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  1. #1
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    Default Vegetable Garden Tips, Complaints, Concerns & Discussion

    I'd be willing to assume that me and Boone aren't the only ones here growing our own vegetables this year. One thing I have learned over the years is how to do and how not to do certain things.

    I have extensive knowledge on just about anything you can grow, so feel free to ask if you're having any problems. In the past few years, I have learned that organic pesticides/herbicides/etc. are a lot more effective than the commercial poisons, and having kids and dogs it is also a better option for me for the safety aspect of it.

    So this year, I expanded my garden and have gone with the following lineup:

    1. Roma Tomatoes
    2. Ichiban Eggplants
    3. Spaghetti Squash
    4. Zucchini
    5. Tomatillos
    6. Anaheim Chili Peppers
    7. Tobasco Peppers
    8. Bell Peppers
    9. Celery
    10. Carrots
    11. Spanish Onions
    12. Garlic
    13. Collards
    14. Cucumbers
    15. Pole Beans
    16. Sweet White Corn
    17. Broccoli
    18. Okra

    I have done experimentation over the years and have learned what I can and can't work with in this area due to weather and soil conditions, and so I planted everything I could this year.

    For those who don't know what the soil conditions are like in the Tidewater area, it's a massive clay bank. The first two years I was at it was just soil preparation. I was able to track down something called clay buster. I don't know why it works, but it basically decomposes the clay into a more workable medium.

    For two years, I would apply the clay buster, wait a few weeks for it to work real good, then till in peat moss. After that, I would till in some top soil and compost. About 5 years ago, I finally got to where I could plant some plants, and I have some of the best soil I've ever seen now. Rich, black, and a perfect pH. I also have the perfect numbers for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash.

    I even spent the time last year to install an above ground sprinkler system, because there's only so long you can handle standing there with a spray hose in your hand before you get sick of it

    So if anyone is interested in starting one and needs some tips, or if you have things going wrong and don't know why, I'd be glad to help you out with some advice, as can other members with experience in it.
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  2. #2

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    Marine Corps Virginia

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    I am an avid gardener, although work and other things have pulled me away from what I love for awhile - getting back to it now with some enthusiasm. I would highly recommend what I call 'the Bible' for vegetable gardeners, Dick Raymond's The Joy of Gardening.



    I have a plot in my back yard about 100' x 1000' where I plant my vegetable garden. Like Ryman, I've had soil challenges. In N.C., if you're just starting out, you're going to be contending with NC clay. Every year, I put down a bale of peat moss, and about 25 lbs of cow manure down on each row and till that in. During the summer growing season, I use grass clippings (lots of them) as mulch around my plants. Doing that for years has resulted in a highly organic soil mix. I dig a trowel into it, I'm coming out with earthworms every time. That's a key.

    I think the other key is using raised rows or beds. Getting up above the soil line helps in a lot of ways. I do big wide rows (that's a Dick Raymond principle). I also grow 'UP'. If I can do pole beans vs. the ground variety, why wouldn't I? I also grow huge crops of pickling cucumbers up on nylon netting. It saves space and the plants love it.

    I don't grow everything. My mantra is, if I can get it at the grocery for good quality and for pennies, why waste the time/energy/space growing it in my garden? I typically grow massive quantities of a variety of tomatoes. I also grow ichiban eggplant because, fresh, there is almost no better grilling vegetable. I grow a variety of peppers that aren't always available in the grocery. I'm particularly fond of mildly hot roasting peppers, and I always do jalapenos because I love to pickle them. I have a wonderful and easy method for making the best dill pickles you will ever eat if anyone's interested. I also grow okra, and squash (although believe it or not, I've struggled to grow zucchini in my locale because squash vine borers, an insect that can kill a squash plant in days, are very common here). I also like to do potatoes, although as I am this year, I usually grow them in big plastic garbage cans. I try to pick specialty varieties that aren't easily found in the grocery. Although I'm not growing it in my garden this year, I love swiss chard and if you haven't tried growing it, recommend it. It's a big leafy green that is wonderful for stir frying and the insects won't bother it.

    Like Ryman (welcome back btw big guy!), I love gardening. There's something about growing your own food that is really fulfilling... I hope we'll get some action in this thread and great post Ryan.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boone View Post
    I am an avid gardener, although work and other things have pulled me away from what I love for awhile - getting back to it now with some enthusiasm. I would highly recommend what I call 'the Bible' for vegetable gardeners, Dick Raymond's The Joy of Gardening.



    I have a plot in my back yard about 100' x 1000' where I plant my vegetable garden. Like Ryman, I've had soil challenges. In N.C., if you're just starting out, you're going to be contending with NC clay. Every year, I put down a bale of peat moss, and about 25 lbs of cow manure down on each row and till that in. During the summer growing season, I use grass clippings (lots of them) as mulch around my plants. Doing that for years has resulted in a highly organic soil mix. I dig a trowel into it, I'm coming out with earthworms every time. That's a key.

    I think the other key is using raised rows or beds. Getting up above the soil line helps in a lot of ways. I do big wide rows (that's a Dick Raymond principle). I also grow 'UP'. If I can do pole beans vs. the ground variety, why wouldn't I? I also grow huge crops of pickling cucumbers up on nylon netting. It saves space and the plants love it.

    I don't grow everything. My mantra is, if I can get it at the grocery for good quality and for pennies, why waste the time/energy/space growing it in my garden? I typically grow massive quantities of a variety of tomatoes. I also grow ichiban eggplant because, fresh, there is almost no better grilling vegetable. I grow a variety of peppers that aren't always available in the grocery. I'm particularly fond of mildly hot roasting peppers, and I always do jalapenos because I love to pickle them. I have a wonderful and easy method for making the best dill pickles you will ever eat if anyone's interested. I also grow okra, and squash (although believe it or not, I've struggled to grow zucchini in my locale because squash vine borers, an insect that can kill a squash plant in days, are very common here). I also like to do potatoes, although as I am this year, I usually grow them in big plastic garbage cans. I try to pick specialty varieties that aren't easily found in the grocery. Although I'm not growing it in my garden this year, I love swiss chard and if you haven't tried growing it, recommend it. It's a big leafy green that is wonderful for stir frying and the insects won't bother it.

    Like Ryman (welcome back btw big guy!), I love gardening. There's something about growing your own food that is really fulfilling... I hope we'll get some action in this thread and great post Ryan.
    I will have to check that book out, because no matter how good any of us gets, none of us can claim to know everything about anything. Every season, I learn a new secret either by accident or from word of mouth.

    Like you, I do the grass clippings every year. Keeps the weeds down, and it's one of the main reasons my soil looks like chocolate now and full of earthworms like yours.

    I have been hearing more and more about how good spent coffee grounds are, but it would take a hell of a ton of coffee to cover my garden, so I doubt if I will ever get around to trying it.

    The Carolina red clay is a beast. I know exactly what you're dealing with, because I went out to my best friend's house in Salisbury the past three seasons to help her get her garden ready. She bitched for three years, but she's grateful as anything now, because she can finally use the plot to grow vegetables in.

    I agree with you about the raised rows, it's the only way I've ever done it. Mine tend to range from 8-14" deep, depending on how much it rains

    I would definitely love the pickle recipe, because the kids were wanting to give that a try this year.

    I actually learned a crazy awesome tip about pole beans last summer in Massachusetts of all places. We went up there for a vacation, and my wife's Uncle had a really nice garden. I saw something that looked like pole beans, but they were loaded with beans and almost no foliage was showing. His tip was unbelievable. He said he clears out some rows for the beans, then digs a trough about 6 inches deep and buries the beans an inch under the trough. When they start to grow, he said he waits for the first set of true leaves to reach above the trough line, then fills in the trough. He said when they grow another 4-6" above that, he mounds up around them and builds the row as they grow, until the row is 10-12" high. At that point, as I have witnessed with my own eyes, all of the beans bunch up in clusters at the top of the row, and you have very few leaves showing. No runners, no twisted clumps of pole bean plants, it's a damn miracle to behold and it is the craziest thing you will ever witness in a garden. After seeing that, I will never do it another way.

    I had the same problem you did with the Zucchinis for years. Last year, not only did I not have a problem, but my Zucchinis did better than anything in my garden. I can't pinpoint exactly what it was that I did differently, because I did two things differently. My neighbor jokingly said to plant Marigolds around them, because they repel just about every bug out there, so I did that. The second thing I did was actually experimental but also may have been the cure. I went to Lowe's and bought some corrugated pipe. I cut sections about 4 inches high out of it, and put one around every Zucchini plant. The reason I tried this, was because the vine borers get to the stalk by crawling. I figured with plastic around it, they couldn't crawl to the stalk, and I did not have any issues at all.

    Again, I don't know if it was the pipe or the Marigolds that did the trick, but I will let you know since I am just trying the Marigolds this year.

    As for the Swiss Chards, I absolutely love them. The only issue I have, is I grew them last year and they take up a lot of room once the summer heat starts to hit them good, and the grocery store around the corner sells them by the truckload for practically nothing, so it's one of those things I benefit from going to the store for.
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    The wide row method described in the book really works well. Did it on lima's and purple hull peas last year. Not as easy to get to the beans obviously, but it maximizes space. I've also been reading about planting flowers amongs the goodies, as it attracts honey beses and other pollenators
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    It's amazing to me that several of you do this so well. The closest thing I have ever done with gardening is to go to the store, buy a packed of radish seeds, and then fail miserably.

    I love radishes by the way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by McD5 View Post
    It's amazing to me that several of you do this so well. The closest thing I have ever done with gardening is to go to the store, buy a packed of radish seeds, and then fail miserably.

    I love radishes by the way.
    Lol, I feel your pain. I started with the same thing and had the same result. But I'm a stubborn bastard and became determined to beat nature

    The biggest tip I learned over the years is that whenever possible, buy the plants instead of the seeds, it cuts out a lot of problems. Not to mention, Burpee and some of the other brands that claim to be so wonderful for seeds generally suck. Park Seeds, which you have to order from their website or catalog, have been the most productive for me over the years, with Seeds That Produce a close second. I have never bought seeds at a store that ended up amounting to anything, no matter the type of vegetable.

    This year was the first year I decided to try doing seeds the right way, and over the course of the year last year, I purchased a germination heat mat, a hot box countertop greenhouse, and grow lights. It took way more effort than I'm willing to ever deal with again, but I have had great results and everything is growing nicely in my garden now. It just took up so much space in my kitchen and so much more effort than I expected, so it was my only attempt at this method.

    After browsing all winter online, I found a portable greenhouse for my yard that would be perfect and run me about $750. If I ever have that kind of spare cash to throw at it, I will be going that route. My ex boss did it that way, and his results were phenomenal. The best thing about that greenhouse, is it's collapsible. After everything is ready to go, you can fold it up and fit it in a suitcase.
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    I haven't grown my own plants for years, but I will say that it can be really rewarding. One of the benefits of growing from seed is that you can literally grow any variety you can find seeds for. Of course, garden outlets like Home Depot and Lowes have gotten a lot better about the variety of plants you can find there - HD literally had 15 or so varieties of tomatoes when I was there a few weeks ago - but there are thousands of varieties of vegetables you won't ever be able to try unless you grow them yourself. Plus some vegetable types you just won't find pre-grown plants for.

    As Extreme mentioned, you need a special setup to come out with plants that are strong and healthy, but it's not hard to do if you make the investment and have the space for that. The added plus with growing your own is that you get to start feeding your gardening addiction earlier by planting seeds as early as late February if you want.
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    We use aerogarden, especially in the winter to keep fresh lettuce and herbs on hand. Absolutely fantastic. My wife loves to garden, but I don't think she will get to much this year. We do have some strawberries going, along with the blueberries we have.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goaldeje View Post
    We use aerogarden, especially in the winter to keep fresh lettuce and herbs on hand. Absolutely fantastic. My wife loves to garden, but I don't think she will get to much this year. We do have some strawberries going, along with the blueberries we have.
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    I love strawberries. I tried them for the first time last year though, and it was an absolute disaster. I didn't have any space set aside for them, so I bought some of those hanging topsy turby types bags - absolute nightmare and a waste of money. All that thing does is hold water, so the plants on the bottom rot and the ones on top dry out. I tried adding some holes to the bottom of the bag, but for whatever reason it just didn't help.

    Maybe next year I will try them again, but I will try them directly in the ground and not the hanging bags.

    How do the blueberries do? I've been thinking about getting one of the bushes at Lowe's, but I'm waiting to hear feedback from someone who's tried blueberries already before I decide if it's worth the effort for me to try them out.
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    Blueberries are fun, and i haven't found them very difficult. You have to make e soil more acidic than usual, and my wife uses pine needles for that which seems to work well. Just check the ph balance regularly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extreme View Post
    I love strawberries. I tried them for the first time last year though, and it was an absolute disaster. I didn't have any space set aside for them, so I bought some of those hanging topsy turby types bags - absolute nightmare and a waste of money. All that thing does is hold water, so the plants on the bottom rot and the ones on top dry out. I tried adding some holes to the bottom of the bag, but for whatever reason it just didn't help.
    Those topsy turby thigs SUCK! Spread the word to everyone. Absolute rip off. As far as strawberries go, sometimes it takes a season to get the soil right. Last years crop was horrible, but I saved the leaves from fall, ground them up and tilled them into the ground. Seems to be doing the trick, strawberry wise anyway
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    Strawberries take a good 2 - 3 years to really take off. The plants send out runners each year that become new plants. Until they really get established, that takes a lot of energy that, once established, goes into making berries.

    I don't grow strawberries simply because we have farms all around me that grow them and pick them for you that are incredible.

    I do, however, have 3 big plots of 'rabbiteye' blueberry bushes that produce huge amounts of berries. The blueberries that come off my bushes are dime-sized. If you're in the South - rabbiteye varieties are the only way to go. They thrive here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boone View Post
    I don't grow strawberries simply because we have farms all around me that grow them and pick them for you that are incredible.
    That was one of the things I love about North Carolina. We'd go to a pick your own farm and in about two weeks I'd be sick of strawberries Same with pineapple in Hawaii. Love it, but would get sick of them after awhile. But there's nothgin like a right off the plant pineapple
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extreme View Post
    I love strawberries. I tried them for the first time last year though, and it was an absolute disaster. I didn't have any space set aside for them, so I bought some of those hanging topsy turby types bags - absolute nightmare and a waste of money. All that thing does is hold water, so the plants on the bottom rot and the ones on top dry out. I tried adding some holes to the bottom of the bag, but for whatever reason it just didn't help.

    Maybe next year I will try them again, but I will try them directly in the ground and not the hanging bags.

    How do the blueberries do? I've been thinking about getting one of the bushes at Lowe's, but I'm waiting to hear feedback from someone who's tried blueberries already before I decide if it's worth the effort for me to try them out.
    Blueberries are mind-numbingly easy, but you need to make sure you get the right variety for your area. Like I mentioned, in hot humid climes like the American South, if you get northern blueberry varieties you'll fail. Blueberry varieties have to have the right number of cold hours in order to do well.

    Beyond getting the right variety, yeah, they like an acid soil. Easiest way to do that is to plant them with a 50-50 mix of peat moss and regular dirt, and add peat moss every couple of years (or you can throw a handful of aluminum sulfate on them every couple of years. My rabbiteye bushes are 10-15 feet tall and produce like crazy with zero maintenance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarge View Post
    That was one of the things I love about North Carolina. We'd go to a pick your own farm and in about two weeks I'd be sick of strawberries Same with pineapple in Hawaii. Love it, but would get sick of them after awhile. But there's nothgin like a right off the plant pineapple
    Yeah - that was the only thing I liked about training up in the jungles on the north shore of Oahu, the training area butted right up against the Dole pineapple plantations. We'd raid them at night and eat pineapple until we were sick. Hell - that place is a paradise - you could have lived off the guava trees, macadamia nut trees, fresh water shrimp, and wild pigs and never have to work very hard doing it either.
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    The strawberry experiment last year was probably a one time thing, and it was more because the kids were really hyped about wanting some in our yard.

    Like you Boone, I am surrounded by strawberry farms and can pick as much as I can handle every summer. The strawberry farms out here in Pungo attract people from all over the world. I live here and grew up on them, and I thought I was being biased by saying they are the best you can taste anywhere. Then I started talking to people out in the fields every year that said they came from Canada, Japan, England, etc. just to get some of these strawberries. Personally, I think you'd have to be a little off mentally to leave the country for some strawberries, but to each their own I suppose.

    The thing I really love about the Pungo strawberries is that they are all massive and super sweet, exactly how I love them. Even when they aren't fully ripened, they're still sweeter than those god awful Californian strawberries all the grocery stores seem to have an obsession with carrying.

    Thank you guys for the tips on the blueberries. I've really been interested in giving them a go, because my great grandma always had acres of them in her backyard that I'd eat until i was sick when I was a kid, and I guess it's a combination of nostalgia and the fact blueberries are awesome that's making me crave them lately.

    Boone, are those ones you mentioned comparable in taste to the northern variety? One thing I noticed here is our local blueberries taste like ass, and the fresh ones up in Massachusetts that I had last summer tasted how you typically think a blueberry should taste. I like them sweet, so I was just wondering if it's a similar taste. I'd hate to plant some and have them taste like those dirty sponge tasting ones at the store
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extreme View Post
    The strawberry experiment last year was probably a one time thing, and it was more because the kids were really hyped about wanting some in our yard.

    Like you Boone, I am surrounded by strawberry farms and can pick as much as I can handle every summer. The strawberry farms out here in Pungo attract people from all over the world. I live here and grew up on them, and I thought I was being biased by saying they are the best you can taste anywhere. Then I started talking to people out in the fields every year that said they came from Canada, Japan, England, etc. just to get some of these strawberries. Personally, I think you'd have to be a little off mentally to leave the country for some strawberries, but to each their own I suppose.

    The thing I really love about the Pungo strawberries is that they are all massive and super sweet, exactly how I love them. Even when they aren't fully ripened, they're still sweeter than those god awful Californian strawberries all the grocery stores seem to have an obsession with carrying.

    Thank you guys for the tips on the blueberries. I've really been interested in giving them a go, because my great grandma always had acres of them in her backyard that I'd eat until i was sick when I was a kid, and I guess it's a combination of nostalgia and the fact blueberries are awesome that's making me crave them lately.

    Boone, are those ones you mentioned comparable in taste to the northern variety? One thing I noticed here is our local blueberries taste like ass, and the fresh ones up in Massachusetts that I had last summer tasted how you typically think a blueberry should taste. I like them sweet, so I was just wondering if it's a similar taste. I'd hate to plant some and have them taste like those dirty sponge tasting ones at the store

    The rabbiteyes are wonderful in terms of flavor and sweetness. You should check with your local nursery though - I don't know if they'd do well in your location. It your climate is suitable for them, rabbiteye varieties include Climax, Tifblue, Centurion, Brightwell, and Powderblue. I grow the Climax and Tifblue and they are amazing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boone View Post
    The rabbiteyes are wonderful in terms of flavor and sweetness. You should check with your local nursery though - I don't know if they'd do well in your location. It your climate is suitable for them, rabbiteye varieties include Climax, Tifblue, Centurion, Brightwell, and Powderblue. I grow the Climax and Tifblue and they are amazing.
    I will definitely be checking into that, thanks for the tip

    **Edit: Apparently Tifblue is about the only one worth growing where I'm at, so I will be getting into these as soon as I can.
    Last edited by Nobody; 05-15-11 at 07:53 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boone View Post
    Like Ryman, I've had soil challenges.

    Like Ryman (welcome back btw big guy!), I love gardening. There's something about growing your own food that is really fulfilling... I hope we'll get some action in this thread and great post Ryan.
    Am I going crazy? I don't see a post from Ryman before yours, and Extreme started the thread.

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    James Madison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanky Livingston View Post
    Am I going crazy? I don't see a post from Ryman before yours, and Extreme started the thread.


    Yes.

    But this has nothing to do with Ryman's posting habits.

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