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New to Site, new to area, and somewhat new to vegetable gardening

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Hello everyone! I am fairly new to the site, posted once before and have been doing some reading. I am also new to the area I am living in...Very Northern NY...Jefferson County NY. I have very limited gardening experience but love it. My 2 year old and I did some containers this season just to get her started with the experience and to get me back into it and experiencing the area a little. I also needed to do some serious work on the backyard this year before anything would be ready for planting.

I think next season we will be doing raised beds in the backyard. I have picked vegetables that we all eat and like to start and I have tried to limit the number so that I am not overwhelmed to start but I really do want to get a large backyard garden going in steps. My brother in law has a large property not far from us and he is an amazing resource so I do have that help. I am going with raised beds because I am not in a great area for soil so for now I think the raised beds will be best. Basically we have talked about doing away with the "lawn" in the back and just making raised beds and paths.  Also a project my daughter and I did this year that I was amazed worked as well as it did was repurposing her large juice bottles and hanging them from the fence as planters. Hot peppers and even bell peppers grew amazingly in them, I can't believe it. I would love to try some other things next season.

Is there anyone in this area or the same type climate that has any suggestions for me as a beginner. I would like to go with vegetables and some berries. I would also like to start composting. Obviously anything that keeps costs down would be awesome and I love the idea of recycling and re-purposing. I am open to suggestions on best plants, soil suggestions, even ideas for raised beds.

Also just wanted to say Hi and introduce myself. My name is Janet, I am obviously in NY and I am a single mom to a 2 yr old daughter and an 18 yr old son.
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Location: Zone 6b
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Raised beds are awesome, and easy to maintain once set up. I can suggest the Square Foot Gardening method, to at least get an idea on how to manage a raised bed system easier. I borrowed from that system in setting up mine.  

Two feet wide is maximum, and err a bit narrower if your bed can only be reached from one side (these are wonderful to put around your perimeter if you have to fence it as well, especially privacy fencing. It gives you productivity for a usually wasted space along the fence, and putting lattice for trellis against fence is peasyeasy).  Two sided, three feet wide is great.

I do have an RGGS (rain gutter grow system) set up as well. The big thing about this is that I can nest the growpails (5 gallon pails) inside another pail with a side cut access hole so my peppers can become houseplants during the winter as an easily maintained self-waterer. That way I can keep a pepper plant for 4-5 years and in production-with enough light and doing the q-tip bee routine I can get pepper crops in the house.

Back to the raised beds. Keyhole gardens are a circular raised bed with the center and an access path built in as walkable. You can reach everything easily and they are an efficient way to use your space. I have a hybrid, done in a 6' stock tank with a rusted out bottom. Outer ring is green bell pepper plants, then there is a ring of cherry/salad tomato plants and a couple of pavers for me to step up and into the middle of the tomato plants. I can reach all but the very center from the ground and once every few weeks go 'up top' to pick the few weeds I see from there and convince the caged tomatoes to stay caged...

Raised beds you can build one at a time so they are not so overwhelming to get going. Pave, put down landscape fabric, or otherwise do weed control between. You can grow grass but make it mower wide between your beds or you will find it impossible to keep the grass managed.


Just to get you started. There are many articles here about building raised bed gardens.
If you make long parallel row beds, break for crosswalk every so often. More than 16 feet to walk around gets tiring, I find a walk through break about every ten feet is nice.  

If you visit me you will see not every weed is gone, especially bushy type ones. I use one fresh picked to wave ahead of me between things to remove the working spiders and their walk-in webs between me and where I want to go. When I finish, the weed brush gets tossed in compost. I used to be a legendary arachnophobic, living here has taught me otherwise. Still I abhor walking into a web so this just makes life happier. I don't kill the working spiders keeping my insect levels down and I don't hit their webs. I also learned to identify most common spiders on sight as we do have three of the nasty ones here; and what the nasty one's webbing patterns are. So I can figure out if it has to die or not as I go. Orb spiders can get huge and scary but they are a very good spider as a working spider. One big one next to my tomato plant patch though is a good deterrent to most. I can break her web and get her to go hide so I can get in there and pick the luscious tomatoes. I mention spiders as if you grow raised beds parallel you will have opportunists...
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Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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Hi Janet

My favourite repurposed item is large water bottles (5 litre I think) which I use as cloches in the spring for sheltering my sweetcorn and squashes and other tender stuff.  Round here we can get frosts up to the end of May, but I have limited space and attention span to keep large quantities of things alive at home until it's safe to plant out at the allotment.

One of my best aquisitions was when I went to help a friend prune his blackcurrant bushes.  Of course I brought some of the branches home, cut them into pencil lengths and shoved them straight in the soil (this was in late autumn after the bushes were dormant) and the next spring they had all taken, so now I have eight blackcurrant bushes (plus some I gave away) which makes a very worthwhile quantity of berries!  It's always good to grow things you can't easily/cheaply get in the shops.

I also have an eighteen year old son, he thinks the allotment is one of the silliest ideas I've ever had...
Janet Chapman
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Thank you for the tips.

Deb, I love the Keyhole gardens, although I am not sure I could do that in my backyard. My home is in more of city/town environment and my compost is probably going to need to be more contained because of my neighbors. I may try a variation on the idea though. I do like it. My yard is a rectangle with a fence all the way around. I want to do beds along the perimeter of the fence and also use the vertical space of the fence with some of the hanging containers my daughter and I used this year. I really can't believe how well some of the plants did in the juice bottles and the amount of space that was available and I still have to use is amazing and they really didn't need all that much watering. Then I want to put beds in the bulk of the yard with paths in between.  I figure we can add beds until we feel that we have gotten to a point that we are feeling to much and then slow down for a season and the garden can grow as we get more comfortable.


I love getting plants from cuttings or friends. We actually bought 1 strawberry plant from a locally nursery this year for my daughter to get started with and it developed so many runners that we started new plants off of I can't believe how many we have now. Also my brother in law has shared many of his plants and seeds. I am trying to find people and resources locally now. I imagine there must be clubs and organizations. While my home is in more of a city type area we are not far from a very rural area. My brother in laws property is pretty much farm country.

I loved watching my little girl plant the seeds and then the excitement when she saw the first strawberry and picked it and ate it. Also when her first cucumber was ready and she was so proud to walk around the house with it cut up on a plate and make sure everyone got some.

I am already working on my plan for next season with a list of the plants we want and companion plants for them, creating a planting calendar to remind me, and making a design for the actual beds in the back yard and trying to find resources for decent soil etc. We are also saving seeds from this years vegetables to plant next year.

All of the world's problems can be solved in a garden - Geoff Lawton. Tiny ad:
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