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Adventures in Gardening: Gearing Up to Plant!

03/23/2011

In sunny southern Georgia, it has been spring for a month and our last frost date is March 31st, which means I can start planting things in my garden as soon as next week. However, I’m planning on holding off until the second week of April. Here is what I’ve been doing to get ready for planting.

The Seeds are Growing

Surprisingly, my tomato plants are doing better than any of the others, closely followed by the bell pepper plants. This is good, as those were the ones I most wanted to succeed and the only ones I can’t direct plant if they don’t. My marigolds, which were the first ones to germinate, still have not gotten any real leaves. Yesterday I looked up online some of the plants I’ve been having trouble with (marigolds, oregano, basil) and found out that it is warm enough here for me to direct plant the seeds into the ground, so that’s good. I’ve also figured out why they aren’t producing leaves yet—not enough light! I’ve had most of the light on the tomato plants and consequently, some of the rest are not growing as they should. I’ve put as many under the two strongest lights as I can. For the rest of them, I figure if they can hold out for another week or two, I’ll get the tomato plants moved outside for the hardening off week, and then put the other neglected plants under the lights and see if I can get them to grow too.

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I have two of these lights now and it has really helped.

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Tomatoes! Doing well!

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Feverfew--not doing so well.

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The set up I have in my kitchen for my seeds.

Tilling Up the Ground

My father in law tilled up my plot. Actually, he tilled up WAY more than I will ever plant because he said its just as easy to till the whole length of the field as it is to till my little section. The plan is for my garden to be about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long. I think I may have gotten in over my head, but once I do something, I tend to jump in with both feet first.

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What to Do With the Rest of the Tilled Ground (Or Preparing for My Fall Garden)

Since there is so much ground tilled (20 feet wide by at least 100 feet), I am going to use another 20 x 20ish foot section to plant hairy vetch in. You may be wondering, as I was, what on earth is hairy vetch? Good question. Hairy vetch is a cover crop, similar to clover, that adds nitrogen to the soil. I’ll plant it this spring, mow it right when it starts to bloom, which will kill it. Then I can leave it until I’m ready to till for my fall garden. In addition to the nitrogen, it’ll add some needed organic matter to my soil.  (As a side note, its kind of crazy how long the growing season is here in GA. I’ll bee planting again in August.)

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With the next 20 or 30 feet after the hairy vetch, I’m going to plant a bunch of wild flower seeds. It’ll attract bees to the area and will just be pretty. I think we’ll all enjoy that and you can get bags of wildflower seeds inexpensively.

wildflowers

As for the rest of it (I told you he ploughed a lot!) my FIL plans to plant corn for the critters to eat. Hopefully the critters that eat stuff will stay away from my section and down by all of the flowers and corn!

Adding Fertilizer

I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to do about adding needed nutrients to my ground without using 10-10-10 like everyone keeps telling me to. I’ve also been told I need to add composted manure, but when I looked it up, I would need 5-8 pounds per square foot. With 500 square feet of garden, that would be over a ton of manure! I can’t afford that.  So, I did the next best thing, and went and got some horse poop from my in-laws barn. They only had about a wheelbarrow full, but I figured some is better than none. As promised, here are the pictures of me with the horse poo.

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Mucking out the stalls
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A wheelbarrow full!

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Garden Couture

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Slinging Poo!


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My other helper :)

I’ve also added blood meal, bone meal, and wood ash to my plot to try to add essential nutrients to the ground. I’m still researching other natural fertilizers and I’ve asked one of my friends who has been organic gardening a long time to write up a guest post about fertilizer. (You can look for that in the coming weeks.)

Working on the Compost Pile

The compost inside the compost barrel is coming along slower than I thought it would. I’m pretty sure its because I haven’t painted it black yet, so it isn’t getting warm enough inside. I think I need more brown matter in there too. It doesn’t look like dirt yet, but it smells like soil (and not rotting veggies!), so I think we are on the right track. I’m going to add some shredded newspaper and paint the barrel black and see if I can get it going!

Planning the Garden

I discovered an awesome new website for garden planning called Grow Veg. I love it! You can put in how large your plot is and then place the plants in the plot. The program automatically tells you how much space you need to leave around each plant so you can plan accordingly. Its super easy to use — just click on the plant and then click where you want to place it in your garden. I’ve come up with a couple different scenarios thus far and will continue to work on it. (I can’t figure out how to share my plan with everyone and I can’t fit the whole thing in to do a screen shot of it. So here’s half of my garden. :)

garden plan on grow veg

I’m looking forward to getting the plants in the ground! I’d love to hear how some of your garden plans are coming along.

Previous Gardening Posts:

How and When to Start Seeds

This City Slicker Gets Serious

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11 Comments
  1. grace permalink
    03/23/2011 2:40 pm

    Wonderful Wonderful! Love your pictures that go along with your wonderful dialogue…it is like we are having ‘coffee time’ and you are telling me all about your life! thank you for being a faithful blogger, and an inspiration to all of us! :)

  2. Becky B permalink
    03/23/2011 3:37 pm

    Don’t add newspaper to your compost, that will SLOW it down not speed it up!

    Browns slow down & Greens speed up (as well as make it smelly at times). I’m totally there with you about it not getting hot enough though. I have yet to acheive maximum hotness myself (in my compost pile – lol). But for me, that’s because I don’t keep my pile damp enough. I’m presently working on being more consistent daily about it’s dampness, and have a pile maturing as well speak (and another that I’m adding too), so I’ll let you know how the first turns out. (Painting it black is a great idea!)

    Also, if you get any more poop (of the equine kind) maybe you can put a little into your bin to add with it the helpful bacteria for breaking down your goods… and a shovel full of regular dirt does the same trick on a lesser level as well.

    I can just imagine you plugging away at that garden plot program on the computer planning, I love it, I can see that personality of yours I love so much shining right through the page :)
    Thank you for sharing your garden adventures & life with us online, it so wonderful to be part of your daily life virtually!

    Happy turning! <3

    PS – Lily is precious, I love the pix of you shoveling and her in her cute/crazy outfit.

    PPS – How are you going to harvest the beans in the middle of your patch – Have you planned "walking space" for getting into your garden to harvest/maintain?

    Your garden is HUGE! I can't wait to read the canning/freezing/preserving posts that are sure to come during your harvest time. I haven't even begun to explore those options, I'm excited to get tips from what you do with your blessed abundance :)

    • Kate permalink*
      03/23/2011 6:58 pm

      Becky–
      Ahh! I didn’t know that about the brown matter with the compost. I thought you had to have the right ratio to make it work properly. This is why you are one of KCK’s Official Garden Experts! :) Good thing I haven’ t added it yet.
      Also, in my head I have planned walking space. I don’t have it translated onto paper yet.
      As for the canning and preserving, I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet. Perhaps I should. I guess I was just hoping to freeze any leftovers. Seems like the easiest thing to do.

      • Becky B permalink
        03/23/2011 7:51 pm

        That’s very true Kate, it is all about the proper ratio.

        Carbon to Nitrogen ratio should be around 30:1 (C:N). Table scraps are 15:1, Grass clippings 20:1, Newspaper 200:1. So if you are experiencing a stinky pile due to high nitrogen, adding a very little bit of shredded newspaper will quickly bring you back into right ratio. If it’s composting slowly, adding grass clippings or table scraps bring the ratio down by being higher in nitrogen than the goal 30:1.
        http://www.compostinfo.com/tutorial/ElementOfComposting.htm#CNRatio for a small chart of ratios.

        However, this website also notes well that Carbon and Nitrogen don’t break themselves down… it’s the microorganisms that do the composting for you. The C:N ratio is simply the balanced diet they need to feast well (and thrive, alive!)
        Meet your microbes: http://compostinfo.com/tutorial/microbes.htm

        I hope this helps :) The website also has a fun “virtual composter” program that I’m about to go explore – lol!

        • Kate permalink*
          03/25/2011 8:10 am

          I have actually seen that website before, but for some reason it didn’t “click” in my mind until you just wrote it like you did. Thanks! Math stuff like that is not my strong point. I haven’t tried the virtual composter thing yet, but I’m going to this weekend. :)

  3. Nana Phyllis permalink
    03/24/2011 10:45 am

    Looks like a full-time job for a while. I only have a small herb garden and go to the farmer’s market for the rest :0.

  4. 03/24/2011 1:36 pm

    Thanks for the link to Grow Veg! That is a great resource! I’m so jealous of your southern warm weather, we woke up to some snow on the ground this morning. :( But I guess it’s actually good for me, because I’m slow in getting started and haven’t even started my plants indoors yet, but I plan to this weekend!

  5. Lindsay permalink
    03/24/2011 2:33 pm

    Look at you scooping poop!!! DO you wish I was there with you?? Lily is so cute!! Good Luck!! :)

  6. Becky B permalink
    03/28/2011 2:07 am

    My basil from last year got worked back into the soil, and is growing better than weeds in my extended garden! Hopefully I’ll get to spend some time with you early next week and will attempt to bring a few plants to share :) (I’ll get in touch later this week about visit, I know you are busy with your parents right now!)

  7. 05/14/2011 7:46 am

    For additional fertilizer look for horse show barns. I’m in columbus GA and there is one, Poplar Place Farm, that will give you all of the manure and bedding you want. If you show up at 8 am or 1 pm they will load it for you with a front end loader too. Be sure to get manure with bedding, the bedding catches the urine which is high in nitrogen.

    I am gardening with the lasagna/deep mulch method. So I started by laying a layer of newspaper or cardboard over the grass, no tilling. Then I added 1 yard of manure with bedding per 100 sqft and then 1 yard of partially broken down compost/mulch to the same 100 sq ft. When it was freshly laid it was one foot thick, now it is only 3-4 inches. I have about 700 sqft of planting area in my garden, not counting what I put into ornamental beds. I spend almost no time weeding and the mulch in addition to keeping the weeds down feeds the soil, adds nutrients, attracts worms (which improve porosity, hold moisture, keeps the soil from baking dry, etc. If you do see a weed you can pull it or just throw more mulch on top of it. To read more on the subject read ‘Lasagna Gardening’ which was published within the last decade, or ‘Gardening without work’ and ‘How to have a green thumb, without an aching back’ by Ruth Stout from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

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