Gardening from scratch - a beginners guide

A beginners guide to Gardening.

Have added several 5' x 13' plant beds to a garden.  Starting from scratch using only the minimal of tools, a shovel, rake and a home made soil sieve.  Also using kitchen scraps to make a compost heap, along with grass cuttings and any spare soil from different areas of the garden. 

This is where the sod was  taken off and placed in different areas of the garden.  The soil has never been worked, and had to be dug by shovel to turn it over.

next, the soil was dug up and passed through a sieve to aerate it and get rid of any surface weeds.

 

and the next stage was to add other top soil which had been sitting out for a couple of years, the three types of soil used was the original, which is slightly grey in colour (yellow card) and the compost (green card) and the top soil ( blue card)

The tools used were rudimentary, and because there wasn't any wheel barrow, have used a plastic flower pot instead.  This works quite well, and builds up muscle.the sieve was put onto two upturned containers and worked through with the hands or a garden trowel.  the sieve was made of four pieces of wood and really find wire mesh about 1 cm diameter holes.  The garden centre thought it strange to ask for a 2 foot square piece of wire... but it was cheap and didn't want the whole role. 

The completed garden bed with a loose stone wall and loose brick planters.The total time it took from start to finish was approximately 12-14 hours of work with minimal equipment. This is half way through the process, the three extra beds took two weeks. Two other beds are done and are 13 x 5 as well.  Each bed will be fertilized with kitchen food, and compost from the compost heap at the end of October trenches will be built in each one and food waste will be placed in the shallow trench.  This will be covered once the frosts start freezing the ground and then covered over to break down over the winter.  Once Spring comes the beds will be turned over once more.  With the addition of extra soil in the fall to each bed they will be about 6 inches above ground so any settling will keep the beds at ground level or there abouts rather than sinking into the ground - at least that is the general idea...

Here are the beds half way through...

 

And here are the finished beds - all material was found on site, the only thing that was bought was the material to stop the weeds from growing up through the gravel.

some trees in the back ground are only a year old, everything seems to grow really fast during the summer months.  We have one tree that grows 6 feet in one year and is notoriously hard to get rid of, its Carraganon, and grows wild here on the prairies.  It's invasive but excellent for fencing, coverage for just about anything else except eating!

 

The beds are planted on the sides with what ever was found in the garden, the first bed has concrete breeze blocks excellent for using for potted plants as well, the second is made from stones found in the garden, and the third is made from lumps of sod from the beds ithemselves.  These are laid out at an angle and laid on top of the weed sheet and built into an informal wall about 6 to 8 inches high. Over the winter it settled and produced a hard surface along the edge of the bed.

Three extra beds were made and using the same process as above.  The beds have the hoola hoops and tomato cages to put the plastic over them to help prevent the seedlings from dying if the weather changes suddenly.  Branches can also be used.  In the new beds the soil was mixed with potting soil and sieved to reduce the grass, roots and dandelion roots.  Established beds were dug up and airated and left for a week, and then had a fork passed through them to get out the roots from the grass and dandelions.  All beds had kitchen compost dug into a trench in the early fall (September/October) and was buried to break down over the winter, then worked through the soil then left for a week before being raked over and then planted with seed.  As soon as the seeds were planted, took a journal and made a note of where the seeds were in the garden.  (in our area we have a short growing season, normally from May to end of August/September) then it starts to get cold again mid September to October.  After that it's anyone's guess as to when the snow falls!) All seed this year is short term, (maturing between 50 and 60 days.) because of the long winter and not sure of how long the good weather will last... but if there is a possibility, the seed can be planted twice.  Have also planted several types of squash, the leaves and flowers can be used in most cases, especially if it is pumpkin.  (seeds have been used from last year's crop)

Have also used containers to plant herbs and lettuce and will also be making a raised bed for herbs and other plants.

The seedlings are now coming up after 3 weeks, we planted fast growing seeds, raddish, swiss chard (2 different varieites), carrots, spinach and beetroot.  The tops can be used in a variety of ways almost immediately after showing especially the raddish.  They have a spicey peppery taste and good in sandwiches or salads.

Also added in other beds peas, tomatoes, bok choy, coriandar, several varieties of potatotes and squash.

The compost heap was originally placed at the back of the garden.  It had been added to over 5 years but needs to rest.  It will be turned over this year, if there are no squash growing in it.  So we made a second compost heap using only kitchen scraps no meat as this would attract vermin and it would stink.  We placed the scraps on a piece of dirt that had been cleared of grass.  Then cordoned off to show where the compost needs to stay.  We added soil ontop of kitchen scraps over the winter to help with the breaking down of the food and then when spring started we added more.  We also add grass cuttings.  In previous years we have used the dandelions and spinach for salads.

After two months, the spinach is starting to flower and go to seed.  Will be keeping one row for seed and will harvest the rest.  The spinach when it's starting to flower is still good to eat either raw or cooked Believe the plants with the yellow flowers are swiss chard.  Have kept a garden journal of what seed has been planted in each bed.  But, these came up from last year when it went to seed.

And here is the Spinach...

And the chives.

http://www.zetatalk.com/food/tfood142.htm

http://www.zetatalk.com/poleshft/p168.htm

http://www.zetatalk.com/info/tinfo25c.htm

http://www.zetatalk.com/poleshft/p28.htm

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what a beautiful description - lovely to see it laid out so well.

 

could I suggest that novices look at simple permaculture techniques to see what else can be done. In addition, good quality compost and soil is often found under broad leaf trees (ie not conifers) where the leaf litter has been left - some techniques and brilliant outcomes. There are also idiot proof plants that keep on growing  - sometimes called cut and come again plants - eg Kale. Perennial food plants are similar - just plant it once and they keep growing. The choice of plants depends on your climate and soil so ask a local expert or gardening group for advice

 

Thanks once again to KM!

Thank you for being an inspiration for me to continue my own garden project with limited resources!  So many people are feeling the gardening bug this year.  Maybe our internal survival button gets pushed when there are so many unexplained events? 

http://www.instructables.com/id/Building-a-bottle-tower-for-contain...

I found this link about how to build a vertical tower container garden. It is a very low cost. I am a beginning gardener. I am experimenting with container gardening. I also want to experiment with some of the techniques used in radiant floor heating but rather for an application heating the garden bed. Could one run hose or pipe under the garden and run hot water through it to heat the ground under the plants? PEX tubing is typically used in radiant floor heating but could other pipes or hoses be used? Could the design be modified to be non-electric and use water heated by a wood stove? Could insulation be put into the ground, lining the garden bed and going down a foot or more to protect against the frozen ground outside the garden bed, as the garden bed is heated? Could the growing season be extended in cold climates this way? Could gardens be protected from unusual weather as the seasons blend this way? Thank you KM. This was a very useful and informative post. Great for us new gardeners.

@QuietOne: You may want to ask at your local plant specialist/nursery to find out what they do to keep their plants over the winter in their green houses. 
 
QuietOne said:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Building-a-bottle-tower-for-contain...

I found this link about how to build a vertical tower container garden. It is a very low cost. I am a beginning gardener. I am experimenting with container gardening. I also want to experiment with some of the techniques used in radiant floor heating but rather for an application heating the garden bed. Could one run hose or pipe under the garden and run hot water through it to heat the ground under the plants? PEX tubing is typically used in radiant floor heating but could other pipes or hoses be used? Could the design be modified to be non-electric and use water heated by a wood stove? Could insulation be put into the ground, lining the garden bed and going down a foot or more to protect against the frozen ground outside the garden bed, as the garden bed is heated? Could the growing season be extended in cold climates this way? Could gardens be protected from unusual weather as the seasons blend this way? Thank you KM. This was a very useful and informative post. Great for us new gardeners.

Great use of the Hoola-hoops @KM...resourcefullness is always a great thing for discovering new techniques and methods of doing things.

 

Thank You for the information!

For those without access to tillable land, container gardening is a worthy pursuit.  These 4x2x1-ft containers were simple to fabricate and are equipped with wheels to allow easy transfer under shelter during inclement weather.  The soil is a mixture of landscaping soil, builders sand and mulch.  Pictured are spinach, pole beans, collard green & kale seedlings, and marigolds to help ward off pests.

Here is a way to protect your beds from the weather, we have a few of these and it's helped make tomatoes produce much better in our maritime climate, plus our seedlings don't stress out in late winter/early spring.

excellent pictures of how they did it all using things you can easily find at a hardware store:

http://doorgarden.com/10/50-dollar-hoop-house-green-house

and here is a pdf from WSU that gives details on how to do this, 

http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/em015/em015.pdf

On four our beds that were already laid out we put up low tunnels using similar methods described in this blog by KM. Since we didn't have hulahoops we  used pvc pipe, cut the pvc shorter for a low tunnel (10 ft I think) and drove short pieces of rebar into the sides of the raised bed leaving a few inches above the soil line to put the end of the pvc pipe on, one thing I learned from a farm tour I went on was to take a rope and tie to one end of the tunnel at the ridge top to secure it then run it around each pipe after at the ridge line and secure to the last pvc pipe. this will help prevent it from collapsing...doesn't eliminate the possibility but helps provide strength at the ridge line that you need in high winds and snow load...though in some parts with heavy snow you'll want to provide vertical supports to each rib. I've been thinking of putting in a rocket stove with a heat sink bench to help provide heat so the snow flakes melt off instead of accumulate and collapse my tunnels.

the plastic I've used it painters drop cloth from the hardware store, cheap and easy to find right now.

if you live in an area where you have access to a feed store you might be able to find cattle panels or hog panels and build something similar to the above, I've built three of these to shelter my sheep and chickens, one collapsed when a tree fell on it but no animals were inside at the time (smart critters), caution none of these structures are predator or rodent proof, I had a weasel attack my chickens and kill 10 of them a couple years ago, now I have a guard dog but am thinking the next house will have chicken wire buried 2ft down for more security for the birds...

http://istover.com/hoophouse.html

Here is another one with some great bracing ideas using inexpensive items:

http://albrechtsanimals.typepad.com/greenhouse/2013/02/cattle-panel...  note the use of plastic over hoops inside the tunnel, this provides an extra layer of protection in cold weather.

Great stuff. I wonder if those mini-hot beds will be a permanent fixture, looking at the weather fluctuations lately..

And here is the garden 6 weeks after planting. 

Have grown squash for several years and have found over the years is to either let the squash grow over the ground, or make a trellis for it.  Made some trellis from branches of a pruned tree.  It`s quick and easy.  If there are no materials near by to tie the pieces together, 

Thank you & Howard for sharing your photos of the beautiful & yummy looking gardens! 8-)

Nontraditional Composting -(used more for table waste vs yard waste{grass clippings etc}) if one hasn't experimented with attracting black solider flies, during out house days referred to as privy flies, I highly recommend it. These hungry larvae can devour food waste (veggie, animal-beef, poultry, fish-even bones but takes longer, & any creatures fecal matter) in matter of hours! The bonus output they provide--larvae for nutritious feed for chickens or any animal, liquid fertilizer, pre-soil stage humus. & my favorite reason is they put out pheromone which deters filth flies and other disease spreading flies from their territory. These bugs do most of the work when it comes to humanuring.

 I've been looking into "worm farming" & black soldier flies keep popping up over and over as being very beneficial...

KM, the garden looks great. I didnt know you could grow them that fast out in the west.

Lalee said:

Thank you & Howard for sharing your photos of the beautiful & yummy looking gardens! 8-)

Nontraditional Composting -(used more for table waste vs yard waste{grass clippings etc}) if one hasn't experimented with attracting black solider flies, during out house days referred to as privy flies, I highly recommend it. These hungry larvae can devour food waste (veggie, animal-beef, poultry, fish-even bones but takes longer, & any creatures fecal matter) in matter of hours! The bonus output they provide--larvae for nutritious feed for chickens or any animal, liquid fertilizer, pre-soil stage humus. & my favorite reason is they put out pheromone which deters filth flies and other disease spreading flies from their territory. These bugs do most of the work when it comes to humanuring.

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