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Old 07-25-2011, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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After decades of gardening and still coming up with pretty much nothing, I am pissed, to say the least. Every time I plant, it's a total failure even though I follow everything in the gardening books.

 

The problem? It seems as though every gardening book ever written is for people who already know about gardening. Every time something fails for me, I learn the next year what was wrong and I'm so angry about it because no one ever told me and none of the gardening books said a thing about it. The reason? They all just expect you to already know this. Like it's common knowledge and then I feel like a complete idiot.

 

After all this time, I'd love to think I was an expert gardener but no. I plant lettuce and nothing happens. When the season is over, someone tells me I have to put the seeds in the fridge for a couple of weeks first. Really? And nobody thought to tell me that before? I'll plant something and it grows but produces nothing, only to find out later that that particular variety of whatever-it-is only produces in the second half of the year when the days are getting longer. *sigh* OF COURSE it wouldn't say something helpful like that on the seed package. No, that would be stupid.

 

Every year it's the same thing. Total crop failure because of some obvious thing I should totally know but no one told me because apparently I should already know it.

 

I have been all over the internet and read every book our library has and I can't seem to find a gardening book that tells me all the basics. A real "organic gardening for dummies" book. Not the ones that say "gardening for beginners." Apparently, there's no such thing.

 

And you'd think gardening in Hawaii would make it easier, but no. :(

 

Anybody know of a book that would help a two decade newbie? Something written for someone who literally had never seen a plant in their entire life would be nice. I'm tired of spending hundreds of dollars for nothing. Gardening is supposed to be cheap. Right now, I'm saving money by buying organic from the grocery store. I wasn't fortunate enough to grow up in a household where anyone else knew what gardening was.


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Old 07-25-2011, 03:44 PM
 
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Personally, I read square foot gardening as my first gardening book. Carrots love tomatoes was my second. I think really all about planting the right seeds in the right soil and giving them the right amount of light and water. I've never put lettuce seeds in the fridge. There are a few "when to plant what" websites out there, but this is the one I use. Im in zone 6:

http://www.thevegetablegarden.info/resources/planting-schedules/zones-5-6-planting-schedule

I always start or buy plants for herbs, tomatoes, and peppers.

Where are you getting your seeds? Make sure the company has a good germination rate.
How are you watering? Remember, water is always best applied below the leaves of the plant so that there is no splash (splash just splashes bugs and disease onto the leaves)
What is your soil like? Have you added compost, worm castings, or manure?



As far as total crop failure goes, I think the best prevention is to water with soaker hoses and spread diatomaceous earth all over the place.
I get all my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, and their catalog is pretty detailed.

I would do next year like this:
Follow the guide in square foot gardening. Plant the most common varieties listed in a seed catalog. Make sure to look at your zone calendar everytime you plant. Type all your varieties into google before you plant them to see what the tips are for them. People always have tips and advice for how to make a better garden. Even the best of us have crop failure and plant the wrong plants and the wrong time in the wrong soil with the wrong amount of light and overwater. Dont beat yourself up too bad smile.gif

Square foot gardening is just easy peasy. After youve done it for a few years, you'll be an expert and you can plant stuff outside your boxes and it will be just fine. Remember, there are a million varieties, and they all look so yummy, but the best thing you can do is to stick with the same varieties year after year.

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Old 07-25-2011, 03:51 PM
 
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I think the problem may be your choice of plants for your area? Lettuce for example, doesn't grow well when its warm/hot. And many veggies are hard to start from seed when the soil is warm, sandy and dry. Getting them started in pots or flats with good potting soil can make all the difference. Once they have a couple of leaves and a few roots, they can cope much better and can be planted into the garden.

 

Instead of finding the perfect step-by-step book (which probably doesn't exist because so much depends on your climate), can you find someone experienced and succesfull to shadow? Are there local allotments, or maybe an elderly neighbour who'd appreciate an apprentice?


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Old 07-25-2011, 03:58 PM
 
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I second the SFG book and will add Bountiful Container. I went from a black thumb to being a modest producer of home yummies by the Bountiful Container book-even with a big garden.

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Old 07-25-2011, 05:15 PM
 
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Well, the lettuce example makes me think that you are growing things that are not going to work well for your climate. I do not need to cool my lettuce seeds, but then, I live where it is cool in the spring when I plant my lettuce.  When the summer heats up, I stop growing lettuce, not because I stop liking it, but because lettuce will simply not grow well in high heat.  

 

So, I am thinking that you should check out gardening for warm climates more.  Gardening is extremely location dependent.  I grew beautiful gardens in the Pacific Northwest and then moved to Maryland where the climate is completely different.  I had to start all over in the learning process.  I now know to plant my carrots in the fall, my lettuce in March, tomatoes go out on Mother's day, and potatoes must be hilled, but not mulched due to the potato bugs.  

 

But I had to learn each of those things due to losing a crop to heat or bugs or humidity or freezing Spring temperatures.  

 

A local gardening program could be very helpful  Also, look into warm weather gardening books.  

 

I found this blog by a woman who runs an bed and breakfast with an organic garden.  She has a volunteer program.  Might be a good way to get some hands-on knowledge and experience if you are close by.  If not, hit up the farmer's markets and offer to work in exchange for knowledge.  Most farmers are extremely generous and always need a strong back to help out.   

 

http://hawaii-bed-and-breakfast.blogspot.com/2010/05/organic-gardening-maui-hawaii.html

 

http://volunteer-on-vacation-hawaii.com/


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Old 07-25-2011, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the advice, everyone!

 

Actually, I have ONLY been trying to grow plants that work well here. Yes, lettuce does grow very nicely here, just not for me. We even have several lettuce farms and my friend's husband owns one. The thing is, it has to be the right kind of lettuce. Butterheads (my favorite) do well here, but not really any other kind. We can also grow kale rather well and several of my friends do, even though you're supposedly not able to grow it in a warm climate. I've only been trying to grow things that I already know do well here because I have been given the advice from others who do grow it or it's something you should be able to grow anywhere like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and radishes. I've actually had limited success with strawberries.

 

I have been starting all of my seeds out in flats in the house, then moving them to a screened porch for a few days before transplanting them.

 

My biggest problem is with the transplanting. It doesn't seem to matter how strong I let them get before doing so. The first rain always drowns about 90% of what I've planted. That's also very frustrating. I have been using seed starter potting mix (not organic, but I was getting desperate).

 

We live way out in the country and no one nearby I could apprentice with. I do know of someone who is amazing and my husband and I spent a day with him once, but he lives too far away and I don't have a car or a way to get there. He had a gold thumb. I don't know how, but he'd just look at a plant and it would shoot up ten feet. He grows organically and manages to produce 100% of his own food on just a regular tiny suburban lot. Too bad we don't have another vehicle or a way to get there. Believe me, I've thought of it before!


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Old 07-26-2011, 02:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amberskyfire View Post

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

 

Actually, I have ONLY been trying to grow plants that work well here. Yes, lettuce does grow very nicely here, just not for me. We even have several lettuce farms and my friend's husband owns one. The thing is, it has to be the right kind of lettuce. Butterheads (my favorite) do well here, but not really any other kind. We can also grow kale rather well and several of my friends do, even though you're supposedly not able to grow it in a warm climate. I've only been trying to grow things that I already know do well here because I have been given the advice from others who do grow it or it's something you should be able to grow anywhere like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and radishes. I've actually had limited success with strawberries.

 

I have been starting all of my seeds out in flats in the house, then moving them to a screened porch for a few days before transplanting them.

 

My biggest problem is with the transplanting. It doesn't seem to matter how strong I let them get before doing so. The first rain always drowns about 90% of what I've planted. That's also very frustrating. I have been using seed starter potting mix (not organic, but I was getting desperate).

 

We live way out in the country and no one nearby I could apprentice with. I do know of someone who is amazing and my husband and I spent a day with him once, but he lives too far away and I don't have a car or a way to get there. He had a gold thumb. I don't know how, but he'd just look at a plant and it would shoot up ten feet. He grows organically and manages to produce 100% of his own food on just a regular tiny suburban lot. Too bad we don't have another vehicle or a way to get there. Believe me, I've thought of it before!


Is he online? Maybe he could mentor you over the computer or by phone? Really, a lot of gardening is learning from others, and then trial and error. And maybe it also helps to know that I don't know anyone who has had many totally successful years for everything they plant. There will always be some failures.

 

For whatever it is worth, I don't even try starting seeds in the house anymore. I find the whole process difficult and prone to failure. I either direct seed or use seed starting flats that sit outside right next to the garden beds where the plants will be planted. That way there is no need for hardening off. I've found it makes my life much easier to use this method.  

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Old 07-26-2011, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No, he's not online often enough. I think he has email and I may be able to email him. I'll see how busy he is. He just had surgery, so I don't know if he's up and around on his own yet.

 

I'll try direct seeding next time and maybe cover them with something so the mice don't eat the seeds. You wouldn't believe the mice and rats we have here in Hawaii. Two cats keep them out of the house, but they can't keep them totally away. We also have wild chickens all over the place. I'm considering getting some of that hard wire mesh to put over the seeds. Then they can just grow straight up through it and it will keep the hens from scratching them up.


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Old 07-27-2011, 05:40 AM
 
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I'm so sorry you have had som much frustration! Every year, something of mine totally fails, but I learn something (except with cucumbers this year, that's still a mystery). But I also have some things thrive, so there's something to balance the frustration. 

 

I'm going to say something somewhat crazy...if it's really frustrating and stressful it's been a long long time, I'd probably consider just giving it up. Home gardens don't often make as much as your friend, and often don't even come in as a net positive financially. The real value for me is that I get tasty things and a lot of joy. If not for that, I wouldn't do it. You don't need to keep plodding along banging your head against the wall. shy.gif

 

That aside, I second what some of the PPs have said; it sounds like the problems in your garden are probably not common problems that come up in books meant for us lower-48 types. Do any of your books have specific instructions for your area? Finding apprenticeship, even through one lengthy phone call per month, sounds like a great idea. For instance, the successful gentleman might be able to tell you straight off "I had to amend my soil with 6 truckloads of silt and compost before anything would take." If you're seeds are being flooded every year, he has to have found a way around the same problem. Something the books would never say, like hilling up the seeded rows?

 

Furthermore, I'd love to hear how things progress, but maybe this Hawaii Gardening forum would be more helpful: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/higard/ 

 

Good luck! I have faith your thumb is green!


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Old 07-28-2011, 01:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the link! I'll try there.


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Old 07-28-2011, 01:42 PM
 
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The mothering software messed up the link. Here it is again.


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Old 07-28-2011, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just copy-pasted the other one and it worked fine.

 


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Old 07-28-2011, 03:41 PM
 
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I would third the All New Square Foot Gardening book, by Mel Bartholomew. It's really helped me out a lot, and I was able to find it at my library. Here is a link to it on Amazon  

 

http://www.amazon.com/All-New-Square-Foot-Gardening/dp/1591862027/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311889033&sr=8-1

 

Hope this helps.

 

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Old 07-28-2011, 09:00 PM
 
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Well, I live in the midwest and I harvested one year when I did not even plant anything.  But I am blessed with really good soil.

 

If you are doing everything right and still can't get anything I would start by looking at your soil.  Maybe have it tested.  I never test mine.  I just throw compost and grass clippings and leaves and once every three or so years a brick of petemoss.....I don't really know what I doing but throwing stuff in there has not failed me yet.  But I am starting with really good soil.

 

On that note I cannot grow a radish to save my freaking life.  My lettuce was a complete fail.  Almost everything I started from seed was an epic fail.  (except for my heirloom tomatoes which actually made it until my neighbor threw weed killer on them.  Half my garden....gone.  thanks dude.  Then my other neighbor broke out the weed killer....half my landscaping gone.  Thanks lady.  grrrrr.....clearly I have a different kind of pest problem).  And swear to everything holy I am the only person on earth who cannot grow rhubarb.  i can't kill it exactly but I can't grow it either.  And it looks like my Zuc is failing this year.  Who screws that up?  But I have come a long way.  When I planted my first garden I did not think to put it in the sun.  Seriously.  I planted it under a big tree.  

 

Things that help:

 

buying seedlings rather than starting from seeds (we have a short season here and the head start helps)

mulch and compost, good soil in general

hiring someone to do a good deep till.  I was shocked by how cheap this is.

 

i think your idea for wire to keep scavengers out is a very good idea.  They may be more a problem than you think.

also the whole seed in the fridge and other stuff you mentioned is odd.  I have never heard any of that and I do not think it is common knowledge at all.

 

 

 


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Old 07-28-2011, 09:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I live in Hawaii. We don't have soil. The island is too new. It's all lava rock. Unless you won the soil lottery jackpot, you have to buy your soil from Wal-Mart. I have had different soil in every place we have lived here. The last time nothing grew, I turned it all into the soil and found the soil was FULL of mold. Eww. I have no idea how that even happens.

 

Buying seedlings isn't an option for us here. It's crazy expensive - minimum of $3 per seedling. I really don't want to pay $3 to kill a head of lettuce. :) Growing from seed is really my only option. I had success with some transplanted strawberries once, but then I had a baby and the jungle reclaimed that garden. Now there's nothing left of it. If I were going to buy seedlings it would only be herbs that I could transplant to a pot and then never dig up. I do pretty well with herbs. I think I'll just start with a container herb garden this year. At least I won't have to replant anything. I do have some cuban oregano that is going crazy and needs to be put outside.

 

I love your story about planting under the tree. :) My very first garden was planted under the eave of the house. The first time it rained...well, there went my entire garden. I felt like a total idiot.


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Old 07-29-2011, 12:18 AM
 
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can you get some good composted manure? you said you live out in the country? know anyone with horses? make sure the manure has been sitting out for awhile. maybe a year or so. put it over your soil in the fall (do you get a fall?) and by spring (if you even have a winter?) your soil will be MAGIC SOIL. no kidding. this is the very best way to improve your soil that i know of. also you can start composting, and within a year or two, you will also have an EXCELLENT soil amendment. improved soil can make all the difference.

 

i would recommend that you grow tomato plants. they are just too easy. start them as seedlings, let them get to about the size of your hand, plant them (you really can't mess up the depth of planting with tomatoes -- the stem will become additional roots if you plant too deep), cage them when they get about knee high. keep them wet. they like warm weather.

 

after you've had luck with tomatoes, move on to your next vegetable. beets are also ridiculously easy. just fluff up the soil, "broadcast seeds" (meaning having a bunch of seeds in your open hand, shake your hand from side to side, and let them fly out anywhere in your allotted beet seeding area). then lightly rake the soil to just barely cover them. again, keep it moist. don't do anything else, just wait. the advice is to thin them, but i'm notoriously bad about thinning. my strategies with gardening has always been to plant a lot, and just take what comes. with beets, you know it's ready to pick when it starts poking the top of the beet fruit out from the ground.

 

i can't imagine why you are struggling with lettuce. it's also very easy to grow. unless you maybe have crappy soil. i would really work on getting soil amendments (composted manure) as a top priority for gardening. just make sure it's not fresh manure, as that will burn up your plants and destroy everything.

 

finally, i'm bad about reading whole books about gardening, BUT i like to research online and will go to multiple web sites to see if they say the same thing. i would try googling your specific gardening questions -- even being specific about hawaii considerations -- see what you can get.

 

good luck!!


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