I just bought my first house and it is on 1.4 acres. I can finally
have a garden! now I have never done my own garden before, and I dont
want to devote a lot of time to working it. what should i plant?
looking for foodstuffs rather than ornamental, low maintenance. An idea
of when to plant would be good too. maybe next year i'll put up a
greenhouse to extend the growing season. many moons ago when i dreamed
of my own garden patch there was a method called french intensive
farmin, just a fad? sounded fairly care free....
I live in medford wisconsin. just about in the exact center of the
state. pretty close to the center of the western hemisphere I guess, 90
lat 45 long (or is that 45 lat and 90 long?)
Congrats on your new house! I grew up tying soybean sacks on the back
of an International Combine pulled by a Farmall M Tractor. Helped out
with the family garden through the years too. Many folks like the row
method of planting but I'm a big fan of Mel Bartholomew's square foot
method. It's easy to keep and the yields are gracious. Check out his
site for some good tips. Another really great site for all types of
gardening is Mike Mcgroarty's. He gives you great tips on how to
growing all sorts of stuff, making mulch, keeping the critters out of
your garden. I've learn quite a bit. Check it out at:
What do you love to eat? And what can you get easily at farmer's markets
Personally, I wouldn't bother to grow sweet corn, as that's a crop
requiring a fair amount of space, and something that's pretty easy to pick
up from local growers.
But interesting lettuces, fresh snow peas, specialties like asparagus
bean, endive, okra, etc. can be difficult to find in the upper
midwest, so I'd go there, first. And, to me, there's nothing like
fresh tomatoes, seconds off the vine (just don't underestimate
the productivity of a tomato plant!)
Start small. Once the weeds get away from you, gardens become drudgery.
So does 36 tomato plants for two people (btdt!). You're going to have
some more projects in other areas ahead of you next summer, so make the
garden fun. When you start to dig your first garden, I wouldn't make
it any larger than I could completely fork over (after the initial
sod stripping) in an hour. Not a complete double digging, but I'd use
that amount of labor as a sort of benchmark to help decide the size
of the patch. Next year, you can always go larger. Try adding
one thing new every year.
You'll also want to decide whether you're going to water or not.
Many years in the upper midwest, you can get by without irrigation,
especially if you have mulch and fairly large spacing between plants.
If you're growing things very closely, you're probably going to need
water -- which means at least a spigot and hose, unless you really
enjoy hauling buckets of water. I've done the bucket thing, too...
given the choice of bucketing water or canning the proceeds of 36
well-manured tomatoes... well, I think I'd pick the tomato problem.
You can also consider where and when you want to put in perennial
crops like rhubarb and soft fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
You might want to consider solarizing beds for those next summer, with
planting the following spring.
And don't forget to sign up for all the good catalogs! They start coming
just before New Year.
Most of all, enjoy!
There are a number of places you might be interested in.... check the
garden catalog lists at:
One of my favorites is Pinetree Garden Seeds -- good seed, good prices,
some interesting stuff. http://www.superseeds.com
Places that normally sell to commercial growers that I've had good
And then there are the usual suspects, like Burpee, Parks, Cooks Garden,
Johnny's, Vt. Bean Co., and many others.
One packet that I recall... otherwise fine. How do you store your seed
prior to planting? Do you prime?
Some potentially useful information on minimum germination
percentages required for US veggies, and approximate storage
Note the germination rate is under optimal conditions.
I don't recall which seeds. This goes back at least 8 or 9 years. All I can
tell you is that it did NOT involve seeds which are known for being harder
to deal with, like impatiens or petunias.
RH in my storage box hovers between 15% and 20%. Temp about 70 F. Under
these conditions, lettuce seeds last me 3-4 years, for example.
at www.davesgarden.com you can participate ina regional group, or a
specialty plant group, check ratings of suppliers, look up plants by
genus, common name, cultivar, find vendors who offer the plant, and
often read the experiences of folks who have grown it.
no-till gardening, which you can achieve by also doing the lasagna
thing Carl suggests. if you want low maintenance edibles, plant
raspberries, potatoes, garlic, multiplier onions, asparagus,
serviceberries and mulberries. Plant in full sun, everything except the
potatoes right now or in the next few weeks before the soil freezes.
You can also plant mushrooms in full shade, using a variety of
techniques (google it). You should also consider ostrich ferns in part
shade for fiddleheads, those, too, are as low maintenance as it gets
and in fact they multiply so you get more for no work. There are some
ancient greens that are perennial (Good King Henry), as are most herbs
(for your climate, sorrel, mint, oregano, thyme), all in full sun.
For summer crops, besides the aforementioned potatoes, beans (shelling
and string) are quite trouble-free, but of course the deer may get
them. If you have deer, anything you grow will turn into trouble. Cukes
and melons, I also find to be fairly trouble-free, but of course in
part it is because I accept that my cukes will die of disease after a
short bearing season. After you achieve good soil, and if you can water
properly, all sorts of greens become an attractive, trouble-free crop.
After you get - or if you have- loose soil, carrots are a fairly
To really minimize maintenance, you should mulch every square inch of
garden where you do not plan to seed. Plant seedlings by digging
through the mulch, and large seeds like beans, garlic and potatoes also
through the mulch.
Others have mentioned methods, all of which are good possibilities. As for
timing, I'd suggest you go to this web site:
....and buy a used copy of "Crockett's Victory Garden". I'm sure there are
others, but this is the one I have used over the years. The chapters are
arranged by month, with lists of what you should be doing that month
(starting seeds indoors, transplanting to the outdoor garden, thinning,
harvesting, etc). Nice arrangement. The author gardened near Boston, so if
you're in a different zone, you simply adjust your timing accordingly. The
only advice to NOT follow is the author's heavy use of pesticides. He went
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