Well Fed Neighbor

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Hi guys!

 

You may have sensed slight desperation in my title. I am really in need of some help. I am doing a garden for the first time since I was a kid. My husband had one growing up also, but does not remember much.  Everything I have read says start small. I read that a 16x10 or 16x20 would feed a family of 3-4 with maybe a little left for canning.  I have a family of six mostly vegetarians and we don't eat canned food from the grocery store, so I need plenty left to can and freeze back. Currently, it takes about $1000.00 a month to feed us and that is all whole foods and mostly produce.  So, I need tips on how to start this and not get totally overwhelmed by my ignorance. I do not have compost. We also want to avoid using chemicals if we can. Also, if there are any good sites or videos, please send links. I was leaning towards doing more of a raised garden. Is there any reason that would be a bad idea?

 

We eat a ton of vegetables. Vegetables we would be particularly interested in planting are:

corn

cabbage

tomatoes

carrots

kale

green onions

leeks

zuchinni

squash

cucumbers

lettuce 

The kids will eat any fruit we can grow ie watermelon, strawberries, cantelope.

We also use a ton of cilantro, parsley and dill in cooking.

Thank you for your help. Julia

 

 

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Welcome to gardening. There are several online sites that may be of help to you. First, depending on your location and the quality of your soil, you may want to consider raised beds rather than in ground gardening. I have a family of four and with 2 raised beds (4'x21' each) we have more than enough gardening area to grow all we eat and to can and freeze alot also. With the exception of corn which takes more area and tomato's which are easier to pick planted in the ground and tied to trelises, everything else is grown in those 2 beds. One good site is www.gardeningrevolution.com/. Len is local (strafford) and offers weekend classes on both his raised bed concepts and on canning and other gardening topics. My beds are not exactly like he reccomends, but I am fortunate to have good soil so don't have to go completely soiless. Most of the supplies he uses can be purchased direct from him (although that is costly) or can be purchased from local wholesale suppliers in this area. Another thing to consider is the type of plants and seeds... I am a member of seedsavers exchange. www.seedsavers.org Their site also has a lot of information and links to other resources. In fact I sell their seeds in two locations here locally and sell plants I start in my home greenhouse. I go all organic and only use Heirloom seeds. The Missour extention website http://extension.missouri.edu/ also has a lot of informtation about gardening on their site and it is specific to our area. Lastly, you can get good compost and mulch very cheaply (called MoPOST) (if you can haul it) from the city recylying facility. Details and availbility are on their site http://www.springfieldmo.gov/recycling/yardwaste.html Unfortunatly, I don't have my website online yet, but check out some of these other resources and feel free to get in contact with me if you have any other questions.
I have been gardening for 40 years and started off small with a conventional garden this grew into an unmanageable size over the ensuing years. I then reduced it and reduce it until I got it under control. Finially about 4 or 5 years ago a friend suggesetd a raised bed. I now have 5 raised beds about 16'x4' and two that are about 4x4 and have berries such as blueberries, rasberrys and grapes arround the edge of the yard. I would start with 2, 4x16, raised beds because of the easy nature of the upkeep I might go with more if you are both in this together. My wife and I can put up about 500 units of fruits and veggies with our garden, give some away to grown kids and their familys, and eat all we want durring the season. We use the city compost for our growing medium and it works great. As for education site I would look at Idigmygarden.com sponsered by Baker Creek seeds. Some things like squash are better bought at the farmers market becausethey take up so much space and produce more than we can use. This goes with corn also. When its a kraut making year we also buy the cabbage at the FM because we use alot and it takes up to much garden space.
I agree that raised beds are the way to go. Unfortunately the city is out of compost and it will be several months before more is ready. They may have bags left. Gardening is increasing everywhere. The city ran out of compost almost a month earlier than last year. You can check CL and find some on there. Be careful though, you can get some really bad stuff out there.

Another thing you might consider is upside down container growing while you get all of your garden ready. You can use 5 gallon buckets or anything of that nature. I have grown and plan to grow tomatoes, squash, zuchinni, cucumbers and cantaloupe this way. It works pretty well except for having to water more often.

Start small! So many people start a great big garden and end up being overwhelmed. This is why so many people say that gardening takes too much time and labor. Yes, it is some work but it has to be fun.

Keep in mind how long each crop is going to take up garden space when choosing what to grow. Take corn for example, it will take up garden space for 100+ days. If you are only going to grow just in the summer, it is no real big deal but if you are going to try for spring and fall crops it really can be.

Good luck and thanks for joining WFNA.
You have come to the right place Julia!

Simply put, fear not the dirt.

When we planted our very first garden we simply did lasagna beds. Layer cardboard, then straw (not hay), then compost, then plant. We had a bumper crop of peppers and tomatoes. Did well with lettuce and broccoli too.

Have sense learned that we needed to add some soil-less mix and some additional nutrition and it would have been an even greater crop.

Sign up for Master Gardener classes in your area - you do not need to already be a master gardener to become one! You will learn a whole bunch and meet people who know even more!

My big vote is for raised bed every time. Start small and grow your beds each year. Over time, you will be feeding your family and several neighbors!

Teri Leigh
I am just beginning gardening, also.  Thanks for all the suggestions.  I don't even have a garden spot, yet, our property is all shaded, but looking around, found two possibilities this afternoon.  I'll keep checking in for more advice and suggestions, thank you.
Start thinking this year towards next year as well-watch your neighbors bag leaves this fall, and claim them for your own compost. Save your grass clippings, compost your garbage, keep adding mulch, you'll have some amazing soil before you know it.  If I see bagged leaves, I'm apt to pull my car over and fill up my trunk. As I get older, I find I covet manure and mulch, and landscaping rocks more than about anything else! The life of a gardener...welcome!
I have Greenhouse space for rent this Spring  if you want to start your own seeds, and will be glad to help you with resources.

 

    The best advise I can give you is to just do something. Don't get real worried if your dirt is not perfect as to what the books say you need. To quote the movie Jurassic Park "Life will find a way" . I used soil I dug up on my property for my beds, its rocky and full of clay, yet I was very happy with my first years results. Not perfect, lost a lot of things but many things did very well. I have been slowly improving my soil (I think) using the compost from a bin we started a year ago.

  Don't have to high of expectations for your first year either, it takes time getting things the way you want it. Start with one or two small beds, either raised or traditional both have advantages and disadvantages , doing to much to early will burn you out.

As to what you should plant that is up to you, I try to plant things I can not easily get other places like the farmers market. For example I don't grow California Wonder bell peppers, they are everywhere and (usually) cheap to buy. But try finding a heirloom pepper at the store.

 Your first year or two I would recommend buying plants for your garden, its more expensive but starting seeds can be a little tricky at times.

 Again tho the most important thing is to do something.

 

 

Updated info:  I have added a High Tunnel to extend my gardening season and so far am very happy with it, although this has not been a very friendly gardening spring.  To wet and cloudy. Only got one load of MoPost this spring and unfortunatly I haven't had time to tidy up and mulch around everything like I normally do in each spring, again to wet and weather and gardening time have not cooperated this season so far.  I am a little further getting a website www.ReGenerationGardens.com hope to offer online transplant and seed ordering by next year.  I still have a few tomato and pepper plants available but they are going fast.   Happy Gardening.

Russell Andrews said:
Welcome to gardening. There are several online sites that may be of help to you. First, depending on your location and the quality of your soil, you may want to consider raised beds rather than in ground gardening. I have a family of four and with 2 raised beds (4'x21' each) we have more than enough gardening area to grow all we eat and to can and freeze alot also. With the exception of corn which takes more area and tomato's which are easier to pick planted in the ground and tied to trelises, everything else is grown in those 2 beds. One good site is www.gardeningrevolution.com/. Len is local (strafford) and offers weekend classes on both his raised bed concepts and on canning and other gardening topics. My beds are not exactly like he reccomends, but I am fortunate to have good soil so don't have to go completely soiless. Most of the supplies he uses can be purchased direct from him (although that is costly) or can be purchased from local wholesale suppliers in this area. Another thing to consider is the type of plants and seeds... I am a member of seedsavers exchange. www.seedsavers.org Their site also has a lot of information and links to other resources. In fact I sell their seeds in two locations here locally and sell plants I start in my home greenhouse. I go all organic and only use Heirloom seeds. The Missour extention website http://extension.missouri.edu/ also has a lot of informtation about gardening on their site and it is specific to our area. Lastly, you can get good compost and mulch very cheaply (called MoPOST) (if you can haul it) from the city recylying facility. Details and availbility are on their site http://www.springfieldmo.gov/recycling/yardwaste.html Unfortunatly, I don't have my website online yet, but check out some of these other resources and feel free to get in contact with me if you have any other questions.
We are first timers also, the people before us had a garden size of about 180'l x 60'w we are thinking about 60'w x 90'l now I know that is BIG at least to us it is, if we need to we will go smaller, but we will till the whole spot, our home school group started a farmers market about 2 years ago so we though... grow and can for us and sell at the market and  to neighbors the rest. We are going to start something for a fall crop hopefully what do you recommend, I am an hour north of Springfield MO.
Welcome Edward to the Well Fed Site.  If you want to get something in the ground now put in Beans there is still time for them to make.  You will have some trouble starting some things now because of the heat.  Wait a while to plant spinach and lettuce and cover it with a cold frame for the winter and you can have fresh spinach and lettuce all winter. Carrots don't start well in the heat but if they are shaded you might get it to germinate and if you do they can be harvested into the cold months of winter.  Your to late for tomatoes unless you know someone that has some small plants at this time of year. cabage brussel sprouts and brocolli might be started indoors and transplanted for a fall garden.  Good luck on your new garden and don't be afraid to try something.  the worst thing that can happen is that it wont germinate or wont make befor the frost. 

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