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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We are at 52 degrees North here in Canada.  The sunlight during the summer lasts longer and the garden grows fast!  Our growing season is short.  Or traditionally it has been... from Mid to late May to end of August, with some later crops to mid-September.  In recent years we've planted mid April, sometimes beginning of May and harvested the garden around the end of August.  This year we planted the garden in the first week of May.

We have disused raised bed that was used in previous years for potatoes and squash but it has been over taken by weeds and raspberries.  We dug out the middle as we needed the soil for some of the beds.  We put a lot of 'junk' like some left over wood, branches leaves etc along with some compost and potatoes and even some squash seeds etc. 

We have potatoes growing - and they were thrown out as compost.

And some pumpkin squash. The pumpkin was rotten, it had black mould on it and didn't think it was going to do anything so we threw it out.With pumpkins, the whole plant is edible, except the roots and it seems to grow just about anywhere.

The potatoes have been growing for two months and some have produced flowers others are producing a 'seed'.  Usually wait for 3 or so more weeks before doing a test dig to see how the potato plants are doing.  The seeds are good to have as they can be planted the following year to produce seed potatoes and then they can be planted to produce more potatoes.  The seed needs to be allowed to mature or ripen (dry out) on the plant.  (additional information courtesy of other .ning members) here is a link for additional information...http://www.curzio.com/N/Potato_starting_from_seed.htm

The Chive seeds are almost ready for harvesting... these will be dried and then planted in the fall in different locations around the garden.  The seeds will be ready when all colour from the seed has gone and when it is picked the flower is dry and then can be rubbed between the palms to expose the seed.

Have also strung some of the squash.  When the leaves start to get to small plate size, we use a cotton string that has been used for wash cloths, but can be easily torn with the hand but is sturdy enough to withstand a couple of years outside in all weathers and hold some weight.   The string allows the tendrils to grab a hold of something and the plant seems to follow.

My sister-in-law taught me how to "sneak" some potatoes and ariate the soil at the same time. Just don't go too deep and the plant can continue to grow even though you have some for supper. Fresh potatoes are very good and the peeling will wash off if you don't let them become to dry.

I notice this thread is dealing with seeds.. you can also plant "old potatoes" that you would not eat. I suggest cutting them up in a few pieces, as long as the "eye" is intact it should grow. Also chickens love potato peelings and old potatoes, too.

Alice

 

For my part, I have also thrown myself into gardening this year, prompted in no small part by the Zeta advice that the 8 out of 10 will include such food shortages that starvation will be rampant, long before the shift.

For sure, one of the main pieces of advice that will go out after the announcement from those genuinely trying to help the common man will be:  start learning how to grow your own food!

So here are a few pics of my first efforts:

Apple tree (that doesn't really produce many apples) with many herbs planted underneath, with various pots: cucumber and squash, being kept out of the direct sun, which is so intense these days.

A row of grow bags with potatoes and New Zealand yams (oca) in plus a cheap greenhouse with loads of chillies in.

now loads of tomatoes, various fruits - including blackberry, raspberry, an almond tree and morello cherry tree and some herbs, plus a strawberry planter with 12 plants in.

and the potato patch - I went a bit crazy with potatoes and have over 50 planted in an approx 3x3m area (which is a lot) but it was dug over beforehand to a depth of 2-3ft so any plants should grow down into the soil with no problems.  And more potted cucumbers and squash.

some pumpkins in containers on the left with tomatoes in front and french beans up the wall

herbs, potato bags and strawberries and tomatoes in hanging baskets

and finally, more containers with herbs, cucumbers and squash, hardening off against a north facing wall since the sun is so crazy intense these days

Forgot to add this one - our bird bath which collects rainwater - and guess what, it turned red this week.

I wonder why? :-)

We have had borage in our garden for many years.  Not knowing what it was or what to do with it, this is the first year we're doing something with it.  Found it's a fast growing herb, which can be used in all sorts of ways, The young seedlings can be used whole, the older plants - the leaves and can be used in place of spinach, when blanched for a few seconds.  The leaves can be used in all kinds of recipes.  Borage has a blue/purple flower and since we have a lot this year decided to pick them and use them for a jelly/jam of some kind.  Having learned that borage can take over just about any vegetable bed, we decided to let the flowers develop and once they have developed seed we would pull the plants out.  Not sure if all the plant once it's mature can be used as a whole, or if just the flowers and the more tender leaves can be used.  But the flowers do taste good!

Here is the borage growing in the swiss chard bed.

And here are the flowers that have been picked.  These will stay in the fridge soaking in water over night.  The water from the flowers will be used to make a syrup or jelly.

Here is one of the websites have used to look up recipes for Borage. http://www.herb.co.za/herbal/borage-recipes.htm

We have started harvesting some of the vegetables in the garden.  The chive flowers are now ready for harvesting of their seed.  The woody stalks can be cut down and used for compost or left.  Either way, the chive plant will regenerate and grow more leaves and these too can be harvested and dried.

The potatoes are not quite ready, but new boiled potatoes are soooo good!  We've been collecting the potato seed which falls off the plant and into the soil.  Once all the potatoes from this patch have been dug up, the seed will go in to make seed potatoes.

This is the first time we've planted radish, and we've let it go to seed.  Soon it will be ready for harvesting.  As will the spinach (below)

We rigged a makeshift trellis from cotton thread used for crocheting and an old hockey goal post to allow the pumpkin plant to climb.

For those who dont have a garden space or balcony. Container gardening with flower pots provide something. At the very least a way to keep in touch with your gardening knowledge.

Because my containers were all shallow (6 inch deep), I was restricted to shallow rooted plants, like herbs and mesclun mix.

The plants were planted closer to each other than they'd like. Compost was added on top every two weeks. Growth was slow as expected. Only positive is that its a south facing wall.

@ Casey, would be interested to see how your plants do in the containers! 

We started harvesting the garden the last couple of weeks.  Starting with small portion of the potatoes, then the seeds.  We have spinach seeds, borage and radish.  The spinach and radish seeds were picked and left to dry on a drying rack in a shed and then once they were dry enough, strung together and hung in a drying area in the house over the fall and winter.  Come Spring they will be harvested for the seed and used in the garden again.

We use a wire rack of coiled chicken wire as a drying rack.  Here we have Radish seed.

Spinach seed drying on another rack.Here are the seeds bundled and ready for the drying over fall and winter.  These will be stored in a cool dry place.

We have also been using the cilantro (notice the coriander seeds) the swiss Chard which we dried and turned into a powder to put into soups later on.  The carrots finally got to a decent size, and the parsley we will start to pick in a week or so to dry. 

We picked swiss chard.  We just picked the leaves and left the root in, the root seems to grow more leaves over the summer and while there is good weather.  usually dip the leaves and stems in a bit of warm water and vinegar, chop up with some tomato and cook or dehydrate it.

The Carrots, peas and tiny onions (the onions were picked accidently when yanking out some thistles...

The parsley and corander/cilantro will be picked and dried as well.

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