Question about soil

Hi! Last year, I had made an attempt at a small garden under my kitchen window with a few random flowers and veggies. I had very little luck, but I tried. As far as the flowers went, I had just bought some small, random potted ones and stuck them in the dirt. For veggies, I had some carrots and peas, as well as a few small strawberry plants. I had no carrots, as they didn't grow and were just a waste, about 10 edible strawberries between 5 plants and about a handful of good peas.
The dirt under the window is not the greatest. It was full of leaves and pine needles from a big tree right above the little garden area, and there was little sun due to this huge tree. The dirt was really bad as well. It was rock solid, dry and full of roots, weeds and other debris that I spent hours cleaning out before planting. I also put in 2 big bags of peat moss, when a friend suggested that to help the soil become a bit less dry.
A few days ago, the city came and cut down the mentioned big tree, due to a new city bylaw. I rent, so I didn't care, and now it's nothing but sunlight on this small garden area. I had been outside earlier today trying to work the soil up a bit and make it into more garden friendly soil than what it was - rock solid dirt.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to have a better chance of a normal, decent garden this year? My son and I are home all day and we'd like to start and successfully maintain a small little garden, similar to what we tried last year.
I don't want to make silly mistakes, and I have been working on clearing out all the dead leaves, pine needles and garbage (paper, grass, cigarette butts, whatever else is found in there) Earlier today, the ground was so solid I couldn't even dig it up, so I ran the hose over it for a while and turned it to mud, which allowed me to dig a bit easier.
Any help, suggestions, recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much.
~Kathryn
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A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
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Incorporate compost into the soil, but when the soil is partially dried out. You can use some composted cow manure, but be careful not to use too much as this can burn some tender plants. With more sunlight on the area, there are lots of plants to choose. Tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, radishes, petunias, basil, beans, etc are easy to grow with quick results. Save all the "debris" and start a compost pile for next year's garden. I havn't had too much luck with carrots, cabbage, broccoli nor peas probably due to acidic soil and/or our long super-hot summers. Even "expert" gardeners have problems with some plants. Talk with other gardeners in your neighborhood and find out what grows well in your area, plus something that you enjoy.
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I would try a raised bed garden. The simplest is to use 4" black plastic lawn edging held down with stiff wire stakes pushed into the ground and bent over the top. Look in the fence department for the wire. You can work in some peat moss again, although I abandoned that for straight compost and "lasagna gardening", where you layer organic materials and don't dig. You'll have to buy bagged compost this year, but start a compost pile and prep the bed in the fall for next year.
Lasagna Gardening 101 http://ourgardengang.tripod.com/lasagna_gardening.htm
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xkatx Wrote:

Hi Kathryn,
You've given a great description of what you've done and what ha happened, and this is most helpful. It will be helpful to you to kno your plant hardiness zone. To find your zone, here's a zip code zon finder. http://www.garden.org/zipzone /
Here's one that shows a map. http://www.growit.com/Zones /
Some other things that are handy for new gardeners to know, some o which may be a repeat for you:
An annual grows from seed, flowers and sets seed and dies in one year.
A perennial will sprout from seed, by runners, offshoots, bulbs or b propagating itself by rooting along the stems. It will usually onl form green growth the first year while developing a strong root syste (for some plants it might do this for 2 or more years) and will liv for many years, even after setting seed it will resprout from the roo system.
A biennial will grow from seed the first year and grow only gree growth while developing roots. The second year it will flower, set see and die.
As a new gardener (often called a newbie), the most important advise always give is to pay attention to the soil. Healthy soil will lead t healthier plants that will more easily be able to deal with drought an pests. To do this you need to add lots of organic matter to the soil an mix in. The best organic matter is compost. You can make your own o purchase it in bulk or by the bag. A 3" or 4" layer on top of a new be is a good place to start. You then mix it in. Always mulch the bed after planting, and once a year, with organic mulch that will retai moisture, help keep soil temps even, keep weeds at bay and help t enrich the soil. Organic mulches like shredded wood mulch, leaf mol (shredded and rotted leaves), pine straw (just pine needles) are goo ones. Compost can also be used as a mulch and the worms will bring i down and mix it for you over time. As already suggested, you coul take all the organic material that you have been clearing out of th area and start a compost pile with the leaves, paper, pine needles weeds that don't have seed heads, etc. You can add veggie scraps from your kitchen too. One of the major problems I think you are having is the addition of the peat moss. It forms a crust and once dry, is difficult to rewet. It doesn't have any real nutritional value either, so use compost instead. Also try not to work the soil when it's wet as it turns to mud like you said and can only get harder and more solid. Soil needs to be friable so that there is oxygen in it for your plants. You can water and wait overnight to work the soil. Take a look here for info on soil, peat moss and compost.
Peat info: http://www.ondelmarva.com/peat.html http://tinyurl.com/6odtz
Compost/soil info: http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/soil / http://tinyurl.com/5kv9p http://tinyurl.com/4w24g http://tinyurl.com/7wdws
Bugs are necessary to pollinate and even clean plants (ex: peonies always have ants on them and keep other bad bugs away). Don't get out the pesticides when you see a bug. Usually there is a good bug predator for most bad bugs. Know thine enemy. There are sites where you can look up which bug is which.
The right plant for the right place is also very important. You don't want to put a plant that needs good drainage and wants full sun in a moist or wet shady place. Remember that full sun is 6 hours or more, part shade is 4 to 6 hours and shade is 2 hours or less. When in doubt and you can't get an answer, contact your local extension service for answers.
http://ceinfo.unh.edu/state_sites.html
Go to the library and look at books on gardening. Many have a plant encyclopedia in the back to help you identify plants and learn their growing needs. There's lots on the web too. Read through lots of posts on forums and try and learn from other gardeners.
For info on growing veggies, their needs and when to harvest take a look at these sites.
http://tinyurl.com/67sk8 http://www.gardenersnet.com/veggies.htm http://tinyurl.com/4xudm
You can research plants at www.google.com It's best to use the Latin or botanical name, but if you don't have it you can search with the common name and when you find the botanical name you can use that to get more info. You can even click on 'Images' at google and often get photos as well. Another way to search is with quotes and a plus sign like this:
Georgia + "invasive plant"
There are many sites with info on pruning and how to plant trees and shrubs. There are also sites about native plants and their value, especially for a new gardener. Native plants tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases and are usually more carefree.
If you would like more sites for any of the topics I've mentioned or need more specific info, feel free to ask.
Regards, Newt
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Newt


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