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Tips for starting a vegetable garden

Original post made on Aug 5, 2008

Start small: Decide which vegetables you like best and figure out how much room they need — tomatoes and beans are bountiful in a small space, whereas melons require lots of room to grow, for example. You can always expand the size of the plot later on.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

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Posted by PaulC
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 5, 2008 at 10:27 am

Be prepared to have to work hard and fail for a few years until you get the hang of it. I don't believe gardening is something you can do casually, but over time it can be quite easy and natural. In my first two years in my new location I had poor gardens until this year. This year I have some very good results, but not with everything. And I spent much more up-front time, but it was well worth it.

0.)Start small, if you want. Nothing wrong growing a single plant to get the hang of it.
1.) You must fight pests and animals, a raised bed and fence are good solutions.
2.) Grow what you eat.
3.) You must practice to grow better.
4.) I had to completely reprocess all the soil in my raised gardens, which was back breaking work, but well worth it. Though I didnt' quite "double dig", I did reprocess more than a foot deep in multiple 50sf pens. That's a lot of sod to bust. But this year's plants are huge.
5.) Use an intelligent, economical watering system. Sure we can say "use drip", but that is a hand waving answer that doesn't do justice to amount of thought and effort you must put into your drip watering system. Unless you are growing few plants, believe me, you don't want to hand water each day or every other day. If you are already over programmed, there is no way you are going to remember or find time to water. This needs to be automated, if possible. A well thought out drip system will save time downstream.
5a.) Logistics matter. Plants have an expected area they will grow into, there is a proper place to plant them in the footprint of the bed, a proper height, and a best location to water. Learn these. After plants get quite large, being able to access them, and process them is quite important and goes much more easily if the garden was laid out with some thoughtfulness.
(I used wire cylinders for my tomatoes, which got so big and heavy they toppled the wire cages. To fortify the cage strength, I tried wooden stakes, but they too failed, so I actually used 4' rebar from Home Depot (its not expensive)and drove it very far into the ground.)

6.) Compost everything you can, this helps restore nutrients to the soil. I use two different kind of "tumbling" composters.
(One interesting result of composting kitching scraps, is that many seeds in the scraps germinate into "volunteers". My rose bushes are filled with volunteer tomato plants, as are my raised garden beds.

6a.) Quality and quantity can go together. I planted too many of each plant. My lettuce, squash and tomatoes were very productive, and so they started to crowd out each other and other plants. Crowding also made it difficult to process and harvest. Regardless, each squash and tomoto plant produced numerous squashes and tomatoes. In the future I intend to plant fewer plants giving them larger footprints, feeling secure that few plants can produce more than enough.

7.) Until you germinate from seeds, expect the up-front cost to be pretty high to buy starter plants. You can take some comfort in knowing that robust plants give off copious amounts of produce, and it almost seems magical.

8.) Learn to time your garden. This year I over planted lettuce (42 heads) all of which grew quite well, and all of which matured at approximately the same time.) I like lettuce, but we can't eat 42 heads in several weeks.

9.) Share with neighbors. ( I gave away much lettuce, and traded my lettuce for apricots and other goodies.)

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