Saturday, June 11, 2011

Starting a Garden from Scratch - Part 1 of a Series

A family member recently lost his job after, well, a long time working for a company (and the company that bought his previous company out, and the company that....well, you get the picture.)  He worked very hard and worked very long hours and now he is-let's say, nonvoluntarily retired.  As are a lot of people in our country nowadays.

One thing this family member has wanted to do for a long time is garden.  But he and his wife (who lost her job earlier this year, too) have never had the time.  Now he does have time, and yesterday he and my spouse met at a nearby garden center to start the process. (I hope he will let me take some photos, but for now, this will be text only.)

Their house was built new in the 1980's.  There are few totally flat areas in his property, and the soil has rocks (like a lot of soil around here).  The challenge will be taking what has been lawn for the last 30 or more years, and turning it into a productive garden.  On the plus side, our relative still has time to plant (once the plot is prepared) and get a good harvest.  Also, he is in very good physical shape.

The techniques my spouse uses for gardening may not be totally conventional (and I know there are those that feel that peat moss should not be utilized as a gardening aide.)  Our techniques are somewhat in the "whatever works" category.  My spouse's advice was:
1.  Build raised beds.  We don't frame our beds with lumber, plastic "logs" or anything else.  This will take care of a lot of the problem with rocks.
2.  Lots of organic matter.  We have a compost heap, but in the neighborhood our family member lives in, I don't know how well that would go over.  So spouse recommended - and this is where I know there will be some disagreement with other gardeners - peat moss.  We do not use it as a mulch but rather used it in the past as a conditioner.  We use other sources of organic matter in our community garden plots but this garden has to be ready to go very soon to have enough time to grow in our zone 5 climate. (he is on a hill so he will have less time than we do at our house, also.)
3.  We would recommend our family member find if there is a program in his town for compost giveaways.  If so: He has many friends and acquaintances and hopefully one will have a pickup truck.  Our town is supposed to have such a program - at the very least, they encourage backyard composting-but he does not live in our town.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to write more, and hopefully will be able to follow the development of this new garden. 


  1. Oh, Alana, I'm going to be all over this thread in your blog! I'm just starting out, too, and while Florida has--what? THREE growing seasons?--it's deadly hot right now. Great for starting that compost heap, but not so great for getting out there and gardening for a chubby beginner!

  2. You are a brave person, trying to garden in Florida in June. One day I might write about my very (short) attempt to garden in Florida-on a balcony. I'll try to post something soon that might help you out-from my gardening in Arkansas experience.


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