Hot Topics: Tips for Starting a New Garden

raised herb garden

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If you're a newbie gardener, it isn't always clear how to best start out. Your property dictates location and garden type. But even then, if you're new to the craft, it might not be clear how to get started. These avid gardeners have some great advice for the novice planter.

Original Post: Starting a New Garden

Kaori79 Member

I decided to start a new garden on the edge of the woods.

Today I cleaned a patch of earth with a shovel. I removed as much grass as possible but left a lot of roots. Tomorrow I'm going to dig and remove the roots.

I know that no matter how hard I try I will not be able to remove all the roots. What can I do to make sure that there will be as little regrow as possible?

Highlights from the Thread

XSleeper Member

Rake out whatever plant debris you can. Many people also use grass clippings (from untreated lawns) or hay around their plants to smother unwanted weeds. Gardens take upkeep, so you should also plan on spending a little time each day out there with a hoe. Doing it a few minutes each day will keep up with the weeds. Waiting a couple weeks before doing it turns it from an enjoyable past time into a real chore.

Hope your garden spot isn't too shady. Most garden plants need a lot of direct sunlight in order to produce.

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

Why not build a raised bed and fill it with nutritious mushroom compost or other growing medium. That would take care of having to dig into the roots. I fear you may have too shady an area by your description. Full sun and water with nutrients will be what the garden needs to grow... along with some seeds.

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

If you plant a garden right next to the forest where the tree roots still exist, you will soon be fighting a losing battle to keep your garden watered. The tree roots will grow into the garden and steal the moisture from your vegetables.

If you cannot move your garden, then I like the raised bed idea. Line the bottom of it with several layers of heavy landscape fabric and have the fabric extend around the outside of your bed walls, creating a barrier to help slow the growth of tree roots. You don't have to fill the beds with store-bought compost or soil. You can use soil you have on your property. Then you can save your kitchen and yard scraps and start a compost pile. When you have made compost, then you can use it on your garden.

Just because we say "raised bed" don't assume it means spending money on fancy side rails or frames. You can even do similar by digging a hole in the ground. Line the hole with landscape fabric to stop the tree roots and put the soil you just dug back into the garden. Just make sure to make your garden bed deep enough. Even low plants will need 12 inches of soil depth, with many needing 18 inches and some with deep roots can need as much as 24 inches.

cwbuff Member

If you are a beginning gardener with a limited budget, I suggest starting small with some easy to grow stuff like zucchini and yellow squash. Peas and pea pods are also easy as are eggplant and tomatillo. While most veggies need lots of sun (at least 6-8 hours daily), there are also shade tolerant veggies such as potatoes, leaf crops like lettuce and kale and parsnips. Google shade tolerant garden vegetables for an idea of what you can plant in the shadier area of your garden.

Mulch is a good way to retain garden moisture and cut down on weeds. I use landscape cloth (black plastic) early and replace it with salt marsh hay in late spring. Salt marsh hay is expensive and sometimes hard to find. Barn straw (cheaper) also works, but you have to watch for weed seeds.

You don't need to amend the soil in the entire garden when you are just starting out. Just add a few scoops of a decent garden soil around each plant or seed row when you put it in. Starting your own compost heap is a good idea. Google composting for ideas that suit your situation. Just don't buy into the complicated methods that some bloggers advocate. Basically you want to put organic stuff in a pile and let it decay.

If the roots you describe are coming from trees in the adjacent woods, try digging a trench along that edge of the garden to keep at least the shallow roots out.

You don't give your location, but you also need to consider critters. You may need some sort of fencing to keep out the rabbits, groundhogs and nasty neighborhood cats.

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