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Where To Start

 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 264
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I've finally started to settle my new land and I'd like to start planning a small garden to get my feet wet so to speak. But I really don't even know where to start. How should I prep my ground for growing? I saw a youtube video of some college students putting down wood chips and cardboard etc. Is that the right idea or is there something else? My father says to till the ground but how do I start setting up a no-till system?
 
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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I noticed that you have posted in the food forest forums which tells me you want to grow a perennial food forest on the land? I think to get better opinions on how to start we should have more information on what is there now and where you would like to go with it.

What is on the land now? forest, grass, wild flowers...

How big is the land? rough approximation helps in that some things you might do by hand on smaller plots

What would you like to see on the land? Food forest of perennial fruits and vegitables? Would you like to grow some annuals and if so how many annuals? annuals are things like tomatoes, peppers and also grains.

Is the land flat or sloped?

Is there water on the land? If there is even a seasonal stream do you want a water feature of some sort?

Did you want to grow animals now or later? animals can be quite helpful in clearing land so it would be nice to know if they are workers also you might want to grow things for the animals

Do you own any farm machinery or have access to some?

What kinds of organic matters can yu get free? If you have a pile of anything organic around it could be nice to incorporate that into the plan to change over the land to your uses. Particularly wood logs or chips?

Have you looked at hugelkultur? I looked that word up just for you . Is this concept something your would like to do?

How fast would you like to have things done....all at once or are yu happy enough to do some here and some there?

How much money are you willing to invest in this? Not a number figure but more along the lines of I have quite a bit of money so I can buy the fruit trees I want all at once or should people be suggesting that the fruit trees sell off cheap in the summer or you can get really cheap but small trees from local DNR and or arbor society.

I am thinking it would also help us to know approximately where the land is...we do not know what season you are in nor how extreme the temperatures are. Also different countries offer different resources.

Not all this information is needed to help with ideas but I think all is helpful.

I reread what you wrote and i see some answers, you would like to start small and want to know how to do it. The questions most important in the start are the organic materials, what is on the land and are you interested in hugelkultur. The rest is helpful in thinking of longer term.
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 264
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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laura sharpe wrote:I noticed that you have posted in the food forest forums which tells me you want to grow a perennial food forest on the land? I think to get better opinions on how to start we should have more information on what is there now and where you would like to go with it.

What is on the land now? forest, grass, wild flowers...

How big is the land? rough approximation helps in that some things you might do by hand on smaller plots

What would you like to see on the land? Food forest of perennial fruits and vegitables? Would you like to grow some annuals and if so how many annuals? annuals are things like tomatoes, peppers and also grains.

Is the land flat or sloped?

Is there water on the land? If there is even a seasonal stream do you want a water feature of some sort?

Did you want to grow animals now or later? animals can be quite helpful in clearing land so it would be nice to know if they are workers also you might want to grow things for the animals

Do you own any farm machinery or have access to some?

What kinds of organic matters can yu get free? If you have a pile of anything organic around it could be nice to incorporate that into the plan to change over the land to your uses. Particularly wood logs or chips?

Have you looked at hugelkultur? I looked that word up just for you . Is this concept something your would like to do?

How fast would you like to have things done....all at once or are yu happy enough to do some here and some there?

How much money are you willing to invest in this? Not a number figure but more along the lines of I have quite a bit of money so I can buy the fruit trees I want all at once or should people be suggesting that the fruit trees sell off cheap in the summer or you can get really cheap but small trees from local DNR and or arbor society.

I am thinking it would also help us to know approximately where the land is...we do not know what season you are in nor how extreme the temperatures are. Also different countries offer different resources.

Not all this information is needed to help with ideas but I think all is helpful.

I reread what you wrote and i see some answers, you would like to start small and want to know how to do it. The questions most important in the start are the organic materials, what is on the land and are you interested in hugelkultur. The rest is helpful in thinking of longer term.


Thank you for the reply. After reading your post, I realize that I posted in the wrong area. I was hoping to just start a regular vegetable garden. Perhaps a moderator can move my post. But I'll go ahead and answer your questions to get started:

My land is 12+ acres. Only 2.5 of those acres are grass and the rest is wooded - half eastern red cedar and half hardwoods (not sure which).

After I build my house, I'd like to plant some fruit and nut trees to serve as shade, landscape and food, but for now I just want to grow vegetables like lettuce, okra, corn etc and maybe a few fruits like blueberries. Also, I'd like to try my hand at winter wheat.

The land is very flat.

There is not currently any water, but I'll put a pond in at some point.

I'm definitely going to have chickens and possibly a few sheep.

I have no farm machinery. I guess I could rent some if it became necessary.

As for organic matter, I have tons of trees, but not much else as far as i know.

Yes I'm very interested in hugelkultur. It does seem like a very big project even to set up a small garden, so for this coming spring I just want to try something small and easy and after I get a feel for growing (i've never grown anything before) then I'll look into more complex ideas such as this.

My overall plans are huge and so the project will be a work in progress for many years. So for now I'm content to just start small and take on bits at a time. I was hoping to get something in the ground for this coming Spring.

As for investment, I don't have a huge pile of money lying around but I do plan to invest most of what I have into. I was hoping I'd invest more time than money, as I grow slowly.

I'm in North Texas, Hunt County to be exact.

So based on that, can you tell me how I can start preparing a small no-till vegetable garden? I really can't even imagine how to prep the land without tilling. I'm thinking probably a 12x12 area to start.

Thanks
 
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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I have tried the old fashioned plow the field, I have tried raised beds. To me the raised bed wins hands down. Most raised beds have yu enclosing the area planted in wood or something else like that but except for things outside the bed creeping in, i suggest you simply dig up beds which are 4-5 foot across by whatever using means you like best...pile up the grass top layer on the side and dig down maybe 6 inches, no science to that number...pile up in the hole all the organic matter you have around...branches, wood, leaves, kitchen scraps...manure. Put the top layer of grass things upside down on top of the organics but upside down so it wont grow again (I would also include all the grass around the outside o the bed too) and pile the dirt on top. A bit of work i know but it is a quick way to get the soil to a much better place than it was when you started. If you have composted organics add to the top there and now yu have a mounded planting area you do not have to step into the bed to weed. Mulch the walkway all the way around the bed so that the grass (or whatever else is there) does not creep into the bed.

There is no need for pathes between the plants because you will never bring machinery down in the garden area nor will you walk there. I generally break up the dirt by hitting it with a shovel but i have a lot of aggression to work off . A 5 foot by 20 foot garden will give you a good amount of produce while you figure out how to grow each one and as you gather all your gardening things such as posts or cages for the tomatoes. Look up raised bed gardening for how close to plant things, generally the spacing is what they recommend as between each in a row...just imagine the plant as a circle. This is a smaller area to start

This is my suggestion, others might have others so I will explain my reasoning behind this. Each thing you grow takes a bit of learning, you will find as you move along that you wish you had more okra and less tomatoes. Youu will find the beans you planted dont work well in this soil but the beets went wild. In other words, you will find out what grows well for you and what you like to grow. Nothiing overwhelming in having to weed it in the hot weather. I hope this leaves you lots of time and money to attend to some new trees and bushes (they need more attention when new). In the fall, you will have a good idea if you would like to plant morre gardens such as that one or try a more perennials.

typing tonight is hard...sorry if it is hard to read too.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I've done lots of methods. Putting cardboard down makes it hard to grow early spring planted vegetables like peas and carrots because the cardboard may still be too stiff/hard for the roots to penetrate. Starting a bed like that and then planting it in May would probably work very well, tho.

I've put down black plastic to kill the grass (takes about a week in the spring because it doesn't get as hot). You need to make sure there aren't any gaps and put boards around the edges to keep them down. Once the grass is dead you can remove the plastic and pile on organic matter and mulch, you'd want it several inches thick to prevent any remaining root weeds from coming through (dandelions and thistle can survive this).

If you can find rotting bales of straw, you can start with potatoes in 12" deep straw just right on top of the ground (or on top of layers of newspaper or cardboard). Start the potatoes in April for a mid-summer harvest then plant a late crop of either fast-maturing beans or squash, plant a fall garden of greens, radish, etc., or plant an annual cover crop to improve the soil and keep out weeds for the next season. Everything grows well after a crop of potatoes grown this way (tho they say to wait several years before planting tomato-family plants after potatoes). Squash and pumpkins also grow well in rotting straw.

Another thing to look at, since you're in TX, is wicking beds. You'd have a plastic sheet in the ground with a perforated pipe for distributing water then a layer of wicking materials (hay is often used), then put the topsoil back in and plant in it. With that, you water directly UNDER the plants and the moisture stays below the top few inches, preventing evaporation and conserving lots of water, while providing water to the roots of the plants. Look it up for full instructions, but it's pretty cool and I'd definitely do it in TX! I played last year with wicking buckets, using Home Depot buckets and they worked really well, except they created a mosquito problem for me in the fall. I don't think you'd have that with the water under ground.
 
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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I do not know your county in texas, I am unaware of what kind of rain you can expect. Buried cardboard can hold a ton of water available to the plants as needed. But I think Renate speaks of simply using some mulch to kill off the plants growing now. On another posting I saw mention of brown paper for this too. I like to bury my compost materials to keep my neighbors happy and i think it will mostly be decomposed when the roots of the plantings reach it.

I have to admit there is as many of the buriers as there is people who just compost the top and plant. If I thought the soil I was planting in did not need large amounts of organic matter, I would certainly just kill the top growth and plant. One day, I will try that rotting hay with potatoes thing...if you have this as a resource....



 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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I started my garden as a meadow. Never tilled. I just covered it with a tons of hay, 2 feet thick mulch and left it that way 1 year. Than I moved away mulch, throw seeds on bare ground and put back mulch. Never watered, and still I picked a lot of vegs next months. If I had watered it during the summer, there would be more of it, but it is far away from my home so I have no water there, and could not visit this garden very often. So, no-till works perfectly for me.
 
dj niels
Posts: 181
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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In the book, chicken tractor, by Andy Lee and Pat Foreman, the authors talk about preparing a new garden bed by setting up a small chicken pen (a chicken tractor) over the area you want for a garden and letting the birds scratch up and eat the weeds, seeds, bugs, etc. Everyday you add some mulch like straw or hay, which they also scratch in. After a few weeks of this treatment, the ground is well scratched up and mulched and fertilized. Then just move the whole setup to a new spot, and you are ready to plant.

I have used this method, and it does work quite well. It works especially well if you can prepare the new bed or beds in the fall and let it sit over the winter. I like to feed my birds scratch (whole grains), so after I move the birds, the mulch and missed grain grows into a nice green manure crop.

But for the easiest way to start a new garden, read lasagna gardening, (I can't think of the author's name right now), and/or Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew. I actually combined the two methods in some of my garden beds: I put down cardboard and/or newspaper to block weeds, with a frame over that--(I like to make a frame out of 2x6 or 2x8, etc boards,) then covered the paper/cardboard layer with layers of straw, peat moss, compost, manure, leaves, etc-- at least 1/2 to 2/3 full in the frame, then I added just an inch or two of the Mel's Mix over the top to plant into. The mulch layers in the bottom helped make a sponge to hold moisture so the bed didn't dry out so quickly, and now all the organic matter has broken down to good, rich soil.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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