What would you recommend for a beginner in gardening?

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Hi there! I am a "homesteader wanna be"! I long to live a life more simplified and am slowly working that way. I have learned a lot here! I live in eastern NC and want to know what you would recommend for a beginner gardener. I have grown tomatoes in the past and some herbs. I am notorious for getting excited in spring and starting a garden and then not following through with it, but this year will be different! So I guess I am also looking for gardening tips that makes the job a little easier. Weeding is my downfall. Thanks for the advice!

-- briches (vesely@webtv.net), January 03, 2002


There is a method of layer gardening which prevents weeds discussed in the gardening catagory located at the bottom of the question page, just scroll down, you will find it.

-- mitch hearn (moopups@citlink.net), January 03, 2002.

If you start out right with sweet corn and keep it weeded until it gets established, it will usually survive the late season weeds.

-- Terri (hooperterri@prodigy.net), January 03, 2002.

Hi Britches, if your looking for gardening advice, you've sure come to the right place. These folks here seem to know everything, and I enjoy lurking around and learning all I can.

I also live in eastern NC, (Fayetteville) and am enjoying the rare snow that we got last night. Seven inches so far and more in the forecast. Woohoo, I love snow.

Theres alot of vegetables that grow well here, for a beginner I'd suggest, squash, tomatoes, green beans (Kentucky Wonder and Romona) and sweet corn. Cantelopes and cucumbers also are very easy to grow but you need to make sure their watered frequently. Since it's usually mild thru the winter, you might want to try collards or some other winter greens. I picked some outta the garden for New Years. Also sugar-snap peas and leaf lettuce do well here in the spring and fall. My personal favorite is "Butter-crunch" lettuce, and it's my best preformer.

Can't help you with the weeds, cause it's a constant battle for me also. Best advice, get them up while their little sprouts before the roots take-off. Or consider other methods suggested here like deep mulching and such. I might try that next year.

Good luck with your endevors!

-- Mark M in NC (MagicMark85@aol.com), January 03, 2002.

Lots of good advice here Briches. Plant your favorites to give you incentive to keep them going. Use lots of mulch and drip lines to reduce your work. Old carpet or cardboard make good weed killers for walkways. I like raised, wide row gardening. I plant as thick as I can to choke out the weeds. If you have to, just plant 1/2 of a garden this year to keep it manageable. Each year will get easier for you. Best of luck and happy gardening!

-- cowgirlone (cowgirlone47@hotmail.com), January 03, 2002.

Contact your Extension Office and see if they have the Master Gardner Program and any classes starting soon. Here in Indiana it is only $30 and is a great program. I didn't know how much I didn't know till I took it. I am now a Certified Master Gardener. For 3 years we raised 1 1/2 acres of vegies and gave them to the needey. We also have a local Garden Show in March each year which helps the community out. We are going to help with the lawns in the Habitat Program. You will meet a lot of very nice people.

-- Mel Kelly (melkelly@webtv.net), January 03, 2002.

If you hate hand weeding {I do!} then mulch and mulch some more.Not only will you keep down the weeds but you will improve the quality of your soil.Getting enough hay or straw at a reasonable price,or free, is always a challenge.Look out for rained on hay etc.I am lucky to have enough land to mow with the sickle bar mower then rake it with a hayrake and load with a pitchfork,its some work but having a garden mulched 6 to 10 inches deep is heaven in my book.

-- Gary (burnett_gary@msn.com), January 03, 2002.

Start small with maybe two of your favorite vegies. Each year add a couple more vegies to your garden. This will give you time to evaluate and solve any problems from the year before. In a few short years you will be growing a huge garden that everybody will envy.

This year I am going to plant two gardens. The first on will have only my pick and eat vegies such as lettuce and radishes, etc. The second will have all my pick for storage garden, such as potatoes, corn, green beans, etc.

I can hardly wait for winter to be over with and we haven't even got our first accumalative snowfall yet.

-- r.h. in okla. (rhays@sstelco.com), January 03, 2002.

My husbands aunt told me to plant green beans when I first started gardening and canning. She was right when she told me they produce so abundantly and the jars mount up so quickly and easily that you don't feel defeated like you might trying to can peas. I plant Kentucky Wonder and they're so good. Our children are raised now and I have plenty of time to weed and don't mind it since I love being outside. However, mulch is the best advice otherwise. If you can catch your grass somehow or just rake it into a wheelbarrow when you mow, then spread it around your plants and rows. Works slick!

-- Anna in Iowa (countryanna54@hotmail.com), January 03, 2002.

Seems you're on your way with variety from previous posts. If you try green beans, stay away when they're wet. There are MANY tips and tricks you'll pick up along the way. Also, most have suggested mulching heavy. This is a good idea BUT don't mulch TOO heavy or your soil won't get enough oxygen which is essential. Mulching will keep moisture in though.

-- Mike (smfine@yahoo.com), January 03, 2002.

I suggest that you go to the library or your local bookstore and get "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. He wrote this book to help beginners have great success. He makes everything very simple. And the book is a great read during the winter when you're itching to plant and it's too cold outside to do so.

As for the master gardener program: you would sure learn a lot, but it's usually pretty intensive. I think you should get some more experience under your belt before trying this.

-- Paul Wheaton (paul@javaranch.com), January 03, 2002.

When I was a young boy in Colorado, my neighbor gave me a handful of seeds from the halloween pumpkin. I saved them in a white gym sock until spring and buried them in the ground infront of the house in an area my mother reserved for flower gardening. I guess she had lost interest that year as I cannot recall any objections to my eager trespass. I watched that patch of vines grow daily with anticipation as the first fruits were set. It was an effort for me to restrain the plants with their huge leaves from rambling across the front lawn. My dad would surely have ended my venture into city farming otherwise. But I became hooked on gardening and farming from that year forward. The joy of seeing that pumpkin grow larger and larger was so inspiring, I couldn't wait to plant them again the following year. Eventually, I found my way to the country and this attraction for the homesteading lifestyle. All due to the easy to grow pumpkin. So I say plant a pumpkin. And experience the child-like joy of seeing life spring from a seed and end with your very own jack-o- lantern. Dwight

-- Dwight (summit1762@aol.com), January 03, 2002.

Start slow; small is better; mulch heavy.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), January 03, 2002.

Ditto the Square Foot Gardening book; available through inter-library loan or on half.com at a good price. Lots of square foot gardeners on here.

The main thing is to start SMALL!! Even experienced gardeners plant more than they need and more than they can take care of; it's easy to get overwhelmed and then it isn't nearly as much fun!

Another important thing is to make sure you like what you are growing. If you don't like it; then you won't use it and you'll resent the time and effort it took to grow it.

Easy things: determinate tomatoes such as Better Bush; or the small cherry ones for pots, zucchini - but no more than 3 hills, pumpkins, sugar baby watermelons, bush cukes, bush beans, peppers, radishes, onion sets, beets, and chard.

Good Luck! >^..^<

-- Polly (tigger@moultrie.com), January 03, 2002.

And don't forget to grow some flowers! Marigolds and nasturtiums grow very easily form seed and are good companions for your veggies. Zinnias also grow well form seed, make a great cut flower and the butterflies LOVE them! Good luck!!

-- Bren (wayoutfarm@skybest.com), January 03, 2002.

Whatever you do, make sure that your gardening plot is niether inhabited by or in the general vicinity of quackgrass. It's that low- laying, creepy-crawling, undying, bloody-minded, Keith-Richards- competitor-for-long-life-in-the-face-of-adversity grass that grows everywhere here.

You will not win. You may think you have, for a year or so, but don't believe it. It's just gone out for reinforcements. You can plow it, sift it out, burn it up, Round it Up, curse it, tax it, and even feed it burgers straight from McDonalds, but it won't go away. I had two arms of it come through my bathroom wall (!) from the outside. It found some minor crack in between the framing or something, and grew to the inside in one corner of the room. Eventually, it got over two feet long before I got scared and pulled it out. It's probably out there right now, conferring with its kin on how best to get even and showing all the other quackgrass groups the crack it got in through. I believe that IRS agents are actually an ambulatory form of quackgrass.

It will spread everywhere it wants. It will cross edgings. It will cross driveways. It will come into your bloody home, for crying out loud! (Cue hysterical laughter and sounds of white coated men with their gurneys and fancy outerwear).....

-- Soni (thomkilroy@hotmail.com), January 03, 2002.

I swear by the newspaper and hay idea.Wet the ground a little,lay down 6-7-8 layers of newspaper.Wet this a little,put hay on top of this and give the garden a good soaking. Needs a good soaking to keep the wind from blowing all your hard work away. Need to wait until you can see your crops coming up before doing this.I had to weed 3 gardens growing up. I told my wife,no garden. I would never weed a garden again. I don't have to this way. Only have a few that comes up between the plants.I use black plastic for my peppers and tomatotes and any other plant that likes the heat.I have a 40 by 80 garden that I do this with. I wouldn't have one at all if it wasn't for this. Garden I made bigger by 20 feet this year.Need more food for the pigs and chickens. Does take time to put down the newspaper but it's worth it. I've been doing this for 5 years now. The Farm

-- Ray Chesterville,Me (thecfarm@midmaine.com), January 03, 2002.

If you can read those books they mentioned you can handle the Master Gardener program.

-- Mel Kelly (melkelly@webtv.net), January 03, 2002.

m.britches, is it the summer heat that takes it out of you or the near tropical growth of the weeds themselves? as a fellow southern gardener both take their toll on me.

i recomend at least one planting on a tall trellis angled to shade an area that you keep a seating area clear. pole beans, gourds,flowering vines,cucuzzi,malabar spinach are all terrif on a trellis.

my particular 'garden bench' is a 5 gallon bucket overturned! lol any seat in the shade is better than 'monet' bench in the sun to me!

mr. gary you are hearby formally invited to my farmette to swing your scythe at any time of the year, i'll even provide a nice arkansas stone for you!

mr.mike i'll argue your belief that mulch blocks oxygen. the worms dig nine foot tunnels that areate, beetles, bugs, wind, rain, leaf mold all contribute to a good amount of movement of unpacked mulch.

the mulch will not interfere with the earths respiration unless the mulch itself is made up of items requiring a lot of nitrogen & oxygen to decompose or is packed tightly [wet grass clippings & the amonia smell of the anarobic composting come to mind !]. ie: bark, sawdust, plastic, solid blocks of newspaper, ect.

walking/diving on the mulch can also compact the soil creating a hardpan layer that won't let water nor air thru.

-- bj pepper in C. MS. (pepper.pepper@excite.com), January 03, 2002.

Wow, looks like you've plenty of help here, but I think I'll put my two-cents worth in anyway.

My suggestion would be that since you have already ventures into tomatoes, and I assume your ultimate goal would be to put some of this away to use through the winter, plant a few more tomatoes, and start with putting them away, they are pretty easy to do. They are also pretty frequently used, so that would be a food savings for you there. Corn is also easily put away, and Yum!.

Ditto I think on the start out slowly, and remember if you do plant corn, you should plant more than one row so it will pollinate better!

-- Christine in OK (cljford@aol.com), January 04, 2002.

Forget about reading all the books. There are hundreds of them. The time you spend reading the books you could be weeding the garden. Forget about going slow. Get into the soil, work a lot of compost or manure into the soil. Prepare a seed bed, plant the seeds, pray for rain, and pull weeds. Pulling weeds has therepeutic value. I come home from the office dead tired, but an hour in the garden puts me into good shape. Pull weeds until your vegetables are ready for harvest, then feast like you have never feasted before. Here's something you might appreciate. I work for a Christian international aid organization. We have a self help progran in a number of countries. For every $25 of seed we buy for the poor people in Romania and Ukraine they harvest a semi load of vegetables! It is almost unbelievable - but true. You have to remember we buy wholesale in a foreign country where our money goes a long ways. We can't buy seeds here because our vegetables aren't adapted to their weather patterns.We are also trying to teach the Haitians how to garden, plant trees, etc. Keep gardening.

-- Al (mastclan@juno.com), January 04, 2002.

Hi Briches:

I'd recommend zuchinni. They're proflific! One seed will yield a three foot plant that will give 20-30 zuchinnis. You can make zuchinni bread, muffins, or fry them. They're easy and give lots. Enjoy.


-- Sheila Lutz (glutz43@alltell.net), January 04, 2002.

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