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susanr516 Donating Member (823 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-15-11 09:06 PM
Original message
I'd like to start a garden; need advice
As my husband gets closer to retirement, we're trying to think of ways to cut our expenses and we have considered gardening. We live in Corpus Christi, which is Zone 9A--a lot of people do fall gardens here. We really don't have any experience. Are there any tips you experienced gardeners can give me? I've read a few posts about people having a lot of success with pot gardening, which might be a good idea starting out. Any ideas about what veggies are most "beginner" tolerant? Thanks.
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Sabriel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-15-11 10:16 PM
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1. I just started last year with one raised-bed garden
And this year I'm doing a community garden plot, too.

I'd recommend raised bed or lasagne gardening, as both involve way less physical labor than my grandfather's garden.

How about beans? They've been foolproof for me, both years. And cukes and squash have worked well, too.

Get a compost bin off Craigslist and get going on making your own. It was way easier than I thought, and I've never had to buy soil/compost.

Enjoy your zone! I'm in 4/5, and it sucks.
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beac Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 07:47 AM
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2. This is my third year and I've learned a lot from this forum and just
Googling around.

Cherry tomatoes are easy for beginners. They produce abundantly and ripen quickly. Sun Gold is a really tasty orange one that I highly recommend.

Squash and zucchini can be grown in pots with a support to help them grow up instead of trailing along the ground. A large tomato cage works well for this. You will need to train the plant by forcing it up into the cage when it tries to grow sideways. You can cook with the male (no fruit attached) flowers while you wait for your squash to grow. Do leave some male flowers for pollination.

Peppers work well in a pot and love the heat.

Kale can be grown in pots. I have five healthy plants in one largeish square planter this year.

Swiss Chard is another great producer. Eat the tiny leaves in salads or let them get large and cook them. The Rainbow variety is really very pretty. Chard will survive a light to medium frost. In your zone, you cna probably grow it year-round.

I grow lettuce in windowsill style boxes. I get a Mesclun Mix and harvest the baby-size leaves over and over.

Peas are wonderful for pots. Use a tomato cage for them too. They will grab onto it all on their own. You can fit a lot of peas in one pot, spacing the seeds just 2 apart. You can grow "English" peas for the individual peas, snow peas for the pods or snap peas for both.

Basil is easy to grow and you can put a plant in with each tomato. Supposedly, it improves the flavor of the tomato. :) Be sure to snip of the tops of each cluster to encourage branching. Start when the plant has two real sets of leaves (not including the initial set that first sprouts). Dont allow your basil to flower and it make the leaves bitter (just snip off any beginning budsthey look like green tufts.)

If you want to grow beans in a container, look for a bush variety. I use a tomato cage for them as well to help support the plant when it has many beans on it.

Funnily enough, I dont usually use a tomato cage for my tomatoes, I find that bamboo stakes work better for me and allow better access to the ripe fruit. Put one in with your seedling tomato and then add additional as needed to help support the plant.

You will need large containers for most of these things, 10-20 gallons. Peppers can do in a five gallon pot, but only one to a pot, in my experience. If you have a Big Lots near you, Ive had good luck getting large pots there for a reasonable price.

I've found this blog helpful: / and I found this blog specific to your zone: .

I dont think I could have had anywhere near the success I've had without the internet. Google is my most important garden tool. :)

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
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beac Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 07:57 AM
Response to Original message
3. Forgot to mention above that you can grow radishes in with your squash.
It helps to repel squash bugs! I grow icicle radishes, a long thin white style.

If you don't like to eat radishes, just grow them for the bug repelling properties and allow them to flower (flowers are pretty purple) and go to seed and save the seed for next year's planting. :)

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trud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 03:34 PM
Response to Original message
4. If you grow in pots
keep an eye on how dry the soil gets. You may need to water every day, or for tiny pots twice a day.

It may be too late to plant tomatoes, unless you can find some started at garden places.
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trud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 03:37 PM
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5. when you have time
At some point read up on soil preparation, find a sunny area in your yard, think about watering/mulching to reduce the need to water, companion planting to reduce bugs, a compost pile which can be just that a pile if you have room, and remember there's a lot of trial and error, everyone has spectacular failures and sometimes what works one year does not work other years.
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susanr516 Donating Member (823 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 05:05 PM
Response to Original message
6. Thanks for the advice!
We were thinking about just a small raised bed the first year, but container gardening might be better. We have a large uncovered patio that gets a lot of sun. We were thinking about starting with cherry tomatoes, peppers and beans, at least until we could get up to speed on composting. I have heard that romaine lettuce and spinach will grow like crazy here almost all winter, but I don't know if I'll attempt that the first year. Thanks for the tip about the radishes; I don't like them, but my husband will eat them.

I have a question about composting. I've heard never use newspaper, but I have also read that dampened and shredded newspaper is great. Any thoughts? Also, is it ok to compost in a shady area of the yard?
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WhiteTara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-16-11 10:37 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. One of the nicest things for me is fresh lettuce
and spinach. You're in the perfect zone for winter lettuce. It's easy and fast. You can have food in a 2 or 3 weeks. If you snip the tops of the leaves, you can keep eating off the same little patch of lettuce for awhile.
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trud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-17-11 05:29 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. spinach
I'll second that being easy and fast. Nothing like store-bought either. I love spinach fresh from the garden but won't touch the store stuff.
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trud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-17-11 05:27 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. compost
When I lived in California in Zone 9, my compost pile was a pile in the shady back area of the yard. I think it actually helped that it was shady, as the pile retained moisture, which helps decay. I cold composted which means I just dumped stuff there and left it as opposed to turning it. Periodically I could shovel finished compost out of the bottom.

I'm not sure how dry your area is, you may need to water the pile periodically.

I tried ripped up newspaper but lost interest :-) so I really couldn't say. Perhaps the warning is from when inks were bad. Now I think they're soy-based, someone correct me if I;m wrong. Sheets of newspaper are often used for suppressing weeds in gardens (with soil or mulch on top of them), so it is probably okay.

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MissB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-17-11 06:27 PM
Response to Original message
10. I've fiddled with sub-irrigation planters this year.
Edited on Sun Jul-17-11 06:29 PM by MissB
I have a fenced raised bed garden as well, but I was intrigued by the idea of sub-irrigation.

I read a lot on the various options and decided not to go with the pre made earthbox. Nothing wrong with them, but I just thought I could go cheap and make my own.

I bought a bunch of black plastic window boxes from Lowes, and used corrugated black pipe in the bottom for the water reservoir. The pipe is cut in half, with the cut edge of the half circle facing the bottom. This is the water reservoir. I drilled a hole in the end of the planter at the peak of the half circle to allow for overflow drainage. I used a weed fabric as a barrier between that and the soil (slicing some slits along the length to let the roots find the water). A pipe is stuck in one corner so I can fill the water reservoir as needed. I don't put a plastic layer on top, but you will see those all over the web if you look at sub-irrigated planters. Since I live in a mild climate, I'm not worried about evaporation as much.

Mine kind of look like these: (especially the second grey box)

I planted lemon cucs in one, and zucchini in two others. I did radishes in one, carrots in another and basil/lettuce in the last one.

I had six lemon cuc starts that I bought from the organic farm supply (the ones I started from seed didn't make it, as the slugs got them when i set out the transplants). I put two lemon cuc starts in a raised bed and four in one of the sub-irrigated planters. There is truly no comparison. The ones in the ground are growing, but not as well as the ones in the sub-irrigated planter. Those are easily 3x as big and lush.

The zucchini are also amazingly lush.

I did buy one sub-irrigated planter from IKEA. It is a large round planter on wheels. I put a cherry tomato in there. It's over 5' above the planter with lots of blooms and set fruit.

It won't take the place of my more traditional raised beds, but I do see it as a good supplement. Plus, I find it easier to keep the slugs out (copper tape n planters).
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