sit for a week or two, it allows some weed seeds to germinate, then get raked out before I plant. So long as I avoid walking on it (will probably put down boards to stand on when I plant) it actually looks like reasonably loose, fertile soil. After the seedlings come up, I will mulch between the rows with leaves/woodchips. I will note that I would MUCH rather be prepared a year a head, and smother the grass with mulch rather than cut and remove it. Much less work, much better for the soil.

I am realizing the advantages I have over someone truly trying to "first time" garden. Including good somewhat non-standard tools (nice edgers, a digging fork, a variety of rakes, etc). Also including my mother's advice. I'd planned on turning in the grass and double digging, but using the edger and removing the sod will mean much less weeding down the road.
 
We've gotta get close enough to that helmet to pull the choke on it's engine and flood his mind! Or, we could just read this tiny ad:
All of the video from the Eat Your Dirt Summit
https://permies.com/t/106759/video-Eat-Dirt-Summit
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