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.

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The garden has almost finished, and we have started to compost in the two new beds on the side of the house.  The two beds have been left to see how they fared with the weather over the last few weeks to settle with any added soil and compost.  We added woody type stems to the base, which were the sunflower stems, small twigs and corn stems.  Any other compost from the garden, including the potatoes, apples from the trees and cut grass were added later to the top.  We plan to add soil then some more plant compost such as leaves.  

We also found that the branches of the apple tree decomposed quicker than other branches.  These we have put into the compost as well.  This will make for a richer soil.  We won't be putting any kitchen compost just yet.  But next year when we put the rest of the soil on, we will be using the compost from the bed we chose to place in these beds and mix it well.  

In this particular bed to the right, you can see some green coming up, much to our surprise, is spinach.   It's been very warm here the last few weeks, and if the warm weather continues, we may get spinach.  Usually by this time, we would have had some very deep frosts of -10 or so, but we've only got to -6 one day in the last month.

We decided to leave the Swiss chard in the ground over winter to let the seeds mature, as well as the parsley.

In previous years, we've had seed from swiss chard and beets, leaving the seeds out over winter.  We were pleasantly surprised as to how well they weathered the freezing temps here, but we made sure when the thaw set in to pick up the seed off the ground and to let it dry out first.  

The parsley is in a pot, but the roots go into the ground.  We thought we would give it a go this year to see how it does.  Gardeners learn early on, that anything in pots left outside freeze solid and don't survive.  With  the forecasted warmer winter weather this year, we wanted to see what would happen.  

Here is the swiss chard and parsley both types of plants heavy with seed. 

This year the swiss chard went to seed early and we've had seed developing on the stems throughout the summer. 

The parsley is in a pot here and we hope the weather this winter will be milder than normal as forecasted.  

But with the wobble making the weather unpredictable, we probably will have to wait and see what happens with a lot of the plants left in the ground this year.

The swiss chard we have picked continuously this year, and will keep in the garden to see how it does.  

and the same with this bed, we'll be leaving the parsley along with the swiss chard and bok choy over the winter.  

For the potatoes, we did something a little different.  This year we decided to plant the seed potatoes that were wintered in the basement, and put them into a depression between two beds under a tree.  The seed potatoes were kept in the basement in a bag and an apple placed on top of them to prevent over growth of the eyelets.  When we put them out we placed them on a couple of inches of soil from the neighbours yard, then covered them with about 4 inches of soil.  As the potatoes grew, we put the soil on top of them until the soil was about a foot deep.  

 We dug the potatoes up after the first frost last week, and found that the potatoes did really well.  We had some good sizable tubers in the 5' x 5' plot, which seemed to produce approximately 60 pounds altogether.  The potatoes in the tires did well too.  Producing about 10 pounds in total for each set of tires.

We plan on using the tire planters for potatoes next year. 

Hey KM. if i remember correctly didn't you try growing potatoes in stacked tires last year as well? But they didn't come out well...

What did you do differently this year than the last one?

yes, but also in a potato box as well, the ones in the potato box didn't do so well.

The ones in the tires did very well this year, mainly because we put shredded newspaper into the sides of the tires which held the moisture, and we used a different soil as well.  We packed the newspapers wet rather than dry and the soil was from the neighbours yard and compost mix.  The other thing we did differently was to put 3 or 4 potatoes in at the bottom of the tires with some good compost soil.  covered the potatoes about 4 inches and let them grow.  Once the green appeared about 4 inches above the soil, we covered again, with the 4 inches of soil and let it grow and so on, until the soil came up to the top of the tires.  The initial concern about the tires was leaching contamination, but we were assured that, that would not occur.  Noticed as well, that the more wet newspaper we applied into the interior of the tire the less likely the potatoes were to grow into the interior of the tire.  but be more concentrated in the middle of it where the soil was.  We are going to try this method again next year, maybe with three tires stacked instead of just 2.  

casey a said:

Hey KM. if i remember correctly didn't you try growing potatoes in stacked tires last year as well? But they didn't come out well...

What did you do differently this year than the last one?

FYI - my 2 years trying potato boxes have not yielded the result that the guy claimed - ie 100lbs per 4' sq.

I also gave this a go but they were put out so late that they only had small potaotes in them - next year I will put them out in March, and they use a lot less compost than the boxes.

Also if you google for other people's results with the potato boxes, it seems that super high yields are a bit of a myth.

casey a said:

Hey KM. if i remember correctly didn't you try growing potatoes in stacked tires last year as well? But they didn't come out well...

What did you do differently this year than the last one?

the result is here:

casey a said:

Hey KM. if i remember correctly didn't you try growing potatoes in stacked tires last year as well? But they didn't come out well...

What did you do differently this year than the last one?

I found this great audio book by Steve Solomon about gardening without much water which I thought the group might be interested in

[Gardening] Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway by [Steve S...

I have read his book 'Gardening when it counts' which I highly recommend for new and old gardeners alike

He suggests using what he calls a 'complete organic fertiliser' - COF

Recipe for COF

Mix 4 parts seedmeal (any kind except coprameal
1/4 part agricultural lime (finely ground)
1/4 part gypsum
1/2 part dolomite lime
1 part phosphate from rock, bone meal, guano, kelpmeal, or basalt dust.

All parts by volume and not weight.

Veggie Garden - Compost is not enough - Steve Solomon

as well as fertigating with a combination of fish emulsion and liquid seaweed to sustain a highly productive garden with little water

Carlos Villa sent me this note from Colombia, and asked that I post it as he works with a cell phone there.

I just got back from colombia one hour ago, back in Toronto Canada.  I have been informing the locals through talks at various people's houses about planet x and talking about  preparedness, Aquaponica,  protected gardens,  safe locations and so on.  I was quite surprised at how much they know about the pole shift from Indian teachings but they were unaware about planet x as the source of the shift.  New villages are being built in high places in Ecuador for the purpose of feeding the hungry after the pole shift.  These are highly service to other people interested in feeding the masses,  a huge undertaking.  The zetatalk message was extremely well received,  we exchanged seeds and i gave then a package of non GMO seeds with 33 varieties of vegetables and 13 500 seeds vacuum packed to last up to 30 years.  There is a huge movement among the natives to prepare and this warms my heart.  I have put out the call and it had been answered in a big way.  Many obstacles were removed in order for this trip to be possible,  time off work,  coordination,  proper people present,  you name it. I really felt the service to others answering this call and I just wanted you to know that thanks to your efforts and those of the service to other entities,  my work was done without a glitch.  

This winter was milder than most and we have had a lot of seed from last year survive.  The temperature normally would be on average -35 for several months, turned out to be -5 on average.  This helped with a lot of the plants in the garden to take off almost straight away!  

The Italian parsley, a row of carrots we kept in the garden over winter along with nettles which were planted last year as seed but didn't come up until this year.  We have tried for several years unsuccessfully to grow them in the garden, but this year we will get a good crop.  We have the nettle plant in a raised bed, hopefully we can keep it contained so we can utilize this amazing plant.

We also tried a new technique to keep moisture in the seed bed for larger seeds such as squash.  We used cardboard egg cartons, soaked in water then put water and some light compost in a hole dug in the bed, placed the carton with some soil not compost so to not burn the seed, then put the seed into the soil, then some compost and soil mix on top of that.  We then watered liberally through out the process.  

Here we dug the hole about 6 inches deep. Watered it and put garden compost left over the winter from the compost heap at the bottom. 

Next we soaked the egg cartons in water put soil into them then put the seeds in them. placed them into the hole made in the seed bed and covered with a mix of soil and compost.  We're hoping this technique will help to retain some moisture of the roots of the squash later in the summer.  The seeds are coming up robust and strong.

In another bed we planted seeds using a pole to make a hole 6 to 8 inches deep.  No compost but again watered liberally.  Same in this bed, the seeds are coming up robust and strong. 

The 3rd bed we planted the squash just under the soil, about an inch, watering liberally, however, only two plants have sprouted and are way behind the others planted deeper.  

Two other beds one which was the compost heap from last year, the squash seeds have self seeded and are robust and strong.   The other bed has had seed planted just at the surface plus one spaghetti squash in the raised beds created last year from the pallets.  We left the squash to 'ripen' and moulder a bit before putting it out, the seeds in the squash were sprouting already and so we placed the whole thing under soil.  No water and relying on rain water to give it that extra boost.  

We also decided to plant squash on the deck to see how it does in low light under trees and in a somewhat confined space but allowed to grow up into the trees for support. 

Also from last year, since we felt we hadn't been so successful with growing onions and garlic, this year was a surprise for us.  We planted two beds with onions and garlic.  One bed had a lone onion growing out of it, and with almost expired green onions from the fridge we planted in the old compost bed for this year.  In another bed we planted again very sad looking leeks that had seen better days along with some green onions.  When we were digging up the bed earlier in the year, we found several bulbs of garlic had grown along with several green onions.  We left them in the bed and planted cabbage around them.  Since butterflies and other insects that like to eat cabbage don't like the smell of garlic or onions.  

We are also using an old washing machine drum for potatoes.  In previous years, we found that it needs a lot of water.  

This year, we also did the potatoes a little differently, instead of piling the dirt on them we placed them in 1 foot wide and deep holes.  Using the seed potatoes from last year stored in the basement and kitchen.  We planted two larger beds with three small potatoes in each of the holes and one large potato in each hole.  

We have also utilized the tires again this year and hope to get a good yield out of them as we did last year.  

This year, we decided to do something different and get a small cement mixer for the soil.  We are using a small one which can be rolled around the garden.  It holds a smaller volume of soil, but it does the job well and if we need to add compost to a bed we don't have to take a shovel each time, but use the mixer when needed.  Also we have a mole in the garden and while many consider this small creature a pest, we've decided to utilize the soil they leave behind in the pots and beds.  The soil is relatively free from roots, its a fine mix and is easily scooped up ready for use.  

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