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GARDENGIRL54's Photo GARDENGIRL54 Posts: 802
4/14/11 2:40 P

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I agree with Jen about making mistakes. I look at most of my gardening as an experiment. Each year I try to add new ideas. Some of them work and some don't, but it's the spirit of the adventure that makes it fun!

Also - I loved the suggestions about the county delivering compost. I really need more for my clay than I can produce. I'm going to check into this one. Thanks for the suggestion!


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LAURAAT's Photo LAURAAT Posts: 1,506
4/14/11 1:55 P

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Thanks for the great ideas everyone!! We're so excited to be growing things, it's such a great feeling. We can't wait to expand our little garden for fall!! We have big plans, eventually. I'd like to get some plants that attract butterflies, we want berry bushes, I want to try growing sunflowers, eventually we're thinking of chickens. Only if we had a bigger yard! Lol.

Jen, we're in Central Florida (I think zone 9 if I remember right.
No idea about the pH, lol!
Rain, it's pretty dry until hurricane season (June -Nov). Normally, it rains every day in the summer, but lately it's been drought-like. We're on water restrictions, right now it's just no watering during the day.
Our soil is all sand.

I'm definitely going to look into lasagna gardening! Besides, who doesn't like a good lasagna? Hehe! It does sound really neat, so I'm going to show this to hubby. Thanks for the idea, and the link!
We're definitely looking at starting a compost heap. First, we need to get the fence replaced, and then we can put the compost heap in. Fence needs to be done first because of where we plan to put the compost heap. We're going to start with one, I hadn't really thought of doing more. We'll see how the one goes!
We've definitely made our share of mistakes already. There is so much to learn, and try, I don't think we'll ever get bored! To get us started, we got a book about gardening in Florida. It helped us get started, showing us what plants are best grown down here, and what kinds of those plants (I think of them as 'brands') are best in our area. It was a great start, but we're ready to dig deeper!


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DOWNTOWNJEN's Photo DOWNTOWNJEN SparkPoints: (33,048)
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4/14/11 11:18 A

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Hey Laura - good for you for going slowly - wish I'd been so smart! emoticon

Quick questions:
--what part of the country do you live in
--what is the pH of you soil (acid or alkaline)
--how much annual rainfall do you get
--what is the current texture of your soil (sandy, clay, loam, rocky, etc - could be more than one)

If you want a lazy way of gardening and building soil - try lasagna gardening - it really does work - especially if you have time to build your bed. Google "lasagna gardening" - lot's of instructions written out there. Or try
for a quick and dirty explanation/instructions.

I would also start at least one (two or three if you have space) compost heap. (see other threads) If you want to get some exercise, don't mind a little hard work and are friends with your neighbors - no need to go further than your own backyard to build the soil you will need to keep your beds fertile. All materials are free - in fact, it becomes a game for me to see how much of my own and my neighbors' "garbage" I can keep out of the waste stream. Buy a couple of good turning forks. (like pitchforks but with flattened out tines, not round tines - buying quality will save you from buying more in a year or two).

Most importantly, like learning a healthy lifestyle, it's a process. You will make many many many mistakes along the way. As long as you approach these "mistakes" as learning opportunities - you will be far far ahead of the game.

Most people consider me to have a wicked green thumb - especially here in the desert (and I have a low water use edible garden - which is tricky). I freely admit to people that I have killed farm more plants than I have successfully grown. (I am a serial mass-murderer of plants). I am constantly experimenting to see what works in my climate. I have redesigned my garden 3 times in the past 7 yrs. It's an ongoing joke among my friends and family that every spring we move all the dirt from the front to the back - and every fall we move the dirt from the back to the front. It's both funny - and mostly true! I end up remaking beds, taking out failed experiments, etc.

So have fun. Make mistakes, learn, enjoy! The great thing about gardening is even a little success is SO EXCITING!

"I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way." Carl Sagan, American Humanist

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AQUAJANE's Photo AQUAJANE Posts: 1,551
4/13/11 11:48 P

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Good idea going little by little. When we bought this house 5 years ago, I learned that our county would deliver compost for $25 a half load. It's probably a bit more now, but proved perfect for the back yard disaster--between Virginia clay (and rocks and sand from a nearby stream) and having been used by a couple of dogs for several years, it had many more grubs than earthworms (and more rocks than either)

At the time, I thought the organic matter had to be worked into the soil, which was tough work even with a mattock. I've since learned the new theory is to just lay it on top and let nature 9and worms) do their thing. Riased beds with extra perlite/lime and a variety of composts also work out very, very well. Turns out, that digging it in just brings up weed seeds, which can then sprout. That which wasn't awful for me since I put sod atop the compost, but remember raised beds also have better aeration since they're not stepped on...

For just one person and a wheelbarrow, a half truckload was plenty to cover the postage-stamp front and side yards as well. The black plastic idea will kill grass and weeds effectively, especially in a Florida summer.

It's a win-win for the county too--turning Christmas trees as well as tree trimmings and spring yard waste into compost also saves it expensive landfill space. But especially with municipal compost, make sure it's away from the house, as a few kinds of fungus can grow as it decomposes and shoot spores at the building. Also, check the compost before ordering. If it's too fresh, it's OK for paths, but when decomposing will pull nitrogen from the soil instead of making it available for plants. That's why many gardeners are leery of the shredded "mulch" put for aesthitic reasons around trees and which can kill them (also if the mullch is recycled tires with all the associated petrochemicals).

Good luck!


4/13/11 6:12 P

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To get soil and compost at the best price you can buy it in bulk/not bagged. You will need access to a pick up truck to avoid delivery fees. Its a lot cheaper than the bags.
You could start now by covering the area to smother out the grass. If you dampen down the area then cover it with black plastic (held in place by rocks/bricks what ever) you will not only kill the grass but also alot of the weed seeds.
Take the plastic off a week or so before you want to plant the area and work in your ammendments.

LAURAAT's Photo LAURAAT Posts: 1,506
4/13/11 3:21 P

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Ok, as you all know, I'm totally new at this. You guys are so full of knowledge, I keep reading back into the old posts and learning more and more.
I've read a few posts about prepping the soil, but I'm still unsure what to do. I'm trying to find the best and easiest (read: cheapest) way to go about this. For our current garden, we bought bags of topsoil and something else...hubby picked it out, I can't remember. We mixed it all together, and mixed it with our soil, which is sand. Our next garden, for fall, will be twice as large.
We're looking at starting our fall garden in August, so we have a little time to prep the second half. The first half is holding our current garden at the moment, which seems to be doing well. But buying all that soil again is going to cost a lot of money, and a big part of this for us is saving our hard earned cash. So what can we do to prep at least half of the soil for our fall garden? Should we start now, or wait? We haven't, and don't plan on, doing a soil test, so adding lime and the like is probably not going to happen. Unless we find our plants/crops suffering, then we can reevaluate things, of course. But we'd like to get away with as little money spent as possible, and we're not afraid of a little work. Hubby isn't, anyway. emoticon

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