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Newbee Seeking Advice on ambitious garden  RSS feed

 
                        
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This year I started my very first garden, ever. Not your usual small, beginner's affair, though- I have broccoli, peppers, cucs, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, corn, zucchini and butternut squash... and that's not even all of it. The amazing thing for me is that almost all of them seem to be doing very well (despite the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing.)

But now the cucs are starting to stretch themselves out, my radishes are growing like weeds, and I'm realizing that now I'm going to have to learn how to take care of lots of growing things that I don't know how to handle. Plus the ants are doing a good job of systematically taking out my broccoli, and since I'm trying to do this organically, I'm at a loss as to how to get them to stop eating my little plants.

I have set up some trellises with hanging twine for my green beans (something I picked up on here) and I intend on starting the cucs vertically, too. Are there special things I should do for my other little guys? I have one pea plant and the poor thing is in bad shape, but nothing I do for it seems to be working...

Any advice at all, to how much water an adult corn plant needs to whether or not I should prune anything but tomatoes and cucs (to grow them vertically) to organic (and preferably not entirely unfriendly) ways to stop the bugs would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 
Saybian Morgan
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Your post is asking allot but you havn't given many clues. Where are you located? how can I know how much water corn needs if I don't know if you live in the desert.
It seems by your description that you've lucked into success and now abundance is backfiring. There's allot of things you could do but I don't know how most advice would mix with your experience, but there's no spray an insecticide then add 10-10-10 fertiliser solution right off the bat.
The ant's may no be harming your plants at all, they could be farming aphids which are the ones harming your plants. Depending on where you are, something like gardening successfully could be a monumental struggle depending on your ethics or as simple as drop a seed and walk away.
Are you working with native soil conditions? did you just dump a bag of sea soil into a garden box? Do you have animals? There's allot to think about if someone wants to give good advice, I don't want to shout out feeds the plants urine and spray the ant's with tobacco tea if when done wrong you could loose everything.

which of your questions do you want answered the most?
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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About your peas, some reasons they could be doing badly:
1. Soil lacks symbiotic bacteria. If your greenbeans are doing fine, this is unlikely, but every garden contains micro-climates and quite usually, varying soils, sometimes feet apart, sometimes inches apart. Solution: innoculent
2. Soil holds diseases which are killing your peas. Solution: look these up, find which it is, and buy a variety resistant to that/those next year
3. Not enough sun. For cool-season plants, peas sure love sun. They just don't like heat.
4. Not enough water, or too much water.
5. Garden pests, either soil or above ground types, possibly both. Solution: diatomaceous earth for above ground pests. look up symptoms for below ground pests
6. Nutritional imbalance/lack. Solution: again, look up the symptoms. Your local library, and online are great resources.
7. Too much nutrition. If you've added manure or store-bought fertilizer to your pea area, its possible that it is "hotter" than you thought [too much nitrogen], and is burning the roots of your poor peas. I managed to do this last year to squash and raspberries of all things. (Poor things.) Both are virtually indestructible in this area. This year I spread that same store bought "soil" in a thin layer over nice leaf mulch and topped it with local soil and the squash are quite happy. Raspberries don't like their roots disturbed, so still waiting to see if they'll decide on survival after all. (Not the same raspberry variety as last year.)

Corn takes quite a bit of water, but it does not like water logged roots, much like tomatoes and other things that thrive on sun and heat. I believe that corn actually takes less water than tomatoes, though. Corn is shallow-rooted, but a heavy feeder. That's why traditionally you have the 3 sisters: pole beans (nitrogen fixer), squash (shades roots), and corn (soil cleaner/heavy feeder). I've also heard of corn being interplanted with clover (nitrogen fixer).

You might try pouring boiling water down the ants nests. Various ants are susceptible to various controls, but boiling water should work on all of them. You can probably find deterrents for most types of bugs, but it depends on which bugs you have. Again, research is your friend. And some varieties will be more bug-resistant than others.

I only prune squashes if their vines can't be moved out of my way and they are very much in my way (overgrowing something else). If they are healthy plants, this should set them back all of ...oh, 3 days, before they start reinvading with a will. Tomatoes grow upwards fairly easily with a little support cages or stakes, whatever. One thing you don't want to do to any plant is over-prune [though some varieties appreciate more pruning than others]. Especially if you live in a hot area. Leaves gather sunlight and turn it into food. It's okay to prune to one or two main stems, but leave the leaves. Leaves also protect fruits from sunburn.
 
Rick Freeman
Posts: 103
Location: NW Montana, Hardiness Zone 4b
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Sammy,

Are you growing in rows? Guilds? Hugelculture mounds?

Insofar as you can, mimic ecological systems so natural checks and balances can eliminate some of your problems. You'll possibly always take some losses, but you can minimize them.

How to do this? Too much to write here.

But, check out the book _Gaia's Garden_ by Toby Hemenway.

Meanwhile, just enjoy the process and the learn what you can in the time that you have to dedicate. It's a fun process and you'll get some food out of it too.

Best, Rickster
 
Mark Garden
Posts: 2
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As a newbie, I am looking also for an advice on how to start and what shall I consider for planting.
Anyway, thanks for this information guys.
 
Rick Freeman
Posts: 103
Location: NW Montana, Hardiness Zone 4b
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Mark and Smilin' Sammy,

I would suggest that you include your hardiness zone and rough location of your growing environment in your profile so they show up next to your name on posts. Something like, "Zone 4, northern rockies, mixed forest environment." Maybe even mention your predominant soil type, if there is one. (Often they vary.)

Mark, what do you like to eat that will grow in your zone? What do you like to look at? Mix it up with perennials including trees and shrubs if you have the option.

Check out Toby Hemenway's _Gaia's Garden_ for a great starter book!! I love that book (though the title puts me off a bit). It's a great introduction to the edible forest garden -- with great drawings, good plant lists, and so forth.

Enjoy. PS, for now, just wing it and see what grows.
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Also,
I forgot to mention, and find that this is a very over looked resource on this forum, if you are not doing a forest garden or if your garden is going to contain many staples like peas, beans, tomatoes, squash and so on, anyone would be well served to check out the plethora of books written on ordinary or organic gardening. Local sources for these would be used book stores, thrift shops and your local library. Permaculture books are excellent for putting together a system, but I find them severely lacking in information on individual plant types and even pest/disease control.
While I do believe that a properly functioning permaculture system will have very few problems with disease and pests, most people don't start with perfect soil/climate and depredations and plagues can discourage the hardiest gardener let alone a person who is new to it. While I would recommend being very careful of many of the traditional remedies (aka poison, so on) (I don't use them), I have found that no information is wasted. The more you know, the better-informed choices you can make. Never take just one source's word for something that sounds weird to you. Books on forests and trees are also good information sources whether you are doing a food forest, or just a guild or two, or merely a sustainable garden. Other information sources on plants include gardening magazines and seed catalogs, local gardeners of all sorts, state agriculture and forestry extensions, local nurseries, public ornamental gardens, private and public forests (walking through them gives a feel for how real forests work), online agricultural information from many colleges and government programs (really, not everything the government is evil. Promise).
I am not just saying this. This is something I do myself, even after nearly thirty years of organic gardening. I have gardened in rich loam fields, sandy compacted small areas, clayey soils, and pots over the course of my gardening adventures. Even if I don't agree with someone/author on methods to results, I can usually find something to learn from them.
I keep most of it in my head because when I'm out in the garden its inconvenient to go searching for information for six hours, but keeping notes and copies of pertinent articles will serve you well and make it easier to find what you are looking for. I am new to "permaculture" as a system, but not to most of the methods that go into permaculture. Some of them are ones I've been using for years. I find that most of what I know about gardening is very useful in a permaculture context, and gives me a wide range of ideas to pull from. Remember, permaculture is a combination of cultures that works well enough to thrive and last with minimum input from you. The cultures being human culture and nature culture.
If you don't like/find useful the local plants, look around for plants that grow in similar climes around the world. For instance, lavender is not native here, but it comes from a very similar region soil/weatherwise in France. (Yes, I know there is more than one type of lavender. Anyway.) Thus lavender thrives quite well here with little or no care at all. Basil, also. Baby it in pots and the stuff keels over or just withers up and dies. Stick it out where it is hot and dry and in the local soil and it's very chirpy. <laugh> Who would have thought?

Also, just because its happy in your area doesn't mean you should grow it. Check FIRST for invasive stats. You don't want to accidentally introduce something like the 'kudzu in Florida' 'water lilies in the Lousiana waterways' 'fish tank weed loose in the Mediterranean' fiascoes. The difference between "very, very happy" and "invasive" in your area is like this: Snapdragons vs. bindweed.
Snapdragons: I don't weed or water them and they still happily self seed all over my properties and bloom beautifully. Most of them are also perennial. They do NOT, however, spread over to my neighbors' properties. <-"very, very happy"
Bindweed: Gorgeous, lush foliage, happily climbs up my plants, knocks them over and smothers them. Nearly impossible to eradicate. Whack it off and you can barely tell a month later. Also, happily spreads via root and seed. Roots can travel 25 feet in a year, the longest root ever traced was 2 miles long. The seeds can remain viable for up to 50 years. The plant if flowering when whacked off will set seed from the whacked off section of flowers. <-"invasive"
 
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