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First home, first garden.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm very excited because my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of buying our first home. We went and took another look around last night, and with the huge yard I'll be able to have my first ever garden. 


It'll be in zone 7A (I really have no idea what that means), and there is a ton of work to be done on the yard, both front and back. But I would love any tips, help, or just people who will put up with me being so excited about everything!


We wont be able to move in until things are all said and signed and done, but we are thinking it will be around mid May early June.

post #2 of 12

Congratulations! When we bought our current home, our first with a yard, I couldn't think of anything else but how to construct the garden, WELL before our closing date. haha. 


What do you want to grow/landscape?

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks RosieL. We're about mid way through the buying process right now. We've agreed on a price and signed everything, then sent the papers to the seller to sign. I want to go start digging up my garden areas already.


I'll do my best to describe the layout first and then I'll try and explain what I want to grow.


Around the front of the house under the windows are the typical flower areas. And I don't know at all what I want to plant there. I've never really seen the point of flowers just for the sake of flowers, but then I've never had a chance to pick and grow my own. I was thinking a mix of purple and white and blue flowers, and I've been trying to find some that have uses (lavender, chamomile for example).


The front yard also has some small tree, around the middle, and it looks like they might have had one of those plastic circle things around it. I don't think I'll do anything with that other then remove the plastic thingy. 


There is a small laundry alcove off the kitchen with a door that leads into the back yard and a door that leads into the garage. My husband checked the orientation of the house for me and the sun rises in the back yard and sets in the front. So I'm planning on planing my vegetables near the house and the door. 


The vegetable garden is the hard part for me. Size wise, 5' by 10' was suggested, but I don't know how much work and yield that would be. I'd like to grow pretty much what ever I can. Corn, tomatoes (though we might use hanging pots for those), squash, okra, potatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, peppers... What I'd really like for the first year at least, is to pick 5 or so of the easier ones and start with those.


There is a small bed up against the house, under the breakfast nook window, I was planning on using that for herbs. Dill, thyme, rosemary, pretty much anything that will grow here. 


I'd also like to have a berry patch somewhere in the yard. I can get starter bushes of raspberry and blackberry. I'd also like blueberries and strawberries (might get a strawberry pot for these). Around the middle of the fence, furthest away from the house, one of the neighbour's trees has pushed through the fence. We plan on putting a whole new fence up if we can. If we cant I was thinking having the berry bushes by the gaps might be an idea.


The rest of the yard is big, there are two largeish trees up in the left corner furthest away from the house. Both have those plastic things around them, and one of the two has tulips growing near the tree. I really don't like those plastic things so I'm sure we'll pull those out and use something different. The right of the yard also has two trees, smaller ones, we are going to wait and see what they look like but we may get rid of them. 


The yard is on a slope, with the highest part being furthest away from the house and leveling out mid way, and then sloping again about half way through the front yard. 


Sorry this has been such a long post, I just wanted to try and describe everything as best as I could. If there are any suggestions on what to start with, or if it would be better to break this down into stages to make it more workable that would be appreciated.

post #4 of 12

Congratulations! Having a new house and yard is sooo exciting, and there is nothing like your first house. :)


I've done the new house thing twice now, and have learned a little bit each time.


My biggest suggestion is don't hurry on anything you don't need to hurry on. I know that is really hard when you are raring to go, but plan to spend the first summer mostly observing the garden. I can't tell you how many great plants I ended up ripping out the first summer in my first house because I didn't know what they were! I spent a lot of money purchasing plants to take the place of perfectly lovely plants I'd accidentally pulled. And I put the veggie garden in the exact wrong spot because I didn't realize that the spot that was sunny in spring would be shaded mid-summer, because the angle of the sun changes over the course of the year.


That said, you don't want to go the first year without making any changes and without a veggie garden! For the flower gardens, I'd just watch this year. As plants come up, learn to identify them and pull anything that really is a weed. If you can get to know a gardener in your new neighborhood, they'll be happy to help you, I'm sure. Otherwise you can always post photos here for help identifying.


Pulling the plastic barriers from around the trees probably isn't a bad idea the first year, either. Those often aren't great for the trees, anyway, since they can get in the way of proper root development.


For the veggie garden and herb garden, the spots you picked sound reasonable. Herbs are not very finicky, and you want them in a spot that is easy to access from the house. Right outside the door is perfect! For the veggies, right near the door is also really convenient if you have the sun there all summer. Would you feel comfy putting the bed in, with the idea that you might need to move it? And are you planning a traditional row garden or an intensive bed? If you are planning the later, I'd actually go with a 4' x 8' (or 10' or 12' - I just picked 8' long, because it is easy to find lumber that size if you want to build a raised bed). With a 4' wide bed, you can reach the whole thing without stepping in the garden - 5' and you've have to stretch a little further. And I'd actually go with a bed that size for the first year. You'll learn better and be more likely to stick with it if you start small and have the time to care for the bed well than if you over-extend yourself and get overwhelmed. You can always expand next year.


Of the veggies you mentioned, I think the ones that would be easiest and best suited to a small garden are tomatoes, peppers, cukes, onions, garlic, and/or potatoes (maybe okra - I have no experience growing it!). Corn is pretty big for a small garden, and you have to plant a fairly large patch so it pollinates, and squash takes up a lot of space.




post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm fine with the thought of having to move things around next year if they don't work out. This is one part experiment, one part fun, and one part excitement for me!


Weather permitting (it's been very rainy and stormy this past week) on saturday or sunday DH and I will go take some before pictures. I'm planning on posting them here. So everyone can see what I'm working with. 


I'm not sure what the difference is between a traditional row garden or an intensive bed. I'll have to look those up. I'm doing as much reading as I can right now. I'm working on putting together a book (well word document) with information about planting and each type of veggie I'm considering, but there is a lot of information to go through. 


As far as I can tell with the front of the house there is nothing in the flowerbeds that I can see. It just looks like dirt to me. I didn't even think there could be anything there. >.< 


I'm thinking right now of going to the store and getting a herb starter kit, or something like that just to get something going. 


Edit: I wanted to add that at this point I'm not working so I have lots of time to devote to the garden. Though I am looking for a job.

post #6 of 12

How odd. Try asking the previous owners whether there is anything in the flower beds. It could be that they have just plants that die back in the winter in the beds, and they haven't started coming back yet this year.


For the gardening, to learn more about intensive beds, you could google "Grow Biointensive", "Square Foot Gardening" or "French Biointensive". Any of those will get you info about different methods of raising your veggies in beds, rather than rows. For books, you could check out "The Sustainable Vegetable Garden" by John Jeavons, "Square Foot Gardening" by mel bartholomew, and "The Gardener's A to Z Guide to Organic gardening" by Tanya Denkla. The first two offere a great introduction to gardening in beds instead of rows, and the 3rd is just a terrific resource on growing veggies and fruits, with information about when to plant them, how close to plant them together, how to care for them, and when to harvest.


Traditional row gardening is probably more what you think of when you think of a veggie garden - a large rectangle of plowed ground with straight rows of veggies.


So, for the herb bed, are you planning to start with a seed kit or plants? Keep in mind that with some herbs (French Tarragon comes to mind), you really need to buy plants, because the tastiest varieties are grown from cuttings and are not available by seed.


have fun!

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Asking the previous owners isn't possible because it's a foreclosure. Which in some ways is a pain, because I'd love to know what the trees are. I'm not overly keen about the front beds though. My DH says I should plant flowers in them because that's whats done, but I don't really like flowers that much. 


I'll grab The Sustainable Vegetable Garden this weekend because I can get it on my kindle. Makes for easier reading and I'll see about checking the library for the other two. 


I don't really have much thought of how a garden should look. I'm happy on what ever is easy and works is fine with me. I do like the look of the hanging tomato planters though, and I think strawberry pots are nifty looking. Of course I don't know how well they work so I'll have to do some reading on those too. 


As for herbs I was just planning on picking up some seeds I guess. Or maybe getting like a child's starter kit, something that's really hard to mess up. I haven't thought of starting from plants or anything like that.


Edit: I had a chance to look at Square food gardening and I really like how it looks. I think I'll go with that approach, but I'd prefer in ground rather then raised beds. 

Edited by CorriJ - 3/31/11 at 9:38pm
post #8 of 12

congrats on your new house :) 


Definitely spend your first year just observing your garden areas, noting the plants that are already growing there and the sun exposure each areas gets.  For a veggie bed and probably most of your kitchen herb bed you want 6-8 + hours of sunlight.  Although mine is on the 6 hour side and does just fine for the most part. I should have situated it more on the south end of my backyard (my house is situated much like yours, the backyard is in the east and the front yard is in the west) so the house didn't shade it so much in the afternoon.  But anyway.     


I think the recommendation of a 4x8 or 5x8 veggie plot for starting out is great.  That's what I started with a few years ago.  I have one semi-raised bed but that's because my yard slopes down quite a bit in that area and I need the walls to keep the soil in and level.  The rest of my beds are in ground.  Although eventually I may raise them, I am not sure.  


Last year in my 5x8 bed I grew a trellis of peas (double row) across the back, and blocks in the front with lettuces (10-12 bunches), radishes (a few here and there for fun), onions (about 40 bulbs), 6 very large broccoli plants (produced way more than we could eat), and carrots (which could have yielded me around 30-40 carrots but they did not germinate well so I only got about 10).  Just to give you an idea of what you could get out of it.  I would definitely do some lettuces, and you could do green beans instead of peas (since it will be hot once you get into your garden), a few peppers or cucumbers and a tomato plant instead of the broccoli and carrots, and maybe a squash instead of the onions this year (I am not sure if you can plant onions that late).  Garlic will go in in the fall after most everything else has come out.


I really like "starter vegetable gardens" by barbara pleasant for a beginner book.  She does several garden plans starting from scratch with suggestions on what to plant, how and when to plant/harvest, how much compost to use, etc. in the first section of the book, then in the second section gives you more specific advice on mulching, watering, fertilizing (organically), using flowers, insects and more, with suggested planting plans, then the last section has detailed info on many food plants as far as good varieties you may want to explore.          


In your front beds if you don't want to do "just flowers" you could do an ornamental herb garden.  I've got an herb bed that started out as an ornamental herb bed but I have now added some perennial kitchen herbs.  But in any case I have lavender, echinacea (coneflower), sweet joe pye, salvia (ornamental sage), ornamental oregano, yarrow, clove pinks (dianthus), wall germander, several creeping thymes, and for kitchen herbs I added tarragon, sage, oregano and thyme.  I keep my marjoram and rosemary in pots because they are not perennial in my zone.  I would also keep mint in a pot unless you want it to take over everything :)


Hope that helps you  ;) have fun with your garden!!!  my son is clamoring for a snack so I must go!



post #9 of 12

I forgot to mention in my front yard I have a small flower area where I have a strawberry bed so really you should plant whatever you want.  If you need more space for veggies, do veggies there; of you want more space for fruit bushes, do them there - whatever works, ya know? ;)

post #10 of 12

I would recommed for the first year getting in plantings that need a few years to fruit.Any fruit/nut/berry trees and shrubs. I have put in currants,grapes,elderberry,plum,apple,nanking cherry,strawberries,and hazelnut trees. Some are fruiting,and some I am still waiting on.Oh asparagus too!


Front yard gardens are great.My neighbors did not know I had a garden in the front. For the corn you need a few row unless you do like me and walk around pollinating things. I grow corn mainly to create a fast privacy screen(I have 15 foot corn,lol),and give the corn to the chickens.


We bought our home in October so we did not see drainage/flooding issues till the summer.


 I always move things around. I dug a veggie garden,but now the currants are there,so I need to dig another.Here is my yard:




 Sounds like you will have issue with the neighbors tree. I have the same problem.Big tree that shades and worse the roots are damaging the driveway. I get the roots cut and trim back limbs on my side. Just be careful as neighbors can freak over this even if you are allowed to do it. Consider an actual boundary survey before doing fence work. I thought a mortgage survey was enough,but fence companies would not even give an estimate till we had a real survey done. Plus it was good to know where the real boundry was so I could plant away!


Enjoy your new home! And do take lots of pictures. It is fun to look back and see the changes over the years.

post #11 of 12

I don't have a lot of tips, but if you aren't into flowers for the sake of flowers you can try looking into edible landscaping.  I know Rosalind Creasy (I think that's spelled right) has a book by that name, or searching online can bring up some ideas for plants that look great but are edible (rainbow swiss chard comes to mind, or even a strawberry patch).  An ornamental herb garden like previously mentioned would be right along the same lines.  It is a lot of fun planning out what to do with a new piece of property, I am in the same position at the moment.  Good luck and enjoy!

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Maybe it seems a little silly but I picked up Gardening For Dummies today and I'm giving it a read through. I figured it would be a good start to learning about the whole process because right now my understanding is pretty simplistic. And I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with all the new information. Not that I mind learning something new it's just a lot to take in. 


I really am thankful for everyones input and pointing me in the right direction. 


I'll check out some info on edible gardening this coming week too. It sounds like something I would be interested in. I don't mind flowers I just don't think I can see myself putting any work into them. 

I was hoping to get out and take pictures this weekend but events are conspiring against me. 

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