1. Dismiss Notice
  2. Official TEG Poll: What is your garden style?
    CLICK HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)

    Dismiss Notice
  3. A "cute" garden bug is eating ALL my peas!!! - Featured Thread
    CLICK HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)

    Dismiss Notice
  4. TEG Picture of the Week (POW) - Submit your Pics Now !!
    Click HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)

    Dismiss Notice

Chronicles of a Noob Garden and Gardener

Discussion in 'About Me & My Garden' started by Ben E Lou, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    PROLOGUE: This past spring, very much at the last minute, I decided to grow an organic garden in my back yard. It started because I was at Home Depot for some other reason, and they had a display full of seed packets for 50 cents each. That's how you get sucked in. "Only 50 cents each? Cool! I can grow 10 different vegetables for 5 bucks plus tax!"

    {pulls up spreadsheet}

    Yeah, so more than $700 later, here I am in late 2018, planning for Spring 2019, and thought I'd start this thread to share successes, failures, and lessons learned.
     
  2. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    ASSETS

    Here's what I have going in my favor.

    YARD SIZE AND LAYOUT--We have a large, open back yard, enclosed by a 6-foot privacy fence. Our land is 100 feet across, and it's roughly 100 feet from the back fence to the back deck, from which this pic was taken:
    [​IMG]

    As you may also be able to tell from the pic (taken late in the season, after I'd removed the sunflowers that I grew along the fenceline,) the yard slopes toward the back fairly significantly, a fact that I leveraged somewhat with a quickly-thrown-together rain barrel irrigation system, and will use much more extensively next year.

    This year, the main portion of the garden extended 13 feet out from the fence, and went 17 feet along the fenceline you see above. Further down the fence, toward the corner, I had a 13x12ish bed of wild flowers, seeds thrown there to bring pollinators to the area. Next year I plan to make it much larger.

    ABUNDANT SUNSHINE--As you view the pic above, the sun rises to the left, moves across the sky slightly toward the back of the yard, and sets to the right. Even the area a few inches on our side of the fence is in direct sunlight from roughly 7:30am-2:00pm for the entire spring and summer, and the plants farthest from it get direct sun until around 4:30 or 5.

    EXCELLENT AREA FOR A COMPOST PILE--I can't dig or till in the little nook created by the storage shed and the corner of the fence, because electrical and cable TV lines run through that area. However, the hidden nature of it makes it a great location for composting. No worries about smell or eyesore back there. Behind it is a small treeline and then the golf course that you can glimpse through some breaks in the trees in the pic, so no neighbors if there's ever a smell (which there hasn't been so far.)

    PLENTY OF GRASS CLIPPINGS TO COMPOST--Yeah..big yard...


    LARGE RAIN BARREL--A month or two ago, I picked up a 275-gallon IBC tote, cut the top cap in the shape of a downspout adapter, elevated it 2 feet off the ground with cinder blocks, purchased a cam lock-->garden hose adapter for it, and will run drip irrigation from it next year.

    [​IMG]


    THE NORTH CAROLINA EXTENSION SERVICE--They're quite the resource for home gardeners--tons of free material, including frequent highly informative classes taught by master gardeners. I've taken a couple of in-person ones and found them hugely helpful: https://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/
     
  3. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    LIABILITIES

    I am not without challenges.

    VARMINTS--Here's a quick rundown of the animal/insect issues I ran across this year.
    • Groundhogs or rabbits (both have been spotted in the back yard numerous times) wreaked havoc on my squash, zucchini, and cucumber leaves early in the season, though I'm happy to report that all the plants attacked did come back and produce, despite nearly all their leaves being eaten. A cocktail of granulated garlic and ground cayenne seemed to do the trick in keeping them at bay for the rest of the season.
    • Because I knew the kids would love them, I planted a dozen mammoth sunflowers--the ones that grow to 10-12 feet tall--along the fenceline, and effin' birds ate every single seedling when they were just 3-4 inches high. I planted a second round of these and covered them with bird netting until they were around 6 inches high, and some of them grew to full height and bloom, except...
    • ...the ones that stood a little too close to the fence had their entire tops eaten by squirrels perched on the fence, so several of them grew to 8-10 feet tall but with no bloom in the middle.
    • Either squirrels or rabbits (I'm thinking squirrels, as they seemed to ignore the garlic/cayenne smell in other places in the yard as well) ate my cilantro over and over. We were never able to harvest any of it at all.
    • From what I've gathered from talking to a couple of experts here, as well as from what of the classes I've taken, insects are particularly problematic for organic gardening in the NC Piedmont. We had both squash bugs and squash vine borers do serious damage this year.
    HOT DRY SUMMERS--I've never lived in a climate like this. I've been here for four years, and the temperatures are similar to what I experienced when I lived in GA and SC in years past, but the frequent summer thunderstorms we had in those states aren't really a thing in this neck of the woods. We got very little rain this year at the time the seeds needed to be watered daily, and had multiple periods of little/no rain for over a week during the summer. I'm hoping the drip irrigation from the rain barrel will be a much better solution to this than the copious use of the sprinkler this summer.

    SURROUNDED BY A WEED-FILLED YARD--Combine a back yard as large as ours, most of which is in direct sunlight 10-12 hours every day, with long periods of little/no rain, it's no surprise that grass is extremely difficult to grow there. At some point, I hope to install a full irrigation system back there, but until I can do that, it's folly to even try to grow grass; its simply too much effort and cost to water it as much as it needs. (I tried one year. Ugh.) Even the lawn service guy who looked at it said something along the lines of, "we can treat it, overseed it, and fertilize it, but you're gonna have to water the HELL out of it to get it to grow and maintain. You need to know that before you hire us." So the back yard, though green in color most of the time, is, oh, 95-99% weeds. Even though I tilled the garden area last year, weeds galore grew there. I'm sure there were tons of seeds in the soil, and plenty of others flying around from the rest of the yard.

    LONG FAMILY VACATION--We typically take a 10ish-day trip every summer. This year our great neighbors vacationed at the same time, so they couldn't help us out, either. I hired a middle school girl who lives nearby to pick some stuff and water it a couple of times, but it's not the same.
     
    Clarity1210 and baymule like this.
  4. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    SPRING 2018, PLANT-BY-PLANT

    What went well, what didn't, and lessons learned

    Here's a quick plant-by-plant rundown of what I put in the ground this spring and how it did.

    BASIL--Massive success. I bought three small basil plants from Home Depot. All produced extremely well and my wife made a ton of pesto. Had to give a fair bit away to next-door neighbors, as it was too much for even freezing the pesto at times. Came to enjoy a basil, bacon and tomato sandwich this summer. [​IMG] Three times I was able to cut off larger branches, stick 'em in the ground, and they grew entirely new basil plants.

    BELL PEPPERS--Bought seedlings and transplanted them. Decent harvest. No real issues, but didn't produce a ton of peppers.

    CANTALOUPE--Grew from seeds. Thinned to two plants. They produced four tasty cantaloupes over the course of the summer.

    CILANTRO--One plant, bought as a seedling. It grew GREAT, but as mentioned earlier, rodents (likely squirrels) absolutely loved this one. We were never able to harvest any of it, though it continued growing back again and again after being just about completely stripped of leaves repeatedly. I'm thinking I'll try to grow this in a portable container on the deck next year, and bring it inside at night. My wife and I both love cilantro.

    CUCUMBERS--Seeds. These were interesting. Early in the harvest we were getting a ton of these with AMAZING flavor. They were actually a bit sweet. Our 9-year-old was eating them as a snack, even. The mid-summer, they started becoming yellow and bitter-tasting. Not sure why. I couldn't find anything on the internet that looked like what was happening. In case it was a disease or fungus that's in the soil, I'm going to move these to a different location this year and make sure not to grow any squash or zucchini in that area, either.

    MARIGOLDS--Small plants. I interspersed these flowers throughout the garden, as they repel a fair number of insects. Seemed to work well, as only a couple of plants had major insect issues. These grew like CRAZY to the point that I had to cut part of the mini-bushes out because they were prohibiting sunlight to some other plants.

    MINT--Seedlings. Egad, I had no idea how invasive this could be. Fortunately I was talking with another home gardener who mentioned how they send out roots and new plants throughout their vicinity, so I checked mine fairly early in the summer before they had spread too much, and sure enough, the roots were running all over the place and tiny mint plants were coming up everywhere. My wife and one daughter both love mint in their tea and with some meals, so I'll see about growing this in a container.

    ROSEMARY--Seedling. This herb did well, though nothing special. We don't really use rosemary much, so I'm not sure why my wife asked me to grow it. [​IMG]

    SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI--Seeds. These were doing great early on, then suffered the great groundhog attack. They came back strong and produced a solid crop until squash bugs and squash vine borers destroyed them completely. I'm going to try Neem oil and planting a metric buttload of garlic (over 50 cloves are in the ground already, waiting for spring) to help with this.

    STRAWBERRIES--We planted one strawberry seedling because my 5-year-old was with me at Home Depot when I bought the herbs, and one strawberry seedling was misplaced among the herbs. She saw the picture of the strawberry, and we just HAD to plant strawberries. [​IMG] It wasn't expected to produce much until next year. We've probably had around 10 strawberries from it this year. Knowing it was a perennial, I put it in the corner of the garden so I can easily just till around it come spring, and will probably add a few more strawberry plants in that area.

    SUNFLOWERS--Seeds. Did great once I realized that birds would eat the seedlings. All of the mammoths grew to 8ish feet or taller.

    TOMATOES--Mostly seedlings, but one plant grew on its own right on the fenceline. (Our neighbors did a garden on their side of the fence last year, so it must have been a seed from one of theirs that fell off.) Anyway, EFF YOU, BIRDS!!! The plants did great, but the birds pecked sooooo many of these before we could harvest them. The cherry and grape tomatoes were mostly unscathed while the bigger ones were still growing, but now that they're mostly done (in the last week or so,) the birds are going after the little ones, too. I think I'm going to experiment with the anti-bird tape on some 8-foot stakes to try to protect the entire area next year. Daily harvests from the grape and cherry tomatoes while the birds were distracted were amazing.

    WATERMELON--Seeds. Just two made it, but each one produced a juicy, tasty melon.

    WILDFLOWERS--Seeds. Home Depot sold a "pollinator attracting" wildflower package said to cover up to 250 square feet, and that can simply be thrown over the area and raked into loose soil. Easy to do right after tilling, and inexpensive to cover such an area. It worked great in the sense that there were tons of butterflies and bees in the wildflower area all spring and summer.
     
  5. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    And finally (for now,) here is a recent pic after the first expansion was finished. (Yes, I've decided to expand some more..more on that later.) I have four compost piles going--the first three should be ready to use by the time I start planting. The fourth one (in the corner) is to be an ongoing pile throughout the year to use as needed.
     

    Attached Files:

  6. Dec 14, 2018
    valley ranch

    valley ranch Garden Addicted

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2014
    Messages:
    4,718
    Likes Received:
    4,100
    Trophy Points:
    297
    Location:
    Sierra Nevada mountains, and Nevada high desert
    Rabbits, squirrels * pellet gun ~ eat the rabbits ~ I heard squirrels are tasty as well ```

    Yeh ~ that's looking good ~ just looked at your expansion ```
     
  7. Dec 14, 2018
    Nyboy

    Nyboy Garden Master

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2010
    Messages:
    21,366
    Likes Received:
    16,167
    Trophy Points:
    437
    Location:
    White Plains NY,weekends Lagrange NY.
    Your lucky nice backyard. A good dog or cat is worth their weight in gold keeping wildlife away
     
    Clarity1210 likes this.
  8. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    I just noticed that there are several threads like this in the "Fruits & Vegetables" section of the forum. Should I ask the mods to move it to there?
     
  9. Dec 14, 2018
    Nyboy

    Nyboy Garden Master

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2010
    Messages:
    21,366
    Likes Received:
    16,167
    Trophy Points:
    437
    Location:
    White Plains NY,weekends Lagrange NY.
    Don't worry we are very relaxed here. Don't be surprised if a thread starts out about one thing and ends in some thing totally different
     
  10. Dec 14, 2018
    Ben E Lou

    Ben E Lou Garden Ornament

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    381
    Trophy Points:
    97
    Location:
    Greensboro, NC (7b)
    Yeah, we're thinking about getting a dog. The next-door neighbors have a cat, but she's practically never in our yard. Maybe the cheaper solution is to grow catnip to draw her over here??? :D :D :D
     
    Collector, canesisters and Nyboy like this.

Share This Page