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#1 of 11 Old 01-16-2010, 06:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We finally have a house and I am dying to plant a garden as well as flowering plants in the front of the house.

I just don't know where to begin.

We have a fenced in backyard and I was hoping to have a nice little garden in the back corner. I'm hoping to grow some herbs and veggies. What would you guys suggest for a beginner? Would I be better off spending a little extra and buying plants or should I trust myself with just seeds? I found a farm a few miles from here that sell 30 lbs of compost for $1 and I am wondering if I need to be some how prepping the soil already.

I only have about $150 to $200 that I could put into with DH getting too upset with me. I'm a big planner so I am trying to get educated enough to know when and what I can plant this go around.

Thanks in advance.

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#2 of 11 Old 01-16-2010, 07:29 PM
 
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Good soil is the key to good production for pretty much everything. Find out what the farm makes it's compost from (yard waste, leaves, animal manures, etc.) and how long they age/turn it. You don't want raw manures (burn plants), or a lot of lawn clippings from chemically fertilized yards, etc. I'd call your local extension office or a college ag department if there is one, and find out if they can do a pH test of your soil and/or nutrient tests for cheap. They will advise you on amending the soil and also might have insight into the compost you're preparing to buy.

Personally, I'd start small (space wise). Make a list of what you'd like to have, then use some library books to help you see what kind of space you need. Remember that some things can be planted in succession. (Peas will be done early and then you can re-use the space, for example.) Better to do well with a small garden than have it go to weeds or struggle trying to do too much.

Budget some money to buy some plant packs of the more difficult things to grow yourself, or things you only want 4-6 plants of. Personally I usually buy broccoli and cauliflower because it takes a long time from seed and I don't have optimal indoor locations/light for seed starting, and I'll buy one each of an eggplant or specialty pepper, etc because we just don't eat a lot of those and I don't need a pack of 100 seeds, etc.

Plan to plant easy-to-grow things directly into the garden, such as peas, beans, radishes, lettuce, zucchini, cukes, herbs like basil, flowers like marigolds or sunflowers.

Experiment with starting some medium difficulty things yourself, such as peppers, tomatoes, but leave a little money in the budget in case you don't do well.

As far as money, budget for seeds, seed starting materials as well as hardware and supplies for the garden, like a hose or trellis materials if you can't find or make freebies (last year I wove a stick trellis for cukes, and we scrounged free bamboo for bean poles and staking, but I do own nice steel pea trellises that double as tomato cages when the peas are done).

I think the biggest pitfall with garden spending is going shopping in the spring without any plans at all. People buy a whole bunch of stuff that "looks good" but then either have the wrong conditions or don't have the time/energy/space to plant it and weird expectations of how it should grow. You sound like you're on the right track starting to plan now.
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#3 of 11 Old 01-16-2010, 07:38 PM
 
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Oh, and one more thing (in case I didn't already overwhelm you with too much). I always encourage gardeners to add one perennial thing to their garden each year if they can afford to. There is great satisfaction in having something you know is already in your garden and only needs a bit of care to give you food each year. But you have to plan carefully because you won't be able to relocate this stuff easily (or at all).

Some things to think about:
asparagus, a fruit tree, grapes or berries, perennial herbs, rhubarb. Herbs are inexpensive and totally worthwhile--I use fresh herbs year round here in NY.
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#4 of 11 Old 01-17-2010, 01:26 AM
 
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Gardenmom's advice was great. I'd add that you should think about the location for your veggie/herb garden. You mentioned putting it in a back corner, but you'll find it easier to care for if you find a spot closer to your house for it. My veggie and herb garden is right below my kitchen window. I never forget to care for it, and can peek out to see how it is doing anytime I'm in the kitchen. If I'm cooking, I just need to duck out the patio door, and whatever I need is right there.
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#5 of 11 Old 01-17-2010, 02:08 AM
 
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I second what OwennZoe said. I, too have my garden right off the kitchen and this has worked out really well. The garden here is much tidier and better kept than when I had the garden farther away from the house. I was a little concerned about how it would be, having the veggies right off the patio, but it totally works. I can see from the window what's ripe or needs staking, whatever, and our guests really enjoy being basically "in the garden" when we entertain.

Another pp mentioned starting small. Do this, but plan for expansion. You could start with an 8x8 (or larger) square. I would buy compost and start building this bed up now. I would buy a soil test from Lowe's and test myself and then amend the soil accordingly (with lime, blood and bone meal here). And order seed catalogs and peruse and start getting a good plan and plant as early as your climate allows. I have found out that some things will not do well if you do not plant them early enough. Zucchini being the best example; if I plant it early enough we will have tons and tons of squash. But if I am just a couple weeks late planting, the vine borers will kill the plants before they get a chance to yield.
Anyway, our back yard is pretty small, and we started with an 8x8 and then the next season added a 4x16 and then a 10x12 bed. The 8x8 is perennial, with herbs and strawberries (which I recommend highly; we started with only 9 plants and by now (2 years later), they have spread throughout the bed (scores and scores of plants now)and I transplanted quite a few elsewhere last fall). This bed needs extending, tho- i would like to make it 12x8 this year. We will also be extending the rectangle to 7x16. We can't make it larger than this because of the orientation of the bed. Same with the 8x8, because of its placement and the other large square, I can only extend this bed in one direction. But even without extending, we are able to grow quite a lot of food in these beds.
So, I recommend planting in raised beds, and starting smaller with well thought out plans for expansion. Oh, yeah, and DEFINITELY keep a log from the beginning so you know what is planted where and when, varieties, etc. I wish so much I had done this and will be starting meticulously logging varieties, dates, placements, beginning this year. Good luck!

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#6 of 11 Old 01-17-2010, 02:17 AM
 
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Easy stuff to grow:
strawberries
herbs- rosemary (perennial), oregano, basil, mints, pineapple sage (my favorite), bee balm, echinacea (has amazing flowers)
for flowers, ZINNIAS, easy to grow from seed and so satisfying! I love cutting zinnias and having bouquets in my vases all summer long. Zinnias are sometimes the only flowers I plant, but I love to grow a lot of them- can't think of anything much prettier than a big patch of zinnias. I have even caught people taking pictures of these in my front yard.
I also love having red lantana in my front bed- it is super easy and the butterflies love it.
All kinds of veggies are easy; grow peas, carrots, garlic, onions, lettuces, tomatoes, all kinds of peppers, beans, squashes, corn.
I haven't had luck with broccoli or pumpkins, personally

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#7 of 11 Old 01-17-2010, 07:23 AM
 
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Put in this year anything that takes a season or more to produce.I regret not planting fruiting trees and shrubs my first year. I usually direct plant and find my tomatos/pepper do not have enough time to grow well from seed,so I buy some starts of those(in addition to the seed).Ground cherry and tomatillos grew well for me from seed as did all the lettuce.

For flowers I grew from seed the following that did well,and you will have lots of seed for next year:Zinna,marigold,sunflower,buckwheat,cosmos,cor n flower.Chives are pretty and edible as is nastriums(sp).I even threw all over the yard some of my flax(that I eat) and it has a pretty blue flower.

Start any biennials this year too.I think one I had was evening primrose and some type of mullien.

I would get some of that compost too.

Have fun!

Pumpkins-the only ones that grew were the ones I never planted! I keep trying though.
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#8 of 11 Old 01-17-2010, 10:36 AM
 
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How exciting! The only thing I'd add is if the house is not new construction, do you know what has been planted in the past? If you bought and moved in over winter (though I see you're in Arkansas and I don't know what winter is really like there), there's a chance there are perennials or other plants lurking. We had tons of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in our yard that we had no idea about until the following spring. We've also been able to recycle some of the plants that were existing as we rearranged things. I've also been able to get plant starts from my neighbor. It's slow moving but inexpensive!

Have fun!

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#9 of 11 Old 01-18-2010, 02:49 AM
 
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Yes to what they said. I was just going to add buy plant/starts this year for the fussier things like some herbs, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. Zucchini, beans and peas are pretty easy direct-sowing deals. One thing at a time. No need to overwhelm yourself with seed starting and all that timing this year. You've got plenty of years ahead of you to obsess about that.

Thyme and chives and strawberries have been easy for me, as well as daylilies. Those suckers just keep coming back and getting bigger/multiplying with little attention from me, it rocks. Strawberries, just mulch those suckers really well. Weeding them sucks, that I will say.

Planting other stuff like fruit trees and cane fruits (blackberry, raspberry, tayberry, etc.) and asparagus and blueberries and grapes and hops... well, you want to make sure you know where you want those so you don't have to/want to move them later on. Grapes and blueberries aren't fond of being moved IME so far.

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#10 of 11 Old 01-18-2010, 03:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It has been frozen here since we moved in and I can tell someone had planted SOMETHING before, so I am glad that you mentioned being careful with what has already been planted.

Also, my backyard isn't super big and the place I have in mind for my garden is very visible from my kitchen window.

Thank you ladies so very, very much!

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#11 of 11 Old 01-18-2010, 03:25 PM
 
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One more thing about the budget - there are so many free resources for plants, and I know when I bought my first house I didn't take advantage of them as well as I could have. Ask anyone you know who gardens whether they have any divisions or seeds they could share with you. They'll probably be more than willing. Especially things like raspberries, hostas, herbs - anyone who has grown them for more than a few years will probably have more than enough to share. You'll save a little money, and it is also just so nice to have those reminders of people you know around the garden. I have rhubarb from my grandpa, lovage from my grandmother (who passed away 4 years ago), tons of ornamentals from my parents, mums from a neighbor, veggie seeds from a friend from Vietnam.
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