Our First Garden -- Help?

Greetings!
I have always wanted a garden filled with fruits and veggies, but for the last 16 years, ever since I left my parent's home, I've been living in apartments and was unable to grow anything, as I didn't have room or land (not even a balcony!).
Thankfully, my situation has changed radically and now myself and my fiance are buying our first home. Right now, there is nothing in the (very sunny) yard but some scrub bushes in one corner. Between the chain link fence to the rear of the property and the alley there is a rectangular plot of land about 4'x10' which I was hoping to use for zuchinni, peppers (bell and jalepeno), the tomato plant (since there's only two of us we figure one plant will be plenty --same for the zukes) and the watermelon. My fiance wants to try watermelon! The yard itself is slightly sloped and faces north/south. Virtually all of it is sunny all the time, except for the front of the house which is in shade due to the house itself. The front yard is mostly sunny except where it butts up against the house, which is constantly shady.
We want to plant shade loving flowers up against the front of the house, and sun loving flowers (including some lilacs against the chain link fence on the one side, and roses on the other side, just to provide a bit of privacy) in the back. We're going to plant two raspberry plants on the fence on the other side of the rectangular plot, and plant the strawberries in the corner.
Our region is 4a. Will we still be able to plant if we don't move into our home until mid-June? That's the big question I have right now. I've never been in charge of my own garden and I don't know how late you can put plants in the ground.
There are already some chives growing along the path to our detached garage, I was considering planting some more herbs along the path, but I don't know which ones will thrive in full sun.
We also have a dog, a standard Poodle, and whatever we plant will need to be dog friendly (and able to deal with being stepped on, that's why the veggies are outside the fence, by the alley!). She has been known to eat socks, underwear and Kleenex and I don't doubt that she'll try to nibble on stuff outside!
I would be very grateful if I could get answers to these questions. Research online seems to say how to grow, but not when to plant, or what's dog safe.
The Camp Cook www.clanntartan.org
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A partial list of common plants known to be toxic to dogs is available at http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc_toxicplants Note that tomato plants (the green parts) are on the list.
Know how exciting it is to finally have your own soil to dig in, but suggest you might want to scale down your plans a bit if you're really only dealing with a 4 x 10 plot. Zuchinni and watermelon plants take up really significant space - you might want to re-think planting them. Given the early first frost date in your area (4a), you're probably better off waiting until next year to plant a major veggie garden if you're not moving until mid-June.
Herbs are a favorite of mine and any of the Mediteranean herbs love the sun, but still need regular watering. Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Marjoram, and Basil could go in in mid-June if you buy established plants at a nursery. Don't be tempted by mint - it can be very invasive.
There is a ton of good information available on the internet for novice gardeners, but don't forget your county agricultural extension office - they're usually a terrific resource, with information specific to your area, and great free advice. They'll give you pointers on how to prepare that plot of yours - that's half the trick to successful gardening.
Nancy T
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I think you're really going to be more overwhelmed than you realize with being a novice homeowner. My suggestion is to do very little with any of your garden this year but to discover, clean, mow and maintain. Get to really know what's there and take this time to educate yourselves. FIND THE LIBRARY!! You just may have more in your garden than you know. Long neglected gardens often have all kinds of interesting things pop out of the ground in the most unexpected places as seasons unfold. Get a tablet of graph paper and draw a master plan of your property with house, garage, fences, plots and walks marked. As the year progresses mark in what you've found, what goes, stays, or moves. Visit nurseries and public gardens in your area, walk the neighborhood, make notes of what you like. Make friends with the neighbors who have gardens you like. Find the Farmer's Market this year instead of a veggie bed. Your first summer months, although pretty late to do major plantings will be an excellent time to start building the bones of your garden. Groom and/or reshape the beds, get the lawn up to snuff, start your compost pile/bins, start to put in any patio or garden structures you decide you might want.
You'll find that your dog will also establish a garden pattern. They tend to always make the same beeline when you let them out the door, don't plant there, resistance is futile. By fall you'll know Bowser's paths for 'gotta go now', 'need to always sniff/dump/pee here' and 'this is where I run and trample when somebody drives down the ally, mailman arrives, neighbor slams a door'.
This winter when the snow is deep you'll have your plan of the property drawn out, heads full of ideas, some accrued knowledge of your domain and a more realistic idea of what it's going to take to create and maintain your yard and gardens. You might even have some good reference books in your home. Actually going to the library and perusing the garden books will give you an excellent idea of what will work best to help you, then you purchase your favorites to use for future reference when you're sitting in your new living room wearing bunny slippers while the snow falls. The internet is great but it still can't beat a good garden book in your lap or on the kitchen table IMO. One of the best resources you can have is a face to face talk with other local gardeners. You need to get off your duff and make gardening friends, the REAL kind. This computer is fantastic but it won't do for you what up close and personal contact will. There is a fantastic book store in Minneapolis, http://www.terracehorticulturalbooks.com/index.cfm . Don't you live in that area? Check it out in person if you have a chance. I was in there once when I was visiting friends. The people who run this place are a font of helpful information. You will leave with all kinds of knowledge and hopefully a few good books you'll be using for years to come. Gardening people first, then books, use the internet for back up. Gardening people love to pass on information just as we do in Wreck gardens, but it's even so much better in person.
It's understandable that you are enthused about your first home and garden and want to do everything NOW but take a deep breath, slow down and step back. Gardens are built over years, not months.
Val
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have 2 dogs and 5 cats (due to events beyond my control). The pets all nibble to some extent but the main damage comes from thoughtless enthusiasm as the dogs trample nurtured plans into the ground. My only success in protecting the garden has come from limited fencing and the use of small tomato arbors. For 100% protection I place a small arbor over the plant (to stop trampling) and wrap it once with chicken wire (to prevent nibbling). A little inconvenient and expensive the first year but amortizes well over the years.
--

Billy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KVTfcAyYGg&ref=patrick.net

  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.